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A lifelong dedication

Women honored for a lifetime of service to 4-H

December 10, 2011
By Stacey Kukkonen ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - When Joan Dostaler and Agnes Ahola were honored for their years of service with the local 4-H program, both could credit their mothers for driving their involvement.

"I've been in 4-H my entire life," Dostaler said. "I'm 68 years old and I've been it in practically since birth because my mother was a leader until her death at age 75."

Dostaler, a Lake Linden resident who recently received recognition for serving 50 years with 4-H, said she was "born into 4-H" and has been a project leader since her mother was still living. She has been involved with the program extensively, working with a list of projects from A to Z, she said, which includes working with everything from animals to maple syrup collecting workshops.

"In our club, we don't have large animals," she said. "We have rabbits and chickens and turkeys and ducks."

Dostaler said the Traprock 4-H club, of which she is a leader, is a service organization. It's the oldest existing club in the Copper Country and one that Dostaler has grown quite fond of.

"It started in the 1920s when my mother was a young girl and was a member," she said. "She became a leader."

Dostaler herself quickly became part of the club as her mother became a regular leader of the club.

"It was sort of passed down to me," she said.

Dostaler became a leader at 18 when she was eligible to go to college. She always wanted to be a home economics instructor but was never able to finish college to do that, so she shared her love with eager 4-H students. Over the years, she's worked with crafting, such as sewing, and has gained extensive knowledge in canning and freezing.

"Candle making, jewelry making, basket weaving, ornament making," she said. "We send packages to servicemen over seas. We just do it all."

Currently, Dostaler, a jack of all trades, is crazy for watercolor painting - a skill she picked up from artist Mary Ann Beckwith.

"She is just so inspiring because she made me realize anybody can paint," she said. "I'm passing that on to the kids."

And Dostaler plans to facilitate, or pass along her skills, to her kids, as her mother did for her.

Ahola also became involved with 4-H like her own mother was. The volunteer, who received special recognition as well for her 45 years of service, has worked as a resource leader within 4-H.

Ahola, a Dollar Bay resident, has worked with various projects with 4-H throughout her entire life, taking after her mother.

"I've got really more than 45 years," she said. "As far as (being a) leader, I have 45 years."

Projects she's been involved with include homemaking and working with the platbook. She also tries to share her knowledge with others to generate an interest in 4-H.

Ahola said she plans to be involved with 4-H for as long as she can.

"It'll definitely depend on my health," she said.

Just as Ahola, Dostaler plans to be involved with 4-H for as long as she is able.

"I used to say I'll be involved until somebody kicks me out," she said.

However, after Dostaler told a friend at the Houghton County Fair that at the end of August, she would have completed 50 years, her 10-year-old granddaughter who overheard the comment begged her not to quit.

"She said 'Grandma, I just got started. You're not quitting are you?'" Dostaler said. "All my granddaughters are in 4-H now. I can't quit now. As long as I'm physically and mentally able, I want to keep on. It's in my blood. There's a joke that the 4-H (members) have been in it so long, their blood is green."



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