Retzer, Kulinski receive HL Kuse literacy awards
Cathy Reuter, Judy Mader, Julie Scott, Susie Werner, Charles Prihoda and Karen Rusch also honored by group
Retired educators, medical professionals, local historians and writers were recognized at the 2020 Friends of Literacy ceremony on Tuesday. The annual event is hosted by the Taylor County Literacy Council and this year, due to COVID-19 concerns, the ceremony went virtual with a combination of in-person presentations and interactive streaming.
Joseph Greget, president of the Taylor County Literacy Council, was the master of ceremonies for the awards presentation.
The ceremony started with the presentation of the Friend of Literacy Awards. In August 2016 Taylor County Literacy Council began recognizing individuals, organizations, and businesses who help promote literacy among children and adults in Taylor County with their Friend of Literacy Awards. This year’s recipients were retired educators Judy Mader, Julie Scott and Susie Werner.
“I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world,” Mader said. She recently retired from Medford Area Public Schools where she served as a Wilson Reading teacher helping students with dyslexia improve their reading skills.
“It has been an awesome privilege and truly a blessing to work with the students,” Scott said upon receiving the award.
Her comments were echoed by Susie Werner who said it was a pleasure to work with the students and staff in the school district.
In addition, Greget recognized longtime volunteer Karen Rusch for her service to the Literacy Council as well as Charles Prihoda who is stepping down from the post of treasurer for the organization.
“We couldn’t exist without your personal and professional help,” Greget said of the honorees.
READ Initiative Award
Dr. Cathy Reuter was the inaugural recipient of the READ Initiative Award. Reuter was recognized for her work with dyslexia.
For Reuter the challenges of dyslexia are personal ones impacting both herself and her children. Reuter’s advocacy in bringing Orton-Gillingham classes to the Medford area paved the way for greater understanding of dyslexia in the community and the services currently available in the school district.
“I am overwhelmed by this,” Reuter said in her recorded message. She praised the Literacy Council’s efforts in bringing support and awareness of dyslexia to the community and for the group’s advocacy of literacy education. Reuter is continuing her efforts to help others overcome the challenges of dyslexia, she was recently asked to join a state task force through the Department of Public Instruction to develop a dyslexia handbook.
HL Kuse Award
In August 2017 the Taylor County Literacy Council recognized Hildegard and Loretta Kuse with the inaugural HL Kuse Award for preserving the history of Taylor County.
Since that time, the organization has presented the award to individuals who have devoted a lifetime to preserving history through literacy in the community. Past recipients include Robert Rusch in 2018 and Steve Kalmon in 2019.
This year’s recipients were Chris Kulinski and Cathy Retzer.
Kulinski has been active in promoting and preserving the rich Polish heritage of Taylor County through his research, writing and organizing trips to Poland on behalf of the Eastern European Cultural Society.
Kulinski was born in a refugee displacement camp following World War II.
“A lot of people don’t know the horrors those camps entailed,” Kulinski said.
He related the story of how an American captain in the medical service saved his life as a young boy providing much-needed medical care in violation of the rules. His mother was working cleaning homes for the American officers at the time and had been able to convey to him that her son was dying and in need of medical care. “If it were not for him, I would not be here today,” Kulinski said.
Kulinski and his family were eventually able to emigrate to the United States in 1959 taking the 11-day ocean voyage and traveling by Soo Line Railroad to the Lublin area. Kulinski overcame not knowing English which caused him to be delayed in school. He graduated from Gilman High School in 1970. In 1982 he lost part of his hand in a corn picker accident at his family farm. Kulinski said that after the accident life changed for him and gave him a different perspective. He became much more involved with writing and with exploring his cultural heritage. He was a major contributor to the Taylor Count History Project and has written numerous pieces on the region’s history. Since 2000 he has served as the president of the Eastern European Cultural Society and has led 13 different trips to visiting locations in Poland and the Ukraine.
“I am so thankful for this award and to the Literacy Council,” Kulinski said.
Kulinski was presented with the award which included an artistic book page folding spelling out the word “wolnosc” which is the Polish word for freedom.
The second HL Kuse Award was presented to longtime Literacy Council volunteer Cathy Retzer. She was introduced by Hildegard Kuse who prepared a poster of adjectives describing Retzer.
Retzer is retired from the Medford Area Public School District where she worked for many years as a librarian. Kuse explained that working in the school’s media center, she helped guide the youth and provide the teachers the information they needed. She said Retzer’s impact was felt across the community.
Outside of school, Retzer was instrumental in working with Hildegard and Loretta Kuse in preparing the centennial book for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Retzer said it was in 1985 and she had just completed her Masters Degree and was between jobs when she began working with the sisters on the project. Given their knowledge of German this was a major help since many of the early records of the church were written in that language.
“What a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with these two amazing women,” Retzer said.
That project lead into other collaborations over the years including helping with the creation of the website for the Kuse Nature Preserve which includes hundreds of pages of content on the history and natural life of the area. “It has been a labor of love,” Retzer said.
The Taylor County Literacy Council is active throughout the year with events promoting literacy in the community.
Events include monthly book donations, the Polar Express movie at Christmas, one on one adult tutoring, Reach Out and Read at Aspirus, maintenance and placement of the Little Free Libraries, March Into Reading, R.E.A.D. Initiative on Dyslexia and Family Day at the Movies (and with books!).
The Family Day at the Movies (and with books!) is a monthly program held on the first Saturday of the month from September to May. The next planned event is a drive-in style showing of Charlotte’s Web. The project is in partnership with Broadway Theatre.
Board members of the Taylor County Literacy Council are president Joseph Greget, vice-president Kathy Schumacher, secretary Cathy Retzer, and treasurer Anne Fleegel.
Dr. Cathy Reuter received the READ Initiative Award from the Taylor County Literacy Council. Reuter and her huband Dr. Mark Reuter (center) are pictured with Literacy Council board members Joe Greget (far left), Cathy Retzer and Kathy Schumacher (far right).