Service above self

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 21, 2001

Arnold Biedermann often refers to something Kirby Puckett once said: &uot;I never forgot where I came from.

Monday, May 21, 2001

Arnold Biedermann often refers to something Kirby Puckett once said: &uot;I never forgot where I came from. I came from nothing.&uot;

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After growing up in an orphans’ home and living in two foster homes that just didn’t work out, Biedermann was placed in a foster home to work for room and board.

&uot;They treated me like their own son,&uot; he recalled of that third foster home outside Albert Lea. &uot;And for that, I always felt I owed a debt of gratitude to this community. They took me in.&uot;

That was in 1946, and Biedermann was 16 years old. One could say Biedermann has spent the rest of his life working off that debt.

And for his lifetime of community service, Biedermann is being honored at a 1:30 p.m. reception Thursday, May 24, at St. John’s Lutheran Home. He has been named the 2001 District 241 Citizen of the Year.

&uot;I am humbled by this,&uot; Biedermann said of the honor. &uot;I’m receiving it on behalf of the hundreds of people who deserve this.&uot;

After high school, Biedermann was drafted to serve in the Korean War. After his discharge, he served on the Albert Lea Police force for eight years, then the Albert Lea Fire Department for 21 years. Then he spent 12 years as a Freeborn County commissioner.

&uot;They were all good challenges,&uot; he said of the careers he had. &uot;I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done.&uot;

But beyond his work in community service has been a career of volunteerism. His favorite works run the gamut from playing Santa Claus for children to visiting the elderly in nursing and board and care homes.

At St. John’s Lutheran Home, Biedermann started as a chaplain’s assistant. &uot;Adeline and I filled in when the chaplain wasn’t able to be there. We dealt with families of residents who had died and new people coming in,&uot; he said.

Occasionally, he’d conduct a lay service on a Sunday, and on the first Sunday of the month, would help distribute communion. He has been active as a member of the spiritual care committee there.

Biedermann said he’s also done a lot of visiting from room to room. &uot;Many of these people don’t have families who live in the area,&uot; he said. &uot;They just need someone to listen. They all have concerns, and sometimes life has become tiresome for them. I’m going to be old someday, and I hope someone will take the time to listen to me.&uot;

He often doesn’t have to say a word. &uot;They are genuinely appreciative of what you can do for them,&uot; he said.

At home, he also helps a 95-year-old neighbor with chores, enabling her to remain independent in her own home.

Biedermann has also been active as a volunteer in Special People in Religious Education, Arc of Freeborn County, the Community Adult Education Advisory Council, the American Legion, Elks Lodge and Eagles Club. He was active in the National Guard for 16 years. He was a charter member of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He served on the ethics committee at the Albert Lea Good Samaritan Center for six years. He is a past president of the Albert Lea Rotary Club, and also served as its secretary for 17 or 18 years.

&uot;Rotary has a saying that I love: Service above self,&uot; Biedermann said.

An accomplished tenor, Biedermann loves to sing. He’s a member of the Albert Lea Cantori and a charter member of the American Legion’s Careyaires. He also sings in the choir at Trinity Lutheran Church and has sung for numerous weddings, funerals and at nursing homes.

Biedermann became the community’s Santa Claus in 1963. He is on his third red suit, and has never charged for his services. &uot;It’s a lot of fun,&uot; he said of his seasonal duties.

Biedermann and his wife, Adeline, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Feb. 5, 2001. They have four daughters, one son, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

One might also find Biedermann puttering in his yard, taking care of the lawn or riding his motorcycle.

&uot;The grandchildren love to go for a ride,&uot; he said.