Groe retires after 33 years with Extension service

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 18, 2002

Rhodette Groe admits it felt a little strange only going to the Freeborn County Fair once this year.

That’s because for 33 years, Rhodette has been part of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Freeborn County staff, most of those as office manager. That got her out to the fair every day, making sure everything ran smoothly in the 4-H areas.

This year, she helped out with the 4-H livestock auction, having spent her last official day in the office on July 5.

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“It just seemed like a good time to retire,” she said. “I feel like it’s time to try something new.”

Rhodette was hired as a part-time secretary by Extension Director Eldon Senske in May of 1969. She had worked at Streater for eight years, and went back to work after her second child was born.

“My part-time job soon became full time,” she said.

After a time Senske asked her if she’d consider a full-time position as the office manager.

“I said I didn’t know, but Eldon always encouraged people, so I said I’d give it a try,” Rhodette recalled. “I love to organize, and I’ve always enjoyed office work.”

While the responsibilities kept growing, Rhodette said she always enjoyed the variety and challenges the job offered.

“When I first started there, I really did not know what Extension was,” Rhodette recalled. “It was really an education.”

She especially enjoyed working with Senske. “He was a No. 1 guy,” Rhodette said of her late boss. “We really worked together well. He was a really good friend.”

As a team, Rhodette and Senske were invited by the Minnesota Extension Service to talk with new people coming into Extension work. “It was a compliment to our county on how we did things,” she said.

Then there were all the families with whom she worked through Extension’s programs of consumer education, agriculture and 4-H.

She recalls working with families like the Recknors, Petersens and Davises in her early days in the office, and now works with second generations of those families.

One of Rhodette’s ideas was to get a high school student in to help in the office in the afternoons. “That worked out really well for us,” she said.

The summer assistant program also proved enjoyable for her.

“Young people keep us young,” Rhodette said. “They bring fresh ideas. It’s fun working with them.”

She understand that Extension needs to be a changing thing to meet the needs of county residents. And change it has in her 33 years.

“When we went to cluster counties, that was a big change,” she said. “Now with a regional approach, it’s even more change.

“One thing about change — some good things always do come out of it.”

Rhodette’s husband, Arlen, is retired, although he still works part time. They have two grown children: daughter Terri is married with a 3-year-old son and lives in Owatonna; and son Kevin lives in Phoenix.

Rhodette enjoys doing ceramics and is a member of both the Women of the Moose and the American Legion Auxiliary. “I plan to keep going on those,” she said.

Rhodette will be honored with an open house reception from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the Skylight Room of Riverland Community College. A brief program is planned for 8 p.m. Memories of Rhodette’s work can be shared with her in a memory book at the open house.