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Volunteerism has no age limit

Wheaton woman continues to stay as active as ever in her community at age 91

There’s nothing retiring about Doris L. Rixe’s retirement years.

The 91-year-old Wheaton woman is an active volunteer in her community and church with no plans to slow down.

“When you retire, you just change gears and keep on going,” she said. “Some people might sit back, but I think I would be rather bored with that.”

She’s a regular at the Wheaton Community Diner and Cafe, but she’s not there just for the coffee. Rixe assists with the senior nutrition program which serves meals at the eatery.

Her work has ties to the Wheaton Senior Citizens. She joined the group about six years ago and serves on its board as its treasurer.

Rixe describes how the group used to meet at the building that now houses the diner and cafe. The seniors would gather for meetings and gatherings and eat meals through the senior nutrition service. When the group was told it would have to drop one cook from its nutrition program, the seniors formed a plan. They unanimously voted to open the diner to the public.

“We’ve had some rough times since, but we’ve stayed open,” she said.

The diner and cafe is a win-win for the community. The public is offered great meals and the senior citizens continue to be served through the nutrition program. Volunteers also deliver meals to shut-ins Monday through Friday, she said.

Rixe not only greets the customers, she also pitches in if help is needed washing dishes.

Her work ethic took root early in Rixe’s life as she grew up on the family farm near Wheaton. She recalls the dust bowl years and how the lack of rain and poor crops resulted in the family losing their farm. Rixe, her six siblings and her parents, Fred C. and Paulina Neumann, moved to a rented farm four miles from town. Rixe’s father eventually decided to give up farming as the industry was moving from horse-drawn equipment to tractors. The family moved to town where Fred focused on lawn care in the community.

Rixe recalls the family’s bout with scarlet fever. While her older siblings became ill and were confined to their beds, she recalls sitting by the table coloring. She seemed unaffected by the illness, but the next year at school proved otherwise. Rixe couldn’t remember anything she’d been taught the year prior, she said.

She should’ve entered second-grade, but repeated first-grade as she struggled with her memory. The setback didn’t slow her down much. Rixe graduated from high school and attended college in Milwaukee. She returned home and worked at a law firm before marrying her husband, Donald.

The couple moved to Ortonville when he started a job with the Minnesota Highway Department. Their four children were born in Big Stone County, but they returned to Wheaton when Donald experienced health problems.

Rixe worked for the ASCS for a few years before she was hired by her home church, St. Johns Lutheran, as its secretary. She enjoyed the work. Each day was different, she said.

She taught Sunday school and a seventh-grade confirmation class. And she helped where needed.

“To me it wasn’t really volunteering,” she said. “I just saw things that needed to be done and just did them.”

She retired after serving as secretary for 27 years.

Rixe was in charge of the church’s “book nook.” She ordered religious cards which were sold at the church. “It was the only place in town people could get religious cards,” she said. The church continues to offer the “book nook” services.

She’s also delivered recordings of the church services to shut-ins. Each week she’d climb the stairs to the balcony where the tapes and recording equipment were located to retrieve the materials. Then, riding her three-wheeled bike, Rixe would make the deliveries. When she had problems with her aorta, Rixe’s doctor said she had to stop climbing stairs, and so she stopped delivering the tapes.

Rixe was also active in the town’s bowling association for 17 years serving as its secretary/treasurer. She started bowling after Donald’s death in 1964. But, when she had problems with her shoulder, she had to leave bowling.

“I don’t miss the bowling as much as being with the people,” she said. Even though she’s had to leave some activities over time, Rixe seems to replace them with something else. She’s spearheaded regular bingo events from her apartment building and with two or three other residents, assembles puzzles. Once the puzzles are finished, she applies a watered-down glue on it. The puzzles are framed and hang in the community room.

She’s been to Hawaii for her granddaughter’s wedding, but she  has no plans to move there or other warm locations for the winter.

“I actually like it – winter, that is,” she said.

And Rixe is too busy to leave the area for very long. There’s just so much to do to help others.

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