KIRKLAND – For the Rehn family, being citizen of the year just runs in the family.
One year after Denny Rehn won the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award, his wife, Deb, earned the same honor at the group’s annual luncheon last Thursday.
“I’ll probably put (my plaque) over his,” Deb Rehn joked.
Deb Rehn taught elementary school for 38 years in the Hiawatha-Kirkland School District. She told the crowd in the dining room of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church the award “came out of the blue.”
“I taught for a long time, but it’s never been a job to me,” she said. “I love going every day. I’ve taught a lot of kids, a lot of families. It was really fun.”
Denny Rehn said he was very proud of his wife.
“For 40 years she has worked with the youth in this community,” he said. “I don’t know how many people have come up to me and said she taught them and now she’s teaching their children and even grandchildren.”
Chamber president Donna Bunton said Deb Rehn also does a lot of “behind the scenes” work people don’t see.
“There’s no one I can think of who is more deserving,” Bunton said. “She’s been a fixture in our community. “
Bunton said a married couple has won the award before, but together, never separately.
Denny Rehn said the couple met in high school when Deb’s family moved to Kirkland from Kankakee. Her father was the high school principal. They have been married for 41 years, and in that time have worked on many community projects together, Deb Rehn said.
One of those projects was developing and publishing a teachers’ aid called “Pigs and Cows” for the Farm Bureau in the 1970s. It has since evolved into the farm bureau’s popular Ag in the Classroom program.
Deb Rehn also helped start Kirkland’s Strawberry Patch Preschool and has served on a number of committees – including the one that manages the Fourth of July parade, where the citizen of the year is honored.
The luncheon is also a fundraiser for the Friends of the Kirkland Library. Julie Miller, president of the library group, said the luncheon helped raise the $350 needed to qualify for a grant from the Library Foundation of Eugene, Oregon, which specializes in small libraries. The money will be used to purchase children’s library books and software.