Longtime volunteer is Port Cities Woman of the YearEmily Demgen broke her foot in June and broke her hip in July. She had a minor heart attack in February. But when the 92-year-old goes to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior every Monday, Wednesday and Friday it’s not for treatment. It’s to volunteer.
By: John Lundy, Associated Press
Emily Demgen broke her foot in June and broke her hip in July. She had a minor heart attack in February.
But when Demgen, 92, goes to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior every Monday, Wednesday and Friday it’s not for treatment. It’s to volunteer.
“I push a cart with coffee and cookies … and then I go up and help with the meals, and anything else they ask me to do,” Demgen said.
Demgen, a volunteer extraordinaire and civic activist in Superior, was named 2011 Port Cities Woman of the Year on Wednesday at the 63rd annual Port Cities Luncheon. She was nominated by the Douglas County Historical Society and the Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior Auxiliary.
Demgen was accompanied by two of her biggest admirers. Daughters Sara Garfield and Julie Demgen came from Stockton, Calif., and Newark, Del., to attend the event with their mother.
“It’s just wonderful to see her recognized in this way at 92 and a half,” Garfield said. “And I think it proves that when you volunteer you get much more than you give. Because it keeps her young, it’s given her an incredible group of friends and a support system, and a reason to get up every morning.”
Julie Demgen added: “We’re just so proud of our mother, and I’m just glad that we could be here. … She’s given us a great legacy.”
The Superior native’s legacy as a volunteer goes back to the end of World War II when she ran the bloodmobile in Milwaukee, according to information provided by the Port Cities Luncheon committee. As a Grey Lady in Superior in the 1960s and ’70s, she organized and supervised the VolunTeens, a cadre of high school students who volunteered at local hospitals.
As a board member of the Douglas County Historical Museum, Demgen fought for the preservation of the home that became the Fairlawn Museum. In the 1970s, she was a founding member of the Solon Springs Historical Society and was instrumental in establishing the Solon Springs Museum. She is a supporter of the University of Wisconsin-Superior Foundation and honored her late husband by creating the foundation’s Robert Demgen Fund to provide financial support for students in emergency situations.
She has been a volunteer at St. Mary’s for six years, with more than 1,500 hours of service. Demgen no longer drives, and she credits hospital auxiliary members for making sure she gets rides to and from the hospital.
What motivates her?
“I don’t know,” Demgen said. “People just started calling me up after I got married and putting me on boards. It just happened. I never say no.”
After recovering from her heart attack, Demgen came back as a volunteer while she was still using a wheelchair, receiving a standing ovation from fellow volunteers. But she has left the wheelchair behind.
“I’m supposed to use a cane, but I didn’t bring it because I leave it everywhere I go,” Demgen said.
Other nominees for 2011 Woman of the Year were: