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Nisswa Citizen of the Year: Lifelong resident John Wallin wins honor

John Wallin (center) is surrounded by some of his family - daughter Julie Fritz (left), wife Carolee, grandson Ryan Fritz, son-in-law Robb Fritz and grandson Carter Fritz - outside Adirondack Coffee in Nisswa. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

John Wallin was named the 2018 Nisswa Citizen of the Year — and yes, this is the first time the lifelong Nisswa resident has won the accolade.

It seems many people share the same first reaction to the news: Hasn't the 76-year-old Wallin already had the honor?

Nisswa Chamber President Shawn Hansen was just one person who had to scan the list of past winners after seeing the nomination letter for Wallin.

"John Wallin is an outstanding choice for the 2018 Citizen of the Year. This is a well-deserved honor and one that I know John will cherish. He is a great person with a very giving heart," Hansen said.

Wallin was shocked to learn of the honor after being lured to Adirondack Coffee under the premise he was being asked to take photos. Many in the community are used to seeing Wallin at various community events with his camera around his neck and video camera in hand to document the events.

Upon entering the coffee shop Wednesday, May 9, he saw family members, chamber staff and past citizens of the year. Lynn Fairbanks, the most recent honoree, told Wallin he was the city's newest citizen of the year.

"I have some of the most beautiful and wonderful people in my life. I wasn't expecting this," Wallin said as tears formed.

Wallin's son-in-law, Robb Fritz, submitted the nomination letter that included information his mother-in-law — Carolee Wallin — and wife — Julie Fritz — had jotted down.

"As they were discussing various reasons, I glanced at the list they had collected of awards, offices held, volunteer commitments and community involvement. Astounded, I immediately asked for the honor to write the letter," Fritz wrote in the nomination.

Wallin's community service includes serving 23 years as a Nisswa volunteer firefighter, including the last three years as chief; teaching Sunday school, serving as a confirmation guide and being property chair for three years at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa; taking photos of the Miss Nisswa Pageant, Highway 371 project and numerous other events and occasions; and being a charter member of the Nisswa Area Jaycees.

Since 1979, Wallin has owned and operated the Wallin Berry Farm on County State Aid Highway 18 with his older brother, Calvin.

Wallin had a 36-year teaching career working with special needs youth and adults and was the 1983 Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year. He's been a volunteer firearms safety instructor with his brother, Calvin, for 49 years. He was named the 2013 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year.

He also served various positions with Crow Wing County, including as chair of both the Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission, and as secretary on the county planning task force.

"The reason I was so interested in writing this letter was that I was extremely impressed with the recorded track record of his actions that benefited others with little or no financial gain to himself," Fritz wrote. "This type of selfless dedication leads me to believe that the life he has chosen to live makes him an obvious choice to receive an award from his community that recognizes commitment to his neighbors."

Wallin will be honored at the annual Nisswa Chamber Spring Dinner on Thursday, May 17, at Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter.

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