by Cori Hilsgen
Elaine Vogel doesn’t usually like to brag about herself, but other people agree she has some bragging rights. Her friend, Delrose Fischer, wanted people to know Vogel was recently honored for volunteering 10,000 hours at the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Cloud.
Vogel was one of several volunteers honored recently at an awards dinner at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud. She received a 10,000-hours pin and an engraved silver bowl with the words “10,000 hours of dedicated volunteer service to veterans” on it. Healthcare system director Barry Bahl presented the awards to her.
“I think it’s a nice remembrance,” Vogel said of her pin and bowl.
Her daughter, Patty Zimmerman, and granddaughter, Molly Mann, attended the ceremony with her. Patty currently volunteers at the hospital, and her granddaughter volunteered there as a teenager but now lives in Texas.
Vogel, 86, is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary 328 in St. Joseph. She began volunteering at the VA 36 years ago and helped one night each month with the auxiliary. After she retired, she also volunteered in the American Legion auxiliary office at the VA every Wednesday morning.
Vogel was married to Al Vogel for 62 years. They both lived in St. Cloud and met while ice skating at Seberger Park. The park was located in the middle of where they both lived. At the time, she attended Tech High School and he attended Cathedral High School.
Vogel has two children. Daughter Patty is a special-education teacher and son Dan is a forest technician at St. John’s University. She also has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Al died five years ago. Vogel said she continues to volunteer because after 62 years of marriage, she had a lot of trouble adjusting to his death.
“After 62 years you’re like one person,” Vogel said.
Al was in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He also volunteered at the VA for several years before he became a patient there. When his Parkinson’s disease didn’t allow him to continue to live in his home any longer, Al spent a little more than a year as a patient at the VA.
When Al was a patient, Vogel would help a little on his floor while she visited him. While Al was living there, she did not receive credit for her time spent volunteering on his floor. Vogel would visit Al every Monday through Friday afternoon. On Sundays, her daughter would bring him home to visit.
“When he died they kind of said ‘gee we could use your help’ so I go there every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon,” Vogel said.
She volunteers in the same building in which her husband was a patient. On Tuesday afternoons, Vogel and others usually bake or cook something because the aroma brings back happy memories for the veterans. They play cards on Wednesday afternoons, except on the second Wednesday of the month they have Birthday Bingo. She also helps with 40 and 8 bingo on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
On the first Thursday of every month, Vogel and her daughter put on a bingo party for the veterans. She and three other auxiliary members serve lunch at the American Legion in Waite Park to a busload of veterans on the second Thursday of every month. A different building from the VA enjoys lunch each month.
Staff at the VA will also periodically call when they need additional help and for special events. Some of those events include Memorial Day, Salute to Veterans, Veterans Day, Ice Cream Social, POW/MIA and more. Vogel often serves food and beverages at the events.
“Whatever they need extra help on, I’ll go in and help,” she said. “With my husband gone, I do it as much for me as it fills a void in my life.”
Vogel has served as president to the auxiliary for 12 years, not consecutively. She is the Veterans Affairs rehabilitation chairman for the St. Joseph auxiliary and has sold poppies for 14 years. This year almost $3,000 was raised with poppy sales.
Vogel worked office careers at Herberger’s Department Store, Stearns Manufacturing and St. John’s University. Her career as a secretary to three presidents and three abbots at the college lasted for 32 years.
Vogel said she and her husband developed many close friendships with the monks at St. John’s, even taking several trips with some of them.
“Some of the monks were our dearest and closest friends,” Vogel said.
She has a collection of 10 spoon boards hanging on the walls of her house. The collection was started by one of the monks and most of them were gifts to her.
“I never had a one until one of them started it for me,” Vogel said. “Then once they knew it, I got oodles of them.”
Vogel and her family were hosts to 14 Bahamian girls from the College of St. Benedict. A parish friend, Evie Dumonceaux, said they needed host families and encouraged her to try it. The students lived at the college and would accompany her family on many outings on the weekends to show them what Minnesota was like.
photo by Cori Hilsgen
Elaine Vogel reads the engraved dedication on a bowl she received for volunteering 10,000 hours at the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Cloud.
photo by Cori Hilsgen
Elaine Vogel admires some of the spoons in her collection given to her from various monks and others while she was a secretary at St. John’s University.