Sterling awards business, citizen of the year

By Jacilyn Bruns, The Voice News -  December 7, 2017

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Photo by Jacilyn Bruns, The Voice News

Marge Zuhlke tells her story after being named Sterling’s Honored Citizen.


STERLING – The Sterling Community Association honored Marilyn Saathoff of Mom’s Garden as Sterling’s “Business of the Year,” and Marge Zuhlke as the “Honored Citizen” of the year at the annual Christmas tree lighting celebration on Sunday night.


The Sterling Community Association wanted to recognize Saathoff for starting an independent business, the farmer’s market.


“I don’t think there’s always a lot of people in a small town willing to do that, so we really admire those people, and we sure want to support that,” said Laurie Saathoff, president of the Sterling Community Association.


Marilyn married Robert Saathoff and lived in various rural Sterling areas most of her life, until living in Sterling the last 14 years. She enjoyed jobs at Martin Luther Home from 1953-1955, and at Bell Terrace for 11 years until retiring.


She has five children, four girls and a boy, and 12 living



Saathoff and Audrey Keebler started Mom’s Garden and the Sterling Farmer’s Market as a project, and the senior center director at the time came to Saathoff because they were starting a program with nutrition certificates for the elderly.


“Between us, we had enough garden experience so we thought we could handle it; we’d been selling things out of the garden for quite a while,” Saathoff said.


Mom’s Garden grows several varieties of beans, potatoes, squash, onions, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, eggplant, peas, garlic, herbs and salad greens, and sells jams, jellies, pies, organic eggs and raw honey.


Saathoff said they have had good success, of course, depending on the weather – some years have been better than others. Most of all, she enjoys the people she’s met through the business, who have made it all worthwhile.


As Saathoff and Keebler are getting older, they are looking for new faces to inherit the project.


“I want to continue for at least another year, and then we’ll see what happens,” Saathoff said. “If anyone has an interest in continuing the garden and market project, I’m certain the people in Sterling would welcome it.”


Marilyn feels that the best part about living in Sterling is that it’s a safe, small town, where she can walk everywhere to get to the things she needs. She also enjoys the memories of the variety of people she has met over the years and their personalities. In the future, she wishes Sterling would be able to open a grocery store and a hardware store.


Marilyn received $20 of Sterling Bucks to use at Sterling’s businesses, as well as a Christmas ornament. There will be a plaque that says, “Business of the Year.”


Zuhlke, a longtime Sterling resident, was named the 2017 “Honored Citizen,” also receiving an ornament and $20 Sterling Bucks. Her name will be put on the Honored Citizen plaque in the Community Center.


She was born on a farm south of Sterling, and went to high school during World War II. She was a local teacher for seven years, at schools in Auburn and Vesta. She married in 1950, and has lived in Sterling ever since.


She has two sons, Steve and Ross Zuhlke, who were in attendance Sunday night with their families. She said her sons are thankful that they got to grow up in a small town like Sterling, because people know people, are kind to each other, help each other and are hardworking.


“The reason I like Sterling is that I can walk down the street and have somebody say, ‘Hi, Marge!’” she said.


Zuhlke said she enjoys the senior center programs, gardening, sewing, quilting, being involved at her church and at the school.


“I want to be here for a few more years,” Zuhlke said.




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