By MaryHelen Swanson—
The folks in Rush City can be thankful their 2011 Rush City Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award recipient, Mike Carroll, is around to accept this honor.
A Minnesota Twins baseball fan, and previously owner of season tickets, Carroll was on his way to the Dome August 1, 2007 when they stopped at a McDonald’s in Lino Lakes, the slow service there actually was a blessing.
Had Carroll continued straight to the game that night, he believes he would have been on the I-35 bridge when it collapsed shortly after 6 p.m.
But as Providence would have it, Carroll is still here and will accept the award at a banquet Saturday, Jan. 28.
Co-owner of the Funeral and Cremation Service ~ Olson (Rush City) and Swanson (Pine City) Chapels since 1981, Carroll uses his leadership expertise as he serves numerous committees and boards, and for this dedication he has been chosen for this award.
Many of those boards are hospital and health related.
Carroll has a deep concern for the health of the people of the community.
Carroll and Dan Rinden purchased the funeral home from Orin Olson in 1981. Carroll took a chance in leaving North Minneapolis, where he grew up, and came to Rush City which he found to be a very positive place and a good place to raise children.
Raised in North Minneapolis, Carroll attended North High, but graduated from Patrick Henry.
He originally intended to teach science and was a biology major in college. Then he changed his major and was enrolled in the School of Forestry at the U of M, St. Paul Campus.
But, it was the 70s and everyone was into ecology and he knew that when he graduated there would be no jobs available.
He decided to look into mortuary science and the folks there were more than eager to have him in the program. So he transferred into mortuary science and graduated in 1975.
For a while he worked at two Swedish Lutheran funeral homes in Minneapolis, Swedish Lutheran being the nationality of the majority of the clientele.
And then the opportunity arose for him and Rinden to purchase the Rush City funeral home.
Rush City, he said, was a very open and receptive community. There he found he could be as involved as he wanted to be.
About a year later, Jim Ertz had appointed Carroll to the Rush City Hospital Board.
Other leadership positions
At one time, Carroll chaired the Fairview Lakes Regional Medical Center Board in Wyoming, Minn., and he was a member of the Fairview Health Systems Board in Minneapolis.
He has been a member of the Chisago County Hospice Board, and a board member of the Green Acres Country Care Center in North Branch. His is a current board member of Ecumen North Branch (formerly The Villages, formerly Green Acres), serving this facility altogether over 20 years.
In addition, Carroll is also a member of the Lakes Region Emergency Medical Services Board, serving as treasurer.
Church and other organizations
Carroll was a past president of the Deacon Board at Rush City Baptist Church, and a past chairman of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church Council, serving as a council member at the church and on numerous committees for 6 years.
Currently, he is serving as treasurer of the Jasper Masonic Lodge #164 in Rush City and is also current president of the East Central Minnesota Shrine Club.
For 29 years he has been an Outside Director on the Unity Bank Board. He has served as the president of the Rush City Commercial Club, president of the Rush City Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a current member, and through the Chamber, worked on the Rush City Music Festival Committee.
Carroll served as a board member of the Rush City Area Foundation for over 20 years, and is currently a member of the Rush City Economic Development Committee.
He has been suggested for this honor a number of times, having met many of the criteria for the award (which, by the way, he helped create) and has turned it down.
That criteria includes volunteerism, community service through clubs and organizations, longevity, positive impact on the community, dedication to a cause, persistence and sacrificial (mostly time) giving.
Being a mortician is a hard job, especially in a smaller community, Death is one of life’s most traumatic experiences, he said in an interview last week.
It’s an emotional and difficult time for people, as it is for a funeral home director who has become attached to the people of the community.
Carroll said the families they serve form a bond with him and become almost like part of his family.
It’s a little bit draining on emotions, he went on, but gratifying.
The families are very appreciative when you treat them like family, he said.
Still, Carroll maintains a professional attitude during the funeral, having to put his own feelings on the back burner, especially when the deceased is a person he knows well.
In a small town like Rush City, the funeral business is fast-paced, “you have to do everything.”
But it’s a good business for him, he said, however demanding it can be. Still, the profession itself can be hard your own family, he went on, a child’s T-Ball game doesn’t cut it when someone dies. When you are the owner, they track you down.
Carroll’s participation on boards and committees takes up much of his free time.
He does like gardening and, as noted earlier, Twins baseball.
When they were young, his time was also devoted to the activities of his three children.
Another favorite past time is cooking – he likes to make pasta, and his special barbecue ribs.
But, he said with a quick smile, he likes to let someone else clean up.
Carroll commended his staff who have been positive over the years and added much to the business. “It’s a solid place,” he said.
Being on the committee that has selected the past award recipients, Carroll felt a little awkward accepting the honor.
Over the years, a very special person has been recommended for the award and Carroll has agreed.
But that person, Bill Schneider, who was influential in the Rush City community for many years, always refused it.
Schneider passed away this past year, but Carroll feels it is only right to make note of how deserving Schneider was of the award.
So he said he might make up an award and present it posthumously on the night of his banquet.
Then there would be two very good reasons to attend the gathering at Chucker’s on the evening of Jan. 28.
Tickets are $17.50, and can be purchased at Unity Bank, Chucker’s Bowl and Lounge or Hermann Insurance. Or call Loring Nelson at 320-258-4209; Mike Carroll at 320-258-4735 or the Chamber office at 358-4639. Social hour is 6 p.m., dinner is at 7 p.m. and the presentation at 8 p.m.
The Community Service Award has been presented to a person or persons each year since 1972. The first recipient was James McGuire. Ken Opatz was the recipient for 2010.