TONASKET- Karen Schimf and Michael Stewart are named Tonasket’s Citizens of the Year by the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce. The couple accepted their award Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Traditionally, the Citizens of the Year committee nominates the new year’s candidate to honor. This year, the committee chose Karen Schimf and Michael Stewart as Tonasket’s 2022 Tonasket Citizens of the Year. Vice President Marylou Kriner said there is no couple more deserving of the award.
“They have done a lot within the community. Karen has played a big part in the hospital and all of the different things she runs. The Legacy would not have happened without Michael,” said Kriner.
Kriner said there are projects Stewart would like to get done and is looking for people to help on those projects.
“They are not chosen simply because they are a great guy or a great gal but by what they have contributed and what the community says. Look at the US Armed Forces Legacy, it’s beautiful. The committee was spot on when they picked these two,” said Kriner.
“Karen Schimpf and Michael Stewart are a couple so deserving of our admiration and appreciation. Not only have they been invaluable contributors to the Community of Tonasket, but also to the community of mankind,” said the Citizens of the Year Committee.
Both served their country during the Vietnam War, with Michael fulfilling several tours of duty and Karen as an army nurse.
Schimf said she was both surprised and honored to be chosen by the committee to receive this award.
“I always thought I was flying way under the radar. I was very thankful and very surprised. I was raised by my parents who took care of people and volunteered. It was something that was put in me. They were probably the finest Christians I know,” said Schimf.
Schimf credits her parents and her travels outside of the United States with teaching her the art of generosity.
“There is a universality of generosity that people have. People all over the world are pretty wonderful and they take care of each other. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve gone. My parents were basically missionaries within their community. They fed people, took in people, they are just good people,” said Schimf.
Members of the Citizens of the Year Committee said the couple have visited Southeast Asia on a number of occasions, helping the impoverished people there. As part of their reparations effort they have been instrumental in building a school library for “Children of the Mines” in Cambodia.
“Locally, they both played key roles in the Tonasket Legacy Project, putting in many hours of volunteer labor to complete the memorial. Michael has since acted as the Legacy’s Treasurer. Karen and Michael help the high school Veterans Assembly by bringing in items from their personal military collection, as well as items from the Legacy military collection to be displayed on the memorabilia tables for students and community to look at,” said the Citizens of the Year Committee.
Schimf served for over 30 years as a nurse for the North Valley Hospital District before retiring and continues to be an active volunteer on the Long Range Focus Committee. Schimf continued to serve and wrote a grant and secured a van for the Extended Care residents.
Members of the committee said Karen chaired the Board of the Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus for many years and has worked tirelessly for decades to provide concerts and musical presentations for the county. Stewart works on sets and does the maintenance on the O.V.O.C. building in Okanogan while remaining out of the spotlight.
When asked to describe her husband, Shimf said he is brave, impatient and intends to get things done. He helps people out by driving them to doctor appointments, plowing driveways, sharing organic garden produce.
Shimf said many years ago, while still working in the nursing home she asked Effie Lea Wilson (2022 Founders’ Day Grand Marshal) about volunteerism. She said it was just what everybody did, take care of each other. It was a given, and it wasn’t very hard.
“She was a big part of the nursing home as a volunteer. Volunteers were a big thing for a long time in the hospital and the nursing home,” said Schimf.
Schimf said it’s harder to volunteer these days.
“The other problem, people are living on their phones and forgetting,” said Schimf.
At the time of the interview, Schimf said true to form her husband was currently digging a neighbor out of her driveway.
The couple’s love story began while serving the U.S. Armed Forces Legacy.
“I met him through the legacy project. I wasn’t looking for anyone. We were terrified of each other for about a year,” said Schimf.
The committee quoted Booker T. Washington who said, “Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others.”
“You only have to look at the smiling faces of Michael and Karen to see how happy they are. Please join the Citizens of the Year committee in honoring your 2022 Tonasket Citizens of the Year Karen Schimpf and Michael Stewart.”