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Faces: At 80, St. Patrick's Day parade grand marshal Doerfler says activity is key to long life

Joe Doerfler, a longtime Crosslake resident, is honored as this year's grand marshal for the St. Patrick's Day parade because of his lengthy list of volunteer contributions to the city. Theresa Bourke / Echo Journal

"I've been involved in so many super things with so many different people. That's why I just want to keep going," said Joe Doerfler, of Crosslake.

At age 80, Doerfler is indeed still going as an active member of the Crosslake community. His most recent endeavor - or honor, rather - is acting as grand marshal in the city's renowned St. Patrick's Day parade at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17.

"Criteria for the honor is based on longevity, contributions, participation and volunteerism within the community and its organizations," Crosslake Chamber Director Cindy Myogeto said. "And Joe - along with his wife, Shirley - certainly fulfills and exceeds each of these qualifications."

Doerfler definitely has longevity in the area, as he has been an active community member for 40 years. His contributions include being a founding member of the Crosslake-Fifty Lakes American Legion, the Crosslake-Ideal Lions Club and the Ideal Fire Department.

When he moved to the area from Lakeville 40 years ago, Doerfler started out in construction in Ideal.

"I wanted a change," he said after living in the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities for many years.

After about a year in construction and serving on the Ideal Fire Department, Doerfler jumped at the opportunity to open his own business - Crosslake Stump and Tree Service. Nearly four decades later, he still runs the business.

"If I'm capable of working, I want to work," he said, noting he doesn't work full time anymore and subcontracts for bigger jobs. "I take on what I want so I can continue working, and that way I can keep busy. And I think (that's) why I can live so long."

Doerfler believes being active is the key to living a long life, and his activity started long ago when he joined the naval reserves at just 16. After nearly a year there, he transferred to the Air Force for seven and a half years. The Air Force took him abroad to England for a time, where he got to travel and experience new cultures.

But simply being active isn't the only reason Doerfler is involved in so many community activities and organizations, which also include the Light Up the Dam committee, Immaculate Heart Church and the chamber of commerce.

"I meet so many great people," he said. "And I really like working. ... I can go to bed at night with a smile on my face, saying that I helped my fellow men. And that's my big thing in life."

Another Crosslake activity Doerfler can take some credit for is the Hunter's Rendezvous, an event he ran for 19 years. Hunters brought deer antlers or bear skulls in to get scored for free and measured for qualification in state and other hunting record books.

And still more community involvement for Doerfler includes serving on Crosslake's road commission under then-Mayor Fred Bieber, cemetery commission under then-Mayor Kurt Anderson and former police reserve under then-Chief John Backdahl.

"If there's another committee in Crosslake, I'd probably find it and serve on it," he joked. "It's just so much fun."

Though he knows there are other deserving community members as well, Doerfler is grateful to serve as this year's parade grand marshal.

"I am very, very proud to have been picked," he said. "This is an honor. God has blessed me for 80 years of life."

Those blessings include Doerfler's wife of 59 years, Shirley; children, Donna and the late Joe Jr.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Shirley is also excited to see her husband honored in such a way.

"He makes me very proud," she said.

Even though this year's parade will be extra special with Doerfler as grand marshal, it will also be bittersweet, as he no longer has his longtime parade companion and best friend, Charlie the Shih Tzu poodle.

"He has been with us for many, many St. Patty's Day parades, and he has been in all the parades that we have towed the Lions trailer," Doerfler said of the little dog who donned festive outfits every year. "He just won the hearts of many little kids."

Despite Charlie's absence, the grand marshal will hold his head high in the parade, as he thinks about all the community involvement and fun activities that got him to that point.

"I'm really proud of myself for what I've accomplished in life," Doerfler said. "Anything I can do to help this community."

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