Given the area's recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases, Crow Wing County elections officials worried about whether they'd have enough election judges at polling sites for the Tuesday, Nov. 3, general election.
Vi Noska didn't think twice about performing her civic duties - voting and working a shift as an election judge, both at the Cole Memorial Building in Pequot Lakes.
Not even at age 92.
Noska has been an election judge at the Pequot Lakes polling place since about 2000, after moving here in the fall of 1998. On Tuesday, she worked a 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift.
"I never minded working the 12 to 14 hours," she said of past elections. "They're such good people who work there."
"It's just something to do," Noska said of the reason she continues to work as an election judge.
Acknowledging she isn't a lifelong Pequot Lakes resident, Noska still knows a lot of people from being an active community member for the past 22 years. But each Election Day, she sees many voters who are strangers to her venture to cast ballots.
"So people are coming out to vote," she said.
“All of us at the city love that Vi is eager to help with the elections and we all enjoy spending time with her. She is such a positive and kind person, it is a joy to be around her,” said Angie Duus, Pequot Lakes city clerk/treasurer.
Noska grew up in Browerville and attended school in Clarissa with 15 students in her class. After graduating from high school, she attended the St. Cloud School of Business, living with and working for a family for room and board, and walking a mile to school every day.
"I like figures," she said, and she went on to work as a bookkeeper at a jewelry store in St. Cloud after graduating before returning home to work for J.C. Penney in Wadena.
She married Harry Noska, who had just returned to Browerville from serving in World War II. Married for 48 years, the couple farmed near Browerville and had three children - Brian, Dennis and Renee.
They retired and moved to Park Rapids, and Harry died five years later in 1985 from cancer. Vi Noska has been alone for the past 35 years, but said: "I don't have time to get lonesome."
She remained active in her husband's battalion, which had reunions every year across the United States. The battalion recently disbanded because there aren't many living members anymore.
In 1998, Noska moved to her cozy home in Pequot Lakes to be near her son Brian's family. She's active at her church, Grace United Methodist, frequently walks with a friend and continues to care for the gardens at her house and mows the lawn. With colder weather and not being able to walk indoors at Pequot Lakes School because of COVID-19 precautions, Noska is considering attending yoga classes.
She acknowledged genetics could be a factor in her long and healthy life. Her father lived to age 85 and his siblings lived long lives, and she still has her siblings who are ages 84, 85 and 88. She talks to her youngest sister, who lives at a Long Prairie care center, nearly every day.
A social person, Noska spends a lot of time on the phone talking to friends and family, and she cherishes her children and their families along with nice neighbors. She has four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Having basic freedoms that many people take for granted, like the right to vote, really hit home for Noska during a trip to Germany in 1989, a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. An avid traveler, she and a friend visited friends in Frankfurt, Germany. The day after Christmas, they took a train to Berlin.
"That was something. I still have visions of all that," Noska said, noting it was an eye-opening experience. "Our freedom should be sacred."
They toured East Berlin, which she described as a bit creepy with bare store shelves. But they saw people celebrating on the Berlin Wall on New Year's Eve and chopping pieces of the wall to keep.
"They were so elated to go visit their relatives in West Berlin," Noska said. "We saw people celebrating on New Year's Eve because they had their freedom.
"That stayed in mind," she said, noting whatever she can do here, she will do to help protect people's freedoms.
Noska wasn't too worried about the coronavirus circulating on Election Day, noting safety precautions were being taken, like wearing masks and sanitizing.
"You've got to be careful, but you can't be afraid," she said. "You have to take precautions."
She planned to spend election night with a friend watching the returns come in on television.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.