RED WING -- This year Kris Klassen, Regina Nicolosi and Lottie Aslakson were named the newest members.
Red Wing residents and Women's Hall of Fame members gathered at the St. James Hotel on Wednesday, March 11, to celebrate the three individuals who have been and are so important to the community.
Steph Riegelman nominated Aslakson and spoke about her during the celebratory luncheon. Riegelman shared how Aslakson volunteers in clubs and organizations in the city, such as the Elks Club. According to Riegelman, Aslakson has been known to dress up as the Elk’s mascot, the Easter Bunny, and around Christmas, an elf.
“As our club manager and officer and volunteer, she doesn’t just run our bar, and she does a lot of cooking in her kitchen, but she does so much more to help out,” said Riegelman.
Aslakson was one of those who spearheaded the Vietnam Veteran Welcome Home in 2019.
The speech about Aslakson also touched on her well-known humor. Riegelman explained:
“For those of you who know her, you know her sense of humor. There’s always a Lottie joke, Lottie-isms.”
When Aslakson was brought up to the front of the room to receive a bouquet of flowers she was asked to give a short statement.
“I’m speechless, if you can believe it,” said the Hall of Fame inductee.
Regina Nicolosi was nominated posthumously by Ruth Nerhaugen. George Vogel received the award for the family who could not attend and spoke about Nicolosi’s life and work.
Nicolosi was born in Germany before moving to and living in Red Wing for decades. While she was very involved in the community, many knew and remember her as the local female priest.
Vogel told those gathered that Nicolosi had always been interested in the Catholic faith. He said that when she was 7, Nicolosi would set up an altar and pretend to say Mass in her backyard.
Once in Red Wing, Nicolosi joined the Women’s Ordinance Conference, an organization with the goal to change tradition to allow priests to be married and to ordain women priests.
“The Catholic Church had 100% men priests and that’s true to this day. Regina didn’t think that was right,” Vogel said.
Though Nicolosi could not be ordained in the U.S, that did not stop her from following her passion. Vogel explained:
“She had to go to Germany and she was ordained over there, as a woman priest, one of very few in the world.”
Nicolosi eventually became a bishop. She died in December 2018.
Through her work as a chaplain at the Seminary Home, a priest and community member, Nicolosi influenced many people in the city.
“She just touched so many lives, I think there’s always a spot in our heart for Regina Nicolosi and I think that’s true for a lot of people in Red Wing,” Vogel said.
George Nemanich, the principal of Red Wing High School, spoke about Klassen and what she has done for Red Wing.
Klassen retired, he noted, then the district promptly hired the licensed school nurse back.
“What has most impressed me about Kris,” said Nemanich, “is her willingness to forge new paths to meet the needs of students who need immediate help and have little or no resources.”
The principal reflected on many programs and services that Klassen saw the need for and led the movement to make them possible.
Throughout her years in Red Wing Public Schools, Klassen organized dental services for students, created an “angel fund” for students in need of medical care and prescription medication, and started a food shelf at Red Wing High School.
Nemanich also recalled that Klassen once responded to a medical emergency in one of the schools and saved a student’s life.
“These activities go beyond the work expected in the school setting. Kris identifies the needs and takes action,” Nemanich said.
When Klassen was asked for a short speech, she told those at the St. James:
“I just want you to know this is a fabulous community. When I am starting to develop any of these programs, such as the food shelf that George talked about at the high school, I just sent an email out and it went viral.” She later added:
“This community is amazing, their generosity is never ending.”