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Distinct and decorated

By Staff | Nov 2, 2012

Mildred Rothgarn’s philosophy on life is simple, but has proven successful.

“I wake up happy in the morning and go to bed happy at night and turn everything off but I deal with whatever happens during the day,” she said. “With a positive attitude, I think you can do just about everything.”

And Rothgarn has done just about everything.

The Rugby resident was recently named a Minot Area YWCA Woman of Distinction from Pierce County, adding to a lifelong collection of feats and decorations.

But Rothgarn never set out to be decorated, she set out to accomplish. Her variety of interests has led her to teach at a number of colleges and universities, run her own business, design and build a pair of houses and devote herself to dozens of civic and community organizations.

“I have always been interested,” she said. “The way I feel, I started this very young, no matter what comes along, learn something about it. You never know when you may need it.”

Her name is synonymous with community involvement in a number of north central counties, including Bottineau, McHenry and Pierce.

Rothgarn was the first ever female president of the Bottineau Chamber of Commerce, and the first woman elected to head the Heart of America Medical Center Board in Rugby.

She was also the editor of the Willow City Centurian, where at times the subscription base was double the number of residents in the town.

While she received her college degree in accounting and business administration, she took an early liking to fashion, learning to sew in grade school.

“The teacher in our country classroom didn’t have much money,” Rothgarn said. “She made all her own clothes, gorgeous clothes. I thought if she can do that, I can do it too. I got into sewing and designing. I took clothing classes and ultimately fell into that as a profession.”

It’s not just locals who have felt the impact of Rothgarn’s work in the community.

While she lived in Willow City, Rothgarn helped a refugee family from Cambodia. Most of the family ended up moving on to California, but eldest son Ly Hun took a liking to the area.

She became the 11-year-old’s legal guardian while he stayed at her home for two years.

“He really flourished here,” Rothgarn said. “He had great potential. He was artistic, musical, athletic and bright on top of it.”

Both Bottineau and Pierce counties had initially brought Rothgarn up for the honor.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “Not so much the honor itself, but that someone would feel you’ve accomplished so much that you should be recognized.”

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