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Editorial: No, Donna, you're not nuts

While we can't all be just like Joyce Walen or Donna Nicholson, we can marvel at the shining work ethic they bring to their labors.

Walen and Nicholson are 40-year-plus River Falls School District employees. They were interviewed about their on-the-job longevity streaks in last week's Journal.

Walen's secretary desk at Westside faces the hall. When elementary school children pass the office and look in, what they see is Walen's smiling face.

She's been flashing that warm smile at Westsiders for more than two generations. That's why they come to her about a first lost tooth, a new pet at home or a birthday; why she's asked to listen to students brush up on their reading or go over a part in the school play; why she's the one to nurture a sick child until mom or dad comes to the rescue.

These unofficial tasks get done even as Walen compiles the school newsletter, answers phones, processes timecards, monitors daily attendance and more.

In her story last week, Walen made the case for bonding with children in a world where they're taught to be wary of adult intentions: "It's a good feeling to know that you're loved and, and even more important, trusted by these kids."

And Nicholson? She's behind the school bus wheel at age 72, driving back and forth, 170 miles a day. Her qualifications? A love of driving and the same for kids. It's that basic.

Nicholson said younger people ask why she keeps working. Older, retired people, however, say keep going. "That's an incentive for me to stick with it," she said.

Nicholson greets each morning eagerly because she never knows what the job has in store for her. She said that kind of spontaneity leaves her feeling alert and useful about the day ahead.

"So tell me I'm nuts," Nicholson says.

Not on your life, Donna. Those of us in the labor force should be so nutty.

Online Poll: First things first

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: What should America's No. 1 priority be right now?

The results as of 1 p.m. Tuesday:

  • Reforming the health-care system, 15.7%
  • Deciding about our military commitment to Afghanistan, 6.1%
  • Continued focus on boosting the economy and promoting jobs, 34.8%
  • Paying down the massive debt and shrinking government, 43.5%

    To vote, go online at

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