When a young dentist set up shop in downtown Osceola 44 years ago, few in town could have predicted the impact he and his wife would have on community in the years to come.
Since then, Steven and Donna Schletty — grand marshals this year’s Community Fair Parade — have raised three children, volunteered with myriad local groups and inspired a recent fundraising effort for a new fair building.
They met in their early 20s, both living in the Twin Cities at the time.
“This goes back to me in dental school,” Steven recalled. “We were invited to a get together. I was with my date, and a dental classmate of mine brought Donna. She certainly caught my eye. My colleague, thank goodness, later said the two of them wouldn’t be dating and gave me her number.
“After the third time calling her,” he continued with a smile, “she finally said she would go out with me. And the rest is history.”
About two and a half years later, after marrying, the couple moved into an apartment in Forest Lake. For the first few years they drove separate ways during the day: Steven to his dentistry practice in Osceola, Donna to work in the cities. But weeks before their first son was born she decided she would stay home to raise their children.
They commissioned a local contractor to build their home on a wooded 15 acres in Osceola.
“We’ve been there ever since,” Steven said. “That’s our first and only home and that’s where I hope to stay.”
In the decades that followed, the couple has contributed to a variety of community efforts.
Steven was a founding member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and, later, a member of the Osceola Business Association, serving for a time as the group’s president. He was a charter member the local Lions Club, founded in 1980.
“It’s been 39 years of serving the area as a Lions Club with other members,” he said. “We’re very proud of that.”
He’s also served on the hospital board for six years as it pursued feasibility studies for what would become the new hospital.
“I don’t want to be just a spectator,” he said of his involvement in the village. “I want to be a team player. Osceola has given me so much over the years than I could ever repay in volunteering for these organizations.”
Donna, in addition to rearing three sons and being actively involved with 10 grandchildren, has volunteered with the Partners of Osceola Medical Center and Grow Osceola, the hospital gift shop and Rivertown Trails Coalition.
“Living in a beautiful small community and volunteering to help beautify it gives me great pleasure,” Donna said. “I enjoy working with a great group of ladies that make it seem like fun instead of work! It brings joy watching the town shine each season.”
Spending time with their children and grandkids remains a top priority for the couple.
“We enjoy that time with the kids,” Donna said.
The Schlettys were instrumental in building recent momentum for a donation to the fair building, committing to match the Osceola Area Lions Club up to $20,000 in funds raised. The current fair headquarters, built in 1962, is approaching the end of its useful life.
“What the fair board has done with our children and grandchildren going to the fair, enjoying all the events,” Steven said. “For almost 100 years now it’s been such a wonderful part of this town. Of course anyone would be proud to support it.”
After four decades in Osceola, the grand marshals of this year’s Osceola Community Fair Parade say their love for the village hasn’t waned a bit.
“We still go to all the sporting events,” Steven said. “Our youngest child was part of the first and only basketball team that went to state. After he graduated we didn’t stop going. We still sit behind the scorer’s table. Now we go to the volleyball games, we go to basketball games, football games. To sit in that gymnasium with all the student enthusiasm and the band playing, I only have to drive five miles and there’s no rush hour traffic. Pinch me. It just couldn’t get any better than this.”
Of being named 2019’s parade grand marshals, Steven said, “I’ve been heavily involved with the community all these years, enjoying all the functions and watching it grow. It’s been a wonderful ride and now to be honored as grand marshal in the parade is very special. Thank you, Osceola.”
And, he noted, he sees good things on the horizon. “As I’m getting older I’m seeing all these young, capable people donating their time. That’s wonderful to see. The dream continues.”