Jerry and Norma Eklund of Frewsburg have been married 52 years this July. In that time, they raised four sons, established a successful business and still found time to give back to their community.
During a reception held June 14 at The Relief Zone, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation presented The Eklunds with its Axel W. Carlson “Unsung Hero” Award for their years of service.
“Jerry and Norma have been described as role models to younger generations, not only for the commitment they have shown each other in their 52 years of marriage, but for their commitment to their community,” said Randy Sweeney, Community Foundation executive director. “We are proud to honor them as this year’s Axel W. Carlson Award recipients.”
For the past 40 years, Jerry has owned and operated C&R Construction with Norma working in the office. Today, their sons Rick and Scott have taken an active role in the family business and all three men serve as co-owners.
“We allow the Lord to lead our lives, both personally and professionally,” Jerry said. “That is what has always worked for us.”
Devoted members of their congregation, Siloam Fellowship Church, Jerry and Norma have volunteered their time and talents to their church, as well The Relief Zone, where Jerry has served as president and the Frewsburg Lions Club, of which Jerry is currently the lion tamer and Norma serves as treasurer.
The Eklunds also took a leadership role in their local Red Kettle Campaign, an annual fundraising effort for The Salvation Army.
Almost 13 years ago, The Salvation Army was considering removing the Frewsburg Tops as a location for the Red Kettle and its bell ringers due to not having enough volunteers. Jerry and Norma took it upon themselves and began calling individuals and organizations to ring the bell. Since then, they have been able to fill every hour with local civic groups, individuals and students. If someone cannot fill an hour, Jerry and Norma go out and ring the bell themselves.
“It’s been the most amazing thing,” Norma said. “People start contacting us in the fall to see if they can arrange a time to ring the bell.”
The Community Foundation presents the Axel W. Carlson “Unsung Hero” Award annually to those who have made significant contributions through their volunteer efforts while not receiving, nor expecting reward or recognition.
“There is no way we could accept this honor without it being the two of us,” Jerry said. “It’s always been the two of us.”