Family of Pat Sowada Accepts 2020 Citizen of Year Award on Her Behalf


Columbia Heights 2020 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award Goes to Patricia Sowada
If you’ve ever attended a Coffee With a Cop gathering or a library fundraiser, or a Sister Cities meeting, or any number of volunteer events within the City, you’ve probably met Patricia Ann Sowada. She spent decades actively involved in the community.

Pat “represented community spirit at its finest,” wrote Becky Loader, former library director, in her 2020 Outstanding Citizen of the Year nomination form. Loader was one of four who submitted a posthumous Outstanding Citizen nomination for Pat, who sadly died this October at the age of 77. The three other nominations were submitted by Renee Dougherty, Columbia Heights Library Director, Catherine Vesley, Library Board Chair, and Dolores Strand, Sister Cities Committee Co-Chair. This November, Pat was officially selected to be the 2020 Outstanding Citizen of the Year. Representatives from her family accepted the award plaque from Mayor Donna Schmitt at the Columbia Heights City Council meeting Dec 14. The City will host an event celebrating Pat’s accomplishment once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The following is a summary of some of the ways Pat was involved in her community:

Pat was appointed to the Columbia Heights Library Board in June of 1989. She was a member at-large from 1989-94, vice chair from 1995-2008, and vice chair again from April 2019 on. She was chair of the board from 2009 to 2019.

“She was a good listener, a vocal advocate for literacy, and a believer in the power of libraries to build literacy in learners of all ages,” wrote Dougherty in her nomination submission. “She carefully considered citizen suggestions, consulted staff for advice, and always sought to negotiate a middle way amidst conflicting opinions.”

Pat was also the membership chairperson for the Columbia Heights Sister Cities Committee. Over the years, Pat made a point to attend as many City events as she could. She almost never missed a monthly Coffee With a Cop gathering. She helped out annually at the Library Foundation’s Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser. She crocheted and knitted hats and robes for U of M children’s cancer patients. She taught elementary school kids how to knit in after-school hours. She coordinated the exchange of greeting cards with Highland and Lomianki students for 20 years. She was an active member of Immaculate Conception parish and active with Holy Cross Church in North Prairie as music director and organist. She donated pumpkins every year to the Fire Safety Open House, and donated actively to Columbia Heights Recreation Department. She helped with Heights garden beautification. She decorated and rode on the Library’s 90th anniversary parade float. And so much more.

The Outstanding Citizen Award recognizes residents who have selflessly contributed their time and effort to helping people, the environment, and the City community, particularly those who have not otherwise been publicly recognized. We are honored to name Patrician Ann Sowada our 2020 Columbia Heights’ Outstanding Citizen.