GRAND LAKE - For Barbara Ahrens, her Grand Lake Rotary Citizen of the Year award couldn't have come at a better time.
"It was very nice to get this award," she said. "It sort of made 2012 better."
This, she said, has been a "rough year" with the loss of her mother and her husband's treatment for lymphoma. Her husband Ray Hauschel now has a clean bill of health, since August.
An East Grand Schools and Grand Foundation board member, Ahrens was crowned the Citizen of the Year on Nov. 17 at the Western Riviera Lakeside Events ballroom in Grand Lake. Ahrens said just a few hours prior to the event, she sort-of figured out she'd be receiving the award from her husband's unusual insistence they attend. And when she walked into the venue and saw her colleagues from the Grand Foundation, the school board and from the Grand Arts Council, she knew she'd been right.
Perhaps many citizens in Grand Lake know Ahrens for her volunteer work during the Christmas holiday, when each year she directs the town's popular melodrama, a fundraiser for the Arts Council. Ahrens took up that role several years ago, having a master's degree in theater and having been an actor herself in college at the University of Wyoming.
Ahrens was raised in Cheyenne, Wyo., and lived in Denver for 30 years when she worked for Denver Public Schools as a junior high and high school teacher, then administrator. Because of rheumatoid arthritis, Ahrens retired in 1994. Since she and Ray, who works for a complex litigation consulting company, often spent weekends in the Grand Lake area, they decided to build a home in Grand Lake and moved to the area full-time in the summer of 2000.
"I don't want to say it's an easy place to live," she said, "but after living in Denver for umpteen years ... it's an easy place to live."
Contemplating on the Grand Lake area, Ahrens said, "I'm sitting here looking out to the Colorado River and the mountains behind ... I like the quiet and the community, and the people."
Besides the endless hours Ahrens spends volunteering - on the Arts Council board for 11 years, the Grand Foundation board for 10 years and the East Grand School Board for seven years - she makes time for playing bridge with a club in Grand Lake, as well as reads. Reading, she said, is her "all-consuming hobby."
"I do too much reading, and sometimes let other things slide," she said.
At the Rotary dinner, several of her colleagues gave speeches in appreciation for Ahrens' hard work through the years, endeavoring to make Grand Lake, the county and the school district better.
The Rotary honors a Grand Lake citizen each year for his or her "service above self."