An award that was about to be lost to time received new life Sunday when the Dawna Jo Kiesling Outstanding Family Consumer Sciences Award was presented at the 2019 Highland County Fair.
The late Dawna Jo Kiesling’s husband, Dean Kiesling, told The Times-Gazette that his wife was involved in 4-H for most of her life. When she was younger, she was the Gallia County fair queen in 1970. As an adult, Dawna Jo worked at the Highland County OSU Extension Office for 18 years and was the advisor of a 4-H club for about 15 years.
In July of 2018, Dawna Jo passed away following a courageous battle with cancer. That came a year after one of the Kieslings’ daughter, Lynnette, also passed away from cancer.
“Dawna Jo and I were married for almost 44 years when she passed,” Dean said. “She was very highly thought of in the county, and I just wanted to keep her legacy alive.”
Kathy Bruynis, who worked with Dawna Jo at the local OSU Extension Office, told The Times-Gazette that the award was formerly called the Mary E. Fisher Outstanding Family and Consumer Sciences Award and was about to be discontinued when Dean contacted her about creating an award in Dawna Jo’s name.
“The timing of it was just perfect,” Bruynis said. “It just fit too well.”
On Sunday, Dean Kiesling and a daughter, son, son-in-law, and their families presented the Dawna Jo Kiesling Outstanding Family Consumer Sciences Award to Sara Newsome, a Hillsboro High School student who just minutes earlier had been named an attendant to the 2019 Highland County Fair queen. Newsome is a member of both the Family and Consumer Sciences and the Junior Fair boards and has acted as a junior leader and a 4-H camp counselor.
Dean Kiesling remarked that it was bittersweet that Sara Newsome was the first recipient of the award.
“It was just kind of a coincidental thing,” Kiesling said. “We were just presenting awards to recipients who had already been selected. The thing that made it so nice was that [Sara Newsome’s mother] was a secretary at the Extension Office, and my wife worked directly with her.”
The Dawna Jo Kiesling Outstanding Family Consumer Sciences Award will be presented annually to a 4-H member, celebrating junior fair leaders’ accomplishments and Dawna Jo Kiesling’s life.
“It’s a great honor, for one thing, to keep the award going, but also in Dawna Jo’s name,” Bruynis said. “She was such an asset to the Extension Office and 4-H in general. It’s great to keep her memory going.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.