Nancy Tolvstad

Onalaska native Nancy Tolvstad, 87, was named the Onalaska Area Historical Society's 2017 person of the year this month. Tolvstad will be honored during during a potluck Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

The Onalaska Area Historical Society has named one of its longest standing members, 87-year-old Nancy Tolvstad, as its 2017 Person of the Year.

“I was surprised,” said the Onalaska native. “I am honored to receive this award.”

Onalaska Area Historical Society Vice President John Sagan said for more than 25 years the historical society has honored one person each year who has taken the extra step to preserve the City’s History.

Sagan said Tolvstad’s memory, which has been a tremendous resource to the society, should be celebrated.

“She’s a good research tool to have on hand,” he said. “She has so much knowledge and she just wants to share it with everyone.”

Born and raised in Onalaska, Tolvstad has watched the city transform from a town of 2,000 to the city of nearly 18,000 it is today.

She joined the historical society in the late 1980s after the death of her husband.

Over the years, Tolvstad has compiled a dozen collections of journal entries, newspaper clippings and photographs that illustrate the life stories and histories of Onalaska’s people and places.

Onalaska musician Frank Pooler, or as he was known locally Mich, was the subject of one of her earliest collections, which she completed with her daughter’s help.

The collections that Tolvstad has worked on span the history of the Onalaska School District, the spillway, the Black River, Lake Onalaska, businesses and “Hoofenpoof” to name a few, and will soon be on display at the Onalaska Museum.

Tolvstad is also a previous member of the board of the historical society. In 2015, she was honored for her decades of service to the community and the historical society when she was recognized by Mayor Joe Chilsen as the official Onalaska Historian.

Tolvstad remains an active participant in the historical society and in other organizations, including the Onalaska Cemetery Committee.

The historical society will honor Tolvstad during this month’s board meeting with a presentation and potluck on Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Room A of the Onalaska Library. Members are asked to bring a dish to share. Plates, utensils, napkins, and beverages will be provided. For more information contact the Onalaska Historical Society at 608-781-9568, extension 8.


Coulee Courier reporter

Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at or at 608-791-8216.

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