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Sunspots: Kate Livingston

Kate Livingston loves the color purple. When she told her husband she wanted a Hummer SUV or she'd dye her hair purple...well, have you seen Kate's hair color lately?

Beyond her favorite color, Livingston is an enthusiastic, active and colorful member of the Morris community as well.

Livingston was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1946. She has two sisters who still live in Ohio and one sister who is deceased. She attended Cuyahoga Community College with an emphasis on early childhood education.

"The Cuyahoga is the only river in Ohio that ever caught fire," said Livingston.

Following her Cuyahoga education, she worked for 20 years in credit and collections. In 1980, Kate met Dale Livingston, then in the Coast Guard, through a Coast Guard friend. They married in August of 1985 while living in Duluth.

"It was a small wedding, about 36 people," she said. "My cousin was the D.J."

The Livingstons moved to Shakopee while Dale worked for an environmental consulting firm. Dale started working for the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, in 1994. Kate earned an associate degree in accounting at Normandale Community College. "The best advice I ever received from my dad was to get a good education," she said.

In 1996, Dale's job led the couple to Morris, where Kate has worked since 2006 as the financial secretary for First Lutheran Church. She has also worked since 2000 for Nutritional Services Inc., delivering noon meals to Grandview Apartments. Husband Dale works as the environmental health and safety specialist for the University of Minnesota, Morris.

In 2000, the Livingstons, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Morris Wetlands Management District former manager Steve Delahanty, co-founded Friends of the Morris Wetland Management District, the first Wetlands Management District Friends group founded in the United States.

"Dale and I had just wanted to adopt and clean up a road or volunteer on a National Wildlife Refuge," said Livingston. "But by June 2001, we had applied for and received non-profit status for Friends. Now there are 230 National Wildlife Refuge System Friends Organizations in the United States."

The mission of the Morris Wetland Management District is "to serve the American people by restoring and preserving wetlands and grasslands to benefit waterfowl and other prairie wildlife and by providing wildlife-dependent outdoor recreation." The Friends' mission is to promote and to help the community understand and appreciate the District.

Among the varied Friends events is birding, during which experts are invited to Morris and a birding list identifying what types of birds inhabit the area is created. "Such a list is done for every state park in Minnesota," said Livingston.

Perhaps one of the most well-known Friends' events is held in association with the annual Morris Prairie Pioneer Days. Horse-drawn wagon tours of the Wetlands, live entertainment, birdhouse building and a plant sale are among the attractions.

"We've participated in Prairie Pioneer Days for about nine years," said Livingston.

The Livingstons have also made Morris Sun Tribune front-page news.

"We were on the front page for frog counting," said Livingston. "This is a wildlife survey done by the DNR in the spring. We identified frog types by the sound." Since it's difficult to train frogs to "sound off" one at a time, how is this done? "We basically estimated the population by the number of frog calls we heard," shared Livingston.

In addition to Friends, Kate has been involved in a couple of community projects including the Blandin Prairie Renaissance project, and is currently on the non-profit Resource Connections Expo Committee, which provides information to the community about services and opportunities that are available countywide. The next R.C. Expo is February 2011.

As a natural companion to their environmental interests, the Livingstons enjoy camping and hiking along with their Shar Pei male dog Pasa. "Pasa is Spanish for 'raisin,' " said Livingston. Kate also loves to read, primarily suspense novels and Minnesota mysteries.

"I've got eight bookcases full of books and a favorite author is William Kent Krueger," she shared.

Among Livingston's other favorites are getting a facial on a self-proclaimed "spa day," enjoying the outdoors around the couple's fire pit and 50s and 60s era rock and roll, "especially the Eagles."

"I'd like to see the wildlife and beauty of Alaska someday," said Livingston.

Meanwhile, long before she is an old woman, Kate shall wear purple.