FULDA — She has been called a minion maker.

A lively lady. And a passionate personality whose energy devoted to her home has created an uplifting legacy of good will.

For most of all, Ann Witzel is a Fulda fan.

A community member for nearly 40 years, Ann’s dedicated devotion to this town is remarkable and, she says, a labor of love.

“I once heard a person say ‘Why would you want to live in Fulda?’ ” Ann said. “That made me angry, because why would you NOT want to live in Fulda?”

The attitude has spurred a revival movement here, a feel-good attitude that has helped businesses and even brought families to town. Ann is involved in the Wood Duck Addition, a housing development west of U.S. 59 that slowly but surely is adding to the population and tax rolls.

She estimates perhaps five new homes have been built in recent years.

“And in Fulda,” she said, “five homes is a big thing.

“It’s fantastic for everybody. And it’s not about me; it’s about everybody in our town.”

Several years ago she became known for manufacturing “minions,” decorative little people made from used tires that were no longer needed at Pronto Auto Parts and Service, the shop on U.S. 59 owned by Ann and Jim Witzel.

Ann designed and painted the minions, and soon businesses in Fulda and throughout Murray County were displaying the little tots made from tires.

The response: consistent cheerfulness.

“It was great fun,” Ann sayid. “My intention was to make people smile.”

Then she grinned.

“Life is short,” she added, beaming.

Though no longer married, Ann and Jim remain business partners — and fast friends. And that says much about their personalities.

It doesn’t hurt that their hearts share a common bond of affection for Fulda.

“We raised five kids here,” Ann said. “I love the school system and I love the town. And I want to draw attention to what a great place it is.”

Ann and Jim have five grown children (Matt, Elizabeth, Andy, Chris and Margaret), six grandchildren and four foster grandchildren.

It’s a growing family. Ann’s life is also dedicated to helping her town grow.

She’s part of a group dedicated to making Fulda better.

“It’s our version of a Chamber (of Commerce),” she said. “I kept hearing ‘There’s nothing to do.’ So our group got busy. We don’t want to see Fulda die. This group is fantastic. They picked up the ball and ran with it, and now we have all kinds of things we didn’t have.”

They expanded the December Parade of Lights celebration to include a day of activities that includes frozen turkey bowling and fun things for each age group. There’s a prom for the youngsters, right after the high school event, in the spring.

And on March 21, there’s the second annual Corned Beef, Comedy and Cabbage Show slated at the Community Center.

“It’s very cool,” Ann said.

Fulda has an indoor swimming pool and a 24–hour fitness center. Of course, the town is known for its Wood Day Days celebration, an event that Ann’s group has helped expand throughout the years.

“Our community,” she said, “is fantastic. People here are willing to give their time, their product — anything you ask for. Because everybody here loves Fulda and they want to see it grow.”

Ann has worn many hats since marrying Jim and moving from her native Heron Lake to Fulda. For decades she’s worked at the Pronto, a business that’s been in Jim’s family since 1952, and has also driven bus for the school district. These days, she volunteers part-time at The Store, a new gift shop on Fulda’s Main Street that is off to a promising start.

Jim has always been impressed with Ann.

“She puts 100 percent into whatever she does,” Jim said. “She’s been very good for this town. I’m real proud of her.”

Others here are, too.

“Ann Witzel has a real stake in this community,” said Brad Holinka, a sports hometown hero who has never left his native Fulda. “She wants to see it thrive. And she’s not finished doing things for Fulda. She’s exactly the kind of people we need here. She’s made a huge difference in our town.”

Soon to be 57, it was suggested to Ann that slowing down might be enjoyable.

“No,” she said, smiling. “That’s not me.”

What is?

“I’m berserk on promoting Fulda,” she said.

Minion maker? Ann laughed.

“I’ve heard people call me lots of things, including crazy,” she said. “The one that really hits my heart is when folks call me ‘Mama Ann.’”

Well, it’s said that a mother’s love is forever. Certainly Ann Witzel never plans to quit advocating for her community and its people.

“I think we’re unique in the sense that we understand if we don’t stick together we’ll fall apart,” Ann said. “People in Fulda are willing to stick together. Everyone has your back here, it’s a great thing.”