Employee profile: Bobbie Huotari

Bobbie Huotari freely admits what most of us who grew up in larger families know: the youngest child in the family gets special treatment.

“I am the youngest of 12 children in the Evans family of Deer River,” said Bobbie, “and I was spoiled rotten.  All my brothers and sisters thought so, and it must be true.  We grew up on an 70-acre farm a couple of miles north of town on Highway 46.  We had horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, cats and dogs; there were animals everywhere.”

Bobbie and her sisters made eight loaves of bread every Saturday morning, and her mom continued to bake all week long.  Bobbie fondly remembers the fresh caramel rolls her mother would have for the family when they got off the school bus each day.  Life was so simple, and those were happy times, she recalls.

Bobbie graduated from Deer River High School and attended Itasca Community College for one year to study as an optometric assistant.  However, in the fall of 1978 she was hired by Clair Wilcox to work in the bookkeeping department at Grand Rapids State Bank.

“I joined the bookkeeping department which is where virtually all new employees began,” explained Bobbie.  “Four years later I went ‘up’—literally—to the teller department. I worked for Gail Johnson, and I can still remember having to fill out the long yellow ledger sheets by hand.

“So much of the teller’s job is different today thanks to technology,” Bobbie continued.  “We used to have to count the checks manually before they were included with the monthly statements.  When you didn’t grow up with computers, like me, the new technology was a big change.  Others catch on more quickly, and most of the tellers we hire today have been using computers since they could read.”

Bobbie resigned her job in 1986 to move with husband Wally to Rapid City, South Dakota.  Wally’s father had seen an ad looking for loggers in the Black Hills, and several of the family members moved there.  “Wally had worked for Rajala Construction and Lakehead Construction, so he decided to drive trucks for his family’s logging operation.  They all had logged here in Itasca County, so this was a great adventure.”

 “Wally loved—and still loves—the Hills,” Bobbie continued.  “But I’m a northern Minnesota girl, and I missed the lakes.  There is no water out there, but there are no bugs!”

The family moved back to Deer River in 1989, and after logging for a couple more years, Wally landed a job with Brink Sand and Gravel.  That business was purchased by Hawkinson Construction, and Wally works there to this day.   About the same time, Bobbie was re-hired at GRSB by Craig Wilcox, and she returned as a teller.  By that time Mary Salisbury was the teller manager, and Bobbie became one of the senior tellers, a job she holds today.

“I enjoy being part-time because it helps me get things done at home while still having time to play,” explained Bobbie.  “I love baking, gardening, motorcycle riding with my husband, reading and attending garage sales.  My family has made garage-selling a team event.  One of my sisters, now deceased, lived in Ham Lake, and she would scour the ads for garage sales in the Twin Cities area.  She would chart out the locations on a map, and then two or three cars of our family and friends would hop from one sale to the next.  It was great fun.”

Family is very important to Bobbie.  Nine of the twelve members of her large family are still alive, and there are 150 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren who gather for holidays and family events.  In fact, they rent the Deer River town hall for Christmas parties simply to have a space large enough to accommodate everyone.  

Bobbie’s and Wally’s only son, Evan, was born in South Dakota in June 1987.  He started wrestling in first grade, and Bobbie and Wally chased after him to wrestling meets on weekends and usually once or twice during the week.  “The wrestling team and their parents became like another family to us,” said Bobbie. Evan went to State during his junior and senior years of high school.  He took fifth place as a junior and placed third in the State meet his senior year.

The other significant value in Bobbie’s life is her faith.  She is a devout Catholic, and that faith was tested severely on August 6, 2013, the day “life changed forever.”  Evan was killed in an auto accident on Highway 2 near Proctor, Minnesota, early in the morning. 

“Evan was on his way to work,” said Bobbie, “and based on the police reports, he must have fallen asleep and gradually crossed the center line.  He hit a semi-trailer truck head-on.  The emergency responders got him to the hospital where he lived for 90 minutes.  I was able to get a priest there; it was what I could do.

“I can’t say enough about how my faith, my family and my friends—including my GRSB family—have helped me through this period,” Bobbie continued.  “The biggest part of my life has always been my faith.  For the two months I was away on a leave of absence, I would watch Eternal Word Television Network non-stop, and pray, pray and pray some more.  The outpouring of love and support from family and friends carried me, and I don’t know how others can get through trials like this in their lives without that faith and support.”

Bobbie’s concern and care for others is evident in her job as senior teller.  She appreciates and values her role as a mentor at GRSB.  The role of senior teller is intended to help provide guidance, training and support for other tellers, many of whom have far less experience as a teller. 

“The bank has been very good about investing in training for all of us,” said Bobbie.  “There are a lot of great people here, and we have tools now that allow us to have customers’ information at our fingertips.”

Bobbie's family: (clockwise, from left) Jen Reichert (Evan's fiancee), Evan, Wally and Bobbie.

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