Dedicated business woman lived in Delano
by Chris Dillmann
Sun sailor Newspapers
The windows of Artwork Art & Frame were dark midday April 10. Excelsior had lost someone truly dedicated to the community.
Debbie Hart, 57, owner of Artworks, might have been a resident of Delano, but she was also a longtime Excelsior business owner and community member. She was killed April 9 on Highway 10 in Watertown Township in Carver County according to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.
Paul Tschida with the sheriff’s office says the accident was reported at 11:41 a.m. Her vehicle was traveling southbound on County Road 10 when a tree trimming truck from Tree Top Service based in Delano traveling northbound collided with Hart’s vehicle.
Tschida says the roads were icy and played a role in the cause of the crash.
The driver, Richard Workman, also from Delano, was not injured. Hart was pronounced dead at the scene. Tschida says the Minnesota State Patrol assisted at the scene, and the final cause of the accident is still under investigation.
AN UNDYING LOVE FOR THE COMMUNITY
Hart began Artworks in Excelsior 35 years ago and has been dedicated to the community since. One of her most accomplished features was establishing the Art on the Lake art show with her brother in 1970.
Beginning a tradition that has blossomed into a staple of the community, Hart’s love and passion for art showed through her dedication to the event.
“She really left a great legacy,” said Chris Lizée. “This [year] will be a tough on Art on the Lake.”
Yet, keeping what she built going is only right Lizée says.
“Though, it will be an honor to keep it going, and she really did a great job making that a community asset,” she said.
Longtime volunteer and Co-Chair of Art on the Lake, Lizée says Hart built something that artists have returned to for decades.
“She really felt it was important to bring art, and good art, that people could enjoy and have the opportunity to meet the artists,” Lizée said. “She built a loyal following, not just with the artists, but in her volunteers, too. It’s a lot of work to do and a big affair.”
Always exhibiting a good attitude, Lizée says Hart lived a joyful life. That spark and passion she showed will be missed, Lizée says.
“It’s just such a shock,” Lizée said. “It’s a real loss.”
Supporting the family, Lizée says, is the next priority. Being able to cherish the time spent working with and enjoying their company, Lizée says she was happy to have been able to share some of that with her.
“It was a gift to know her and be her friend,” Lizée said.
Former South Lake-Excelsior Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Linda Murrell, says she met Hart when she began working at the chamber and Art on the Lake.
Murrell says Hart did a tremendous job building the event and its reputation. Yet, it wasn’t just her dedication to the art community, but the business community as a whole in Excelsior, that made Hart who she was.
One of the more vocal retailers, Murrell says she was articulate about voicing her concerns if things in the business community weren’t going right. She knew what she wanted and would make sure change happened if needed.
She even was able to get U.S. Senator Al Franken to visit Excelsior in 2010 to discuss the affects bank fees for credit card purchases have on small business. Visiting the capital and lobbying to have those changed, Hart’s passion for Excelsior and its independent business community showed in everything she did.
“It’s incredible to get a U.S. senator to a small town like Excelsior, so I thought that was amazing on her part,” Murrell said.
Murrell said she stood up for her beliefs and had a lot of persistence. If she wanted to get something done, she’d work the problem, Murrell said.
“I’m deeply saddened by this, I liked her a lot,” Murrell said.
Good friend Carolyn Manhatton says the number of people she touched is amazing. She lauded her as a strong, quiet force who, instead of just letting things happen, found a way to make things better.
Manhatton remembers how much time Hart spent trying to formulate a way the downtown retailers would survive in a difficult economy. Her efforts she says made Excelsior a better place.
“She enriched Excelsior so many different ways,” Manhatton said. “She kept contributing over and over.”
Manhatton says Hart had seen so much and knew so much, she was always somebody to turn to for help. And she adds, was always happy to give it.
“She was a wealth of information and was always willing to share,” Manhatton said.
Finding a way to work with everyone, Hart was able to touch a lot of people, Manhatton said. Devoted to her family, she will be sorely missed by many.
“I’m telling you, she made life humorous,” Manhatton said.
She was also an avid lover of horses. She was a member of the Sherburne Mounted Patrol and Dassel Saddle Club.
“She found a horse wherever she could,” Lizée said.
A memorial service will be 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, visitation will begin 2 p.m. at Watertown Trinity Lutheran Church, 513 Madison St. SE, in Watertown. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations preferred.
Contact Chris Dillmann at [email protected]