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Spring 04-03-00


LA CROSSE, Wis—Billy Mills, the part-Caucasian, part-Lakota Sioux long-distance runner who surfaced from virtual anonymity to win an Olympic Gold Medal, and Jane and Lindy Saline, a couple from Dresbach, Minn. who share a passion for volunteerism and promoting noteworthy community causes, are this year’s recipients of Viterbo’s Pope John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service.

The Salines and Mills will receive the award, which is Viterbo’s most prestigious, in a ceremony Monday evening May 1 in the Fine Arts Center.

Mills is best known for creating one of the most spectacular moments in Olympic history.  At the 1964 games in Tokyo, the virtually unknown 26-year-old Olympic athlete rocketed past the expected winners to take the gold medal. His victory is considered one of the greatest upsets in the history of the game and he is the only American ever to capture the 10,000-meter run.

Mills’ achievement is made even greater by the obstacles he overcame to get to Tokyo and how he handled his fame after that memorable race. Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, his mother, who was one-quarter Lakota, died when he was 7; his father, three-quarters Lakota, died five years later. He was sent to a boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas where he took up running to escape his pain. In a 1996 interview in People Magazine, Mills said, "The Indians called me ‘mixed blood’. The white world called me ‘Indian’. I was running in search of my identity. I was running to find Billy."

Mills, who also served in the Marines, later became a successful life insurance salesman and is now motivational speaker. He is also a National Spokesperson for Christian Relief Services, raising money for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a non-profit organization that helps a number of Native American projects. His life was made into the 1984 movie, Running Brave.

Jane and Lindy Saline will be honored for their outstanding contributions to their community. Since moving to the area from New Jersey in 1984, the Salines have remained exceptionally active despite "official" retirement.  Jane, as a full-time homemaker, mother of four and principal caregiver for her mother and aunt, has served her church—First Presbyterian—as a choir member, church school teacher, Bible study leader, and member of the Board of Deacons. She also is active in the Franciscan Skemp Auxiliary and with the La Crosse Symphony.

Lindy Saline retired from a 36-year career as an executive with General Electric in 1984. He has been honored by the Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding leadership and has also received the Spheres of Influence Award from Franciscan Skemp Healthcare. Since arriving in the Coulee Region, he has facilitated more than 40 planning workshops for social agencies, churches, colleges, and civic organizations. He is an organizer of Coulee Region Collaboration and of United Coulee Region.

Information about tickets to the banquet is available by calling 796-3070. The Pope John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service was established in 1975. Last year, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishop George H. Anderson and death penalty opponent and author Sister Helen Prejean were honored in a ceremony at the college.

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