The Ohio Department of Aging celebrates outstanding older Ohioans for their achievements and contributions to others; for the roles they play in their communities, state and nation; and for what they do to promote productive and enjoyable lives. Since 1977, more than 350 individuals have been inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame for contributions toward the benefit of humankind after age 60, or for a continuation of efforts begun before that age.
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2013 Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Inductees
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View photos from the awards ceremony held on May 24, 2013, at the Ohio Statehouse.
Georgia J. Anetzberger, Ph.D.,, 69, South Euclid
Pioneer. Advocate. Friend. These are just some of the words colleagues have used to describe Dr. Georgia J. Anetzberger. Throughout her lifelong journey making things better for America's most vulnerable elders, she has bridged the gap from policy, to practice, to research, to education for our elderly. She is considered by many to be the architect of Ohio's adult protective services laws, and she founded the Ohio Coalition for Adult Protective Services and the Consortium Against Adult Abuse.
When Georgia was 16 years old, circumstances for our older citizens were very different than they are today. There was no Medicare, Medicaid or the Older Americans Act then. Concerned about the welfare of this population, she began studying the issue and found that there were few books on the subject. In her research, however, she found an inspirational quote that drives her still today: "What older people want is something to do, some place to live and someone to care." It was then that she decided she wanted to make a difference by addressing the inequities experienced by older Americans.
Georgia majored in social work as an undergraduate and was hired as the first elderly specialist at the Geauga County Welfare Department, where she devoted half of her time to adult protective services work. She remembers her first case: The individual was in her 80s and decided not to take her medicines. She had outlived the meaningful people in her life and she wanted to die. She still had mental capacities to make her own choices. Georgia realized it was important to offer her adult protective services, options and the right to choose.
"The elder abuse that I encountered made me determined to focus my attention on this problem, and I have been fortunate to be able to fulfill this purpose no matter what job I have had since," Georgia said. "I've never wavered in my passion to stop elder abuse. It only has taken different directions at different times, but mostly in the realm of changing society."
Georgia is a Lecturer in the Health Care Administration Program at Cleveland State University, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, consultant in private practice and Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She received her bachelor's degree in social work from The Ohio State University and master's degrees in both anthropology and social work, as well as her doctorate in social welfare from Case Western Reserve University.
Georgia and two colleagues currently are looking at elder abuse as a global problem. In the first phase of their research, they compiled responses from 53 countries across the six regions of the world. In the second phase of the project, they are looking more in-depth at elder abuse, exploring the characteristics of victims and perpetrators and the context in which the problem occurs. Georgia has written more than 80 scholarly publications, and has published two books: "The Etiology of Elder Abuse by Adult Offspring" and "The Clinical Management of Elder Abuse." She is President of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and has served as editor of the Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect. She also lectures on elder abuse and protective interventions, community-based services and aging-related public policy.
Georgia has received numerous awards for her outstanding accomplishments and achievements in the area of elder abuse. The Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named her State Social Worker of the Year in 1999. She has participated in various national and state elder abuse forums. She was also appointed as a delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging and the Ohio Governor's Task Force on Family Violence and Ohio Elder Abuse Task Force.
Georgia reminds us that, "It is essential that each of us find ways to contribute to our communities and society throughout our lives. No life stage is exempt from that responsibility, and those expressions are as unique as each individual. However, I truly believe that every way is meaningful and valuable for its own sake."
A. Joseph Buckley, 88, Tiffin
Joe Buckley began living by the motto, "Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful," long before he ever became a Marine. His early lessons shaped his ideas about family, loyalty and legacy. Joe's lifetime of service is a model for younger generations to live with meaning and purpose, yet he is modest, deflecting attention from his personal accomplishments to highlight the causes he champions.
Joe's dad passed away when he was a young boy, leaving Joe and his family with a questionable future, were it not for the Junior Order of United American Mechanics (JrOUAM) National Orphans' Home, commonly known as the Junior Home in Tiffin, Ohio. His father had been a member of the JrOUAM, the fraternal organization that ran the home, and now the dues he had paid ($1 per month) and the service he gave would take care of his family in their moment of greatest need. At the Junior Home, the Buckley siblings were never separated. The children thrived there and benefited from some of the 32 different vocational programs available to them. Joe excelled in printing, academics and sports. Their mother worked nearby as a housekeeper for a local businessman and she visited her children often.
After he graduated from the Junior Home High School, Joe enlisted in the Marines and was in the 6th Division, one of two Marine divisions that did not go to Iwo Jima. Instead, he was stationed in Okinawa, where he contracted Malaria. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and returned home. He completed his political science degree from Heidelberg College on the G. I. Bill in three years, and then attended law school for a year.
Over the years, Joe was commissioned into the Marine Corps from the Meritorious Enlisted Program. He worked for several northern Ohio newspapers, served two terms on Tiffin City Council, was a delegate at a national political convention in 1960 and ran for mayor of Tiffin. He volunteered at church and operated a restaurant franchise for 10 years.
He also became more and more involved with the group that sheltered his family those many years earlier through service to the Junior Home Alumni Association. He gives presentations about the Junior Home to school age kids, and his message is simple: "Get a good education, listen and respect your parents, nurture good friends nearby and just be yourself - enjoy your life!" The young people are captivated by his message.
The Junior Home was a forerunner of schools like Boys Town and Hershey Town. It was well operated and was the first accredited vocational training school in Ohio. The home was closed in 1945, as social security provided more stability for widows and children and WWII decimated the membership ranks of the sponsoring fraternal group.
In 1984, Joe Buckley proposed a war memorial for the 74 Home boys that died in WWI and WWII, and on Sept. 1, 1985, the sacrifices these boys made during both world wars were honored. Today, Joe still volunteers several hours almost every day to the upkeep of the Junior Home Memorial Park. He designs the gardens and tends to the grounds as a one-man landscaping crew. He considers it an honor to perpetuate their memories with an annual Home Kids Labor Day Memorial Service.
He met Joanna in High School and the two were wed in 1946. Today, nothing makes him happier than to be surrounded by his five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. For Joe, being retired doesn't mean a person is past his peak of usefulness; it means he has more time to give back and pay it forward. He inspires his family and his community with an attitude that the best is yet to come. He optimistically makes plans for the future, for himself and for the Junior Home War Memorial.
Joe disdains recognition for his devotion; he feels that belongs to his brave brothers-in-arms, those Junior Home boys who gave till there was no more to give. The memorial is a peaceful place for reflection and reverence. Semper Fidelis, Joe Buckley. You have been always faithful.
Samuel Burnett, 82, Toledo
Sam Burnett is an ambassador who teaches and demonstrates to others how to improve circumstances, overcome difficulties and triumph over adversities. As a child, he learned about self-respect from his father and his elementary school principal. For the past 60 years, Sam has been paying that forward as both an educator and volunteer in his Toledo community.
During his 42-year career as an educator, Sam taught in the Van Wert, Perrysburg and Toledo schools. He also spent 28 of those years as a principal in the Washington Local school system. He recalls, "I was always called on to change schools to motivate the staff and students to work hard and earn success in a friendly and constructive school. In today's schools we often pit the parents and teachers against each other, where we need to team up and the put the child in the center."
In retirement, Sam advocates for dignity, respect, economic security, safety, accessible housing and affordable healthcare for older adults. He links seniors to needed resources and provides fellowship and companionship for other older adults and assists them in improving their quality of living.
Comparing the two ends of the age spectrum in which he works, Sam noticed a common thread: "The kids and seniors have to learn self-respect, pride and self-confidence. Church, family and community used to all give the same message. We don't have that today." He notes that, in his experience, people have three fundamental needs: to be noticed, to be loved and to contribute. "If we treat children that way, they are better children for it; and if we treat seniors that way, they are successful seniors."
Sam provides volunteer caregiving to seniors at the Kahle Senior Center, the Friendship Park Center and the Mayores Senior Center. He serves on the TRIAD Council of Northwest Ohio, focusing on senior safety, reducing crime and ending the victimization of older adults. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc. He gives tirelessly of his time and resources to provide information, educational sessions and events in northwest Ohio with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
He is involved with the City of Toledo and Toledo City Council in the areas of water, city tax abatement, the city parks commission, and the parks and recreation board. Sam developed the Friendship Park Community Foundation, which provides support services for seniors during weekdays and involves the entire community during evenings and weekends.
He has been instrumental in the development of two Toledo area senior centers. He served on the Board of Directors of the Eleanor M. Kahle Senior Center for ten years. As President of the Board, he worked to put the center's finances into the black and established the Pat Miller Foundation to support ongoing operational expenses.
Sam was presented with the 2010 Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio's President's Award, for his significant contribution of service and volunteerism. He also was awarded the Eleanor M. Kahle Senior Service Award that year. He received the 2008 TRIAD Council Eleanor Kahle Award, the 2005 Ohio Association of Elementary School Principals Outstanding Contribution Award and the 2004 National Alliance for Arts in Education award. He also served as a delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging as a representative for seniors in northwest Ohio. He is also a recipient of the Jefferson Award.
Sam and his wife of 60 years, Barbara, have been actively involved in community and church life. They raised their two sons and two daughters, and have six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. About being inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, Sam says: "It means that the people that helped me, that we did all it together. It legitimizes what we did and it's humbling."
Sam Burnett has spent the last 24 years serving more than 22 agencies and organizations. He defines positive aging as, "The opportunity to continue to give back and be involved in achieving a goal toward a just and vital community."
Gene and Evelyn Kelsey, 82 and 78, Findlay
Although Gene and Evelyn Kelsey didn't coin the phrase, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime," they do exemplify it by helping the poor of Hancock County become self-sufficient.
Nearly 20 years ago, when Gene retired, his church asked him to serve a committee on emergency funds. Gene reached out to other county churches to have a dialogue about similar issues. They met and discovered there were service duplications and other areas that were not even addressed.
What followed was the creation of the Hancock Christian Clearing House (HCCH), which serves Hancock County residents in need of relief during emergencies by pooling HCCH's various resources and managing them carefully. The HCCH represents 45 member churches. Gene, age 82, serves as Executive Director and Evelyn, age 78, is the Emergency Assistance Coordinator. They ensure that this partnership aids local citizens and transients.
Their "Partners in Progress" program helps the less fortunate of Hancock County to set goals and develop skills to provide for themselves and their dependents. The Kelseys recall, "A young lady came into our office and handed me a Certificate of Completion and thanked us for the gas money she used to drive to school and reach her goal." People stop the Kelseys around town or stop by and give them thank-you notes and hugs - Evelyn and Gene see this as their reward.
The Kelsey's have worked for community events, such as food distributions and 1Matters - Project Connect, offering medical and other services for the homeless. They volunteered as Stephen's Ministers through their church by counseling the troubled. Gene makes presentations to civic groups, congregations and clubs about the needs of the low income population. He and Evelyn distribute HCCH information at county fairs, festivals and community events. Gene has worked with Allen and Wyandot counties to develop similar organizations in those communities.
The Kelseys train each of their 80 HCCH volunteers to be friendly, courteous, kind and respectful to everyone seeking assistance. These volunteers attend the "Bridges Out of Poverty" seminar about the day-to-day lives of the poor so that they may better relate to the people they help. Gene and Evelyn work with retirees, as well social work students and partners from the University of Findlay on various projects.
Over the past few years, Hancock County has seen its share of natural disasters and other crises. HCCH provided some relief to those whose lives were devastated in a 2007 flood. Afterwards, Gene became a member of the Hancock County Flood Mitigation Effort. He also serves on other boards and community committees.
During the summer of 2012, hundreds of houses were damaged and tens of thousands of residents went without electricity for up to eight days because of a windstorm. The Kelseys responded by extending their office hours, expanding financial help to replace lost food and increasing the number of volunteers available to assist with the record number of requests. Because of their commitment, the Red Cross Disaster Recovery Collaborative asked Gene to serve on its executive committee. In the February 2012 fire that destroyed dozens of low income apartments in downtown Findlay, the Kelseys responded by working outside the agency's usual guidelines to offer food, clothing, rent help, furniture to fire victims and acquiring important legal documents such as birth certificates and drivers' licenses. The current economy and unemployment have caused the agency to continually set new records for aid requests and help provided. To date, this agency has served 12,500 families with over $1,800,000 in funds.
The HCCH board of directors recognized the Kelseys' excellent stewardship and years of service by creating the Gene and Evelyn Kelsey Fund for the Hancock Christian Clearing House.
"We're not in this for the glory of us. God has wanted us to do this and we are thankful," Gene said. "There have been a lot of people who made this a success. It's been a pleasure to work with this organization. When we see or hear about personal successes, that keeps us going, and hopefully we inspire others to overcome their circumstances."
"We'd love to go out of business, because that would mean people wouldn't need us anymore," Gene added. "Thankfully we have our health, and helping others makes us feel good. Keeping busy is our job. Many mornings, when that alarm goes off, it's important to keep moving and keep helping people in need."
Lenel Moore, 88, Ashtabula
Lenel Moore has dedicated his life to serving his family, his community and his country. He is the father of seven children and two more adopted children. He has been a Scout Master, father figure and mentor to the Boy Scouts. He fixes bicycles for underprivileged children and has welcomed and hosted foreign exchange students into his home. He serves God as a deacon at his church. This perpetual leader can't seem to do enough to help those around him.
Lenel's children refer to him as "His own United Way." His daughter, Rosemary Moore, remarked, "Helping people and not wanting any reward for it was part of who my dad is. He volunteered for a lot of groups, but he really just helped whoever was in need, making sure people who were struggling could get on their feet."
After the World War II, Lenel found work in the steel mills of Ashtabula. He eventually began restoring cars so he could spend more time with his growing family. He became involved in the Cub Scouts when his boys were around eight, and went camping at least one weekend every month. He volunteered as den master and eventually became a scout master of Troop 26. He was involved in Scouting for more than 20 years. Many of the young men he mentored stay in touch with him and some lovingly call him "Dad" or "Grandpa."
Today, Lenel utilizes his restorations skills at the Dream Center in Ashtabula to fix and restore bikes for youth who can't afford them. "I tell them to bring them to me and I fix them every summer," he said. Until he gave up driving a few years ago, Lenel would give people rides to the doctor or store or deliver meals to people. He has been active in his church, Miracle Temple, for more than 40 years, and still is a deacon. He volunteers his time to cook and serve meals at the church.
For all the excitement, activity and storytelling that Lenel inspires, he remains silent about his World War II service. "I don't like to talk about that because it makes me remember all of those times from war," he said. He served in Iwo Jima and his unit was "the cleanup crew," retrieving the dead and wounded from the battlefield. Only eight members of the 32 in his platoon survived; he was hit with a piece of shrapnel in his left leg.
He served during a time of racial strife. While recruitment was open to everyone, the armed forces were segregated until 1948. Between 1942 and 1946, 20,000 men trained at a segregated corner of Camp Lejeune known as Camp Montford Point. In 1946, 19,000 of these men were abruptly discharged. Only 500 men are still living.
In November 2012, 70 years after his service in the U. S. Marines during WWII, Lenel was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as one of the first African-American Marines. Surrounded by family and friends at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in his hometown of Ashtabula, he received the recognition he deserved, but never sought for himself. "My youngest son and daughter kept asking me questions about my service," he said. "They kept saying, 'Dad, we're going to get you that medal.' And they did just that… It wasn't until I stepped in the door that I knew what was going on. I appreciate this honor that I thought I'd never see."
Lenel's wife of 57 years, Mary, passed away in 2003 and he remains a strong family man, with the majority of his children still in the area. His face radiates with pride when he tells his stories about them. Tim says about his dad's service, "He was always just a tough, Godsend of a man who was a great example to me and my brothers and sisters and taught us all to be very responsible. He was always helping people, especially new people in town, but no one ever knew (about his time in the Marines) and he didn't talk about it - he just did it."
Lenel Moore is a great example to all of simple service and sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Donald J. Smith, 64, Continental
Each year, Donald J. Smith approaches his birthday with an attitude of gratitude. Over the past 10 years, he has swum to raise money and awareness for Diabetes Youth Services. He has raised nearly $100,000 by swimming an annual water rite at the Defiance Area YMCA. In recent years, he has swum 300 laps, which is approximately 4 1/3 miles.
A longtime recreational swimmer, Don swims 70 laps a day, five days a week at the Defiance Area YMCA. Don first saw a pamphlet advertising Diabetes Youth Services' "Swim For Diabetes" fundraiser and he mentioned the event to his doctor, who offered to donate $100 if Smith swam 100 laps. That year, Don raised $1,700. Don and his wife, Connie, were invited to attend the awards ceremony during Little Shots Day Camp after his first swim. Since then, Don has been an integral part of Diabetes Youth Services.
The money that Don Smith raises supports the Big and Little Shots Camps, educational camps for children who have type 1 diabetes. These camps help teach the kids to manage their diabetes for the rest of their lives. It is the only nonprofit organization in a 34-county region that provides type 1 diabetes education, programs and support to children and their families.
Don vows to continue to swim 300 laps for the charity every year as long as he is able. "I think it has reached the point that, if I swam three laps or 300, people are going to contribute anyway," he said." It doesn't matter to me what you give, just give from the heart. The donors are as much a part of it as I am. People trust me and my wife, Connie. They know it's a good thing and 100 percent of all donations go to the camp."
Don and Connie spend four months a year doing fundraising. Don says, "I grew up in New England and we do it the old fashioned way, by calling everyone. We tried an e-mail campaign - nobody responded. People like the calls, the personal connection, the excitement and being a part of the community spirit. One lady asks for an annual pledge reminder for her $5. It's all that she can give, but it means so much to her to do this. It means a lot to us that she can. We have about 300 annual donors and would love to reach 500 donors."
Don's efforts have earned him a prestigious Jefferson Award, which honors community and public volunteerism in America. He also has been recognized during the Diabetes Youth Services' Sweet Success Gala, and has been nominated for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser during National Philanthropy Day for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Don's passion and philanthropic spirit have brought attention to Diabetes Youth Services that could not have been anticipated. Due to Don's efforts, more people in the region know about the organization and the services it offers to children with type 1 diabetes in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Currently there are approximately 3000 children with type 1 diabetes in this area.
Don remembers growing up in a small town in New Hampshire as the youngest of eight children. The town he grew up in was a close-knit, working-class community. As a sophomore in high school, he attended the YMCA Older Boy's Conference, and the following year he was elected president of the group. That same year, he was one of eight youths selected to represent New Hampshire in Washington, D. C. He went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in social work from Defiance College and a master's degree in counseling from Heidelberg University. He is a licensed social worker and professional counselor. In addition, he has served in the United States Army as a social worker specialist.
A retired probation officer in Putnam County, Don has served the Continental Masonic Lodge, Continental Lions Club as Past President and Lion of the Year, the Continental Community Club, the Defiance College Social Work Education Program Advisory Board and the State of Ohio Counselor and Social Work Licensure Board. He has been honored with various awards in his field for his outstanding commitment and leadership, such as Outstanding Commitment and Advocacy on Behalf of Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault from the Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio, and the Schauffler Legacy Award from Defiance College.
Don's next goal is to raise $40,000 annually and through awareness open a second camp for the children. "The first year I swam, we went to sport's night at the camp, and I received a card that read, 'Dear Mr. Smith, I found out my daughter has diabetes, and I was mad at God. Then I thought about it, and I get to meet wonderful people like you…'" Don recalls. "All the cards, hugs, tears - it doesn't matter; the appreciation and thank-yous are overwhelming - to know that a simple act can make a difference for so many people." Diabetes Youth Services has a policy that no child will be turned away because his or her family can't afford the camp and Don's commitment helps make this a reality.
The Smiths have been married almost 38 years. They have no children of their own and the children they help are their kids. Don says, "When Connie and I serve meals to the kids at the camp, we get more out of it than they do."
Don is an athlete, a professional and a philanthropist, but above all else, he is a friend to everyone he encounters. He passes along these ideas to the kids he encounters. "The world is an easel… life is paint…you are an artist with a paintbrush…dream your dream…create a passion…together we can make a difference! Don't say I can't, say I'll try! If it is to be, it is up to me… don't be a taker, be a giver," Don said.
Ruth Snodgrass, 84, Dover
As a French, English, drama and speech teacher, Ruth Snodgrass inspired many of her students to learn another language, conquer their fears of public speaking, discover reading and love literature. Some of her students, now teachers themselves, use Ruth's methods to excite their students the same way Ruth inspired them. Today, Ruth continues to inspire others through her writing.
Ruth is the oldest member and one of the founders and of the Tuscarawas County Writers' Guild. Younger writers look to her for her technical knowledge and guidance. She sets an example of achieving goals at any age. She has served as vice president for two years and is currently the group's program coordinator. She has received several awards for her writing and poetry.
When Ruth was 74 years old, her younger sister had a stroke and Ruth became her caregiver. She would tell her sister stories of their childhood to keep her occupied and help with recovery. Ruth began to write those stories down on paper and eventually published the memoir, "Dark Brown Is the River." A couple of years later, she published a sequel, "On Goes the River: The Somerset Years," detailing the next ten years of her life. Through her writing, she reconnected with friends, family and former classmates and is helping to preserve part of her heritage.
Her next publishing foray was into children's books, based on stories from songs she had previously written. While she intended to hire an illustrator for the books, she decided to collaborate with her art teacher. At 79, Ruth began taking art lessons. She published "The Magical Merry-Go-Round" and "The Teddy Bear Contest," and is currently writing a third whimsical story for children.
Ruth is a lover of all of the arts. She has had a passion for drama from the time she discovered acting and directing in her small church. She didn't have many parts on the stage but she realized the importance of the people behind the scenes. She says, "I learned from my directors by watching them direct. I could see how it opened new dimensions in a person. So, when I directed plays, I cast the children in parts that may have surprised people. But it made a difference in a child's life they were proud of." Ruth directed more than 100 plays and various other productions.
She also sings bass in the Valley Voices, a women's barbershop chorus. She served as vice president and president of the chorus and has written and directed at least 10 of its shows. She often is asked to perform her stirring spoken solo in "God Bless America." For the past year she has led a senior citizens' vocal and percussion "pill bottle band," for which she has written four songs.
For her church's 200th anniversary celebration, she suggested the theme, "The Light Still Shines." She wrote a hymn and created a historical coloring book for the celebration. For documenting the church's history, Ruth was named the Historian of the Year for the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2011. Ruth currently teaches Sunday school and plans events, including the annual mother-and-daughter banquets for her church. She also serves as the co-president of her congregation's chapter of United Methodist Women.
She coordinates volunteers from four Sunday school classes to make and deliver meals to the county's homeless shelter 12 times a year. Ruth feels strongly about feeding the homeless, and will often ask if she can eat with those she serves. "That means something to them, and we get to know what led them to their situations. They are ordinary people. They are like the rest of us, families with children." She also creates and sends elaborate hand-made cards to shut-ins and other members of the church.
Ruth is a founding member of Hispanic Ministries of Tuscarawas County, where she assists recent immigrants to her area. She taught English classes from 1995-2003 and the ministry's bi-lingual Vacation Bible School (VBS) for four years. Ruth enrolled young children in school, provided transportation to doctor's visits for pregnant women, and still serves on the ministry's board of directors. She has helped many recent arrivals find their way in her community, and has helped that community learn about and accept the new residents.
Ruth graduated from Otterbein College and earned her master's degree from Kent State University. She married when she was 40, and has a daughter, Mary. Ruth's creative spirit, optimism and eagerness for her next creative or community project keep her young at heart. Artistic, cultural and spiritual expressions are like different facets on a jewel, and at the heart of that jewel is Ruth Snodgrass.
Gladys Von Stein, 84, Nevada
Gladys Von Stein learned the value of loyalty and commitment by growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. She graciously declined a scholarship to Capital University to help keep her family's farm running. This strong commitment to family and community above self that drove her to be an organizer, a leader, a friend to many and an inspiration to all who know her.
Gladys has an innate ability to bring everyone together, and when they don't come to her, she goes to them. As part of the Lutheran Brotherhood, Gladys and her husband Gerald began building wheelchair ramps for the handicapped at the recipient's residences. When the Mississippi River swelled to record levels, the Lutheran Brotherhood traveled to the area to help two families rebuild their home and pull submersed farm machinery onto higher ground. "I didn't really think it was a big deal!" Gladys said of her service. "It was really fun to do all those things and help these people. It was just the kindest thing to do."
The Lutheran Brotherhood is now known as Thrivent. Through Thrivent, Gladys helped the family of a 15 year old paraplegic boy by installing a home elevator and a handicap accessible bathroom. She also helped organize the annual Angeline School of Opportunity garage sale to teach and help developmentally disabled individuals. The sale raised more than $2,000 each year and Thrivent matched that amount, dollar for dollar. She also helps others with medical bills by putting on fundraisers and helping the homeless get back on their feet. Gladys says, "I could write a book about all the events there and all the nice people we met."
Being handy with a needle, thread and crochet hook, Gladys created her own teddy bear ministry. She collects old stuffed animals, washes and repairs them, then sends them to hospitals and women's shelters. She also belongs to a group that crochets blankets for cancer and dialysis patients, and affectionately named the group, "The Happy Hookers."
Soon after she was married, Gladys catered her first small wedding for 50 people. From that experience, she and Gerald ran a catering business for 37 years and served 5,000 weddings. She refers to her catering career as "my hobby that got out of hand." She still teaches cake decorating to local 4-H students and to her two granddaughters.
Gladys is a certified teacher of the Bob Ross method of art made famous by a long-running series on public television. For over 10 years, she taught 250 students how to create beautiful landscapes, flowers and small animals using oil paints. Two of her students went on to become instructors themselves, and two of her younger students went on to become art majors in college. Gladys was presented with a treasured portrait of Bob Ross in appreciation for repairing a cake that arrived damaged for the artist's post-memorial service.
Gladys serves on the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging Advisory Committee, as well as the Wyandot County Council on Aging Board of Trustees and has served the past three years as president. She has been a member of the County Election Board, treasurer of the Antrim Township Community Fund Drive, past-president of her church's women's group and both president and secretary of the Wyandot Garden Club. Gladys was instrumental in starting the Wyandot County Lenten Lunches where all ladies in the county are invited for an inspirational luncheon with a different church hosting each week. She was also instrumental in starting the local Oktoberfest celebrations. Gladys and Gerald received the Conservationist of the Year 2006 and Joined Hearts in Giving Award in 2007.
Gladys and Gerald have been married for 63 years and are very proud of their three daughters and son, their seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. When Gerald suffered a stroke six years ago, Gladys made the difficult decision, based on their previous experiences caring for their parents, that the best place for Gerald was to be in a nursing home, and Gerald agreed. Gladys visits Gerald often and says of ensuring the help he needs, "It was the kindest thing I could do for him."
Gladys Von Stein is a caring and creative master of compassion.