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 450 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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Richard P. and Frances H. Anderson
Richard P. and Frances H. Anderson
For more than 70 years, Richard P. and Frances H. Anderson have demonstrated exemplary spirit and commitment to civic engagement in the Toledo community. In addition to supporting the economy with a multibillion-dollar family-originated, public company headquartered in Northwest Ohio, they also volunteer and advocate for many local organizations and projects.
Mr. Anderson has been a part of The Andersons, Inc., since his father founded the company in 1947 as a family partnership, and as it transitioned into a publicly traded corporation in 1996. He started as a construction crew boss on the first grain elevator in Maumee, Ohio, and worked his way up through the company. He was named President and Chief Executive Officer in 1986. In 1999, he was named Chairman of the Board. Today, he is Chairman Emeritus of the company that is a major player in the nation’s grain, plant nutrient, railroad car leasing and ethanol industries.
Mrs. Anderson has a legacy of service and support for her community. She has touched the lives of many through her involvement with Mobile Meals, Lucas County Children Services, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Symphony, the University of Toledo, St. Luke’s Hospital, Boy Scouts of America, the United Way and more.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson embody a caring philosophy, a generous spirit and a willingness to take on challenges. Mr. Anderson says, “Both sets of our parents were role models of servant leadership. We have been shaped by our family values and experiences.” The central theme of the company’s mission statement is, “to serve God by serving others.” This philosophy has led Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to form close associations with service-oriented organizations involved in education, religion, the arts, social services and community development.
In 2009, when Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were honored with an award for their philanthropic leadership, an appreciative community of more than 140 individuals, families and businesses contributed nearly $700,000 to a fund in their name at the Toledo Community Foundation to help stabilize struggling nonprofit community organizations following the recession.
Mrs. Anderson is a member of the Christ Child Society of Toledo, the Mercy Hospital Guild as well as the University of Toledo's Women and Philanthropy. She is past president of the Mother's Clubs of St. Ursula Academy and St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy. She serves as a lector and eucharistic minister and makes hospital visits for St. Joan of Arc Parish. She has attended 7 a.m. mass almost daily for years.
In 2010, the Erie Shores Boy Scout Council honored Mr. Anderson for more than half a century of service by dedicating the Richard P. Anderson Pioneer Scout Reservation and the Anderson Preserve in his name. His business contributions have also been widely recognized. He was named 1989 Pacemaker of the Year by the University of Toledo's School of Business Administration, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Commercial Science Degree from the University of Toledo School of Business in 1999, and was named Doctor of Public Service, Honoris Causa, by Lourdes University in 2005. He was inducted into the 2001 Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame and is a 2016 Jefferson Award winner.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson both come from large but close families. She is one of 13 children and he is one of seven. Married for 64 years, they have six children, all happily married, 24 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, with more on the way.
Staying involved in the lives of others helps to keep them healthy and engaged. They plan to stay as active in their family, church, community and social relationships as their health will allow. Continuation of their philanthropic mission is also important to them. Recently, Mr. Anderson has applied his woodworking skills to benefit his church by building furniture, altars and more. Mrs. Anderson loves to be with people and people love to be with her. And, the community of Toledo and Northwest Ohio is the ultimate beneficiary of their shared drive and dedication.
Speaker William G. Batchelder III
Speaker William G. Batchelder III
Speaker William G. Batchelder III was a key player in some of the most significant events in Ohio’s legislative history. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1968 and served that body for 38 years, making him the second longest-serving member of the state legislature. He served as Speaker of the House from 2011 – 2014.
During the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s, Speaker Batchelder worked with Democratic Governor Dick Celeste to draft bipartisan legislation to protect depositors' savings at stricken savings and loan associations. Governor Celeste thanked him during his State of the State address for putting differences aside for the benefit of Ohio’s citizens.
Early in his legislative career, he participated in the complete redrafting of Ohio’s criminal code. Clarifying and modifying it helped to modernize the code to better serve the public, law enforcement and Ohio’s judicial system.
In the 1990s, Speaker Batchelder was Chair of the Joint Committee on Ethics during the “pay-to-play” scandal. He referred both the Republican President of the Ohio Senate and the Democratic Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives to a prosecutor, and both were convicted of wrong-doing. Speaker Batchelder is the only ethics committee chair ever to have referred the heads of both legislative chambers to a prosecutor.
Speaker Batchelder drafted the legislation that created School Choice Ohio voucher program, the first program of its type in the nation to clear the U.S. Supreme Court after being challenged in the lower federal courts. He recalls, “I was particularly proud of Ohio’s educational voucher program. Thousands of children – particularly inner-city children – have been able to attend schools that offered them a real chance to obtain a decent education.”
During his first term as speaker, Speaker Batchelder drafted much of the language for House Bill 1, which created Jobs Ohio, a private non-profit corporation designed to drive job creation and new capital investment. In 2017, he was appointed to serve on the Jobs Ohio Board of Directors.
Speaker Batchelder credits his parents for showing him and his siblings, by their example, the importance of academic achievement, public service and commitment to God. “My mother and father encouraged all five of us to strive to be the best we could be in whatever we chose to do with our lives.” He drew his strength as a leader from Senator Robert Taft, whose integrity, devotion and determination to advance the cause of liberty were principles that he emulated and that guided him throughout his career.
In addition to his illustrious political career, Speaker Batchelder also has had an accomplished career as a lawyer, judge and educator. His law career includes more than three decades at the Williams and Batchelder law firm in Medina. He was elected to the Medina County Court of Common Pleas and was appointed by Governor Taft to the Ninth District Ohio Court of Appeals. He has taught law, government and related subjects at Cleveland State University, University of Akron and other schools.
Speaker Batchelder remains active as a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, Office of Criminal Justice Services and Ohio Court of Appeals Association. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, Board of Directors for the Free Congress Foundation and the Western Reserve Historical Society, and is an emeritus member of the National Council for the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. He is the recipient of the Ohio State Bar Public Service Award and an honorary graduate of the University of Akron School of Law.
He and his wife of 51 years, Alice, have two children and eight grandchildren. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their family. Speaker Batchelder keeps a watchful eye on the government he once had a role in leading, closely following state and national politics daily. He currently consults for the Batchelder Company, a lobbying and government affairs firm focused on data and technology.
Reflecting on his public service career, Speaker Batchelder says, “My goal was to serve with dedication the principles of limited government and integrity in public service. I worked for 50 years toward that goal, and I hope that I have had some measure of success.”
Sister Sally Duffy, SC
Sister Sally Duffy, SC
Sister Sally Duffy, SC, has devoted her life to sacrifice, love, faithfulness and justice with a mission to improve the world around her. Calling on her expertise in education, political science, pastoral and crisis counseling, and health care administration, she works with community leaders and organizations to create safer and healthier neighborhoods in southwest Ohio.
From 2004 to 2017, Sr. Sally was president and executive director of Sisters of Charity Ministry Foundation, which supported 1,000 non-profit organizations with $158 million in grants. Programs funded by the foundation provide services for those living in poverty, support healthy communities, strive for social justice and ensure access to quality education. Sr. Sally led her staff as they carefully managed their grant-funding process, offering grantees educational workshops and opportunities to collaborate with other organizations to achieve common goals.
Sr. Sally’s advocacy and leadership contributed to greater access to affordable health care through the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio, as well as through the establishment of a free health clinic in Cincinnati’s Price Hill community. She fought to protect vulnerable residents in low-income neighborhoods from predatory lending, and drove the development of a homesteading program in Price Hill to remove the barriers to home ownership for deserving families. She defended the rights of neighborhoods to have vacant buildings maintained to keep community members safe.
She also supports and advocates for the rights and dignity of immigrants. Sr. Sally provides a strong voice at the local, regional and national levels for the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Personal health and fitness is another focus for Sr. Sally. She participates annually in marathons or half marathons to raise funds for Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the early stages of her career, she spent a significant portion of her life on basketball courts and served as the first female head coach of sports at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus in 1968. In 1970 she was selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee as one of the top 50 female basketball players in the country and then became one of the pioneer coaches with the women’s basketball team at Notre Dame University in 1975. In 2014, she was inducted into the Bishop Watterson’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sr. Sally earned a Master’s Degree in Education in Guidance and Counseling from Xavier University, a Master’s in Public Administration in Health Care and Human Resources from the University of Colorado, a Masters of Divinity from Loyola University and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Mount St. Joseph in 2008 and from Xavier University in 2018.
Sr. Sally loves being with her family and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati community. She enjoys spiritual reading and learning about current events and policies that promote equity, inclusion and maximizing the potential of everyone. She said, “I am energized by being with others committed to the common good and I hope and pray to continue to serve and work toward equality, equity and justice.”
Sr. Sally remains committed to many causes and organizations with which she shares her expertise as a board or committee member. She is co-chair for the immigration committee for the Cincinnati Regional Chamber’s Diverse by Design initiative and the steering committee of Accountable Health Communities, a regional collective impact initiative promoting better health, better health care and lower cost. Sr. Sally serves as a co-chair for the Child Poverty Collaborative. She currently serves on the following boards: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority, TriHealth and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
She is known for asking key probing question to get to the heart of an issue: Who is winning? Who is losing? “Who decides who is winning and losing? How am I or we colluding?
Sr. Sally remains humble about her work and accomplishments. “I really cannot take credit. Candidly, this is God’s work and not mine,” she said. “It always takes a community of people to bring about change. All I can do is trust and be totally reliant on God and to be open to meet God’s grace in every circumstance.”
She believes that it is a privilege and an honor to serve her neighbors, and that those she helps always teach her something about life and how to be a better person. “I am deeply grateful to the people I’ve come in contact with and for the lessons learned.”
Ronald Dwinnells, MD
Ronald Dwinnells, MD
Ronald Dwinnells, MD, is a dreamer and a visionary who has dedicated his life and career to exploring how to turn impossibilities into realities and improve the health and wellness of his community. His 32-year medical practice and public philanthropy transformed care delivery in northeast Ohio. He has been awarded more than $50 million in federal grants and has brought more than $100 million into the local economy through health care services.
Dr. Dwinnells earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 1983. He later attended the George Washington University in Washington D.C. where he earned a master’s degree in business administration. He completed a three-year pediatric residency training program at Tod Children's Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio, serving as its Chief Pediatric Resident.
During his residency, he wrote a grant proposal to open a medical clinic for poor and underprivileged families in the Mahoning Valley. He became the clinic’s first pediatrician and medical director. The clinic grew and became ONE Health Ohio, a federally qualified health center. ONE Health Ohio includes six integrated health care facilities, two behavioral counseling centers, a mobile health van service and two pharmacies, with Dr. Dwinnells serving as chief executive officer.
The clinical facilities under his direction have provided medical, dental and mental health care to more than one million patients. They serve those most in need: those who are medically uninsured, underinsured or underserved. With an annual budget of more than $15 million, the facilities employ more than 150 doctors, dentists, counselors, nurses and clerical support staff to serve more than 70,000 patient visits per year.
In addition to his executive duties, Dr. Dwinnells also teaches at Northeast Ohio Medical University as Clinical Professor of Pediatrics. He has conducted and published clinical research studies into integrative health care delivery programs, disparities of health care, health economics and integrative behavioral health care. His research is recognized internationally, and has spoken on these topics to audiences throughout the United States as well as in Dubai, Singapore, Switzerland and Japan.
One of Dr. Dwinnells’ most passionate causes is supporting those who suffer from depression and other behavioral health issues. His research found that two-thirds of medical patients age 18 and older have some type of behavioral health issue. He established the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation to support behavioral health services for those in need. The foundation also honors the memory of his parents, particularly his mother who, as a Japanese immigrant shortly after World War II, faced many obstacles and succeeded through hard work and determination.
He raises funds for the foundation through his mountain climbing activities, which he admits is a fitting metaphor for the work the foundation does. “It requires many hours of physical and mental preparation as well as a high level of endurance,” he said. “Once on the mountain, many hazards, mistakes and events can occur; however, with persistence, determination and hard work, the summit is achievable just as success is achievable in many of life’s endeavors.”
He has climbed the summits of 14 mountains, including Mounts Rainier, Shasta, Whitney, Hood, Washington, St. Helens and Fuji. He is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in June 2018. He competes in half-marathons and 10 K and 5 K races close to home and throughout the country to stay in shape.
In 2004, President George W. Bush visited the ONE Health Ohio clinics and held a town hall meeting with Dr. Dwinnells. Later that year, Dr. Dwinnells was invited to testify before the United States Congress about strategies to reduce barriers and improving access to quality health care services.
He has been honored with six outstanding teaching awards for his lectures on leadership and health care management to future physicians and public health students. He is also on the faculty at Ohio University College of Medicine, Kent State University and Youngstown State University. He received the Midwest Clinicians Network's Award of Excellence and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Community Service Award.
Dr. Dwinnells and his wife of 38 years, Kathy, have five children. He stays active by continuing his work, lecturing on leadership and integrative health care programs, and writing. As a sports enthusiast, he wants to go skydiving, learn to ski and perform a tai chi exercise on top of a mountain peak. He also wants to continue traveling the world.
Dorothy J. Gackstetter
Dorothy J. Gackstetter
Dorothy J. Gackstetter has been going for the gold all her life. Her interests are varied, but her focus remains strong, whether the challenge is athletic competition, equestrianism, clothing design or being a leader in her community. Along the way, she has encouraged young people to get involved, stay positive, be successful and succeed in life.
Mrs. Gackstetter has been participating in the Senior Olympics for more than 30 years. She has competed at state and national competitions throughout her Olympic career. In 2017, at age 84, she won gold medals in the shot put, discus, long jump and both the 100 and 200 meter runs. Her many gold medals hang on her wall as testament to her determination.
Equestrianism is another area in which Mrs. Gackstetter excels and shares her knowledge. She taught local elementary school students about caring, grooming, feeding and training horses during “Right to Read” and “Saddle Up and Read” learning sessions, where she introduced them to her horse, Dee Dee. To celebrate Buckaroos Day, she had the students dress up like cowboys, and served them “vittles” in their cowboy hats. She was a 4-H advisor for 26 years, helping to train young people on working with horses, sewing and many other projects.
Mrs. Gackstetter was a Cub Scout leader for 20 years. She took scouts on campouts and tours, to museums and on other adventures. They flew on the "Tin Goose" airplane to Put-N-Bay. She also assisted with the Girl Scouts of Ottawa County. She taught the Cub Scouts and other local children and adults about swimming safety at her home pool.
Mrs. Gackstetter is an accomplished clothing designer and seamstress. She is well-known for her original costumes to suit almost every event, but is especially proud of her western wear, which not only reflects her interests, but also her bold and daring personality. She’s created custom suede western wear, wedding dresses and blouses decorated with rhinestones, crystals and appliqués for herself and others in her community. She has also knitted hats, scarves, sweaters and afghans for those in need. And, like in her other endeavors, she has shared her passion for fashion by teaching and serving as an advisor for the Busy Bees sewing club.
She also enjoys reveling in the successes of her community and her neighbors. In 2010, when “American Idol” season 9 runner up Crystal Bowersox returned home to Elliston, Ohio, Mrs. Gackstetter organized a homecoming celebration that not only honored the young woman’s accomplishments, but also celebrated the area’s rich history. She worked with artist Robert Poiry to create three signs depicting famous people and events in the area to commemorate Crystal’s addition to that rich heritage.
Mrs. Gackstetter has been a member of the Ottawa Historical Society for several years. She has also exhibited many of her personal belongings, such as western items, clothes and photos, at Riverview Nursing Home. In 2008, she invited her daughter's track coach at The Ohio State University, Mamie Rollins, to help open a new walkway at Riverview Nursing Home in Oak Harbor. The walk included nurses, residents and area leaders, such as Ottawa County Commissioner Jim Sass and State Representative Steven Arndt.
Mrs. Gackstetter was the first inductee to the Ottawa County Senior Hall of Fame in May 2011 and the Ohio Senior Olympics Hall of Fame in 2013.
She kept all five of her children involved in creative and meaningful events; such as sewing, art, ceramics and stained glass lessons. She is proud of her family’s many achievements, including two of her children who showed champion horses locally and at the Ohio State Fair. One daughter won many 4-H clothing projects, then went on to college in New York City, designed for major clothing labels and established her own company.
Mrs. Gackstetter says her inspiration comes from growing up on a farm and she strives to teach others the values of respect, hard work, family and community service that she has learned throughout her life. She believes that you are never too old to succeed at what interests you, and you are never too young to get started.
Mary L. McDonald
Mary L. McDonald
Throughout her life, Mary L. McDonald has demonstrated her strength, patience and passion to help others as an advocate and a visionary leader. Her career put her in a position to change the lives of many in her Mansfield community, especially older adults, for whom she has provided opportunities and resource so that they may continue to thrive and contribute.
Her service to seniors began in 1975, after her husband passed away and she raised her two children as a single mother. She applied to work with the Mansfield Community Action Senior Outreach Program. While she didn’t have social work experience, her prospective employers were impressed by her extensive church service and decided to give her a chance.
A year later, she was named project director by the board of trustees. The board applied for and won a grant under the leadership of Paul A. Stillwell for the construction of a senior center. The Friendship Center opened in 1978 with Mrs. McDonald as its director. Under her leadership, the center connected area seniors with available services, such as home delivered and congregate meals, and collaborated with other agencies in Richland County to identify and fill service gaps. The Friendship Center provided a variety of creative outlets for seniors, including crafts, male chorus, bible study, bingo and an award-winning garden program. It was also a place of learning for future leaders in the aging field, with college students often completing their practical curricula there. She remained at the helm for 20 years, retiring in 1998 to care for her ailing mother.
After her mother passed away in 2000, Mrs. McDonald began volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and started a support group at her church. When she decided to return to the workforce, she sought out Experience Works, an organization she knew from her time at the center, for help. Experience Works provides on-the-job training opportunities for older adults by placing them with nonprofit organizations. Based on her background and her passions, she insisted she be placed with organizations that served seniors as their primary focus.
When Mrs. McDonald learned that the Friendship Center had lost its funding and had to close, she sprung to action to address the void that was created. Under Central City Economic Development, she implemented a new senior group and formed "Yes We Can Seniors." The group got a permanent home in 2010, when the City of Mansfield donated the city’s armory to the Mary McLeod-Bethune Intervention and Enrichment Center, which hosts "Yes We Can Seniors."
"Yes We Can Seniors" provides health screenings and referral services and collaborates with organizations in the community, just as the Friendship Center did four decades ago, but it is completely independent and self-funding. It serves elders in the community whose parents had been members of the previous center. Members remain active in the community by supporting local levies, attending and promoting senior events, raising funds for charitable organizations and providing services and supports for other seniors.
Mrs. McDonald has served on the boards of many local organizations, including United Way, Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, Alzheimer’s Association, Neighborhood Watch Leaders, Citizen Participation Committee, the Board of Elections, and MRM Affordable Housing. She served as the Mansfield Ohio American Business Women’s Association Hospitality chairperson, and was on the board of Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging for six years.
Her service has been honored many times. The American Business Women’s Association named Mrs. McDonald “Woman of the Year” in 2000. The Midwest Affordable Housing Management Association gave her its Award of Achievement in 2003. She has received commendations for her career and service by local and state leaders, including being named Outstanding Senior Citizen by the Richland County Commissioner. The Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging presented her with the Outstanding Senior Award in 2006. In April 2018, she was given the Lifetime Membership Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) unit 3190.
Today, Mrs. McDonald remains active in the Alzheimer’s grief support group and Providence Baptist Church, where she has been a member for 62 years. But perhaps her greatest joy comes in part during the three days a week she continues to work for "Yes We Can Seniors."
Gary G. Miller, CEM
Gary G. Miller, CEM
When others run from trouble, you’ll find Gary G. Miller running toward it. For more than 40 years, this “Master of Disaster” has devoted his career and talents to helping people and communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, both natural and man-made.
Mr. Miller is a Certified Emergency Manager and was one of seven individuals in the United States identified by the American Red Cross to serve as the Senior Red Cross Director for Major Disaster Operations. He was an administrative director of the American Red Cross Critical Response Team, which represents Red Cross at the Homeland Security Emergency Operations Center in Washington and responds to terrorism incidents and aircraft crashes.
He has served as the senior Red Cross official on more than 30 major disaster operations, including job director of the American Red Cross September 11 World Trade Center terrorist attack relief operation in New York; director of the multiple hurricane relief operation in Florida; and deputy director of Hurricane Katrina relief for Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. He also was part of the $58 million Red Cross relief operation in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding.
Mr. Miller retired from full-time employment at the American Red Cross in 2007, but continues as a volunteer assisting the local and National Red Cross through major disasters, planning and advising. He and a Cincinnati internist developed and work with the medical assistance team, through which he mentors volunteer emergency physicians, paramedics and senior staff members. He consults with and assists government agencies, schools, churches and airports in writing disaster plans. He has discussed disaster and emergency preparedness and relief on national and international radio and television programs and through public appearances. He has written various articles on the topics and has been keynote speaker for local and national organizations.
“Disaster management can be dangerous and stressful,” he said. “I think you should keep your sense of humor, dedicate yourself to your family, keep busy, keep helping people, don’t let your ego beat you and trust in God.”
Mr. Miller received the Red Cross Cincinnati Area Chapter and National Headquarters "Tiffany Award" for employee excellence in 1989, as well as the National Headquarters Red Cross Partnership Award. April 27, 2007, was proclaimed Gary Miller Day in Cincinnati and he received the Key to the City in a special ceremony. He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Loveland Symmes Fire Department; the National Headquarters Red Cross Vice President’s Award for Employee Excellence; and a citation for his work on September 11.
Prior to joining the Red Cross, Mr. Miller was manager of special diagnostic medicine at Bethesda Oak and North Hospitals in Cincinnati, where he coordinated the respiratory therapy, pulmonary function lab, and EEG and EKG teams. While at Bethesda Hospitals, working with a Cincinnati anesthesiologist, he developed the in-hospital cardiac arrest response team and a hospital-based CPR training program for area EMS and police personnel.
He was the chairman of trustees at his church and is a current elder. He also serves as a board member on the Cincinnati Fire Museum, Cincinnati FBI Citizen Academy and the Greater Cincinnati Hazardous Material Team, and is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Airport Disaster Committee.
Mr. Miller and his wife Carolyn have three children and seven grandchildren. They enjoy traveling together and Mr. Miller has assembled an extensive collection of miniature ambulances from around the globe, as well as keepsakes from some disasters on which he directed the response.
“I hope I have made things better and have always done the right thing,” he said. He adds, “The joy of assisting people who need help after a crisis has been a blessing. I am proud to continue my service as a volunteer”
Although Carolyn Nelson retired from her physical education teaching job at age 64, she has not retired from teaching everyone who has the pleasure to know her. She is a respected and vital member of her community who continues to grow, thrive and contribute in ways that are immeasurable. She embodies a positive image of elderhood and stands as an example for youth and adults alike in her central Ohio community.
Inspired by the ideas of George Graham, the Virginia Tech University professor who revolutionized elementary physical education, Mrs. Nelson went beyond the curriculum. She took notice of students who faced physical, mental or social challenges and took them under her wing. She went beyond athletics and physical activity to promoting good health for a lifetime.
Mrs. Nelson used supportive and individual approaches to help students overcome obstacles to success. She also reached out to worried and stressed parents. With her encouragement, parents soon understood that she was working in their child’s best interest, helping them grow in confidence with valuable life skills.
Mrs. Nelson has inspired and influenced her students’ lifestyle and career choices. She stays in touch with many of her former students and continues to model healthy living. As a result, her students carry a little bit of Mrs. Nelson with them throughout their lives.
Brianne McCague remembers, “I had Mrs. Nelson all five years as my physical education teacher at Oak Creek Elementary. She taught everyday lessons and inspired me to be a better person every day. Her words helped me push myself to work hard throughout high school and now college. She would always tell me to set goals, and that every day counts. Mrs. Nelson is the biggest role model I have ever had. Her words, actions, life lessons and more reach beyond her physical education class. She has inspired me to be a teacher.”
Kayla Winn says of her former teacher, “It’s those quick words of affirmation or a high five that stick with a child when they complete a task they once deemed impossible. Few students have the privilege of saying they had a teacher deeply impact their life or even say they want to be like a specific teacher. Mrs. Nelson’s love for physical education has stuck with me and inspired me to live a healthy life and always look for my next adventure. Her inspiration did not stop the day I left elementary school. I still receive positive messages, teaching magazines or just a simple note to catch up from Mrs. Nelson.”
Jeff Laubert recalls, “Throughout my time at Oak Creek, Mrs. Nelson did everything she could to encourage us kids to be active. If a student struggled with a certain activity, she showed them ways to modify the movement. Once I was in high school, we reconnected on Facebook and communicated about nutrition, exercise, Ohio State football and even my life goals. It has been wonderful to keep in contact with Mrs. Nelson and have an adult role model to learn from. She simply does not stop moving. Mrs. Nelson truly has a passion for her students and does everything she can to have a positive impact on their lives.”
She has received many honors throughout her career, including the 2005 Meritorious Ohio Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Award, as well as the National Association for Sport and Physical Education’s 2000 Midwest Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. She was name Ohio Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 1998. But, perhaps her greatest honor is the success of her students and being able to share in their stories.
Mrs. Nelson and her husband Tom have been married for 43 years and have two children and three grandchildren. She also remains close to her sisters. Mrs. and Mr. Nelson enjoy traveling and documenting the history of their families through photographs. Mrs. Nelson stays active through biking, walking and observing nature.
Mrs. Nelson has never stopped teaching those around her how to find wisdom, happiness and fulfillment. Her life and her career stand as a testament to those principles.
John A. Ruthven
John A. Ruthven
As a naturalist, author, lecturer and internationally known master of wildlife art, John A. Ruthven is often called the "20th Century John James Audubon." Like his childhood hero, Mr. Ruthven made a name for himself by expressing the wonders of nature and wildlife through his incomparable art with infinite detail.
He grew up in Walnut Hills, spending many days on the banks of the Ohio River, sketch pad in hand. After serving in World War II, he studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy and the Jack Storey Central Academy of Commercial Art. He founded his company, Wildlife Internationalè, Inc., and moved to historic Georgetown, Ohio. His goal was to build a career in wildlife art and, like his mentor, with birds in particular.
His first major break in commercial art, however, involved a different type of “wild” life. Early in his career, a local manufacturer asked Mr. Ruthven to draw some children for a new product called Play-Doh. His drawing became the face of the company and the money he earned from that commission allowed him to continue his passion of painting wildlife.
In 1960, Mr. Ruthven won the much-coveted Federal Duck Stamp competition conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Proceeds from sales of the Federal Duck Stamp go to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat. The stamp is required for all waterfowl hunters and can also be used as an annual pass to national wildlife refuges. This recognition afforded him a full-time career in wildlife art. In 1967, he was chosen to create the Ducks Unlimited Certificate of Merit for wetland conservation with his Oakgrove Pintails painting and prints.
With fellow Cincinnati artist William Zimmerman, Mr. Ruthven produced a unique field guide and speed index to North American waterfowl with more than 263 full-color reproductions. Over the years, Mr. Ruthven’s work has been featured at the Smithsonian’s Preservation and Research Center, and has been unveiled at notable buildings such as the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the White House and the Ohio Statehouse.
Many of his paintings are inspired by his nature expeditions. He was the only artist invited on a search team for a bird in the Philippines that was previously unknown to science. His painting of the Panay-striped Babbler is on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Mr. Ruthven unveiled his original acrylic painting with then Secretary of the Interior, Gail Norton, in Washington D.C. when the news went worldwide that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long thought extinct, had been seen on a river near Little Rock, Arkansas. He has been on numerous trips in search of this bird, and still hopes to see it one day.
He recently worked with 14 young artists on a group mural on the side of a three-story, 90-foot-wide building in Cincinnati. The mural depicts an historic event in the ornithological world: the death of Martha, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon. He created the original painting with more than 190 birds, and it is on permanent display at the Cincinnati Zoo. He is proud and grateful for the opportunity to help guide the careers of his young collaborators.
More than just art and education, Mr. Ruthven’s creations also have helped support conservation efforts in Ohio and across the nation. In the late 1990s, Mr. Ruthven was tapped to create a Cardinal design for a new Ohio license plate. Sales of the plates bearing his design raised more than four million dollars for Ohio conservation efforts. In 2016, he was asked again to design a new Cardinal plate to benefit conservation. Mr. Ruthven worked with the Cincinnati Zoo and the Cincinnati Nature Center on many different projects over the years, creating paintings and limited-edition prints, as well as giving presentations on behalf of the two organizations. The sales from reproductions of his work raised funds for the attractions.
He won the Lithographer's Association Award for designing the Famous Figureheads series, which was placed in the National Mariners Museum in Washington, DC. In 2004, Mr. Ruthven became the first wildlife artist to receive the highest award given to artists by the U.S. Government. President George W. Bush presented the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts for his “impeccably accurate and unfailingly beautiful wildlife art, and in recognition of his contributions as an artist and naturalist by conserving our natural treasures."
In 1977, Mr. Ruthven and his wife Judy bought the boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant in Georgetown. The couple restored it and opened it to visitors in 1982. The site has been named a National Historic Landmark and has been operated by the Ohio History Connection since the couple donated the home to the State of Ohio in 2001.
Mr. and Mrs. Ruthven were married for 43 years until her recent passing. They raised two children and have two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He stays active through his lifelong hobbies of bird watching, hunting, fly fishing and traveling with family and friends. He still paints five days a week.
Gail J. Rymer, PhD
Gail J. Rymer, PhD
Little Hocking, Ohio
Dr. Gail Rymer believes that all human beings deserve to live with dignity and respect, and have opportunities to remain engaged with the world around them. She devoted her life and career to lifting others up when they could not stand up for themselves.
Dr. Rymer was born the year after her father returned from World War II, and quickly became her father’s shadow. He taught her to love the outdoors and instilled in her the values of dedication and discipline he learned in the U.S. Marine Corps. She carried these values into her pursuit of education and her career.
Dr. Rymer earned her bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degrees from Ohio University. Her career began with jobs in health planning and the ministry. She noticed that there were not many opportunities in the community for older adults to feel valued, loved and engaged. She organized efforts to visit elders and host senior luncheons and fellowship meetings. She reached out to other churches to recruit their congregations in these efforts. She started food banks and Christmas Day dinners for those who were alone during the holidays.
After Dr. Rymer earned her doctorate degree, she worked in community mental health and later opened her private practice. Today, much of her practice focuses on services to the elderly and she advocates for quality of life. Older adults are often victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. An elder is abused every five seconds in America. That is a fact that she simply will not accept.
Working with older adults, she realized that the barriers to health care for seniors were notable. She was shocked by the conditions of state mental hospitals, where elders comprised more than half the population. At the time, many were restrained and had little if any cognitive stimulation. She wrote a series of articles exposing the poor conditions of these institutions and mobilized families and others to lobby for mental health changes.
Building on that success, Dr. Rymer continued to advocate and start programs like “We Care,” a hotline for elders and others to call when in need of assistance or services. She helped start and hopes to expand the Southeast Ohio Elder Abuse Commission to educate the public that elder abuse is a rapidly growing crime in America.
As an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a lay pastor of a rural church, she addresses the needs of poverty stricken communities by partnering with other churches to complete home modifications and repairs for seniors. In October 2017, volunteers made 19 homes safe and accessible for the older residents. She also is working with churches and other organizations to write ethical statements and guidelines to prevent elder abuse and exploitation, and advocates for broader mandatory reporting requirements.
Dr. Rymer and her husband Donald met at Ohio University. They had two daughters, one is deceased, and one granddaughter. They share their home with her two psychotherapy assistant Pugs and his two Great Pyrenees. They enjoy walking in the woods, gardening, fishing as well as cruising the Caribbean and the European waterways. They are looking forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by dancing in the streets of Santorini, Greece.
Dr. Rymer plans to write a children’s book with junior high school students about a severely abused Pug dog “Liberty” that she rehabilitated. Dr. Rymer belongs to multiple professional and civic organizations and has had many community leadership roles. She is part of the Attorney General’s Elder Justice Unit as a board member. She also plans to look for life adventures with enthusiasm and expectancy.
Dr. Rymer says, “I hope that I have, in some way, touched the lives of others by my actions and words so they might know the spirit of love.” She elaborated, “I know that I have walked with many as they struggled, and I was fortunate to see many grow and blossom.”
Bertalan L. Szabo
Bertalan L. Szabo
Munroe Falls, Ohio
Bertalan L. Szabo discovered nature at the age of four, when a neighbor introduced him to the great outdoors. Since then, he has done the same for countless other young people, helping them discover, explore and love nature as he does.
After serving in the Army in World War II, Mr. Szabo earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in plant pathology from Ohio University. In January 1951, he was hired at the Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, to manage Evamere, the 500-acre dairy farm. He began working for Akron Metro Parks as a park manager and ranger of Goodyear Heights Metropolitan Park in 1957. At the requests of local principals, he began leading nature walks for the local school children. This expanded to talks with Garden Clubs and other organizations about Metro Parks, as well as regular nature programs and presentations.
Mr. Szabo was promoted to naturalist in 1963, and helped with exhibits in the underground nature center at the Seiberling Nature Realm in 1988. He helped launch the park’s Fall Hiking Spree in 1964, which continues as an annual event and is nationally recognized. Approximately 1,600 hikers participated that first year and each participant received a wooden hiking staff. The event now attracts nearly 40,000 annual participants. Mr. Szabo was one of 12 individuals who participated in every event through its 50th anniversary.
Mr. Szabo was an outspoken advocate for the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, which was opened in 1974. After helping many generations of park visitors to identify, appreciate and better understand the flora, fauna, geology and history of the park system, Mr. Szabo retired as Chief Naturalist of the now renamed park system, Summit Metro Parks, in 1991.
“There were special role models in my life who were an inspiration for me,” he recalls, crediting the mentors in his early life that set him on the path that would define him. “I was fortunate as a very young child to grow up in a neighborhood where residents were friendly. One loved birds and wildflowers, and another boats and books.”
Throughout his career, Mr. Szabo has been active in many organizations, especially the National Audubon Society, which he has served for half a century. He was the official compiler for Greater Akron Audubon Chapter’s Christmas Bird Count from 1970-1992. He is a founding member and past president of the National Association for Interpretation, a worldwide membership organization representing 5,000 environmentalists working to preserve the history of the local natural regions.
He was appointed by the governor to serve on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Areas and Preserves Council from 1970-1983, and again from 1987-1994. He also served on the agency’s Recreation Resources Commission from 1990-1994 and as the Audubon’s representative on the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company Advisory Panel from 2002-2006.
His work and leadership have been widely recognized. He was appointed Chief Naturalist Emeritus, Summit County Metro Parks, and was inducted into the organization’s hall of fame in 2003. He was added to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Hall of Fame in 2007. He received the 1981 Conservation Achievement Award, the 2003 National Senior/Retired Interpreter Award from the National Association for Interpretation, and the 2006 Region 4 Senior/Retired Interpreter Award. In 2007, the National Association for Interpretation Student Scholarship was co-named for him and the late Howard Weaver, Ph.D. Mr. Szabo is a Fellow of the National Association for Interpretation, which is that organization’s highest honor.
Mr. Szabo stays active through many interests, including his work with nature. He exercises at home, where he plants flowers around his apartment and shovels snow in the winter. He bicycled regularly until age 85. He also volunteers, continuing to serve the park district by organizing its photographic and historical archives, a task he started in 1968. As of January, 2018, he had nearly reached his personal goal of contributing 7,000 volunteer hours to the task, which he has scheduled to complete this fall.
Mr. Szabo is the father of four children and has 18 grandchildren. They are an active family, who enjoy indoor ice skating, swimming, biking, tennis, walking and gardening. He has also passed along his love of nature and the naturalist tradition to them. His son and two of his grandsons followed in his professional footsteps.
“When I started our nature walks in 1957, the Metro Parks had 3,000 acres and six trails. They grew to 33,000 acres and 16 trails over this last half century,” Mr. Szabo said of his life’s work. “I believe that our naturalist programs helped pass park levies, and I feel that I exposed local citizens and school children to the natural wonders of our Metro Parks.”
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Ohio Statehouse Atrium
Ohio Senior Citizens
Hall of Fame Archive