Senior Citizens of Marion County Inc. will honor nine older members of the workforce during the organization’s 51st annual meeting Oct. 20 at the Marion Senior Center.
To be nominated, honorees had to be at least 70 years old, live and work in Marion County and be employed in the workplace for at least 16 to 20 hours per week. Nominations came from employers, coworkers and clients.
Lila Unruh, president of he SCMI board of directors, said she hopes the organization’s initiative will affirm the contributions seniors continue to make in Marion County.
“To be at the age some of these people are, I think it’s wonderful they can still be working,” Unruh said. “Some do it because they need the money, and others because they love what they do and want to keep contributing to the community.
“My idea is that there are so many people that we can recognize. We don’t publicly recognize what people do enough.”
Unruh credited Gayla Ratzlaff, coordinator for the Marion County Department on Aging, for suggesting the idea of saluting senior workers.
“During my research last year, when it was the 50th year for the Senior Citizens of Marion County, I discovered that one of things the organization tried to promote to the public was that older people still contribute to their community in a variety of ways,” Ratzlaff said.
“One way they did that years ago was to participate in the annual county fair by putting together floats.
“They would also set up booths with the items they had produced, whether that was a quilt, or a woodworking project or whatever—just to promote the idea that they’re still contributing to society.
“As a result of that, I thought this was one way to promote that same idea.”
Ratzlaff said next year the organization plans to recognize military veterans from World War 2 and the Korean War.
“We’ll talk about that at the annual meeting with the hope that people will have names of people they would like to be recognized next year,” Ratzlaff said.
Tickets for the annual meeting must be purchased by Friday through the senior centers in Marion County.
The nine honorees
The following are the nine workers to be recognized at this year’s meeting:
• Avis Bergman works at the deli counter at Vogts HomeTown Market in Hillsboro, and in the distribution department at the Hillsboro Free Press.
“She is punctual and never misses work,” said Flo Rahn, a former coworker. “She is a group leader at the Free Press, and one of her responsibilities is to do job assignments. She is willing to fix others’ mistakes.”
• Mae Deane Blankley is a certified medication aide at Peabody Care Center.
“She is always doing extra things, such as making a birthday cake for residents and buying pop for residents with limited income,” said Melissa Parmley, with human resources. “If she is scheduled to work, you can be sure she will be there. She is punctual and willing to trade days with other workers.”
• Shirley Carlson is the assistant director and activity director at the Marion Housing Authority’s Hilltop Manor.
“She goes above and beyond her duties to make sure things get taken care off,” said her coworker and granddaughter Carla Tharp. “No matter the time of day, she always stops to make sure things get taken care of. She is always coming up with new activities to do with the residents of Hilltop. She does her best to make it a great place to live.”
• Sue Gutsch is the social services designee at St. Luke Hospital and Living Center.
“She has a positive influence on the residents’ participation in the facility activities,” Janet Herzet, director of aging services, said about Gutsch. “Sue looks for ideas for the residents that will improve their quality of life. She is a mentor and a positive motivator for individual residents.”
• May Hebrank is a restorative aide at St. Luke Hospital and Living Center in Marion.
“Mary is dedicated to the elderly at the Living Center,” said Janet Herzet, director of aging services there. “She works with residents on their individual exercise program designed to maintain their strength and flexibility. She has a positive attitude and is a punctual and dependable employee.”
• Bill Holdeman is the oldest practicing barber in the state and operates his own shop on Main Street in Marion.
“He is always there with a smile on his face,” said Al Ash, a client. “He has also served as a Marion City Council member and is a former mayor of Newton.”
• Verla Redger has worked in the dietary department of Parkside Homes in Hillsboro since 1979.
“She is one of the most consistent and dependable employees at Parkside,” said Gretchen Wagner, administrator. “She is a model for younger workers in regard to her work ethic, quality of work, perseverance, sense of humor and love of life. In 2010, she was named ‘Outstanding Older Worker’ by the Kansas Department of Commerce.”
• Beverly Seger has worked in a variety of capacities at the Alco Store in Hillsboro for the past 15 years.
“She is a busy bee and makes sure the store is clean and neat,” said her former department manager. “She is always there and willing to come in on her days off or vacation to fill in.”
• Joyce Weinbrenner has been the certified dietary manager at Salem Home in Hillsboro for the past 30-plus years.
“(Joyce is) a person you can always count on to get the job done, done right and follow the regulations,” said Geraldine Hett, registered nurse at the home. “She works long hours and covers any shift needed in her department without complaint. She is highly respected by her kitchen staff.”