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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2016 Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Ohio Statehouse Atrium - Columbus, Ohio
View photos from the event.
Please direct all media inquiries to (614) 728-0253.
2016 Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Inductees
Al Abrams (posthumous), Findlay
Al Abrams broke down social and racial barriers and played an important role in shaping not just music history, but American history. Having grown up Jewish in America's heartland, Al was a journalist, author and civil rights activist who helped establish an international icon, Motown Records.
Al was Berry Gordy, Jr.'s first employee in 1959, before Motown was even Motown. He agreed to work for $15 a week and all the chili he could eat. His job was straightforward: change the media's negative perception of teen music and black culture, and create interest in a company that would change music forever. Young Al quickly earned the title of press director and guided the early careers of artists like Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, The Funk Brothers and Marvin Gaye, among others.
Al described himself as a "White Jewish kid in an all-black company where people my age were making music and history." At a time when communities were still largely divided by race, Al was putting Motown artists on the airwaves, into communities and into people's homes. "The Sound of Young America," as he called it, became the soundtrack of Midwestern youth, soared up the charts and became the rage at hamburger joints, dances and anywhere young people gathered.
Creativity was Al's main tool in swaying the press. He arranged photo shoots of artists with state and local politicians and staged free, local appearances designed not for publicity, but to bring the community together at a time when, in his words, "Motown and Detroit were becoming almost synonymous."
In 1965, with Al Aronowitz, Abrams arranged for Bob Dylan to dub Smokey Robinson "America's greatest living poet." That same year, he secured the cover of TV Magazine, a supplement distributed in newspapers nationwide, for the Supremes. These weren't just publicity stunts; they were skillful maneuvers that helped unravel racist threads in America.
Al wasn't interested in personal fame or financial reward. He valued his relationships with artists, radio stations, news media and others. With natural charm and chutzpah, he performed everyday acts of activism, and contributed to the civil rights movement in a way that few white people did.
Abrams left Motown in 1967 and started his own public relations firm. His client list included Stax Records, James Brown and Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus and Hot Wax labels. He also wrote Bob Seger's first-ever promotional bio for press distribution. In the 1980s, he began a journalism career as a reporter, editor and freelancer. He has written 11 books and was proudest of Special Treatment: The Untold Story of Thousands of Jews in Hitler's Third Reich (Pub.1985).
Abrams chronicled his Motown career in Hype & Soul: Behind The Scenes At Motown, a 2011 coffee table book filled with rare memorabilia and keepsakes from his Motown years. The book spawned a 2013 traveling exhibit, Motown Black & White, that exhibited in Louisville, Detroit and Memphis. He co-wrote the musical Memories of Motown with fellow Motown alum Mickey Stevenson. The show had a month-long 2009 run in Berlin, Germany, with Martha Reeves, members of The Temptations and The Contours as the opening act, for the label's 50th anniversary, and continues to tour both domestically and internationally.
A follow up to Hype & Soul, titled High on Soul: Tell Me It's Just a Rumor Berry, is scheduled for publication in 2017.
People within the music industry often asked Al why he lived in Findlay when the real action of his industry was in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles. The truth was, Al was a Midwesterner at heart and called both Ohio and Michigan home because of the strong work ethic and family values. He loved being near the Great Lakes and enjoyed the colors of the changing seasons.
"I like the value placed on family and I like knowing that I can travel the world and come home to a safe harbor that defines who I am," Al said.
Al passed away from cancer in October 2015. His wife Nancy, their daughter Alannah and two granddaughters, Margot Emery and Luca Elianna, keep his heart and spirit alive by continuing his legacy.
He worked tirelessly to promote diversity and talent, and lived his life behind the scenes while helping shape America's soundtrack. Because of Al, many others live in a better world and in better times.
Sister Jerome Corcoran, Canfield
Sister Jerome Corcoran is affectionately known as the "The little nun who gets things done," and she doesn't view her recent 100th birthday as a reason to sit back and relax.
Born in Chicago, Sister Jerome came to the Youngstown area with her family when she was seven years old. She went to college at 18 to become a teacher, but after a semester, decided to go back home and enter a convent. Later, she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Catholic University of America. She received her doctorate from Case Western Reserve University and taught at several universities, including Youngstown State University. She also supervised education in the Diocese of Youngstown for 15 years.
Sister Jerome credits her high school Latin teacher for helping her to look beyond her present situation and prepare for a broader involvement. She was driven to make her life's path a combination of the two things she loved most: education and helping the poor. Her life's work has been to help people of all ages get a better education, one that they might not otherwise have been able to receive without her help.
Sister Jerome began helping the poor during the Great Depression, while she was a young nun living in a convent in Youngstown. Jobs were scarce and people were losing their homes. "Our Sisters used to give meals to anyone who came to our kitchen door," she recalls. "We invited them in, filled plates with whatever we had for supper; and smiled big at them." When she was teaching school in the 1940s, Sister Jerome was always asking for $5 to buy shoes for needy students. In the 1970's, a columnist for the Youngstown Vindicator wrote about Sister Jerome needing money for shoes, and readers gave generously. In fact, some of those readers are still sending money for shoes for poor children.
In the 1960s, Sister Jerome received an anti-poverty grant of $55,000 to assist 100 children in the public and parochial schools with their reading skills. Under her program, the students improved 1.5 grades in reading after only nine months of after-school instruction. "They learn how to read; they learn how to speak; they learn how to present themselves; the whole package is literacy," she said. A few years later, she and her Ursuline Sisters created GED classes for the children's parents who were at risk of losing their jobs without a diploma or GED. Over the course of a decade, 100 people graduated, kept their jobs and received promotions.
In 1976 she created the Millcreek Children's Center for preschool children of working poor parents. In 1998, she and Sister Mary Dunn created the Youngstown Community School to serve poor children in kindergarten through sixth grade. These Youngstown inner-city schools were rated "Excellent" by the Ohio Department of Education, and have been the pride of local parents and children.
Sister Jerome currently tutors residents at the Community Corrections Association to help them acquire their GEDs. Prior to that, she was raising money and running Sister Jerome's Mission, until she retired a few months ago. Sister Jerome has the highest praise for her volunteer advisory committee, who raised generous funds to help poor families in emergencies and low-income, bright college kids trying to keep their grades up and graduate from college into a good job.
In October 2015, Sister Jerome was honored with a centennial celebration of her work and her life. She is the recipient of the 2015 William Holmes McGuffey Senior Service Award for her lifetime of service in children's education. Her other awards include, the Sargent Shriver Anti-Poverty Remedial Reading Award, Mahoning County Bar Association Annual Award, Ursuline High School Woman of the Year Award, Salvation Army Others Award, Ohio Department of Education Pioneer in Education Award, Youngstown Chamber of Commerce William G. Lyden Spirit of the Valley Award and Ethnic Heritage Society Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sister Jerome believes that living "Well Beyond 60" involves seeing work that needs to be done, doing the work wholeheartedly and feeling satisfied that you were able to help someone along the way. She likens growing older to a Yiddish proverb: "No one is old until regrets take the place of dreams."
John Eicher, Oxford
John Eicher leads a double life. At Miami University you will find him either behind a student's desk or in front of the class. He has taught college courses for more than 75 years and still enjoys being a student. This professor emeritus has not only shaped countless minds in the field of organic chemistry, but also has experienced and contributed to some of the most significant events in world history.
Growing up in Dayton, John was an avid collector of books, minerals and stamps. He traveled with his family to the 48 states, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Alaskan coast and Central and South America. At Fairview High School, he excelled in science, history and philosophy and became a lab assistant. He placed first in a district scholarship test and was awarded a scholarship from The Ohio State University in chemistry. He was a popular young man and counted among his friends Orville Wright and Charles Kettering.
John earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Purdue University in 1942, where he taught his first course in industrial mineralogy in 1940. He returned home and to The Ohio State University, where he assisted in the preparation of various hydrocarbons, including one used as a fuel for British Royal Air Force Spitfire fighter planes during WWII.
In the summer of 1943, John began working with other scientists at Columbia University in New York City on what was to become known as the Manhattan Project. As a research chemist, he worked with project leaders and Nobel Prize winners from all over the country, including project director, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Major General Leslie Groves. He worked in an organic research section, made Teflon-like plastics, and researched the viscosity of uranium hexafluoride for atomic bomb explosives with lab partner Albert Myerson.
"I lived a double life," John said of his time working on the top-secret project. "I spent most weekends with my friends, visiting museums and exploring the city. I had no identification with me, only a reference number to Washington in my wallet."
At the end of the war, John returned to Purdue, where he completed his Ph.D., conducted research and taught graduate-level organic chemistry. In 1952, he became friends with Nobel Prize winning scientist Linus Pauling.
John began working as a professor in the chemistry department at Miami University. He helped design the Hughes Laboratories and was instrumental in establishing the chemistry department's doctoral program. His colleagues considered him the resident historian in the chemistry department. He watched Miami and Oxford grow and change during pivotal times in the United States. He remembers when the Kent State shootings happened in May, 1970 and recalls, "It was the only time I ever remember the university president shutting down the school."
John formally retired from Miami University in 1989, after 37 years of teaching. However, he continues to teach in Miami's Institute for Learning in Retirement, exploring such subjects as mineralogy, biology, "kitchen chemistry," and U.S. and world history. Since 2002, John has taught 25 classes and has been a student in many more. He never stops being curious, never stops exploring - never stops learning.
"The classroom is just sort of my place," John said. "It's fun to be in class to talk to other people and teach things that they are interested in."
John and his wife Susan raised two children, Nancy and David. Susan passed away in 1983, but John still lives in the home they built together. Both of their children are Miami University alumni, and his only grandson Christopher is attending the University of Wisconsin. In 2008, John toured Europe for the first time on a trip to France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Poland and Great Britain with David and Christopher .
John said his secret to living "Well Beyond 60" is heredity and his addiction to chocolate which, he points out, contains cinnamic, truxillic and truxinic acids. His mother and grandparents lived into their 90s. Perpetual teaching and learning is also part of his longevity formula. John feels he still has more history in him to teach and share, and even more history to create.
Annie Glenn, Columbus
"Like a butterfly that emerged from its cocoon," is how Annie Glenn described overcoming her stutter. The spotlight she desperately avoided for so many years now shines on her as the face of hope and an advocate for everyone struggling with communication impairments.
Annie's story begins as a small child in New Concord, Ohio. She attended Muskingum College, where she received her bachelor's degree in music with a secretarial science minor. Annie married her childhood playmate and high school sweetheart, John Glenn, Jr., and as her husband's career in public service ascended, Annie was often thrust into the limelight, a place she never wanted to be.
Like her father, Annie struggled with severe stuttering. It made doing even simple tasks very challenging, since it affected 85 percent of her speech. There are two million people who struggle with this misunderstood disability. She experienced ridicule, as stutterers often do, but Annie found ways to communicate and make situations work for her, such as writing destinations for taxi drivers, using shopping lists and having neighbors assist her when her husband was away.
For years, Annie tried various therapies and treatments for her stutter, but found no relief. However, in 1973, she finally gained control over her own speech through an intensive program at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. For the first time in her life, Annie relished doing everyday things that were once challenging. Her confidence grew and she began speaking publicly about her lifelong struggle. In 1984, she proudly introduced her husband as a presidential candidate at a crowded Democratic National Convention.
Annie's lifelong work has been about serving the interests of children, elders and people with disabilities. She has served on the advisory board for the National Center for Survivors of Childhood Abuse, the advisory panel of the Central Ohio Speech and Hearing Association, and the advisory board of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.
Annie is an adjunct professor with the speech pathology program at The Ohio State University's Department of Speech and Hearing Science. Not only does she lecture graduate students, but she also maintains ongoing contacts with young people. She lights up when she meets new people, from children to teenagers to adults who struggle with speech impairments. Her empathy and compassion are genuine and deeply rooted in her own experiences.
In 1983, Annie received the first national award of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for inspiring people with communicative disorders. The National Association for Hearing and Speech Action honored her in 1987 by asking her to present the first annual "Annie Glenn Award" for achieving distinction despite having a communicative disorder. Since 1987, the "Annie Glenn Leadership Award" has been awarded to someone who has displayed innovative and inspirational work in speech and language pathology.
The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill officially designating February 17, Annie's birthday, as "Annie Glenn Communication Disorders Awareness Day" each year to raise awareness about communication disorders. The bill is currently awaiting approval in the Ohio Senate.
John Glenn, a 1998 inductee to the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, wrote about his wife, "I saw Annie's perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her and love her even more. It takes guts to operate with a disability; I don't know if I would have had the courage to do all the things that Annie did so well."
The Glenns celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in 2016. In 2015, a section of 17th Avenue between Tuttle Park Place and College Road was renamed "Annie & John Glenn Avenue," and in 2009, the Glenns were special guests to officially dot the "i" of the Ohio State Marching Band's "Script Ohio" formation, in recognition of their combined contributions to our state and nation. They have two children, David and Lyn, and two grandchildren, Daniel and Zach. Annie enjoys family activities, especially with her two grandsons.
Annie remembers reading a bedtime story to her grandson, something she was never able to do for her own children. "Being able to talk to people is something I could never do," Annie says. "My life is like a dream."
Michael E. Jackson, Tipp City
Lt. Col. Michael E. Jackson, United States Air Force, retired, has led a life of service to his country, to his community and to humanity. Mike's Air Force flying career and combat experience in Vietnam set the stage for him to serve and support our nation's men and women in uniform, even after their return to civilian life.
Mike flew 210 combat missions over Vietnam and developed a forward air controller training program that was implemented by the South Vietnamese Air Force. In 1992, Mike became the executive director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton. He eliminated the non-profit organization's debt, which paved the way for tremendous growth with a permanent multi-million dollar facility and several million dollars in the bank. He retired and is now executive director emeritus of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
While writing his memoir, Mike began building the partnership that would organize the first Operation Welcome Home celebration to give Vietnam veterans the celebratory reception they never received when they returned. Veterans were so moved by the first celebration that requests for local and regional celebrations came pouring in. Over ten years, with Mike as national chairman, Operation Welcome Home hosted national celebrations in Las Vegas, California and Indiana, as well as 40 local and regional events across the nation, which were eventually opened to veterans of all wars and conflicts.
In 2004, Mike established the American Veterans Institute, which assisted veterans and their families. He has been a guardian angel for veterans by raising awareness and helping hundreds of elderly and disabled veterans access the Improved Pension Program, a little-known government benefit. The Institute helped veterans and their families complete and submit the various benefit applications that were often complicated and tedious.
Through public appearances, Mike helped veterans separating from the military or retiring military personnel to market themselves and translate their military experience into current workforce skills for prospective employers. He helped people write their resumes and gave references to interested hiring managers. He also provided needy veterans with interviewing clothes so that they could make a good impression.
Mike and his organizations have never charged for the services they have provided to veterans.
Mike published his first book, a memoir, Naked in Da Nang, in 2004 and is currently working on its sequel. He co-authored the histories, The Wright Brothers: First in Flight and Neil Armstrong: One Giant Leap. He also has written and edited children's books to encourage youth to look for the heroes in their own families, such as Welcome Home Grandpa, My Neighbor is a Caterpillar and My Mother Wears Combat Boots. He has also appeared on several television documentaries about veterans' issues, aviation history and military affairs.
In 2012, Mike and his wife Karen established the Mike and Karen Jackson Endowed Scholarship in the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University, their alma mater. The scholarship supports juniors or seniors who are pursuing teaching as a career.
"Every step of my adult life has led seamlessly to the next step, hopefully helping others along the way," Mike said. "My dad, Ed Jackson, is the man I most wanted to be like. He used to tell me, 'They don't pay you enough to have a bad time.'"
During his military career, Mike received numerous decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. In 1997, he became one of the youngest living inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame and, in 2003, was named Distinguished Museum Professional of the Year by the Ohio Museums Association. In 2005, Tipp City named him Outstanding Citizen of the Year, and he was named by Webster University as their 2007 Distinguished Alumnus. Also in 2007, he received the Medal of Merit from Ohio University, where he serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Northern Miami Valley Red Cross of Ohio. On Veterans Day 2008, he was presented the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation's prestigious Legion of Honor Award. In June 2012, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service degree from Ohio University.
Mike believes the secret to living "Well Beyond 60" is having challenging and long-term goals that give you something to accomplish each day, but also keep you engaged with your surroundings and others. He enjoys spending time with Karen, their two daughters and his grandchildren, as well as meeting up with friends for breakfast every day.
Mike is very active in his community, in his church and in his efforts to leave every person and situation a little better than he found them.
Yung-Chen Lu, Ph.D., Columbus
Dr. Yung-Chen Lu is an accomplished mathematician whose work in his community and love for his cultural heritage have added up to create better lives for his neighbors and helped elevate central Ohio to the international stage.
Dr. Lu is professor emeritus of the mathematics department at The Ohio State University. He joined OSU in 1970 and retired in July of 2002. His book, Singularity Theory and an Introduction to the Catastrophe Theory, has had five printings in four years.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Lu was involved in numerous organizations, particularly in the Asian community. "I found myself itching to do more in life, to find fulfillment in helping others. I knew I had both the drive and ability to make a difference and I wanted to contribute to the community while remaining rooted in my Asian heritage."
It was through his involvement with LifeCare Alliance in 1994 that Dr. Lu founded the Asian Meal Program to provide nutritious hot lunches for Asian-American elders in Central Ohio and offer a place for them to socialize and receive health education and screenings during meal time. Today, the Asian Meal Program serves 350 meals a week and has benefitted more than 3,800 people. LifeCare Alliance has been a tremendous supporter of the program by providing funding and assistance. Other communities have asked Dr. Lu for his guidance in launching similar programs.
Dr. Lu then expanded his vision and founded the Columbus Asian Festival to showcase his heritage in central Ohio. The Festival began in 1995 with 12,500 attendees. In 2015, it drew more than 180,000 visitors. The Festival is a gift to the community to enrich cultural understanding, but it is also an opportunity to provide free education and health screenings; nearly 600 attendees are screened each year in 12 different health areas.
Because of the huge success of the festival's health screenings, Dr. Lu was approached to start the Asian Free Clinic. Over the past two decades, it has provided care to about 400 people annually. The clinic serves Asian-speaking patients and gives medical students on-site medical experience. Referrals to the clinic are by word of mouth, the Asian Meal Program and Asian Festival health screenings. In 2005, Dr. Lu co-founded the Ohio Asian American Health Coalition to address hepatitis B and diabetes in the Asian and African-born populations.
Dr. Lu helped establish the Governor's Asian-American Pacific Islander Advisory Council, where he served as Chair until recently and has spearheaded the annual Asian Legislative Day since 2009. Dr. Lu also has led other initiatives, such as mammogram services for Asian women and research on domestic violence among Asians. He also is a member of the Charity Newsies, raising funds for clothes for elementary and high school children, and is the chair of the board of the Greater Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce to promote business opportunities with China.
Dr. Lu is a recipient of the 2001 Asian American Commerce Group's Community Service Award, 2008 LifeCare Alliance Geraldine Hayes Spirit Award, 2006 Community Leadership Award from the Organization of Chinese Americans, 2012 Governor's Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, and 2014 Founder's Award from the Columbus Asian Festival at its 20th anniversary, and was inducted into the 2013 Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Dr. Lu keeps his body active by walking every day and playing tennis, and keeps his mind active by learning and keeping up with the latest technology. He relishes getting together with close friends, traveling overseas and spending time with his family. His wife Katherine has been his biggest supporter of all of his endeavors.
"In the Asian culture, we always bow to our elders out of respect, which is very important. And we always do that from the bottom of our hearts," Dr. Lu said.
Dr. Lu, we bow to you and extend our gratitude to you from the bottom of our hearts.
Caroline N. Luhta, Concord Township
Caroline N. Luhta has been long regarded as "a politician with no enemies" for her ability to unite people toward a cause. She is respected in northeast Ohio and elsewhere for her civic involvement, professional expertise, personal accomplishments and exemplary character. Connie, as she is commonly known, has served her township with a sense of fair play and concern for the welfare of the people she represents. An accomplished aviation professional, she sets an example that inspires others to soar with her.
Connie spent her early years earning her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1952, and graduated from Lake Erie College in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, in business administration. She worked as a senior research chemist for Standard Oil Company of Ohio.
Connie and her husband Adolph operated the Painesville Flying Service, where she learned how to fly at a time when there were few female pilots. She became president of the flying service after Adolph passed away in 1993. She participated in 12 international air races as well as 17 proficiency races and 10 national coast-to-coast air races. Connie keeps her aviation and flight instruction certificates current, and is a registered member of the United Flying Octogenarians, Experimental Aircraft Association, Silver Wings and the Ninety-Nines. Throughout her career, she has written for professional journals and aviation publications.
Connie is the motivating force of the International Women's Air & Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. She was one of the museum's earliest and most active members and has been its president since 1998, devoting hundreds of volunteer hours each year. Under her leadership, the museum has developed into a respected cultural attraction, featuring various events.
Connie has been an inspiration to young people fascinated by aviation, many of whom regularly gather at her airpark to watch airplanes come and go. In the airport's heyday from the 1960s through 1980s, Connie gave many young people their first plane rides, and many still speak of the kindness with which Connie greeted them and the time she took to explain the science of flight. They never forget the lady who inspired them to get their wings.
Connie was one of 55 female pilots commemorated in a special deck of playing cards produced by the International Women's Air & Space Museum. She was quite surprised to be included in the deck and have her image presented alongside Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to earn a pilot's license, and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Connie currently is serving her seventh term as a trustee of Concord Township, where she has resided for 48 years. She has worked tirelessly to build a better community, involving all in her efforts, from single and multi-family homes, commercial establishments, public parks, schools, cultural centers and public gathering places. She has also served on the Concord Community Days Committee, as a Northeastern Ohio General Hospital trustee, in the Community Improvement Corporation of Lake County and on the Sohio Speakers' Bureau. Connie is a lay member of the grievance committee of the Lake County Bar Association. She is a 2000 inductee into the International Forest of Friendship, a 2001 inductee into the Harvey Alumni Association Hall of Fame, and the 2014 recipient of the Frances P. Bolton Award from the Republican Women's Club of Lake County.
Connie loves all things aviation, including history. She enjoys doing family genealogy research. Her her heart and home has been a haven for several rescue dogs, and she is considering adopting again. Connie has a daughter with Adolph and is mother to two stepchildren.
To everyone around her, Connie remains unassuming, vibrant, humble, loving and a giving friend to all. Connie says, "I like to think that my efforts have made my sphere of influence a kinder, happier place."
Sandra L. Ogle, Rockbridge
Sandra L. Ogle wakes up every morning feeling excited and wants to share it. She wants the best for her Logan, Rockbridge and Hocking Hills neighbors, and her best is what she gives them. As a Hocking County commissioner, she has made contributions that have made her community a better place to visit and call home, but she also works hard to ensure that those in her community share her excitement and pride for the region.
Sandy and her husband Ralph ran a firewood business and a feed mill while they tended to their 260 acre farm. Since she retired, she has had several small businesses, including the Appalachian Art and Craft Market, Ralph's Ice Cream, the Chuckwagon Grill and Sandy Sue's Silver Diner. She also served on the Hocking Hills Tourism Association to promote the region as a tourism destination.
Sandy decided to run for public office when someone told her she wouldn't get elected as the township trustee. The words, "can't" and won't" aren't in her vocabulary. She served as a Laurel Township Trustee in Hocking County for 12 years. Sandy then ran for Hocking County Commissioner, and is preparing to start her third four-year term in January 2017. She is involved with the Hocking Family & Children First Council, the Logan Town Center, the Hocking County Bicentennial Committee and the Washboard Festival Committee.
Sandy's passion to serve was borne from her early experiences as caregiver. As a young girl, Sandy cared for her mother and sister, who both suffered with severe Asthma. Later in life, Sandy cared for them again, along with their neighbor, so that everyone could remain in their own homes. Sandy says, "I feel I was born to help take care of others. I just try to treat people the way I want to be treated - you get way more out of it than you give."
In small, rural communities like Sandy's, the value of seniors giving back is enormous. She's served on the Buckeye Hills Area Agency on Aging 8 Regional Advisory Council for the past five years, and enjoys stopping by the Scenic Hills Senior Center in Logan to talk with seniors. She is on the Hocking, Vinton and Ross Adult Protective Services Task Force, and supports the annual Adult Protective Services Elder Abuse Day in Hocking County.
Sandy also advocates for the children of her community. She is an avid supporter of Hocking County 4-H, one of the nation's largest youth development organizations.
One of her biggest challenges is taking on the drug problem by serving on the Hocking Opiate Task Force and the annual Opiate Town Hall. As a small-business owner, she hires individuals in recovery for substance abuse and mentors them to give them hope and a sense of normalcy. She works closely with the local judge to provide recovering ex-offenders with training opportunities through local businesses.
"If we don't stop this drug problem, we're going to lose a whole generation of people," Sandy said. "You have to understand the issues surrounding hiring someone in recovery."
Sandy received the Award for Outstanding Service to Hocking County 4-H in 2002. In 2011, she was presented with the Award for Outstanding Support & Service from the Hocking County Community Improvement Corporation. In 2013, she received the Barton Holl Citizenship Award from the Hocking County Chamber of Commerce and the Rita Gillick Mental Health Advocacy Award from the 317 Health Board. In 2014, the Scenic Hills Senior Center named her Senior of the Year.
Sandy and Ralph have been married for 60 years and have three children, eight grandchildren (two of which they raised) and 11 great-grandchildren. "Ralph has always been my best friend and supported me," she said.
Sandy said her secret to living "Well Beyond 60" is about happiness. "Be happy with yourself. Do all that you can to live your life to be an influence to others," she said. "Always remember where you've come from, and no matter how high up you get, never forget who put you there. The Lord has blessed me with good health, so we should do things to not let it go to waste."
Gloria J. Renda, Steubenville
Gloria J. Renda lives by the mantra, "it is in giving that we receive." For 27 years, she helped shape the minds of young people in her community as a librarian and media specialist in the Edison Local School District. She believes that a life-saving heart bypass surgery 25 years ago gave her a second chance, and was determined not to squander it. She has been volunteering ever since. She shows people hope, she gives them light and she brings them joy by living her faith and never giving up.
Gloria used her master's degree and work experience in library science to tackle local literacy issues. She wrote a Vista Grant proposal and founded the Upper Ohio Valley Adult Literacy Council, where she taught, trained teachers, scheduled sessions and secured meeting places for one-on-one tutoring for adult reading skills. At the local hospital, she and her trained volunteers distributed books to young mothers and discussed with them the importance of reading to their children. Through the literacy council, she started a class at the Ohio Valley Hospital obstetrics clinic to help mothers-to-be to read to their children in the womb. When the grant ran out, the literacy program was successfully moved to the Adult Basic Education Department of Edison Local School District.
In 1996, Gloria became a charter member of the Academy of Lifelong Learning at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she serves as curriculum chairperson and plans courses, programs and educational field trips for senior adults.
Gloria travels internationally to teach English. In October 2001, under the auspices of Global Volunteers, she taught English in the schools of Ostuni, Italy. She currently is tutoring a group of Spanish nuns of the order of the "Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus" in English to help them to reach out to the community as part of their mission. Over the past three winters, she has taught English and reading to children in a small fishing village of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where she also has helped to build a village library.
Gloria lived for three months in a museum on the White River Apache Reservation in Arizona, cataloging their inventory and teaching the process to the Apaches as part of the North American Cultural Project at the University of Indiana. She has been a regular every summer for the past 15 years at the Chautauqua Institution, where she and her 97 year old friend enjoy more lifelong learning experiences.
In 2008, Gloria recruited fellow retired teacher friends to help restore the 1880, one-room, brick school house in Steubenville. The Pleasant Hill One Room School is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, Historic Fort Steuben began providing field trips for second grade students, where they spend half of the day at the Fort and the other half attending class in the Pleasant Hill school, as if they were living in 1880. Gloria is the head teacher in the classroom, which is complete with period desks and furnishings.
During the renovation of the school house, Gloria recruited inmates from the Jefferson County Correctional Facility for much of the restoration work. She prepared hot lunches for them and regularly sat with them to discuss how they could overcome their obstacles and live a law-abiding and meaningful life. The inmates really enjoyed her attention and knew she genuinely cared about them.
Gloria volunteers for the Special Olympics track and field meet every year, where she has ushered athletes onto the awards stand for the past 25 years. Over the past decade, she has conducted Relay for Life events for the American Cancer Society in the county schools, during which she walks with students and talks to them about cancer prevention.
Gloria is active in the choir at Holy Rosary Church and as a eucharistic minister at Holy Rosary Church, the Trinity Health System Hospital and to neighborhood shut-ins.
Keeping an active and healthy lifestyle is what Gloria believes is the key to living "Well Beyond 60." She works out and walks at the Steubenville YMCA most mornings before her busy day of volunteer projects, and practices Yoga daily.
"I would like to think that I have helped to improve the quality of life of the people I have touched," Gloria said. "I will continue being a volunteer probably until my last breath. I have made many wonderful friends along the way and I feel a great sense of fulfillment."
Gloria was honored as "Point of Light Number 321" from President George H.W. Bush in 1991 for her work with the Upper Ohio Valley Adult Literacy Council. She has also been named Cameo Woman of the Year and the Herald-Star Newspaper Volunteer of the Year for work in literacy, and received the Lifelong Learning Jefferson Technical College Community Service Award.
E.J. Thomas, New Albany
E.J. Thomas is a retired Air Force colonel who flew 32 missions in the first Gulf War, which ran concurrent with his tenure in the Ohio House of Representatives. Today, he serves as president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio, where he is a strong advocate for affordable housing. He names astronaut-turned-senator, and 1998 Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame inductee, John Glenn, as a principle inspiration to serve his country as a military pilot, and his state and his community in a variety of roles to the best of his abilities. E. J. sees beyond the horizon, then rolls up his sleeves and inspires everyone to soar with him.
E. J.'s flying career began in the United States Air Force, where he subsequently became an instructor and flew during the first Persian Gulf War. He retired after 32 years as the director of operations for the Ohio Air National Guard. For his legislative service on behalf of our men and women in uniform, he received the Charles Dick Medal of Merit, which recognizes contributions to the National Guard by elected representatives.
E. J. served in the 27th House District in the Ohio House of Representatives for eight terms. He specialized in state fiscal policy as chairman of both the finance and appropriations and ways and means committees, and shepherded five budget bills totaling more than $44 billion. He also co-authored and saw through passage the Nurse Practice Act, and was the prime sponsor of two pain management measures. All three of these pieces of legislation helped pave the way for improved health care quality, pain management and patient-centered care, especially for terminal patients. At the suggestion of a fourth-grade class in Worthington, Ohio, he also introduced Ohio House Bill 321, which made the white-tailed deer the official state animal.
Habitat for Humanity of Ohio, an organization that helps deserving low-income families realize their dream of home ownership, recruited E. J. as president and CEO of the MidOhio affiliate. Under his leadership, the Madison and Licking county affiliates were subsumed into Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio. He significantly increased the amount of volunteers, donations and income to reinvest in building projects throughout central Ohio. Today, Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio ranks in the nation's top 50 affiliates and is the ninth largest home builder in central Ohio. The organization also boasts one of the nation's largest Habitat retailers, Re-Store, which generates revenue. By the end of 2017, and following the completion of the Habitat Housing Initiative, Habitat-MidOhio will be able to more than triple the number of families that they serve, placing them in the top seven percent of affiliates in the U.S. (out of 1,400).
"We believe that all God's children deserve a safe, decent and affordable place to call home," E. J. said. "We seek to eliminate substandard housing, one home for one family at a time. With more than 350 homes we've built, we've watched the transformative effect our program has on them and their children."
During his time with Habitat, his affiliate was awarded the Columbus Foundation Award in 2012. In addition, E. J. was honored by Columbus CEO magazine as 2013 CEO of the Year for large non-profit organizations.
E. J. also serves as a trustee on the board of Capitol University, as chair of the recently formed Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, chair of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, and as a member of the New Albany Architectural Review Board, the Partnership to Make a Difference advisory board, and president of the Ford Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation in Port Clinton. He is past chairman of the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission, the State of Ohio's independent appeals forum for cases related to disputed unemployment claims. He has previously served on boards of the Columbus Zoo, the local Cancer Society chapter and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, where he co-founded their successful "Picnic with the Pops" summer series.
E. J. credits his parents for teaching him the value of working hard and giving his best. He developed a love for and talent at auctioneering by attending auctions with his mother. Today, he calls live auctions for various fundraisers at no charge.
The other inspirational people in his life have been those who were never famous. E. J. reflects, "They were the individuals who touched my life and really helped me understand that a life of service - in whatever chosen field - is what brings true happiness to us in this world. These are the unsung heroes whose examples lead the way. These are the senior citizens who - in giving of themselves - find life and their hearts full. It's almost an immutable law of human nature: The more one gives of themselves, the more one has of happiness, friends and of great satisfaction in having lived a life well."
It is his family and friends that keeps him grounded. He has two adult children, Eddie and Alicia, and is raising his 15-year-old daughter, Rose. The gearhead in him still enjoys working on anything with moving parts, from cars, to airplanes, to boats, to a 1948 Seeburg jukebox that he totally rebuilt. He enjoys taking WWII Army Air Corps and Navy pilots flying in his 1942 Stearman, the primary trainer of the period for all military pilots. Many have not been in their trainer since the early 1940s. Sharing their stories and love of aviation over the intercom keeps these generations connected.