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ST. MARYS — With tears and moments of reflection and song, a county agency recognized its citizen of the year during an annual celebration on Tuesday.
Vernon Doenges was named the 2012 Outstanding Senior during the Auglaize County Council on Aging’s annual celebration of National Senior Center Month, with the theme this year of “It Happens at My Senior Center: My Life. My Time. My Way.” Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer kicked off Doenges’ recognition by reading a proclamation from the commissioners.
“Whereas, older Ohioans are indeed a wonderful asset to our communities, counties and state, and it is fitting and appropriate that all Americans pause and pay special tribute to these older Ohioans during the month of September, as this month has been designated as National Senior Center Month. Also to recognize an outstanding senior citizen within Auglaize County who has made the county a better place in which to live, and whereas Outstanding Senior Citizen Vernon Doenges, graduated from St. Marys Memorial High School in 1939. After high school, he took one year in accounting and landed his first job in Wapakoneta. In 1948, he married his wife Eileen and they were married for 56 years. And whereas, Vernon for 28 years, ending in 1987, served as the Auglaize County auditor. Vernon has been active in many local organizations and has often served as an officer. He was active in the Auglaize County Historical Society and continues to be a speaker on historical topics. He has written a local history column in the Wapakoneta Daily News for decades. Vernon has spent many years collecting postcards, advertising materials and news clippings from the communities of Auglaize County, and recently he has begun to donate those collections to the local history organizations in the county. And whereas, Vernon is also a talented musician. He participated in a local dance band for many years and performed at weddings, as well as social and civic events in every part of Auglaize County. He continues to share his remarkable talents with groups today.” Spencer noted at the courthouse dedication on Sunday, Doenges gave a solo. “He is always ready to provide a special moment of song when requested. And whereas, because this citizen works not for praise and recognition but with an open heart and much caring and sacrifice, always serving where a need exists, the Auglaize County Council on Aging has selected Vernon Doenges to receive the 2012 Outstanding Senior Citizen Award. Therefore, be it resolved, that the board of county commissioners of Auglaize County, Ohio, does hereby recognize the lifetime achievements of Vernon Doenges and does hereby issue this proclamation recognizing Vernon Doenges as the 2012 Outstanding Senior Citizen of Auglaize County. And be it further resolved, that the board does ask all citizens of Auglaize County to pause and reflect upon the achievements of Mr. Vernon Doenges and all older Auglaize County citizens who have made Auglaize County a better place in which to live.”
ACCA Director Christina Roby presented Doenges with dinner tickets and a plaque and noted there will be a picture put on the wall at the center and also one that will be presented to Doenges.
Next, Wapakoneta Daily News Publisher Deb Zwez, past county auditor Karyn Schuman, current county auditor Janet Schuler, Doenges’ niece Ellen Pleiman, Wapakoneta Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Graf, Wapakoneta Economic Development Director Greg Myers and Doenges’ son, Nick Doenges along with his daughter, Nina Stuckey, all reflected on Doenges’ career, community and family life, while Doenges, flanked by his sister, Mary Wissman and his brother-in-law, Jim Wissman, listened.
Afterward, Roby welcomed Doenges to the podium.
“Thank you, that’s all I can say, thank you,” Doenges said. “I can’t express how I feel, it just hits you. I just want you to know I appreciate all of this stuff, and I don’t have a whole lot to say.”
To sum up his thanks, Doenges sang “Why Don’t We Do This More Often” for the crowd.
“You exemplify what true aging is,” Roby told him. “You’ve kept active and busy, and that’s the reason you’re still active and busy at 90 because you participate, you engage in life. That’s what’s important ... We all have things we have to deal with, but you continue to do that and give back. We thank you for your knowledge and everything that you’ve done for Auglaize County. We love you.”
In regard to Tuesday’s event, Roby noted to The Evening Leader a proclamation sent to her by Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, as well as an acknowledgment sent from the Ohio Department of Aging.
“They’re acknowledging the contributions our agency provides for senior citizens in our county — not only in our county, but in our state in nation because they are one of our treasures ... I think of this as an opportunity to give back to those who have supported our services and those who have helped us out,” she said.
Roby complimented her employees, as well as the many volunteers who donate their time.
“There are 66 volunteers we are acknowledging today with our award recognition ceremony along with our 2012-13 outstanding senior citizen,” she said, also complimenting her board of directors. “I have a great board, I have a great group of people I work with here ... I can’t say enough about my board and my staff.”
Roby noted she started with the council on aging in 1989.
“I still enjoy every moment being in here and being with these people and working with everyone in here,” she said.
She noted with her staff, her youngest employee is 26, with her oldest being 82.
“If it wasn’t for the United Way and the Area Agency on Aging, we would not have a satellite office, which enables us to reach clients in the eastern part of Auglaize County,” she said. “It’s all about the people we serve. That’s why we want to continue doing what we’re doing to reach people in need.”
She noted they have driven more than 200,000 miles in transportation to meet the needs of residents.
“It’s very difficult financially, but we make it with what we’ve got,” she said. “We’ve got good people, and we make it work.”
Tuesday’s event also featured presentations by Office of the Ohio Attorney General Consumer Protection Educator Mani James, United Way of Auglaize County Director Randy Fisher and 2013 United Way Chair Anne Larger, YMCA CEO Josh Little, Auglaize County Red Cross Branch Manager Ken Cline, an introduction of board members/volunteer awards by Board President Elaine Altstaetter, a staff/volunteer recognition by Roby, Evelyn Hartley, Sandy Stanfield, Michelle Evans and Bob Warren presenting, as well as a lunch featuring music by Cleora Burger.