The garden outside the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, Illinois, was still blooming when I went to the Governor’s Mansion to cover this for Senior News & Times. This event happens one time a year when volunteers and senior service groups come together to honor those that have received top honors. The celebration took place on was October 23, 2013 and made me realize how blessed we are by those that give so much.
Going to the Governor’s Mansion at any time is a wonderful chance to see the beautiful mansion, furnishings and enjoy walking through the garden. This was especially true after hearing the stories of those receiving awards.
Many of the recipients were World War II veterans and at an advanced age could just sit back and enjoy life, but they were still working hard and making a difference in the lives of those that live around them. One of the Hall of Fame recipients was a former teacher that had 60 years under his belt. Another was still at 88 serving as a town doctor, charging $5.00 for a visit and still making house calls and patient rounds at the local hospital and nursing home. His name was Dr. Dohner and he said, “I enjoy being a doctor and doing what I can.”
He recalled when Pearl Harbor was bombed. “That meant we had to go into the service. It was necessary at that time. Then I came home and went to medical school.”
Dr. Dohner was the Illinois State Fair Parade Grand Marshall for the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
Sam Franco of Chicago received an award for his musical contributions. Teaching music and music theory he played and taught many for no charge bringing music into the lives of children that would never be able to learn how to play an instrument without his generosity. Mr. Franco is still teaching. “If it wasn’t for my music, I wouldn’t be here today. Everyone should study some type of music,” he added.
One of the neatest things I heard was from the fourth man to be inducted into the Senior Hall of Fame Jere M. Wilmering Sr. of Fair View Heights who received his award in the Community Service category. Volunteer extraordinaire he said. “There is a new trend of families volunteering together,” he said. “Volunteering crosses all boundaries and all races and genders. I believe I have found the fountain of youth.”
Besides the Senior Hall of Fame recipients of the Governor’s Unique Award were honored as well. These winners were nominated by Area Agencies on Aging and the award recognizes groups, individuals and program making a positive impact in the lives of Illinois seniors. These awards were given to The Neighborhood House Association, of Peoria, The group providing Access to Help (PATH), Nan Anderson of Evanston, Sandra Hakanson, director of the Mascoutah Senior Services program L. Goebel Patton of Franklin County. This gentleman turned 100 and celebrated his century birthday the day after receiving his award.
This volunteer summed up the message I think sometimes I miss. His motto is “Service is the rent you pay to occupy space on this Earth.”
While traveling around to the places and sights, it is sometimes the people you meet and the things they have done that touch you.