Two Maui County residents were recently named Outstanding Older Americans by the Maui County Office on Aging. This year’s awards were presented at the 46th annual Outstanding Older American Awards ceremony, held May 6 at the Maui Beach Hotel’s Elleair Ballroom. Fred Ruge (84) and Kanee Wright (83) were this year’s honorees.
Ruge was honored for his dedication to veterans through leadership, fund-raising, and transportation to appointments. His award also was due to helping guide island veterans through the challenging path in seeking VA benefits. Ruge is a Korean War combat vet who’s lobbied to expand Makawao Veterans Cemetery, helped create jobs for returning Afghanistan vets and worked on preventing veterans’ suicides. His other notable accomplishments include extending his helping hand to the homeless and serving as a Salvation Army holiday bell ringer.
Wright’s Older American award stems from her extensive volunteer work at Hale Maha‘olu’s Home Pumehana site in Kaunakakai, Molokai, where she keeps busy by cleaning windows, screens, tables and chairs. She also spends time running errands for the kitchen, office and maintenance shop. Her volunteer work also includes delivering nutritious meals to Molokai’s home-bound seniors as well as delivering parcels to those without transportation.
Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize elder citizens for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active. This year’s theme was “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow,” which was designed to highlight injury prevention.
Judges for this year’s awards were Audrey Rocha Reed, Director of Heritage Hall; Ronna Patty, PHN; Cesar Gaxiola, Executive Director of the Cameron Center; Scott Seto, Executive Director of Adult and Community Care branch of the Department of Human Services; and Sandy Freeman, Executive Director, Maui Adult Day Care Centers.
The other eight nominees for the 2014 Outstanding Older Americans Awards were Louise Corpuz, Penny Dearborn, Sally Gospodarek, Barbara Kennedy, Kathleen Ordonez, Patsy Ponce, Tom Leuteneker and John Tryggestad.
Photo: Ryan Piros/County of Maui