Valley Legacy awards honor dedication to older residents

YOUNGSTOWN — Service. Sacrifice. Contribution. Compassionate actions.

Those deeds performed by or for senior citizens in the Mahoning Valley are why Shepherd of the Valley residential centers launched the Valley Legacy Award in 2005.

Karen Bovard, president of Shepherd of the Valley’s board of directors, said in the past 12 years, nearly 325 people and organizations have been recognized as nominees, with 55 receiving the Valley Legacy Award.

“It has been a privilege to be a part of a process that recognizes individuals who have spent a lifetime contributing to our communities and those who have contributed to the improvement of our seniors’ lifestyles through their professional, volunteer or civic roles,” Bovard said.

This year, 11 Mahoning Valley residents were nominated for their dedication to seniors and the community at the ninth annual Valley Legacy Awards luncheon Oct. 5 at the Maronite Center.

Bovard said this year’s nominees hailed from across the Mahoning Valley and spanned a multitude of interests, occupations and talents with friends and family nominating educators, community volunteers, veterans, business people and artists.

Danielle L. Procopio, corporate director of marketing with Shepherd of the Valley, said nominees received flowers and a certificate of recognition for their contributions to the community.

Outstanding Senior Award

n Dr. Rashid Abdu — Aside from working as a surgeon at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, Abdu volunteers with Mission of Love, traveling to provide medical services and supplies to people over the world, including in Guatemala and at U.S. Indian reservations, as well as in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

He also tutors children at Harding Elementary School in Youngstown, serving as a mentor to many children over the years.

His biggest accomplishment is a promise he made to his wife, Joanie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. He said he experienced multiple appointments, tests, traveling and long delays while seeking treatment for his wife. Before his wife passed away, he promised her he would change the community so others would have access to care in Youngstown, eliminating the need to travel for treatments.

After nearly 20 years, the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center opened in November 2011.

Howard Reese, who nominated Abdu, said, “He promised her he would create a comprehensive breast care center in her name in our community so others would not suffer as she did. He had been planning, researching and donating his own funds to create the center for nearly 20 years before his dream came true.”

n Sandra Bilovesky — As a teacher, she impacted her students and has served her community. Bilovesky was a board member for the teacher preparation program at Trumbull Career / Technical Center, the lead mentor for Niles City Schools, is a Martha Jennings scholar and won the Ashland College Golden Apple Award. She helped fundraise and distribute thousands of books to children in Trumbull County.

Bilovesky served the Niles Historical Society as president and vice president and co-authored the current edition of ”Niles Historical Buildings.” She was a 2015 honorary inductee into the Niles McKinley Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. She was also a docent at Ward-Thomas House and is a member of Friends of the Library. She is a lifelong member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Niles  and current chairperson of its Bereavement Ministry.

Niles resident Mary Ann McMahon, who nominated Bilovesky, said, “It has been my privilege to know her for over 30 years. She typifies an active senior who gives of herself to others in her community, her profession and her faith. She has brought many new members to the Historical Society, AAUW and Delta Kappa Gamma merely by saying, ‘If I can do it, so can you!'”

n  Nick and Agnes Krut — The Kruts have lived out the word “commitment” through every phase of life, bringing what they value most to everything they do. Married for 70 years, they are active St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church serving the ladies guild, cemetery and men’s club. They are charter members of the Campbell St. Vincent de Paul Society where they served thousands of meals in its soup kitchen. He was a member of both the Civil Air Defense and the Knight of the Altar. She volunteered as a tutor for Campbell School District and became part of the Ohio Reads program under Gov. Bob Taft. They volunteered together at Northside Medical Center and Tod Children’s Hospital, giving more than 25,000 hours of service to the hospitals.

June Jagunic, who nominated the couple, said, “They are two of the most lively, giving, inspirational and down-to-earth people I have ever met. At ages 90 and 91, they are still all about helping others, as they are able, and continue to live lives that exemplify the volunteer spirit. At a time when they might have thought about slowing down, they both geared up and sought opportunities to continue their life of service to community and individuals through organizations that strive to make life better for others each and every day.”

Cliff C. Johnson Memorial Award

•  John Rozzo, formerly of Niles, in 1958 began teaching social studies and science at St. Edward School in Youngstown in 1962. He attended Youngstown State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1963 . He went on to receive his master’s in education in 1968 from Westminster College.

Rozzo served as principal at St. Edwards School, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Niles, St. Dominic Elementary School in Youngstown, and St. Joseph Elementary School in Austintown before retiring in 2011.

Event organizers said Rozzo’s ”legacy as a teacher and administrator lives on through all of his students, whose lives he impacted through his work. He was a man who constantly sacrificed his time for his community.”

As an educator,  Rozzo served as regional superintendent, member of the Trumbull County Parochial Schools Principal’s Advisory Board, the Diocesan Board of Education and athletic director.