Valley Legacy recipients honored


Seven area residents were recognized during the ninth annual Valley Legacy Awards luncheon for what they have given and done for seniors and others in their communities.

Outstanding Senior Awards went to Alma Apicella of Salem, the team of Betty Jean Bahmer of Warren and Anna Mae Cuchna of Niles, Daniel Mathey of Warren and Marilyn Schmidt of Canfield. Bahmer and Cuchna, twin sisters, were nominated as a pair by the Trumbull Retired Teachers Association.

Outstanding Advocates for Seniors were Kay Lavelle of Austintown and David Mirkin of Liberty.

This year, 18 nominations for 20 people were received for the Outstanding Senior Award, and six nominations for Outstanding Advocates for Seniors. Nearly 300 people attended the luncheon at Avion on the Water. The event was hosted by sponsor Shepherd of the Valley.

Lynn Miller, corporate marketing director for Shepherd of the Valley, said Shepherd of the Valley launched the awards in 2005 to recognize in a significant and public way the contribution, service, sacrifice and compassionate actions performed by or for senior citizens in the Mahoning Valley.

“Whether nominated as an Outstanding Senior or as an Outstanding Advocate, all of our nominees have used their time and special talents to make the Mahoning Valley a better place,” said Michele Hoffmeister, Valley Legacy Award board co-chair.

Dennis Parks, president of Shepherd of the Valley’s board of directors, said, “It is my personal belief that we are all out here to create and contribute. This is what gives us purpose. I am honored to be part of a process that recognizes those individuals that have spent a lifetime to contributing to our communities and to those who have contributed to the improvements of our elderly’s lifestyles through their professional, volunteer, or civic roles.”

All of the nominees received flowers and a Certificate of Recognition for their contributions to the community.

Other nominees for Outstanding Seniors were Paul Burgeson of Boardman, Marion Calpin of Canfield, Carol Faustino of Girard, Mary Ann Fees of North Lima, Wellington “Doc” Hager of Youngstown, Louise Joachim of Poland, Bill and Rosemary Lowery of Warren, John E. Malys of Boardman, Robert W. Ray of Warren, Jean Rider of Austintown, Thomas Solitis of Farmdale, Donna J. Tompkins of Warren, and Marjorie Wise of Columbiana.

Other Outstanding Advocates for Senior nominees are Carla Chahine of North Lima, Roberta Cykon of Niles, Ralph Infante of Niles and Roxanne York of Warren.

Here is a look at the Outstanding Advocates for Seniors:

Kay Lavelle received a call from Mahoning County Sheriff Randall Wellington asking her to develop a senior service program, which became the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Senior Services Unit.

Lavelle established the Mahoning County Senior Fair, now in its fourth year of offering seniors a free day of health information. She has helped the Austintown Senior Center grow to more than 1,000 members.

“I didn’t expect this. I thank Sheriff Wellington and others who allow me to do what I do. I have an army of people I can depend on for help ” Lavelle said.

David Mirkin is the founding chairman for the Mahoning County Senior Service Unit, serves on the Mahoning County Senior Fair Steering Committee and organized a committee to develop a training program for law enforcement officers to help them recognize red flags such as neglect or abuse when dealing with the elderly, which is now an accredited course for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

Mirkin said the best feeling in the word is when you help others.

“Two years ago after my dad’s funeral, we wanted to follow my dad’s legacy to do what we can do to help others. Success in life is not what you gain for yourself, but what you do for others. I challenge all of you to do it every day,” Mirkin said.

Alma Apicella is a constant volunteer in Salem, where she is active with the YWCA and has served as board president and interim director. Apicella has been active with the Salem Community Hospital Board, Salem City Council, Salem Historical Society and Museum, Salem Rotary Foundation, Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Rotary Club, and Salem Community Hospital Auxiliary of which she is past president.

Apicella was described as someone you can call on for anything who will always say yes and will be there to do what is needed.

Sisters Betty Jean Bahmer and Anna Mae Cuchna have touched the lives of thousands in the valley. They volunteer for the Niles Community Services, where they work on the Toys for Tots program, Back to School and Christmas food fund drive.

As members of the Youngstown Alumnae Panhellenic Association, both have held leadership positions with support of Beatitude House, Someplace Safe and the Niles Schools Children’s Fund.

The sisters show an example of helping others and not looking for recognition, according to the nomination.

“This is hard to believe. What a surprise. My sister told me if by chance we win, I am to go first since I was born first,” Cuchna said.

Bahmer said they always wanted to help others and those in need.

“We will continue to volunteer. We feel blessed by this,” she said.

Daniel Mathey for more than 40 years has served his community as an activist, artist and wherever else he was needed, according to the nomination.

Mathey has provided leadership and training to area youth through the Boy Scouts. Mathey promotes the arts, donating his time creating on-site graphics for both the Packard Museum, and First Flight Lunar Module Park and his artwork for fundraising auctions for local charities.

“Just hearing what all the nominees are doing I can’t believe I’m here. I have been blessed all my life. After retiring I jumped at the chance to help others. It’s rewarding. I enjoy it,” Mathey said.

Marilyn Schmidt retired two years ago and became a full-time volunteer. She is a key member of the Canfield Lions’ Club, where she has run the Mahoning County Eye Screening for the past 15 years coordinating optometrists to test the vision of children in kindergarten to third grade. For 27 years she has served as a track official for the Ohio Special Olympics track meet.

Schmidt said her children and grandchildren all volunteer like she does

“This is such as surprise. I am overwhelmed to be included with all these people who do so much,” Schmidt said.