Rita Sullivan honored by State with ‘Golden Hoosier’ Award for service


Vevay’s Rita Sullivan was honored on Monday at the Indiana Statehouse for her years of service to her community with the “Golden Hoosier Award”. The honor was bestowed on her by Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann. She was one of only 19 people across the state to be honored.

The “Golden Hoosier Award” is presented each year by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and Lieutenant Governor Ellspermann. It is the highest honor that a person over the age of 65 can be awarded in the state.

“Since 2008, Hoosiers have been recognized for service in their communities with the prestigious Golden Hoosier Award,” Ellspermann said. “It is not just one act of community service, but rather a lifetime of community service and commitment to serving others, that we honor today. It is my privilege to continue the great tradition of expressing our appreciation to these fine Hoosiers.”

Rita Sullivan was nominated for the award by Patrick Lanman, and in his recommendation, he wrote:

“Rita Sullivan volunteers her time all over Switzerland County and the State of Indiana; but first and foremost, Rita is a supporter of our troops and veterans. She has worked tirelessly to collect items, stuff boxes, and mail care packages to American soldiers stationed all over the world. She has been active in military support and veterans activities since she left high school.

“In addition to being involved in the American Legion, Rita is active with Vevay High School alumni, Relay for Life, Olive Branch Baptist Church, and the Republican Women’s Club. Rita has dedicated her life to serving community members, troops, and veterans. From personal guidance to raising money to help individuals and families in need, Rita continuously give back selflessly to the community. Her compassion and dedication to serve others has made her community and our state a better place for Hoosiers.”

Other recipients of the award this year included: Evelyn Adams of Tobinsport, Indiana; Dr. Shahid Athar of Zionsville, Indiana; Betty Blakely of Franklin, Indiana; Rosa Lee Brown of Staughton, Indiana; Fredette Cash of Hagerstown, Indiana; David Chnupa of Portage, Indiana; Bonita Dunbar of Akron, Indiana; Wade Eaglin of North Vernon, Indiana; Loren Grahek of Floyds Knobs, Indiana; Bonnie Kane of Indianapolis, Indiana; Corona Lewis of Carmel, Indiana; Floran Mast of Elkhart, Indiana; Norman Melhiser of New Albany, Indiana; Anna Seaton of Terre Haute, Indiana; Jesse Shively of Franklin, Indiana; Frances Stauffer of Indianapolis, Indiana; Steve Talley of Indianapolis, Indiana; and Sarann Weeks of Paoli, Indiana.

Accompanying Rita to Indianapolis for the ceremony were two of her sons: Jason and Tye; friend Ethel Althoff; and her nominator.

The program was opened with a welcome by Dr. John Wernert, Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

“First and foremost, we want to thank all of you for being here today and celebrating the spirit of volunteerism,” Dr. Wernert said. “We’re here today to recognize your contributions, but I would like to talk a bit about the indirect contributions that each of you make, and that is inspiring others to be compassionate. We all know that many of our fellow citizens and suffering and are in a dark place, and our government programs really do the best we can for the public. But when we count all the people we serve, we’re not always sure that we’re really helping all of them. All of you are the hands and feet of service. You are the ones who are there, in the right places, where our citizens need you most.”

Dr. Wernert told about his grandfather, who was a tobacco farmer in Kentucky; and Dr. Wernert told of the things that he had learned while working during the summer on his grandfather’s farm – both about farming and about life.

“One his favorite sayings, which I use all the time, was ‘We don’t tear down fences until we know what they’re their for’,” Dr. Wernert said. “Sometimes when we tear things down, we realize what they were really there for.”

Lt. Governor Ellspermann told the audience that she was honored to be a part of celebrating what it really means to be a Hoosier.

“We can see those tremendous descriptions in your book about the tremendous accomplishments of each of the individuals being recognized today,” Ellspermann said. “But something tells me that those descriptions really are only a small piece of what each of these individuals have really done to make a difference in their communities, with their churches, with all of those whom they engage with.”

She noted that for many community service is a lifelong committement, and she applauded the recipients for their lifetime of service.

“For many, community service doesn’t expire with age,” she said. “It gets better with age. It’s so wonderful to see you all here. It tells us that age really is a state of mind, and that making a difference can happen at any age.”