Vevay’s Rita Sullivan thought she was attending Wednesday night’s meeting of the local Tri Kappa chapter to speak about her experiences helping to lay wreaths on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
What she soon found out was that she was the one being given the honor; as Tri Kappa named her as its “Woman of the Year.”
As she began talking about the Arlington Cemetery, Rita was rendered speechless as members of her family came walking into the room to surprise her.
Tri Kappa President Rhonda Griffin spoke about Tri Kappa and how the award came to be, and then officially announced this year’s recipient:
“A year ago, we decided that we would start recognizing someone in our community, and we decided that we would give out an award for the ‘Woman of the Year’,” Griffin said. “So, this year we have chosen Rita as our Woman of the Year. The award is given to a woman who makes a significant and unique and lasting contribution to the community; serves as a role model to other women and future female leaders; motivates others; and impacts others to serve.
“It is presented to a woman from Switzerland County who’s stepped up for a better community through her volunteer efforts and her many accomplishments,” Griffin continued. “The woman who has worked hard for her fellow Switzerland County natives. The woman who goes above and beyond to ensure that others have a great experience throughout our community. The woman who gives selflessly of herself. The woman chosen has accomplished all of the above and so much more. She’s a loving wife, mother, sister, grandmother. She’s a volunteer or whatever she’s asked to do. It’s a woman who’s put on her ‘big girl shoes’ and really made a difference in our community and beyond.”
Following that, member Joanne Keith read a prepared statement that included many of Rita’s accomplishments and projects, that had been written by Rita’s son, Tye.
Tye’s words included:
Everyone is familiar with the 1980s hit TV show “Cheers” and their theme song that coined the phrase, “Where everybody knows your name.” Switzerland County is the place where everybody knows your name, Rita. We know your name because of the countless hours that you have spent serving this community over the years. You have dedicated your life to helping others.
Rita has been involved with numerous organizations in this community including the Vevay American Legion Post 185 Ladies Auxiliary where she has served President; the Switzerland County Community Foundation; The Woman’s Giving Circle; and the Switzerland County Republican Party.
Rita worked alongside her husband Lowell Wayne for over 20 years organizing food baskets at Christmas time for those less fortunate in our community. In the past, Rita has participated in the Switzerland County Relay for Life as an organizer, volunteer and survivor!
Rita has previously been honored with the “Golden Hoosier Award” for her years of dedicated service to the Switzerland County community. This award is one of the highest honors in the state of Indiana for community service, second only to the Sagamore of the Wabash award given by the Governor.
Over the past year, Rita has worked alongside others to promote “Keeping Pace,” which is a fund to help our neighbors and friends in Switzerland County who are affected by cancer.
Rita is a faithful member of the Olive Branch Baptist Church. She is a terrific mom, awesome grandma and special friend. I am certain that Lowell Wayne is smiling down on Switzerland County this evening!
Following a meal, Rita did, in fact, get to share about her trip and experience at Arlington National Cemetery – as was fitting in her selfless, giving character.