Legacy Society Banquet

By Becky Fitzgerald on May 18, 2017

Five residents honored at 15th annual event
In 2004, Sugarland, Texas, resident Don Rasmussen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His doctor at the time wasn’t optimistic. “I hope you have a bucket list,” Don remembers the physician saying. “You won’t be doing anything in five years.”
A half decade later in 2009, Don and his wife, Bea, had been Meadowlark residents for nearly two years, and Don appeared to be nowhere near kicking that metaphorical bucket.
“Meadowlark fit exactly what we needed,” Bea said. “This place is our gift from God.” Don agrees, and soon after moving to a Meadowlark Valley cottage in late 2007, he looked for ways to contribute. He quickly became an active member of the Parkinson’s Education and Support Group, and later expanded his involvement to the PD Core Team. He was his neighborhood’s representative on Resident Council, and in 2009, he was elected to the Board of Trustees, serving five years.
While a Council and board member, Don devoted many hours to two major campus projects, and he and Bea have financially supported various campaigns, projects and programs. Don’s significant contributions of time and talent have greatly impacted the Meadowlark community and drew the attention of Meadowlark staff and board members. He received the 2017 Legacy Award on Monday, May 15, at the 15th annual Legacy Society Banquet sponsored by Meadowlark Foundation. The award, presented Monday by Neil Horton, the Foundation’s Board of Directors president, recognizes public service-minded individuals who have made significant volunteer and financial contributions to the Meadowlark community.
The campus projects mentioned above are parking and pedestrian safety and improvements to a water-retention pond on the north edge of campus. A former chemical engineer, Don teamed with another resident and former engineer, Bob Smith, to solve pedestrian issues. They encouraged staff to add sidewalks, signage, line-of-sight corrections, speed control measures, and staff training.
     Bayer Pond Nature Area was dedicated in 2015 after 15 years of starts and stops. A few other former residents could see potential for the area’s development, but it was Don who organized a committee, made regular reports to the board and raised about $28,000 from resident donors for improvements.
    His activism and fundraising abilities also have been noteworthy at the annual Speedy PD, a race benefitting the Parkinson’s Program. Don has served eight years on the race planning committee, and he and his family have yearly raised thousands for the program with a team of runners. The Rasmussens are members of the Legacy Society, which includes individuals who have named Meadowlark Foundation as a recipient of charitable support through estate planning. In addition the Society welcomes donors who have given one-time or cumulative gifts which total $25,000 or more.
Other honorees at Monday’s banquet included Society members Duane and Patricia Miksch, who received the Good Samaritan Award; Bonnie Nespor, winner of the Margaret Wheat Spirit of Meadowlark Hills Award; and the late Marla Bugbee. Marla’s daughter Karen Armbrust of Manhattan accepted the Johanna Lyle Excellence in Service Award on behalf of her mother and siblings.
     The Miksches began donating to the Good Samaritan Fund in 2009 prior to their move to a Meadowlark cottage in 2011. They support the fund yearly in a variety of ways: Honor a Legacy and the Dollar-a-Day campaigns, Grow Green Match Day and HOGtoberfest. They also have supported the Parkinson’s Program and gave a major gift to support the Verna Belle’s Café renovation. Duane’s contribution of time includes serving on Meadowlark’s Board of Trustees. Pat is a song leader at vespers and is a soprano with the Meadowlark Singers.
The spirit award honors a resident who embodies the spirit and person-directed culture of Meadowlark Hills. Bonnie Nespor currently lives at Sloan House, and staff said she is a wonderful supporter of and advocate for new residents. She goes out of her way to make them feel welcome and cared about. “Her favorite pastime is visiting with other residents and sharing memories and stories about her life and listening to the stories of others,” noted Neil Horton during the event.
   Marla Bugee, winner of the service award, lived in an Independent Living apartment for nearly 18 years prior to her death this past February, and she was a leader on the former Bingo Committee for most of that time. She called games, recruited other callers, worked with the restaurant kitchen to provide prizes and helped make decisions about how bingo proceeds would be spent. Other volunteer roles included weekend greeter, Meadowlark Auxiliary sewer, and Resident Ambassador member.
 About 100 residents, staff, current and former board members and Legacy Society members joined the winners at this year’s event, which was held at the Bluemont Hotel. Dr. Gayle Doll, associate professor in the College of Human Ecology and director of the Center on Aging at K-State, was the banquet speaker. Her presentation, titled “My Love Affair with Meadowlark Hills”, featured advice from former and current residents about how to age and live well. For the past several years, Dr. Doll has taught a gerontology course at Meadowlark; residents are invited to audit the class, participating in the discussion.
 Legacy Society members are investing in Meadowlark Hills and ensuring the future of Meadowlark’s programs and services. New members are always welcome! If you’d like to know more about Society membership, please contact Becky Fitzgerald, Development Director, at 323-3843.