70 Over 70 "Yearbook", July 2019
Jane Abildgaard, 70
Thorough | Jane Abildgaard retired from a telecommunications career two decades ago, but that does not mean she has quit working. She is a volunteer powerhouse.
Much of her time is spent working at Kansas City Hospice. One of her main duties there is serving as the volunteer coordinator. Oftentimes, this means working with hospice staff to find a volunteer who can provide some respite to the patient’s caregivers.
A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, and a graduate of the University of Kansas, Jane’s career brought her to Kansas City 25 years ago from Chicago. She loves her adopted hometown.
Jane also serves as a lay minister for her church, Village Presbyterian, in Prairie Village. And just like with hospice, her work with the church involves comforting people through tough times.
“I think it is important to try and make the world around me a better place,” Jane said.
Debby Barker, 78
Conscientious | Debby Barker passes on her love of to ecology to kids. “We’ ve got to learn how to live in harmony,” she said, “because it’s the only world we’ve got.”
Her volunteer passions are Lakeside Nature Center (LNC), a Kansas City Parks Department facility that houses around 75 animals, and StoneLion Puppet Theatre, which puts on ecological and nature-based performances.
Debby cherishes the look on kids’ faces when they get to touch an owl. She thrills at the chance to have birds on her wrist. You might also see Debby manning a table at a school science night.
A retired computer programmer, she grew up on Long Island, New York, and accompanied her husband here 50 years ago when he took a job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Debby is not one to sit around: She hadn’t turned on the TV for months after her second husband died in January.
Dr. Gary Beauchamp, 75
Dedicated | Dr. Gary Beauchamp transitioned from a career as an interventional cardiologist to a volunteer woodworker without skipping a beat.
Gary helps build houses and wheelchair ramps for Habitat For Humanity. A farm boy who grew up outside Pomona, Kansas, Gary is following in the footsteps of his carpenter father.
A gifted carver, too, works he gives away include University of Kansas Jayhawks, fish crafted out of old fence boards, and cars for kids. He also puts his skills to use for the Kansas City Indian Center — making a case to hold moccasins, in one instance.
If recipients are so inclined, Gary suggests a donation to a research fund honoring his daughter, who died at age 33 from colorectal cancer.
Gary is also an elder at Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church in Overland Park.
He keeps a packed schedule because he’s used to staying busy. Besides, he said, “It’s not healthy to sit around and watch TV all day.”
Marsha Campbell, 73
Leader | After serving from 1997 to 2004 in the Missouri House of Representatives as a Democrat from Kansas City, would anybody have blamed Marsha Campbell for bowing out of public service?
But that’s not what Marsha did, becoming a trustee of the Jackson County Mental Health Fund in 2005. The fund raises about $12 million each year in property tax receipts, and Marsha helps distribute the proceeds to nonprofit mental health providers.
As a trustee, she said, “I feel like I am doing something to help and to ensure that the limited funds we have go to places that are actually really helping.”
Marsha is also an active volunteer with her church, Country Club United Methodist in Brookside.
Her advice to seniors who want to get active in volunteering is to simply contact an organization that interests you. Once they have you, they will never let go, she promised!
Perry Cook, 76
Dedication | What kind of volunteer work can you do if you like driving, like meeting people, and like being out and about?
For Perry Cook, the answer was to donate time to the Catch-a-Ride (CAR) program in Johnson County. Volunteers take clients to medical appointments, grocery stores, food pantries, and social service agencies.
In one instance, Perry proceeded with a scheduled ride even though he could not get ahold of the client beforehand. He was concerned when the client did not answer the door, so he called back to the CAR office, where staff called emergency services personnel. They responded and found the client passed out on the floor.
Perry is a Kansas farm boy who has lived in Olathe for 35 years. He is retired from the mirror and glass business.
“I don’t understand when I hear people who are retired say they are bored,” he said. “I just keep busy all the time.”
Leo Eisert, 84
Humble | Ask Leo Eisert how he’s doing, and he might just tell you, “If I was doing any better, I’d be twins.”
It’s that optimism, and his tremendous work ethic, that endears him to staff and fellow congregants at First Baptist Church of Blue Springs, where he is an elder and a deacon.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Leo watched and learned from his father, who had a filling station in Armourdale. Leo is a genius handyman for the church — doing electrical, plumbing and carpentry work all around the 92,000-square-foot building.
He volunteered 500 hours for the church in the first six months of this year alone. He has been retired for about two decades from the plastic-bottling company where he worked for 40 years.
He attributes his success in life to God’s plan. “Each of has gifts and talents, and we need to make good use of them.”
Ada Frazier, 79
Energetic | Ada Frazier reads insatiably, does crossword puzzles, and walks almost every day. That’s the way she stays sharp and active.
But one of the most telling stories about Ada’s volunteer commitment involves cards.
Ada has volunteered at Kansas City Hospice House ever since it opened in 2006, and on one occasion, she organized a weekly bridge game with a patient who loved the game. The game went on even though the patient’s condition improved and she went home. Incredibly, this game continued for 10 years, even as the patient went in and out of hospice before passing.
Ada also volunteers at the Seton Center, a social services organization located in Kansas City’s urban core. She helps organize and execute the “Christmas Gathering” fundraiser held annually in the community room of Saint Thomas More Church. The eight couples involved purchase food and drink and have collected as much as $26,000 in donations through the event for Seton Center.
Bud Lauer, 85
Dedicated | Bud Lauer has a heart — a lot of them, in fact.
As a long-time volunteer at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care (KCHH), he has coordinated the making of thousands of hand-crafted memorial hearts that KCHH gives to families once their loved one has passed away.
As one might imagine, the need for these hearts can be quite great, and when demand was quickly outpacing supply, Bud organized a craft group at the retirement community where he lives. It’s a great way to serve KCHH and build camaraderie among residents of the retirement community, Bud said.
A South Dakota native, Lauer moved to Kansas City three decades ago as part of his career with a trailer manufacturer in California.
Along with making the hearts, Lauer does something else with his hands that you might not expect from a man his age: he boxes. He’s organized a co-ed boxing club at his retirement community.
Mary Alice Weimer, 70
Fierce | Mary Alice Weimer has battled breast cancer twice, the last time ending only in May after 38 infusions in the span of a year.
Not one for self pity, she considers it a privilege to continue serving Kansas City Hospice. She has volunteered there since returning to the Kansas City area three decades ago.
“There is an energizing quality about going out and doing something that may make someone else’s life easier,” Mary Alice said. “It does make you realize that you have a purpose.”
Hospice allows patients to maintain their identity during their final days, Mary Alice said, rather than being more of a number in a hospital.
Along with compassion, she has spunk. Her initial chemotherapy T-shirt last year, which featured Minnie Mouse and the phrase “Bring it On,” was such a big hit that she scoured discount stores for similar ones every week.
David Wetzel, 77
Thoughtful| It seems natural that someone as curious as David Wetzel would gravitate to a demanding volunteer role with Impact KC, which is a giving circle where (mostly) young professionals pool their money to support local nonprofits. David’s son, Richard, is a cofounder of the group.
David got involved with Impact KC a couple years after moving here from Denver in 2010, stepping in as chair of the Selection Committee with a sudden vacancy in the position. He served in that capacity for six years.
The committee each year sifts through as many as 80 grant applications to decide the four or five groups it can afford to fund. Through the process, David has learned about the variety of nonprofits serving the varied needs of his adopted community.
David loves to write and has embraced the history of his new hometown. Wonderment is what keeps him active and involved in his older years. You just have to “keep aware of the things going on around you, and ask, ‘Why?’”
Linda Wheeler, 71
Unpredictable | If you are looking for an unsung heroine, Linda Wheeler fits the bill. A tough woman who takes a drill-sergeant approach to managing a crisis, she is at her best in caring for ill loved ones.
Linda cared for her mother and stepfather until they passed away, and did the same thing for her mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s disease, and for an uncle who had cancer. She is respected for keeping these adults at home and comfortable during their final days. Her admirers also cite her boundless energy and view her loyalty to family as an example for all to follow.
She has also nursed her husband back to health through multiple health challenges.
For the past decade, Linda also has taken on the role of mothering young women who have lost their moms. Her “chicks,” as she calls them, look to Linda as a surrogate mamma-san. The feeling is mutual. Linda also has her “happy moments” wnen supporting these women.