12 receive Mayor’s Medal of Honor

December 15, 2018 GMT

Many of the recipients of the dozen medals of honor handed out by Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede didn’t know why they were in the room Wednesday.

Tradition calls for them to be lured to the ceremony under false pretenses.

As a result, Mary Pat Jewison said she wasn’t prepared to speak after receiving the Mayor’s Medal of Honor for services to the elderly, but as she looked across the room, she found the words.

“We are so lucky to be in the city of Rochester, where we have people willing to help,” she said.

It was an expression shared by other recipients, as well as presenters and Mayor Ardell Brede, who was handing out the last medals of his 16 year mayoral career.

This year’s Mayor’s Medal of Honor recipients were:

Artistic and cultural achievement Amarama Vercnocke

Best known for creating colorful and touchable wool sculptures, Vercnocke was honored for her artistic achievements, which include creating a mosaic goose for the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trusts’ “Goose is Loose” project in 2009. Since then, she has received artistic grants, taught classes and worked to spread a love for art in the community.

City service Paul Fleissner

Olmsted County’s deputy administrator of health, housing and human services, Fleissner was cited for helping those who need help during a career that spans more than three decades. During the years he’s worked with the county, he has led efforts to establish Silver Creek Corners and Gage East and is now working with the effort to create a regional mental health crisis center.

Communitywide service Larry Vomhof

Vomhof was recognized for volunteer efforts that date back to helping in the aftermath of the Red River Valley flood 25 years ago. Since then, he has recruited others to join him on annual trips to help communities rebuild after disasters. When not organizing trips, his volunteer efforts also benefit local organizations, such as Family Promise, New Life Family Services and Bear Creek Church.

Services to the elderly — Mary Pat Jewison

Jewison was honored for decades of commitment to the community’s oldest residents. From more than 40 years as a public health nurse to countless volunteer hours, she has sought opportunities to help people stay active and safe, which has enhanced the quality of life for many. Efforts have included helping lead the Faith Community Nurse Association, organizing fall flu vaccinations, and helping at the Hawthorne Adult Literacy Center.

Services to those with disabilities — Cristi Lyke

Lyke has devoted much of her adult life to supporting people with disabilities, especially through her leadership role with the PossAbilities organization, where she serves as its life enrichment division director. She also has a long history with the local chapter of Civitan International and will be its next president.

Youth in community — Sandhya Kumar

A member of the Olmsted County Youth Commission, Kumar has twice been a Rochester youth delegate to the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C., and was appointed to the league’s Youth, Families and Education Institute. Locally, she has initiated a new global affairs club in her school and has served for more than two years as the youth representative on the Olmsted County Public Health Advisory Board.

Human services — Ted Alberts

Alberts has put the knowledge of his full-time job as wine manager at Andy’s Liquors to work to benefit the community by raising funds for Bear Creek Services’ largest fundraising event: Wines of the World. At the same time be has personally spend part of the last three years volunteering to support residents of the Westchester Manor group home. Since starting with the goal to help one resident, he has expanded benefits to three others.

Industry — Abe Sauer

The owner of Old Abe Coffee Co., Sauer was recognized for his business, as well as his community involvement, from contributing to local events to being a social media presence who shares insights on local government. He has also been a promoter of the Cooke Park Design District and is a founding member of the newly formed Rochester Parks Foundation.

Schools/education educator — Sara Lopez

A teacher at Riverside Central Elementary School, Lopez was saluted for her work with various programs throughout nine years of teaching in Rochester. She has worked with the Right-Fit School Within a School program, served on equity teams and has partnered with InSciEd Out. She has also served as a Peace United Church of Christ board member and helped develop the Justice and Opportunity for Youth program.

Legacy — Ed Hruska

Serving a combined 17 years on the Rochester City Council, Hruska was recognized for a variety of work within the community he has called home his whole life. The director of Rochester Sports has been heavily involved in a variety of sports activities throughout the years and was a member of the original Destination Medical Center Corp. board.

Diversity award — Christina Killion-Valdez

Killion-Valdez was recognized for her effort to create Listos, Rochester’s Spanish immersion preschool and daycare program. A former Post Bulletin reporter, the mother of two saw a need for the program and decided to fill it. Additionally, she partnered with the Rochester Public Library to start Cuentos Y Cancions, a story-reading and singing event.

Mayor’s Award — Richard Brubaker

Presented nearly two months after his death, the day’s top honor was presented to Brubaker to honor his distinguished 30-year career as a Mayo Clinic physician, as well as his skill as a metal sculpture artist. Having created more than 100 metal sculptures, he has four displayed along Rochester trails as part of the Art4Trails program. Brede said he considered Brubaker a “brilliant doctor, artist and friend.”