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Abresch, Lueck recognized for volunteerism

Joanna Abresch and George Lueck are Hubbard County's Outstanding Senior Citizens. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Joanna Abresch, 80, of Park Rapids and George Lueck, 74, of Akeley have been named Hubbard County's 2011 Outstanding Senior Citizens.

These are "wonderful people" with the "heart of a servant," Susan Ramse said of the Living at Home volunteers.

"It isn't just what they do," said the executive director of Living at Home. "It is who they are. They serve. Both, I believe, see it as just an expression of their faith and belief in God."

Shopper, driver, advocate

"Once Joanna helps someone, she keeps them forever," observed Living at Home care coordinator Beth Waller, who nominated Abresch for the honor.

Abresch's background as a nurse, a caregiver her entire life, continues even now, having reached octogenarian status.

As a Living at Home volunteer, Abresch was assigned to offer respite for a man caring for his wife. The two struck up a conversation - and friendship - and the man didn't want to leave the home, Waller said.

"After his wife's death, Joanna has continued to visit and help him" for more than three years.

Abresch also continued to visit a woman who entered a memory care unit, long after her assigned tasks were complete.

Daughter Dianna Dotson believes it's impossible to gauge her mom's hours or weigh how her compassion has benefited the community.

"To be perfectly honest, I am pretty sure she doesn't want to be recognized for what she does," she states.

"Helping others didn't start once she turned 65 or once she was widowed," Dotson said. "As long as I can remember, my mom has been helping others. Whether they know her through church or where she lives (SummerField Place) or even through word of mouth, when someone is in need, they call Joanna.

"The list is endless as far as what she does for people...friend, driver, housekeeper, grocery shopper, advocate, caregiver. You may think that typical of many people who help others. Well, my mom goes beyond typical."

Mom and daughter generally check in with each other daily. "After all, my mom is 80 and had some trouble with her hips."

But chances are, she's on the go.

"I thought I better call so you won't worry..." Abresch tells her daughter. "I'm not at home."

Abresch is at the emergency room, a hospital room, the nursing home or someone's house, offering comfort until they are settled in or family members arrive.

Or Abresch may spend the night with someone who's ill or dying and has no one to offer comfort. "The reasons go on and on," Dotson said.

"My mom is truly one of the people that I can honestly say if the world had more people like Joanna, the world would indeed be a better place," Dotson said.

'Belief in his fellow man'

Lueck bid farewell to the Portland, Ore. area in 1977 to return to home turf. He views a small community as an opportunity "to make a difference."

He joined the Eastern Hubbard County Fire District (Akeley fire department) in 1978. He retired in 1991 due to health concerns to become a member of the EHCFD board. He served as chair from 1996 until this spring, but his presence on the board continues.

He was among the founders of Akeley First Response in 1982, serving as president from 1986 until retiring in 2003. He taught CPR during that period.

Meanwhile, he'd become aware of the Akeley Food Shelf. Injured in 1963 with four children at home, he was keenly aware of how need arises. His role would expand from volunteer to manager, logging hundreds of hours each year.

He also served on the original board of the Hackensack Food Shelf and volunteered his time to ready food packages for those in need.

When Lueck retired from Ah-Gwah-Ching in 1994, his volunteering gained even more momentum.

He's been an Akeley Township supervisor since 1986. He plays a role in the Horizon group, working toward a community garden and other projects.

He serves on the Hackensack Seventh Day Adventist Church board and works in grounds keeping and maintenance.

"Hats" worn for the Akeley American Legion Post 263 include finance officer, chaplain and commander.

He was a Faith in Action volunteer in Cass County, providing transportation and small home repairs, up until this year.

As a Living at Home volunteer, he builds handicap ramps, installs safety grab bars and located funding to buy a utility trailer and power tools for the projects.

Lueck has served on the Living at Home board the past four years.

"George believes in his fellow man," said Waller in her letter of nomination.

Since 2005, he has volunteered 875 hours helping seniors via Living at Home.