NUKOLI‘I — When does Stewart “Stu” Burley have time for fishing?
Burley, nominated by Jennie Yukimura of the American Association of Retired Persons Lihu‘e Chapter No. 654, was one of two Outstanding Older Americans named during the 44th Annual Kaua‘i Older American Award Recognition Ceremony, Thursday at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort here.
Tillie Veniegas, who has, according to nominator Ann Miyamoto of the Foster Grandparent Program, provided loving care to hundreds of students in the county, was the second Outstanding Older American announced at the event sponsored by the County of Kaua‘i Agency on Elderly Affairs and the Office of the Mayor.
“We have a responsibility as leaders of the county to continue to support the kupuna,” said Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in congratulating the pair who have been invited to dinner with Gov. Linda Lingle at Washington Place along with other Outstanding Older Americans from around the state on May 20.
“As we move into the age of technology, these kupuna are willing to take the challenge and move with us,” said Carvalho.
Burley, the current president for the AARP and the Navy League as well as a board member of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, is also a promoter of education as an advisor for the robotics program in high schools, the economic development board and the Latter-day Saints church.
“Stewart is outstanding because we all have 24 hours each day, but he is involved in many more voluntary activities and work each day than most of us,” said Yukimura in her nomination.
“This indicates his desire to be of service to the people of Kaua‘i with all the knowledge he possesses and the leadership skills he has to offer. For his own mental health, he goes fishing as often as he can.”
Veniegas, a resident at Lihu‘e Gardens Elderly Housing apartments, is currently working to start a musical and singing group within the apartments, hoping that by creating this group the residents will come out of their apartments and participate in a community activity.
Miyamoto, in her nomination, said Veniegas serves 24 hours a week as a Foster Grandparent Program volunteer at the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School and is an active member of the New Hope Church in Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e where she serves as a greeter and a Bible-study teacher.
“Through her life’s experiences, Ms. Veniegas has evolved into a patient, compassionate, inspirational, positive-thinking individual who loves to nurture and encourage others,” Miyamoto said in her nomination letter.
“She has great love for children and tries to instill positive values. Ms. Veniegas feels good about what she is doing, and at the age of 87 she is still vibrant and energetic. Through her volunteerism, she has unlocked the secret to the fountain of youth.”
Noemi Pendleton, director of the State Executive Office on Aging, said when the Older American Month program started there were 17 million kupuna.
With more-active lifestyles, contributions and volunteerism, Pendleton said there will be an estimated 71.5 million kupuna living in the nation by 2030.
“Kupuna support each other through civic activities,” Pendleton said. “They volunteer at soup kitchens and with environmental groups, reminding us that we need to do our part as well. They volunteer, not for profit, but because they love to do what they do.”
This year’s field of Older American nominees for the outstanding award was limited to just 11 candidates, but each one comes with a list of volunteerism in various agencies and organizations on the island.
Those nominated include Neil Bronshahan, nominated by Jessica Clabo of the National Tropical Botanical Garden; Walter Hadama, nominated by Michelle Correa of the Koloa Senior Center; Bruce Parsil, nominated by Shayna Carney of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; Carolina Cacatian-Mapue, nominated by Belma Baris of the Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club; Hisami Higa, nominated by Lola Cruz of the Kekaha Senior Center; Cis Odell, nominated by Judy Xenofos of the Kapa‘a Neighborhood Center; Janet Reis, nominated by Naoko Ho of the Waimea Senior Center; Rachel Tamura, nominated by Jiro Yukimura of Lihu‘e Christian Church; and Laura Taylor, nominated by The Aloha Peace Project, Kapa‘a Elementary School, Kapa‘a United Church and ‘Ele‘ele School.