Caregiver to the Caregivers, Waino Liuhas

By request, we’d like to share with you the following article from the current issue of Health & Happinesss U.P. Magazine.

Each person is unique, leaving his or her own particular mark on the world, some more subtlely, some less so. At the end of 2012, our area lost someone whose mark was so very positively noticeable to those in the know that we’d like to honor his legacy here with some stories of the man – Waino Liuhas, an elder who looked out for many others in many ways, leaving quite an inspiring example.

Waino was a World War II veteran, a Tracy Mine worker, Michigan social worker, husband, father and tireless volunteer. Below are what just a few people had to say when asked to share the words, stories or remembrances that come to mind when they think of Waino.

Negaunee Senior Center Director Kristy Basolo responded, Since Waino has been gone, I find myself asking more and more, “What would Waino do?” He was the face of the Lions Club eyeglass recycling project, Aging Services, RSVP, every Veterans program known to man, the back pew of my church (Immanuel Lutheran). But he was so much more. The part of him that remains with me most is his simplicity. If there was a need in the community, he would simply find a way to fulfill it. He didn’t think in terms of liability and red tape the way things sometimes go today. If someone needed something, he would simply make it happen.

Basolo added, “If he felt there was any sort of injustice going on, he would expose it.”

“His simple honesty knew no political correctness. He would say what was on his mind in plain, but polite, terms. And if he didn’t get satisfaction from you, he’d find someone up the chain who would make something happen. Some may have thought of him as a pest, but in my eyes he was the most pure advocate for those people and agencies in need that I have ever known. So now, when I am faced with a conundrum, I simply ask myself, “What would Waino do?””

“Waino is my mentor.  Constantly on the go, and always working to help form connections    between agencies, shared clients and people in his life,” explains Amy Mattson, Director of    the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, (RSVP).

“We were chatting in the office one afternoon last year and he told me he drove more than 7,500 miles back and forth in the course of his volunteer work in the previous twelve months.  Impressed with his dedication and worried about his wallet, after he left, I submitted a mileage reimbursement request for him.  A couple weeks later he stopped in again and handed me the check, saying he did not need the mileage reimbursement and we should give it to someone who did.”

“From January 1 to the end of November, 2012, Waino reported 736 hours of service through RSVP.  This total does not include uncounted (and probably numerous) hours for agencies that are not connected to RSVP, or his work with many service agencies and private individuals.  As you can see by the list of places for which Waino volunteered, he was interested in helping people of all ages – if people were in need, sooner or later they (or someone who was trying to help them) would cross paths with Waino.”

“From the time he joined RSVP in 1994, Waino reported 10,022 hours of service at AMCAB, Lions Club of Negaunee, Lutheran Social Services, Pioneer Kiwanis, Tracy Mine Retirees, VFW Post 3165 of Negaunee, Thrivent Financial, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, Eastwood Nursing Center, Ishpeming Senior Center, Mather Nursing Center, Marquette County Medical Care Facility, Marquette Range Iron Mining Heritage Museum, National Ski Hall of Fame, Negaunee Public Schools, Habitat for Humanity, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Alzheimer’s Association, Marquette Adult Day Services, Marquette County Aging Services Advisory Committee, Marquette County Community Foundation, Negaunee and Ishpeming Area Community Funds, Department of Human Services, Medical Care Access Coalition, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program – with Triad, as a special projects volunteer and as an advisory council member, Salvation Army of Ishpeming, St. Vincent de Paul of Marquette, United Way, and the  YMCA.”

Mattson continued to report, “In 1996, Waino was selected as one of the Northern Michigan University

President’s Award Recipients for Distinguished Citizenship.  In 2007, he received the Claude Pepper award, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Senior Advisory Committee, for his work and strong concern for senior citizen rights.  And in 2008, he was chosen as the U.P. Veteran of the Year and honored at the U.P. State Fair.”

“I met Waino two years ago through his service on the Board of Directors at Marquette Adult Day Services,” describes this organization’s director Melissa Luttrell. “I truly appreciated his service to our agency; he asked many a good question and kept us all thinking. Besides those decadent cashew clusters, I loved his smile, his enthusiasm for life and for giving to others, and his ever present questions – “Do you have what you need?”, “Are you getting that raise you deserve?” He was always looking out for those of us serving the community and for those we serve. I loved him and will greatly miss having him in my life.”

“A kind and personable gentleman, he was so gracious and funny!” Tendercare Munising administrator Pamela McKenna declares. “The first time I met Waino, I was attending the Aging Services Advisory Committee meeting regarding my involvement with the State Advisory Council and was a little nervous sitting in the waiting area. Waino went out of his way to introduce himself to me, joking with me and really putting me at ease. He was so kind and funny. I really appreciated that. He was a strong advocate for veterans, always speaking up for those who came back and are coming back from serving our country.  He was truly a “voice” for many people and spoke with eloquence for what he believed in.”

AMCAB Food Service Manager Brenda Mattson says, “What I admired about Waino was his dedication to people serving in our military.  In meetings with local and state politicians, I often heard him ask the question, “How will this help the people serving our country?”  He had a heartfelt concern for the future of all military personnel and their families.”

Mattson adds, “One memory that I have is seeing him standing alone showing support for the men and women marching in the 2012 Labor Day parade. I couldn’t help but think that after all the good deeds this man has done, he is still humble enough to rally for his community.  How great is that?”

AMCAB CNS Director Lori Stephens-Brown describes Waino as “tireless, kind, giving, and humble.  The closest to a saint I have ever had the pleasure to be around.  Waino was a role model for all of us working in the human services field.  And if you didn’t have Waino’s support on a project, it probably wasn’t going to fly.”

“Waino encouraged so many of us to best serve in our programs.  He would always ask how specific things were going, issues that I had mentioned that were challenging me.  Every time I would see him, he would check up on that issue until it was solved.  Waino was always there for us.”

“Questions. Waino always had the questions.  And there was a lesson in every one of his questions, but not everyone got them,” Stephens-Brown continued.

I made sure my teenagers worked side by side with Waino, so they could learn from him, and for them to see what a true hero is.  My daughter got to work in the ‘fry tent’ with him, my son helped him haul donated books every year for the RSVP Recognition Dinner, and we all picked up trash at Mattson Park after the July 4th festivities every year.  I think I also wanted Waino’s approval that I was raising ‘good citizens.’  Thanks, Waino.”

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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1 Comment

Filed under Aging, elder care

One response to “Caregiver to the Caregivers, Waino Liuhas

  1. The following was emailed to Health & Happiness by John Argeropoulos:

    What a wonderful story about Waino who was the most selfless person I have ever known and a truly remarkable human being. Thanks so much for honoring him!

    I first met Waino when he was a student in my class at NMU and we later were on the same board of directors for RSVP. Of course I ran into him often for all the reasons cited in your fine article and he was always cheerful and optimistic. One thing not mentioned in the release is the fact that one of the awards he received included a $1,000 stipend which Waino promptly donated to the Marquette County Community Foundation.

    So typical of this kind and generous man whose actions always spoke louder than his words!

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