The annual Mayor’s Character Breakfast recognized individuals from a grade-school student who skipped birthday presents to support an animal shelter to a Lee’s Summit couple who’ve touched countless lives.
Nearly 600 people attended the annual event Jan. 23 at the Pavilion at John Knox Village, which is organized by Lee’s Summit Cares during Character Week.
Lee’s Summit Cares Director Roby Little gave retired Police Chief Joe Piccinini a coin commemorating his 12 years of working with the group.
The organization also recognized Summit Bank of Kansas City as Ethics in Business Recipient, with bank President Rick Viar accepting the award.
The keynote speaker, Julie Connor, an education researcher, writer and motivation expert, shared some of her life experiences, particularly overcoming challenges from losing a job and a car accident where she suffered brain injury that left her struggling with memory problems.
“You don’t have to precisely know what to do as you set out on your journey,” Connor said. “Take one step, take another step ... dig deep.”
Robert “Bud” and Betty Hertzog were honored for Lifetime Achievement.
“We don’t deserve it, but we appreciate it,” Hertzog said after the ceremony. “We’re just blessed to grow up in a wonderful community. It is a great place to grow up and spend a life.”
The Hertzogs are the epitome of Christians and good character and have instilled that in their five children, 10 grandchildren and six, great grandchildren, according to the biography read at the breakfast.
Bud is known as one of the most influential individuals in Lee’s Summit, while remaining a humble and kind gentleman. He frequently speaks in support of local schools, economic development and civic and community service.
The Hertzogs met while students at Lee’s Summit High School and members of the First Baptist Church, where they’re still active members. He is a deacon and she has taught fourth grade Sunday School for more than 50 years. They married in 1953, moving to Columbia so he could go to veterinarian school. She worked, they started their family and they would come home on weekends and summers to work the family farm. He bought an existing practice in 1956.
Bud Hertzog served as a county legislator and school board member, veterinarian for the American Royal and the Kansas City Zoo.
While he’s more well-know, they were a team.
Betty took care of five children at home, probably breaking the record for longest continuous member of Mason Elementary School PTA. Dinners or sleep often were interrupted by emergency calls for a cow trying to calve, or a dog hit by a car.
Bud Hertzog still works full time at his clinic, and helps sons manage 2,000 head of livestock and grain farms. The couple still find time to attend family birthdays and holidays (and there are a lot of them) and go to grand-kids’ school and sporting events.
Other recipients honored for character traits they exemplify:
Self-Control: Zoey Coleman, a fourth grader at Hawthorn Hill Elementary, is passionate about volunteering and controls her desires to benefit others. For her 8th and 10th birthdays, instead of gifts she asked for donations of food and toys for the Lee’s Summit Animal Shelter raising hundreds of dollars in supplies. She volunteers at Ronald McDonald House, at Coldwater, and at John Knox Care Center as well.
Responsibility: Officer Bobby Conard is an assistant varsity girls’ softball coach at Lee’s Summit West High School. In September, Conard was watching students leave after school when he heard a call about a wreck on Hook Road. Even though a softball game was scheduled to start soon, he left for the accident and found three severely injured students, working to keep them stable and comfortable. He stayed with them until paramedics and other officers arrived. He went to the game and maintained professionalism during the game despite the terrible accident. Afterward he told the players what happened and discussed with them the importance of driving safely.
Citizenship: Kim Fritchie, after serving in Lee’s Summit schools for 30 years, has given many volunteer hours, and her work with U.S. Troop Support Foundation demonstrates her compassion for the country. The foundation is a not-for-profit organization that sends care packages to combat troops overseas and assist families left behind.
She has helped with fundraisers including motorcycle runs and a large golf tournament that raised $30,000. She also maintains the U.S. Troop Support Facebook page.
Perseverance: Vickie Klein developed the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Saint Luke’s East Hospital. Since 2008 the program has served hundreds of patients with chronic lung diseases. She regularly leads the Better Breather’s Club, providing support to patients in an informal setting, attends health fairs and in 2012 conducted a coat drive. She didn’t have one to donate, so she literally gave hers off her back.
Respect: Tom Merrell teaches Social Studies at Pleasant Lea Middle School. For the past three years he’s raised money for the Invisible Children Project, a not-for-profit organization in California that works with child-soldiers in Africa. Working with students, the first year he rode his bike 100 miles at PLMS, raising $600. Then next year he and another teacher rode a combined 160 miles, raising more than $2,000 and in the final year he rode more than 140 miles, raising more than $1,000.
Appreciation: Jackie Robertson learned one of her kindergarten students needed surgery to both feet. He had a series of walking casts, then full-leg casts and in a wheelchair six seeks. Robertson went above expectations supporting him in the classroom. She arranged for classmates to sign casts, the day of surgery she got updates for the class, and pupils wrote him get-well cards. She had classmates “wheelchair driver’s licenses certified” for pushing him through the building. The pupil showed her his first steps without any assistance from a walker. She took him for ice cream and gave him a gift certificate for a favorite treat at Chili’s restaurant. She was his greatest cheerleader, helping motivate him as he recovered.
Kindness: Rudy Rhodes drives bus No. 58 for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, hauling students to Lee’s Summit High School and Prairie View and Woodland elementary schools. While talking to Prairie View students, he learned they needed to improve reading skills. Mr. Rudy, as he’s know to students, worked with the principal to identify students who could benefit from practice and asked fellow bus drivers to volunteer their time to help those students with reading, founding the Book Buddies program in fall 2012.
Compassion: Vince Seif helped a man whose unemployment benefits and savings were depleted. He had been evicted from his home. The man had been helpful to Seif during the past year and he wanted to assist him. He intervened, let the man live with his family, helped him update a resume and look for work, using Seif’s phone and Internet, and had him as a guest at family gatherings. The man eventually found a full-time job and a dwelling of his own. Seif calls it “personalism,” taking personal action when a situation arises, instead of socialism.
Family: Janet Simonitsch “extreme couponer” uses her talents to donate products to Hope House where more than 1,100 women and children had shelter last year. Each week she peruses store ads and clips coupons, buying items valued $5000 to $6,000 each year to Hope House. The total is more than $40,000 worth of personal care items for women and children served by the agency.
Cooperation: Cindy Wilson who works at Price Chopper at Missouri 291 and Missouri 150, that store is a Partners in Education participant and she volunteers at Trailridge Elementary School. She and Price Chopper support the Reading Buddy program, Back to School Bash and Trunk or Treat. The PIE partners were planning a pancake breakfast to help fund technology for students. They found a propane grill for the event, but the day before it took place, they were informed the grill was unavailable.
Wilson and a crew from Price Chopper collaborated and found an alternative using smaller grills at Price Chopper and taking pancakes to the school, so it was a success, raising $1,200 to buy five Chromebook laptops for student use.