Sue Pester along with David and Dinah King - Putnam Sentinel
Sue Pester (left) and David & Dinah King (right) are Putnam County's Outstanding Seniors of the Year for Putnam County. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)
PUTNAM COUNTY — ’Someone who contributes to their community’ is the base criteria for being named an Outstanding Senior Citizen of Putnam County. Be it their family, friends, or the community in general, anyone aged 60 or better who stay active and engaged may find themselves nominated for the honor. Though humble in their response, those recognized almost always impress with their generosity, both materially and spiritually, and this year’s honorees are no different.

Sue Pester

“Sue is a wife, mother, grandmother and volunteer,” reads the submission for Mrs. Pester’s nomination. “When Sue isn’t busy taking care of her family and friends, she is off volunteering at the Ottawa Senior Center where she works countless hours as the treasurer…Sue also volunteers at her local church, St. Peter and Paul’s. The local Food Pantry is another place Sue hangs out, and spends time doing the bookkeeping and…whatever else they need her to do.”

With this description in mind, the Sentinel spoke with Mrs. Pester, first asking her to describe herself.

“Who am I?” she responds brightly. “I have four children, one is deceased. And, we have eight grandchildren. My husband Ken, we’re both retired, and he does do a lot more to help now. We work for St. Peter and Paul, for the Food Pantry. We do it twice a year, and we’re in charge for a month. In May, we’re in charge again. We make sure that we get the number of people we need to set things up and so-on on the days we have distribution. And, I’m treasurer for that also.”

“My mom is 92, and she’s in the nursing home. So, I try to get out there and see her. She’s pretty healthy. She’s a spunky person, the staff has a lot of fun with her. My mother-in-law is 96. She lives at home by herself yet. It’s amazing.”

“I’ve been married for 46 years. 46 good ones, I’d say…Then, also for church, I do setup on Sundays, twice a month for sure. And then, I do distribution to home-bound people. And then, I help with counting money once a year. And, I help do mailings.”

Again, this is for her church. Her nomination seems more focused on her efforts at the Ottawa Senior Center. In other words, Mrs. Pester could go on at some length when describing the multiple ways in which she contributes to her community. The words, ‘And then,’ were spoken rather often by Mrs. Pester when describing her regular activities. One easily gets the sense that her commitment, energy, and drive could wear out many of those much younger than herself.

Regarding the younger generation, a different sort of question was then posed to Mrs. Pester. The accomplishments and success of our elders are often celebrated, as they should be. And, we also all know that there were periods of time when life was much harder. As something of advice for the younger generation, and even the one after that, Mrs. Pester was asked what her and her husband did to make it through the more difficult times.

“We’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t really noticed too many times when we can’t make ends meet,” came Mrs. Pester’s initial response. “I think that possibly the toughest time for us was when our daughter died…I think then, and even more now, I go to The Lord. I pray more than I ever did before. I think that experience with our daughter passing away really helped that come around.”

A short while later, Mrs. Pester added, “Many times, people that know you are not sure what to say. So, they don’t say anything. I had one lady stop me in Walmart, probably a couple of years after Amber had passed away, and she goes, ‘Sue, I haven’t talked to you. I really wanted to, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if you wanted to talk about it.’ ”

“You need to talk about it. You need to talk to others. And, others shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, because then you get to remember them.”

She’s right, of course. Any mental health care professional can confirm that talking openly about what occurred offers a healing path for those who must live with tragedy. However, Mrs. Pester does not offer this advice because multiple studies show it to be true. She does so because her personal experience has born out this truth. Even for someone as strong in the faith as herself - Mrs. Pester needed to talk, and is better for it that she was able to do so.

David & Dinah King

As with the other honoree for Outstanding Senior Citizen, the number and variety of ways in which the King’s serve their community is remarkable. “They raise a large garden and fruit trees, which is shared with neighbors and community,” reads the submission for their nomination. “They volunteer at least once a week in a Kindergarten classroom in Lima…Dinah is continually cooking, canning, fixing food, and shares with shut-ins, church widows, and others. David grows his own white beard so he can be Santa Claus all over this area.”

When relating their many activities, the list was again exhaustive, with the efforts themselves sounding equally exhausting. David and Dinah King not only do a lot for their community, but much of the work, such as growing and processing fruits and vegetables, can be very physically demanding.

At the beginning of the conversation, as before, they were asked to describe themselves.

“I’m not a native,” Mr. King says, referring to being raised in Putnam County, “But, Dinah is.”

Mrs. King confirms this, saying, “I went to Columbus Grove School, I was born in Tennessee, and then I lived in the Xenia area. I came to Columbus Grove in 1961, and graduated from Columbus Grove High School. And, I met [David King], who happened to come and visit Columbus Grove. We were married in ‘66. About a month and a half after we were married, he got drafted. In our first three years, we were together about a year and a half.”

Following his service in the U.S. Army, the Kings returned to Columbus Grove, living there for another 22 years. A job opportunity then took them to Marblehead, and kept them there for 23 more years. They then again returned. “Our children and our grandchildren were here. So we came back to Grove,” Mrs. King says.

A past member of the Columbus Grove Lion’s Club, Mr. King serves as Santa Claus during the annual holiday celebration held at the village’s Memorial Park, and also for schools and nursing homes in the area. He also imparts farming knowledge, helping 4-H students with rabbit breeding in particular. Most of all, though, Mr. and Mrs. King work together to feed a good number of community members.

“We have fruit trees, and we share apples and peaches, and Dinah cans,” says Mr. King.

“I canned, I think, probably 50-some pints of peaches last year,” Mrs. King adds. “But, I can for our kids. And then, I give cans to our neighbors, and different people that I give canned stuff too.”

“We have a barn and we can out in the barn,” says Mr. King, who then adds while laughing, “This lady here can not let one green bean, or one tomato spoil. She finds a way.”

“We either use it, or find somebody else that can use it,” agrees Mrs. King.

“Our daughter teaches Kindergarten at Independence Elementary in Lima City Schools,” says Mr. King. “So we go up there on Tuesdays [during the school year]. I’ve given talks on agriculture. I’ve taken a corn sheller up there, and we shelled the ears on some popcorn. Then, my daughter popped it, so they got to see that…The city kids are so intrigued with shelled corn. You ask them, ‘Where does your food come from,’ and they say, ‘Walmart.’”

“So, Dinah works with the kids on their letters, and I work with them on their numbers. And boy, it’s a challenge.”

“A challenge,” agrees Mrs. King.

“But, it’s so rewarding to watch those kids come from nowhere. Unlike your kids and our kids, we work with them from the time that they’re born. There are kids who come to school up there in Kindergarten, and they don’t have a clue about the letter ‘A.’ They can’t count to five. No books. No reading. You’re just starting from square one. And, it’s amazing the progress you can make with a child.”

“This year has really been rewarding, because they’ve just all come such a long way,” says Mrs. King.

The same question on difficult times was also posed to the Kings. What did they do in difficult times when perhaps what they were doing wasn’t enough?

“Got another job, a part-time job,” answers Mr. King. “I thought I had a big enough pile of money saved when I retired. But, you find you don’t want to change your lifestyle…The best thing I can tell you is to save all that you can save, and then save a little bit more. Then, you’ll be fine.”

Putnam County’s Outstanding Senior Citizens for 2019

On Tuesday afternoon, the Putnam County Council on Aging held its annual Senior Citizen’s Day Celebration in honor of Older American’s Month at the Kalida K of C. During the event, Sue Pester along with Dave and Dinah King were recognized for their significant contributions to their communities, as well for being inspiring and active examples of those who contribute positively to all here in Putnam County.