Ulster County Announces 2020 Seniors of the Year

Ulster County Executive Ryan honors Frances Drakert and Thomas Wadnola for their community contributions 

KINGSTON, N.Y. – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and the Ulster County Office for the Aging announced today the Ulster County Seniors of the Year.  The annual award honors two extraordinary seniors for their community engagement and recognizes that the time and effort they spend volunteering makes Ulster County a better place. 

“Our senior population makes significant contributions to our Ulster County community and leads our volunteerism,” Ulster County Executive Ryan said. “This unprecedented time has showcased the critical need for volunteers stepping up and serving their neighbors. We are grateful for Frances and Thomas’ extraordinary work, long-standing service, and the positive impact they have had on our county and our local community.”

“Congratulations to our honorees this year! Although there are always many seniors who stand out each year for their contributions to our community, we are happy to present this award to two seniors this year whose achievement and involvement reflect a true and humble helping spirit in Ulster County,” Susan Koppenhaver, Director of Office the Ulster County Office for the Aging, said. 

Frances Drakert, Ulster Park 

Frances Drakert is honored as Senior of the Year for nearly 30 years of service to the Hudson River Maritime Museum (HRMM). Fran exemplifies the generosity of volunteers, having given freely of her time and talents to the Maritime Museum, which is considered a vital cultural institution in both Ulster County and throughout New York State.  Her deep knowledge of history and Hudson River lore is greatly appreciated by the staff and guests of the Maritime. In her volunteer role, she serves as docent at the Rondout Lighthouse for public tours and events. In the last three decades, she has entertained hundreds of visitors embodying the role of female Lighthouse Keeper Catherine Murdock (1857-1907) who kept the light burning for over fifty years. Fran also works in the museum gift shop, and has been involved in cataloguing and preserving the collections and archives at the Maritime Museum. 

The HRMM relies heavily on volunteers, and Fran willingly accepts all assignments with grace.  Fran Drakert’s committed service to the museum and her community is truly incredible. 

Thomas Wadnola, Lake Katrine 

Thomas Wadnola, honored for Outstanding Contribution by a Senior, has spent nearly 60 years in service to his community. During this time, Tom has volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America, dating back to when he was a Boy Scout himself.  Most significantly, for the last decade Tom has volunteered at an International Boy Scout camp in Colombia.  During an annual trip, he brings materials to help supply the Colombian Boy Scouts including essential camping gear and clothing.  In tandem with this effort, Tom also began an English as a Second Language program in Colombia.  He recently secured a grant from IBM for computers to use in this ESL program.

Over the last seventeen years, Tom has also been active teaching computer literacy classes to individuals fifty and over at the Senior Computer Learning Center at SUNY Ulster.  He manages the computers for the Learning Center, and serves on the Board of Directors for the organization.  Tom has also spearheaded efforts by the Mid-Hudson Library System to create computer classes for seniors at multiple libraries throughout Ulster County.  

In addition, Tom has been an active volunteer with the Town of Ulster Little League for the past twelve years. His work and dedication to a wide breadth of organizations is outstanding. 

Frances Drakert and Thomas Wadnola are honored by Ulster County and the State of New York Office for the Aging for their significant contributions in volunteering. Congratulations!