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The Culver Lions Club's annual community awards night proved as memorable an event as its predecessors last Wednesday, when Jeanette Geiselman was feted as Citizen of the Year, and Ward and Esther Miller's Painter and the Poet as Organization of the Year.
Lion Marilyn Kelly introduced the Millers, noting she and Esther "go way back," having shared meals, parties, and child-rearing.
"I watched her talent grow," said Kelly. And then into her life came a very special gentleman with a way with words. They've become a big part of the community."
Kelly described the Millers' earlier years selling Esther's art and Ward's poetry -- often in combination on prints and in publications -- at festivals around the state and country, prior to opening their first Painter and the Poet Gallery on South Main Street.
"Women like to rearrange the furniture," joked Kelly, "So they moved four blocks to the north" to a new locale before settling on their final Culver facility, The Painter and the Poet, which closed in late 2011.
"Esther has painted pictures of many of the buildings around that no longer exist," added Kelly, referring to Esther's watercolors of landmark structures in the area. "We're lucky to have these records of them."
Accepting the award, the Millers acknowledged their move last year to a retirement community at Winona Lake, though Ward emphasized the couple is "not far away. We come back often."
"And to think this all started at age 59," laughed Esther, who accepted a bouquet of flowers from Kelly.
Introducing the Citizen of the Year was Lion Jim Harper, who described Geiselman's having grown up in Rochester, but having had "the good fortune to marry a Culver native in October, 1953. This was a real plus for Culver. From this union came three children Don, Mike, and Lisa, three grand children Sarah, Josh, and Aaron, and a great grandchild Brayden."
Harper described Geiselman's church homes of Grace Church of Culver, Calvary Temple of South Bend, Glory of Zion (by way of the internet), as well as her interest in gardening, knitting, crocheting and working puzzles.
"By far the most important to her," Harper added, "is what can be done to help others."
Geiselman, explained Harper, has served Culver's VFW Womenâ€™s Auxiliary, volunteered for the Hospital Auxiliary, served as an officer in the Homemakers Club (now defunct), and launched the back pack program of Culver, which has since been willed to the Culver Lions Club. She was also chosen as parade marshal for Culver's Lake Fest.
"She has delivered Meals on Wheels, rang the bell for the Salvation Army (and) her latest endeavor is assisting at Real Services (Real Meals). Some would say (Real Meals site director) Ruth Walker could not function without her assistance. If transportation is needed to Real Meals, she is ready and willing to provide same."
A grateful Geiselman joked she's refrained from joining the Lions Club out of fear "you'd give me back the backpack program!"