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Living Treasure Awards Ceremony 2022

Each year the Orange Senior Center recognizes 3 Orange senior residents who have given so much of themselves and their time to the Orange community.  This year we honored 3 deserving residents: Donald Clark, Marianne Miller, and Ralph Okenquist.  They will be honored at the Living Treasure Award Ceremony on May 19, 2022, at the High Plains Community Center Gym in Orange.

Donald Clark 2022 Living Treasure: Donald is a 7th generation Clark born, raised, and living his entire life in Orange, CT.  Growing up on a dairy farm, centrally located on the Town Green, Donald’s passion to this day has always been his flock of Rhode Island Red chickens.  When Martha Stewart made raising Araucana chickens – the blue egg layers – trendy, he added a few hens to his flock.

Donald attended the then Orange Center School – now the Mary L Tracy School – through 8th grade.  He went on to the New Haven High School now known as Hillhouse High.  After High School, he attended UCONN.

Growing up, Donald was very involved in the local 4-H program.  While in college he was enticed to go on a wonderful exchange program with the International Farm Youth Exchange Program (IFYE) – a part of the 4-H.  This allowed him to travel to and live on a farm in New Zealand where he stayed for 2 years until he was urged home to marry his 4-H sweetheart and friend Maureen Wayand.  They celebrated 55 years together until her passing in 2011.  He has remained active as an IFYE alumni and was instrumental in the planning and implementation committee when Connecticut hosted its international conference.

Donald has spent his life volunteering.  From his activities in 4-H as a 4-H’er, a parent and grandparent, he was always there helping.  In retirement, he has served on UCONN’s New Haven County Extension Resource Council – last in office as president.  In town, Donald has been active in the Volunteer Fire Department for many years, one of the founding members of the Orange Country Fair Committee, The Emergency Preparedness Director (before CERT) and more recently as a Garden Club of Orange husband.  To this day when he is told of an activity that a friend or family member is involved with his reaction is to say…“Let me know what you need me to do”.  And he means it!

Marianne Miller 2022 Living Treasure:  Marianne has produced over 24 musicals and shows for the Orange Players and has led the group for over 29 years.  She has also served on a Town Select Committee to locate a theater in Orange.  She serves on the Orange Family Counseling Board for the Town of Orange.

Marianne is an active leader in the Lions Club of Orange.  Her leadership has led to an increase in contributions to the town as well as to its youth and seniors.  Her participation in the Holy Infant Choir enlivened the religious services.  Her participation in the Orange Democratic Town Committee and Holy Infant Women’s Guild contributed to the town’s participation in democracy and morality.

In her multi-year role as membership chair in the Orange Lions, Marianne has recruited, sponsored, and inspired dozens of Lions to active service.  She also served as Lions Regional Chair, inspiring other clubs’ members to more active service to others.

Marianne has received the following awards:  Teacher of the Year (West Haven), Orange Times Volunteer of the Year, Orange Lions’ Club Melvin Jones Award (Highest Award a Club can give).  And she has been a recipient of the #1 Volunteer by Endless/Orange.

Marianne is unfailing in support of all Orange events and groups.  Her teaching career has inspired hundreds of her students to love learning.  Her lovely voice and talents as a ventriloquist has entertained seniors in nursing homes, the public, and fellow parishioners at Holy Infant Church.

Ralph Okenquist 2022 Living Treasure:  As a resident of the Town of Orange for more than 45 years, Ralph has contributed time and talent to many community organizations.  For more than 15 years, Ralph served as a coach, manager, treasurer, secretary, and/or Board member for the Orange Little League and the Orange Babe Ruth League, coaching boys and girls as they learned the game of baseball.  While his teams regularly won championships, Ralph focused on sportsmanship and practice ahead of winning.  In his role as a Board member, he modeled the way for a generation of youth baseball volunteers with his integrity, compassion, and fairness.  Ralph also gave his time to coach youth soccer.

In 2001, Ralph was elected to the Orange Board of Selectmen and has been re-elected 10 subsequent times.  He is regularly recognized as the candidate “most likely to be seen knocking on doors” during the campaign – an activity he views as critical to listening to the concerns of voters.  Ralph’s long-time service on the Capital Planning Committee (19 years as Chairman) has allowed him to help prioritize capital projects for the benefit of the town residents.

Ralph served four years on the Fred Wolfe Park Committee and nine years on the Orange Park and Recreation Commission, including five years as Chairman.  His relentless determination to support all residents of Orange, especially the children who utilize many of the Park and Recreation programs, resulted in many improvements and funding for town services.  Ralph’s Board of Selectmen service has allowed him to support residents’ rights, direct town funds to high priority programs and improvements, and preserve wetlands for the people of Orange to enjoy.

Ralph’s long service to the Town of Orange, along with other volunteerism at places such as Yale University, Holy Infant Church, American Legion Post #127, the Knights of Columbus, and the Connecticut Air and Space Center in Stratford, inspired his children to volunteer many hours of service to primary and secondary schools, religions organizations, non-profits, and charitable causes.  His years serving youth sports led others to volunteer.  He believed it was important to have broad representation on coaching staffs and committees, so he constantly spoke to other parents and those whose children had already passed through the programs.  Ralph was a member and served on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Air and Space Center, and his leadership led many others in the air and space community to work towards funding and building a museum in Stratford.  For many years on Veterans Day, Ralph spoke with the students in Orange and Trumbull about his time in the U. S. Army and how the experience impacted his professional and personal choices throughout his life.

Whether serving food under a tent at the Orange Firemen’s Carnival, chairing a town committee, serving on the Finance Committee at Holy Infant Church, or coaching youth baseball players, Ralph has dedicated countless hours of service to the Town of Orange.  He served his country in the U.S. Army, had a well-respected career in business and finance, and is held in high regard by those who have worked side by side with him.  He practices what he preaches and continues to model the way for those around him – friends, colleagues, and family.

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