Ulster County announces Senior of the Year recipients

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and the Ulster County Office for the Aging announced yesterday the two recipients of the county’s annual Senior of the Year award: Frances Drakert of Ulster Park and Thomas Wadnola of Lake Katrine.

This 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,” said Ryan. “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!” said Susan Koppenhaver, director of Ulster County Office for the Aging. “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.”


Frances Drakert

Frances Drakert is honored as Senior of the Year for nearly 30 years of service to the Hudson River Maritime Museum. According to the release announcing the winners:

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 a 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 cataloging and preserving the collections and archives at the Maritime Museum.

The maritime museum 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

Thomas Wadnola, honored for Outstanding Contribution by a Senior, has spent nearly 60 years in service to his community. According to the release announcing the winners:

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 are outstanding.