Senior Inspiration Awards Recipients 2013



Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa with Milton Katz, Maria Consuelo Godwin with Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia, Trudi Lain with Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks, Indian Wells Mayor Mary Roche with Dr. Mel Barton, Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes with Betty James, La Quinta Mayor Don Adolph with Phyllis Stuchul, Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik with Brett Romer, Palm Springs Councilman Chris Mills with Burton “Burt” Spivack, Calvin “Cal” Custer with Rancho Mirage Mayor Scott Hines, Elizabeth “Betty” Gorey with Supervisor John J. Benoit and Dr. Ron Hare.

Cathedral City – Milton Katz

Milton KatzMilton, 90, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts. 

In 1943, Milton joined the Army, serving in the 533rd Heavy Maintenance Tank Ordinance. After 12 weeks of basic training, he was shipped to England.  He was tasked with training non-commissioned officers how to weld heavy armor plates on heavy tanks to protect the driver. In addition, he traveled up and down England’s coast welding shrouds onto tanks so they could drive through 7 feet of water without flooding the engine.

Milton was honorably discharged in 1945. To this day, he still carries his dog tags with him as a reminder of his service to our country.

After serving in the Army, Milton became a commercial kitchen equipment specialist working with sheet metal and stainless steel. He worked as an account supervisor for Denny’s Restaurants and helped build and open 1,200 new Denny’s stores. This job required him to travel Monday through Friday, only having time at home on weekends. He credits his wife, Terry, for her support through his challenging work schedule.

Not long after his retirement, Milton moved to the desert 23 years ago for affordable living and golf.

Milton has volunteered for 8 years with the Cathedral City Citizens on Patrol (C.O.P.) program. In this role, he helps the Cathedral City Police Department by writing parking citations, helping to direct traffic during major traffic collisions and assisting in emergency call-outs. Milton consistently has the most volunteer hours of all the volunteer C.O.P.s. All the Cathedral City C.O.P.s agree that Milton is the most tenacious C.O.P. member in patrol because he is very attention oriented, routinely finding vehicles with expired registrations. 

Milton has two children, Stanley and Paul, with his first wife and has two stepchildren, Janis Blythe and Davis Israel, with his wife, Terry.

Grateful for all his experiences, Milton says if he had one wish, it would be to live his life all over again.


Coachella – Maria Consuelo Godwin

Maria Consuelo GodwinMaria Consuelo, 74, was born and raised in Nayarit, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States in 1970 after marrying James Doyle Godwin. Within the first 10 years of living in the United States, Maria learned English, received her GED diploma and earned an associate of arts degree in liberal studies at College of the Desert. Maria is very proud to live in the United States and to be a citizen.

Maria and her husband had two daughters and raised them in Coachella. Her husband served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy and survived Pearl Harbor.  They instilled the importance of duty, honor, service and patriotism in their children. Their oldest daughter, Retired Master Sergeant Sandra Turner, served 30 years in the U.S. Army and is married to a soldier.  Their youngest daughter, Juanita Godwin, has been working with the youth and serving Coachella for 27 years, currently in her position as director of the Coachella Boys & Girls Club. Maria has six grandchildren and five great grandchildren, with one more on the way!  One of Maria’s grandsons served our country as a Marine.

Maria has a passion for volunteering and working with children. She was a teacher’s aide at Palm View Elementary School. After donating her time for so many years, she received a paid teacher’s aide position which she held for 10 years with the Coachella Valley Unified School District. She also spent 25 years as the director for the Campesinos Unidos Child Care Center where she taught preschool classes. Her daughter Juanita describes her as a “nurturing person,” making her the ideal person to work with children. She has also taught ballet folklorico and her group took home first place at the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival.

Maria never tires of lending a helping hand and she currently delivers food to needy families, provides transportation for other seniors and helps with fundraisers for the Coachella Boys & Girls Club. She has volunteered for the Coachella Senior Center for 8 years and was nominated Volunteer of the Year in 2010.

When Maria is not volunteering she enjoys spending her free time knitting, dancing and gardening. She proudly stated that she taught her husband how to dance. She also enjoys spending time with her Shih Tzu dog, Gordo.

When asked what advice she would give to the younger generation, she said, “I would tell the young to honor and respect seniors because they have a wealth of information, stories and advice to help the young be better persons. Seniors are our history and our community.”


Desert Hot Springs – Trudi Lain

Trudi LainTrudi was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Forest Park, a suburb of Chicago. She worked for more than 30 years at five different hospitals and four specialty medical facilities including Eisenhower Medical Center, as a certified medical transcriptionist.

Trudi and her fellow medical transcriptionists organized the first greater Chicago chapter of the American Association of Medical Transcriptionists. Other cities, suburbs and states followed suit and created their own association for medical transcriptionists. It is because of this work that hundreds of people in this profession are recognized as certified medical transcriptionists rather than “typists.”

She sang in a 1,000-voice choir at Billy Graham’s first Crusade for Christ at the Chicago Stadium.

She moved to the Coachella Valley in 1988 because she loved the climate and the small town atmosphere that Desert Hot Springs had to offer. According to Trudi, there was not much traffic in the desert 25 years ago – Desert Hot Springs did not even have a stop sign!

Trudi cherishes the friendships and companionship that she has developed as a volunteer at the Family Service Association at the Desert Hot Springs Senior Center. She greets seniors as they arrive and enjoys every minute of it. She loves going to the senior center because it gets her out of the house and not having to cook because they serve great meals! She also volunteered at the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce for 10 years.

On the rare occasion that Trudi is not volunteering, you can find her at the senior center managing Bingo games or at home doing crossword puzzles, reading, watching comedies and daytime court shows on TV, playing at the local casinos or shopping. She wishes to stay healthy, happy and active for as long as she can.

“Trudi Lain is a dedicated volunteer that loves serving the people of Desert Hot Springs,” said Erin Begley, center manager of the Desert Hot Springs Senior Center.  “Her warm smile welcomes everyone who enters the center. Trudi has a great personality, always personable and happy. She goes above and beyond to help those in need. Trudi continues to assist us in any way she can, every day of the week.  She is a remarkable asset and we are extremely lucky to have her devoted time and energy. Thank you Trudi, we love you!”

Trudi has three children, Jim Arnold, Gary Arnold and Vicki Picciuolo. Jim and Gary live in Marion, North Carolina and Vicki lives in Tempe, Arizona. She has 6 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.


Indian Wells – Dr. Mel Barton

Dr. Mel BartonMel, 90, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force and was stationed outside London, serving as a bombsight mechanic and armorer in the 848th Bomb Squad. He was honorably discharged in 1945.

After his time in the military, Mel enrolled in college at Temple University in Philadelphia and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. In 1951, he earned a doctorate in podiatric medicine from the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine.

While working as a podiatrist, Mel served as president for several local and state professional organizations, including the Los Angeles County Podiatric Medical Association. Today, he serves as treasurer of the Foundation for Excellence in Podiatric Medicine, an organization he has been a member of for the last 23 years. The foundation has raised more than $1 million dollars in scholarships for podiatry students.

After his first visit to the Coachella Valley, Mel decided he would move here when he retired. From 1962 to 1990, he was a weekend resident of the Coachella Valley. In 1990, Mel retired from his 40-year career as a podiatrist and became a full-time Indian Wells resident. 

An avid volunteer, Mel serves as vice president of the Collectors Corner at the Eisenhower Medical Center Auxiliary. Working with fellow volunteers and hospital staff, he helps fundraise for the hospital and greets people. Mel has been volunteering at Eisenhower Medical Center for the last 20 years. He also volunteers at the McCallum Theatre as an usher which allows him to work with other volunteers and staff at the McCallum and see a few shows.

He has three daughters and three wonderful grandchildren, and enjoys being “Mr. Fix-it” for his friends and family.

Mel’s wish is to stay healthy and reach the century mark. He believes that over the last 90 years of his life everyone he has been close to has had an impact on his life. His memory book is filled with loving times with family and friends. He has been fortunate to travel extensively, experience many adventures and see many sights.  In the end, it’s been his own decisions that have driven him. 

Likewise, he advises younger people to “be true to yourself, be honest, treat your family as if they are the most important people in your world, study hard to attain your goals, honor your friendships, give to your community, be conscientious about your health habits and take care of yourself. Finally, no matter what, keep going and have fun!”

Mel is honored to receive this Senior Inspiration Award from the city of Indian Wells and says he hopes that his life has in some way inspired others to be of service to their loved ones and their community.


Indio – Betty James

Betty JamesBetty, 81, was born in Cherryvale, Kansas and grew up in Independence, Kansas. Betty moved to Indio with her husband, Floyd, in May 1958. A friend of Betty and her husband’s told her that they had to come to Indio, so they did and they stayed. Betty worked for the GTE phone company and Floyd drove a cab. Betty was an operator, scheduling clerk and payroll clerk for the phone company.  Betty was married to Floyd for 42 years.

Betty’s favorite memories are of vacations that she would take with her husband. After they retired, she and her husband would travel the country for six to eight months in their motor home. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas were always at the top of their list to visit. They spent this time visiting family and friends. Today, Betty continues to enjoy traveling with friends, with whom she has been on 17 cruises. 

Betty strongly believes that volunteering keeps her young because it encourages her to remain fit and active. Since 1963, she has volunteered in many different capacities at Trinity Baptist Church. At JFK Memorial Hospital, where she has volunteered since 1988 and logged more than 7,000 volunteer hours, she is in the surgery waiting room helping doctors communicate with their patients and families. 

In 2009, Betty began volunteering at the Indio Senior Center. She participates in the morning exercise classes, volunteers with the Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Club, Inc., serves on the Friends of the Indio Senior Center board and sits on the health fair and coffee bar committees. 

Betty’s advice for the younger generation is to plan ahead so that they can take care of themselves and not have to depend on anyone else.


La Quinta – Phyllis Stuchul

Phyllis StuchulPhyllis, 86, was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and has spent most of her adult life living in Southern California. From 1954 to 1973, Phyllis lived in the Los Angeles area and worked for Hughes Aircraft as a dispatcher on the assembly line that made radar for aircrafts and ships.

In 1973, Phyllis moved to the La Quinta cove where she was known around town as the “flower lady” because she would plant beautiful flowers on the vacant lots that she owned around her home.

Not long after Phyllis moved to La Quinta, Father Raymond Bluett was sent from the Diocese of San Diego to start a Catholic parish in La Quinta. Phyllis was among the original group of people, including Frank and Lucille Capra, who attended services in the old La Quinta Community Center building. She worked closely with Father Bluett to grow the congregation through its move to temporary quarters at Crocker Bank in Palm Desert. She also assisted with fundraising for the construction of St. Francis of Assisi church, which was built in La Quinta in 1982.

Phyllis worked part-time for Capra and his family as their personal assistant. Phyllis was one of the few people Frank depended on when he was out of town to help take care of his wife. Phyllis has many anecdotes, memories and even memorabilia from her tenure with the famous Hollywood director and writer. Many of these items have been donated to the La Quinta Museum and Historical Society.

Encouraged by her mother to volunteer and give to the less fortunate, Phyllis has assisted many in need on an individual basis, including the homeless, working poor and infirm. In the early 1990s, she began volunteering with Martha’s Village and Kitchen and was instrumental in organizing their first golf tournament fundraising event.

Phyllis also works with Sister Gabi in her efforts to help the needy living in the eastern Coachella Valley, helping to collect clothing and food that is distributed to the poor and homeless. While on walks with her dog, a black cocker spaniel poodle mix named Bonita Cici, she brings food, blankets and clothing to the homeless that live in the La Quinta Civic Center Park. Phyllis even helped one individual by letting him live in her home until he got a job and was able to pay for a place of his own.

Phyllis’ proudest achievement was an experience she had as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. In 1998, at the age of 71, she traveled back home to Canton to work on an all-female crew that constructed a house in a two week period for a family in need. The greatest thrill of her life was when the crew handed the keys to the new home to a very grateful woman and her family. This was a moment Phyllis will never forget.

Phyllis is a member of the Old Town Coffee Group, a group of local residents that meet daily to discuss how they can help their community.

The members of the Old Town Coffee Group have this to say about Phyllis, “because of people like Phyllis, La Quinta with its diverse population enjoys a kinder and more supportive community. She is an example to us all, demonstrating what individuals can accomplish when they truly care about those who have slipped between society’s cracks.”


Palm Desert – Brett Romer

Brett RomerBrett, 72, was born and raised in Stockton, California. He then studied at the New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, earning a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Science in physics with a minor in mathematics.

Brett credits his father for teaching him his work ethic and his college advisor for being the first instructor who understand that he didn’t fit the typical education approach and needed to be challenged.

Brett was a professor of physics and mathematics at the College of the Desert from 1964 until his retirement in 2002. In the mid-1960s, he introduced the first scientific programming classes to the college. During his tenure at COD, he also served as the director of computer services for several years and introduced the first online class registration system for students.

When Brett was hired as a professor at College of the Desert, Dr. Roy McCall was the superintendent/president of the community college district.  Dr. McCall and Brett had known each other for quite some time because Dr. McCall taught at College of the Pacific when his father owned a restaurant in the student union. Dr. McCall one day had to introduce Brett to the board of trustees and did so by saying that he knew him when he was a kid, riding bicycles and knocking down trash cans. 

Over the past 49 years, Brett has been involved in community safety and welfare in times of emergency preparedness. For several years, he served as the chief Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) officer for Riverside County. 

Brett currently volunteers with the Historical Society of Palm Desert, where he has served as president. He finds it enjoyable and interesting to meet the visitors and tell them about the history of Palm Desert and hear their memories.

“Because of a deep dedication to the welfare of our community, Mr. Romer has always demonstrated a willingness to serve above and beyond the call of duty,” said former Palm Desert Councilman Bill Kroonen.  “He has no expectation of recognition and is most deserving of the Senior Inspiration Award.”


Palm Springs – Burton “Burt” Spivack

Burton Burt SpivackBurt, 87, was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. Burt joined the Army in 1943 and served in the 280th Combat Engineers Battalion. He was stationed in Europe during World War II andearned three battle stars, including one for the Battle of the Bulge. Burt was honorably discharged on April 14, 1946.

In 1951, Burt earned a Bachelor of Science inaccounting from the American International College. 

After college, Burt lived in New York City where he met his future wife, Sandy. Their courtship began while they were living in the same apartment building. One night, there was a fire in one of the apartments and all the residents gathered in the main lobby while the fire was extinguished. Once everybody was allowed to return to their homes, Burt invited Sandy to his apartment for a cup of coffee and the rest is history. Burt and Sandy were happily married for 47 years and together had two children, Sheila and Bradley.



Burt spent much of his career as a public accountant and found his way into the hotel management business, which brought him to the Coachella Valley. In 1962, Burt moved to Palm Springs to be the controller and then as president and executive director of the new Spa Hotel. Helping to guide the hotel through its difficult first years, he finds it gratifying to see it become an icon of the desert that it is today. 

Making the move to Palm Springs made the biggest impact in his life, saying, “If I had stayed back east, I would have never met the fascinating people, celebrities and locals, who make the desert their home.”

By no means a novice volunteer, Burt’s community service background includes serving 16 years, four as chairman, on the board of the San Jacinto Winter Park Authority, the governing body of the Palm Springs Tramway.  He is also a past member of the AguaCaliente Development Authority, past board member and president of the Desert Hospital Foundation, former district chairman of the Palm Springs Boy Scouts of America and past board member of the Temple Isaiah, to name a few. 

Burt currently volunteers at Cahuilla Elementary School in Palm Springs. He has been volunteering there for the last 8 years and enjoys it because he gets the opportunity to work at the school his children once attended.

An extraordinary volunteer, Burt believes the younger generation should be involved in an organization that helps their community.

Rancho Mirage – Calvin “Cal” Custer

Calvin-Cal-Custer-smCal, 88, was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a technical sergeant in the 16th Armored Division assigned to the Third Army, which was commanded by General George Patton and ended World War II in Czechoslovakia. 

After his Army service, Cal worked for the Pennsylvania Electric Company, Penelec, as a power lineman. While repairing a power line he was nearly electrocuted. Seeking a safer way to make a living, Cal made the decision to go to school and move into another career.

Cal enrolled in classes at DeVry University. In 1953 he earned a bachelor’s degree in radio and TV engineering. Once he completed school, he was hired as an electronic engineer by RCA in their graphic systems division.

While working for RCA, Cal decided to return to school to earn a Bachelor of Science in physics with a minor in electronics. Since he was working full time at RCA, Cal attended night classes at La Salle University, completing the degree in 1960.

Cal moved his family to California in 1972, when Information International Incorporated purchased the graphic systems division from RCA and moved the department to Los Angeles.

After retirement in 1985, Cal and his wife, Fae, built a home in Orcutt, near Santa Barbara, to be closer to their children. Not long after moving to Orcutt, they decided that the Coachella Valley was the place for them. During Cal’s career, he and his family would vacation in the Coachella Valley. They loved the weather and were members of a golf club in the valley. In the early 1990s, Cal and Fae moved to Rancho Mirage.

Cal has been volunteering and helping his community for most of his life. While working for Penelec, he was a volunteer fireman. Since moving to the desert he has kept up his community involvement. Cal has been volunteering with the city of Rancho Mirage since the 1990s as one of the first members of the Rancho Mirage Traffic and Safety Commission, which he still serves on today. He is also an original member of the Rancho Mirage Citizens on Patrol program and has been trained to participate in the Community Emergency Response Team. 

Cal also serves on his homeowner’s association and was president for three years. In addition to his work with the city, he is an active member of the Palm Springs Presbyterian Church and a member of their choir.

Cal and Fae have two daughters, Janelle and Brenda; four grandchildren, Trevor, Lauren, Jeremy and Rachel, one great grandson and another on the way!


Riverside County – Elizabeth “Betty” Gorey

Elizabeth-Betty-Gorey-smBetty, 99, was born in Washington, Iowa and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. For 40 years Betty made her living as a beautician and owned and operated her own beauty shop on the Westside of Chicago. When her beauty shop opened, Betty had it consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Following her retirement, Betty was eager to leave the ice and snow and wind of Chicago and moved to Sacramento in 1979 and to Palm Desert in 1988. During her first 16 years in the desert she worked as a companion, providing assistance to seniors who lived here.

Retirement certainly didn’t suit Betty.  After moving to Palm Desert she almost immediately began volunteering at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta. For the last 25 years, she has opened the church every day at 7 a.m., preparing the altar and taking care of everything for the priest for the daily Mass at 8 a.m. On Sundays, Betty arrives even earlier, by 6:30 a.m., and is also in charge of funerals and weddings at the church.

In addition to her work at the parish, Betty volunteers two or three days a week at Martha’s Village & Kitchen’s thrift store in Indio, sorting donations of housewares and other items. 

The biggest thing that has impacted Betty’s life is when she became a Catholic at the age of 22. Betty wishes that everyone will go to Heaven. Her advice to the younger generation is to look to God for guidance and hope.

Betty does not have any children of her own but she helped raise more than 20 children.  She has raised her own nieces and nephews and even welcomed some children into her home that were not related to her by blood. She has always welcomed children into her home and helped to raise all of them. Whenever a family member or neighbor needed help, she was there with open and loving arms.

Betty’s tireless work exemplifies the volunteer spirit that makes our community a better place to live.


Riverside County – Dr. Ron Hare

Dr. Ron HareRon, 77, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and grew up in Glendale, California. In 1954, Ron enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Army Security Agency. He worked to gather and monitor information from foreign countries. Ron was honorably discharged in 1956.

In 1960, Ron graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelor of Science. Four years later, he earned a doctorate in medicine from the University of California, San Francisco’s medical school. 

During his tenure in the medical profession, Ron worked as an assistant professor at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County Hospital.  He was the chief of surgery at the Santa Fe Railroad Western Region, the director of intern training at the Good Samaritan Hospital of Los Angeles and director of the intensive care unit and emergency room services at the Verdugo Hills Hospital.

Ron was also a consultant to the Saudi Arabia Hospital. Ron consulted them on vascular surgery which helped them to set up this service in their hospital. During this time he also had a large private practice in general, vascular and traumatic surgery.  He currently serves on the medical advisory team for the Thoracic and Oncology Foundation at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

Even though Ron is retired, he knows how to keep himself busy and still contributes to the health and well-being of his fellow Coachella Valley residents. Currently, he volunteers for the Coachella Valley Community Trust. He was past chairman of JFK Memorial Hospital and a member of the founding committee of the Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine. His work with the Volunteers in Medicine has been gratifying because he actually gets to see lives change because the patients they serve are not able to get medical care elsewhere.

One of Ron’s favorite memories is from seventh grade. One day, Ron decided to skip school because it was snowing in Glendale, a rarity for the area. In order to skip school, Ron decided to write a sick note from his parents to his teacher stating that he is unable to go to school because he has a “stomackache.” Unbeknownst to him, his teacher shared this note with his father, who worked for the school at the time. The week after Ron gave this note to his teacher, his father asked him at dinner to spell “stomach.”  Ron replied with “s-t-o-m-a-c-k.” His father suggested that until he learned how to spell, he better not be missing any more school!

Ron and his wife, Norma, moved to the Coachella Valley 34 years ago.   Ron enjoys playing tennis, going to the gym and traveling, when he has time.

Ron and his wife have two children, Charlene and David, and one cat, Little Kitty. His advice to the younger generation is to pay attention to history, get involved in their community, be informed and follow their dreams.

73-710 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 222, Palm Desert, CA 92260 | Phone: 760-863-8211 • Fax: 760-863-8905