The award honors a woman from the Fox Cities, Heart of the Valley, New London, Oshkosh and surrounding areas who exemplifies these traits: strength of character, integrity, generosity, faith, courage, optimism, persistence and community service.
Joyce Abel: “Joyce exemplifies Good Samaritan every day of her life,” according to one friend. She strives to do the right thing instead of the easy thing and instills that value in her children and friends. She is a breast cancer survivor and caregiver for her husband after he suffered a stroke. She is dedicated to her church and plays in the handbell choir, mentors confirmands, visits shut-ins and blesses gatherings with her homemade treats. Quick to offer kind and caring advice, her optimism is contagious as she views the glass half full. You may have met Joyce in the past leading a tour at the historic Gignon Home in Kaukauna, or volunteering with the Chamber, Planters for a Purpose, Masonic Temple, and the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts (as her children were growing up). She has a heartfelt concern for youth and contributes money for books in the Kaukauna schools through the KEEN Foundation Fund, which she and her husband founded. Joyce was nominated by Colleen Klister, Kay Abel, and Giovanna Feller.
Carolynn Brown-Schoening: She possesses “unbounding energy, very high moral and ethical standards and strong faith.” A teacher/counselor in the Neenah Joint School District for over three decades, Carolynn was described by her boss as the “most intuitive and effective counselor I’ve ever met.” She was part of the effort to develop the AODA program for Neenah High School. Carolynn lost her first husband when their boys were young. She remarried and became part of a blended family and helped to parent their ten children. When her second husband fell ill, she cared for him through a liver transplant and cancer. She lost her best friend and her home in the tornado of 1984. She stood firm in her faith through it all. She has been part of the Neenah Community Action Committee, the Fox Cities Victim Crisis Response Team (for 16 years), and as a mediator at the Winnebago County Conflict Resolution Center. She has specialized training in human sex trafficking and assisting addicts who want treatment. “She is a natural when it comes to communicating with people from all walks of life, treating everyone fairly and honestly.” Carolynn was nominated by Jeffrey Zdrale, Ph.D., Ann Cattau, and Len Hansen.
Carol DiBiasio-Snyder: Carol encourages others to live life fully, serve others, seek justice and embrace God’s love. A former pastor, she courageously led her church family through the process of becoming an Open and Affirming church, as well as performing a marriage for a same-sex couple on the steps of the Oshkosh Courthouse as soon as it was legal to do so. She was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and, after much research, found that boxing could help. She encouraged the Oshkosh YMCA to create an exercise program designed for those living with Parkinson’s and her symptoms have markedly improved, to where she is able to resume her love of throwing pottery. She volunteers with the Democratic Party, Oshkosh Public Library, Habitat for Humanity, Oshkosh YMCA, Day by Day Warming Shelter among others. “Everyone who has been touched by Carol’s indominable spirit would agree that it is her faith that informs her because she not only knows who she is, but whose she is,” one of her nominators wrote. Carol was nominated by Lorie Yaste-Zajicek, Cathleen Starck Wille, and Pat Blades.
Kelly Kohl: Her daughter says she embodies traits that Connie Steele had. “Generous,” “persistent,” “optimistic,” and “courageous” top the list. A single mother of two daughters who overcame many obstacles, she is also described as a woman of great integrity, honesty, and faith. Kelly is committed to helping others realize their full potential any chance she gets, especially while volunteering at Pillars, Harbor House, and the Appleton North Theatre program. Her life is a living example of love ALL neighbors as yourself. She believes the way up the social and economic ladder is through education and self-reliance and credits education, courage and a supportive community for her success. She was nominated by Jillian Kohl, Steven Olson, and the Education Advocate Team at FVTC.
Mayra Pasayes: Described as a “force for good in this community,” Mayra gives selflessly of her time volunteering — dating back 20 years when she began advising the Appleton Police Department on Hispanic issues, and more recently with Casa Hispana working behind the scenes at LatinoFest and LETTIE: Latinas Empowered Through Transformative Ideas in Education. Growing up amidst the horrific civil war in El Salvador, Mayra has an innate cultural sensitivity that she brings to her personal, professional and volunteer work. A single-mom raising two daughters, nurturing comes naturally as she has helped thousands of students in her 20-year tenure at FVTC. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree. Friends, family and coworkers agree she consistently demonstrates courage, strength of character and integrity. Mayra was nominated by Nancy Heykes, Carolyn Desrosiers, Mito Kudaka, and Rayon Brown.
Lori Prahl: Lori is “a woman of great faith, great energy and huge compassion, who always puts the needs of others ahead of her own,” was the consensus of all three of her nominators. Despite setbacks, struggles and red tape, Lori never lost the spirit and vision of what could be. She worked tirelessly to make Mission of Hope, Waupaca County’s first and only 24/7 homeless shelter, a reality. She is generous with her time and is involved with Waupaca Partners, The Bridge Thrift Store, the Chamber, NAMI, Waupaca County DHHS, her church, and community. “Lori is passionate about the need in our community and engages with residents to advocate for those less fortunate,” one nominator wrote. She is, “always supportive, always loving, always compassionate.” Lori was nominated by Lori Chesnut, Patricia Toney, and April Kopitzke.
Barbara Rau: The first female Dean of the UW Oshkosh College of Business is described by colleagues as a “quiet, courageous, compassionate advocate for diversity, protective of the rights of all kinds of minorities.” She believes in the essential worth of all persons regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender and she actively practices inclusion. “She has great faith in the power of education as well as optimism related to human potential for growth and development,” wrote one of her colleagues. A woman of high moral standards and integrity, when the budgets were cut, she offered to take a pay cut to keep valuable staff and faculty intact. She was not allowed, so instead donated her pay increase back to the College and established a scholarship, funded a faculty award and developed a fund for staff development activities. Outside of the classroom she was faculty advisor for the UWO Society of Human Resource Management for ten years, continuously exceeding expectations for the group. She was nominated by Joann Cross, Sarah DeArmond, and Wendy Potratz.
Cherie Stechly: Wife, mother, foster parent, author, manager, and volunteer… Cherie has worn many hats. A friend of 50 years said, “Cherie shines like the sun in people’s lives where darkness is present. She treats all people the same, as Children of God, and consistently tries to ease their suffering.” No stranger to suffering herself after being stricken with fibromyalgia nearly two decades ago, Cherie researched homeopathic and natural remedies, wrote a book, and reversed the illness in four years. She has served on her church council and as a youth leader in her younger years, and volunteers with United Way and the Girl Scouts, is a mentor with Mid-Day Women’s Alliance, and a Rotarian. Relocating to Arizona to care for her ailing father is an example of the length Cherie will go to in order to help someone. She is devoted to her church where she educates members on the importance of saving for retirement. Cherie was nominated by MaryAnn Hovey, Carl Stechly and Linda Slabaugh.
Leslie Taylor: A visionary whose actions and words inspire and motivate others, Leslie is fueled by a deep-seated empathy for people in emotional distress. She understands the effects of economic hardship on a person’s mental health and well-being. Her soft-spoken, friendly rapport makes people feel comfortable and listened to when they meet with her. “Leslie’s belief in me restored a sense of my innate value and led me to take on community service hand-in-hand with her at LEAVEN and the small nonprofit TrustWorks,” one nominator wrote. You will know Leslie’s values by the way she lives her life – she “walks her talk.” She started a membership coordinator role at her church as a volunteer, and led an effort there to create a new model for social justice work. She started Sustainable Fox Valley, which birthed Neighborhood Partners, now a program of Goodwill Industries. Leslie is generous with her time and talent as well as her faith. She was nominated by Emily Bowles, Martha Wheeler, and Mary Parsons.
Sally Tschurwald: Despite recovering from her own injuries sustained after being hit by a car while working as a crossing guard, Sally helped her son for five years, when needed, before losing him to cancer. A short four months later, Sally lost her husband to congestive heart failure. This past January, she was hit by a car a second time, requiring surgery and a two-month hospital stay. Throughout it all, at 83, she remained strong, positive and confident. She regularly volunteers with the ThedaCare New London Medical Center, helps kids cross the street, works at the polls during elections and participates in many church activities. Her pastor said she is a woman of her word and will work longer and harder than people half her age. Well known in her community, when people are having a difficult time, they think about what Sally has endured and say, “If Sally can do it, so can I.” Sally was nominated by Mona Tschurwald, Lola Zaug, and Rev. Joyce Rich.
Samaritan Counseling Center Executive Director Rosangela Berbert (center)
and 2018 Connie Steele Woman of Strength
Sara Companik (right)
with 2017 Woman of Strength Tracy Robertson (left)