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And the Inspiring Positive Aging Award Winners Are …

On June 20, 2018, Sound Generations announced the winners of their 2018 Inspire Positive Aging Awards. This annual awards program recognizes individuals who exemplify positive aging in the greater Seattle area. They inspire us to age with grace, enthusiasm, creativity, hope, and energy.

Enrique Cerna emceed the awards event at the Bellevue Hilton. He introduced Sound Generations CEO Jim Wigfall, who addressed several hundred people in attendance, including more than four dozen award nominees—the largest number in the program’s 13-year history. Each nominee was introduced. Each announcement of the award winners was met with loud applause and cheering.

The winners are listed here in the order they appear in the photo at the top (left to right):

Ray Bradley

Ray Bradley (Lifelong Learning)—As an active member of the Central Area Senior Center’s Food, Nutrition, Health, and Wellness workshop series, Ray brings encouragement and joy to everyone he meets. An intelligent and curious man, Ray loves learning and always participates and assists in any way he can. He asks questions for every presenter and topic, and he is always enthusiastic when he is asked to help with a demonstration in class. Ray keeps a positive attitude during classes, and his humor and good cheer help other participants to do the same. Outside the classes, Ray also teaches computer classes to senior center members. His nominator said, “One need not ask for [Ray’s] help—if he sees a need, he is on it. If he determines a better way exists to solve or resolve a concern, he offers his ideas immediately.” Ray is 65.

Dianne Hansen

Dianne Hansen (Intergenerational Impact)—Dianne is admired for her work as a volunteer tutor and piano teacher in her community. She generously devotes her time to tutoring young children at the Shoreline Public Library, and through the SWEL Timebank, discovered her passion for teaching piano. This inspired Dianne to offer free lessons to children whose families couldn’t afford private lessons. She now devotes time to her 12 young piano students, and still finds time to dedicate time to other causes, including piano lessons for retirees and working mother students, general tutoring, and teaching ESL and sewing classes. Her patience, compassion, and enthusiasm are infectious, and she is an inspiration to all who know her. Diane is 71.

Merle Fister (right)

Merle Fister (Health & Wellness)—Merle exemplifies healthy aging through his determination to stay physically and mentally fit. He begins each day with calisthenics and a half-mile walk before joining other residents for a daily group exercise class. Recognizing that loneliness and isolation negatively impact people’s health, Merle always makes sure to greet new members of his retirement community to make them feel welcome and involved. He helps others with computer and cell phone problems and follows news reports to stay current on world events. Those who know Merle describe him as loving and optimistic, and they appreciate him for demonstrating the power of positive thinking, the importance of an active lifestyle, and the healing power of laughter and a joke—even if it’s a bad one. Merle is 97.

Natalia Mendez

Natalia Mendez (Defining Inspiration)—Those who know Natalia are inspired by her positivity and selflessness. Natalia emigrated from Pueblo, Mexico to Yakima when she was 34, where she raised four children on her own and was known in the community for bringing meals to less fortunate families. She continues to embody this spirit of kindness today, spending hours each week preparing delicious Mexican food to share with SeaMar’s Lake City Latino Senior Group. Even though she struggles with chronic pain after a car accident, she remains active physically and is always willing to try new activities like yoga and dancing. At an event celebrating the independence  of Latin American countries last year, Natalia sang a song from Mexico in front of the lunch crowd. Her nominator described her voice as “soulful, strong, and inspiring”—just like Natalia herself. Natalia is 76.

Jemanesh Demisse

Jemanesh Demisse (Community Service)—Jemanesh is dedicated to helping the underserved elders in King County’s East African community. She has worked with the East African Senior Meal Program at Yesler Community Center for over eight years, preparing nutritious and culturally relevant meals for over 50 elders twice each week. She has demonstrated leadership by actively recruiting volunteers for the meals program and Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, and she is not afraid to go out of her way to assist a community member. She is the first to fundraise when someone is in need, the first to visit community members in the hospital, and she cheers on the younger generation at graduation ceremonies. Her dedication to her community is unwavering. Her nominator said, “Jemanesh has a heart of gold … [She] taught me that one can be humble and give without the expectation of getting anything in return.” Jemanesh is 72.

Hilke Faber

Hilke Faber (Advocacy & Activism)—Hilke is a role model for all ages and a tireless advocate for older adults. As a retired registered nurse who served as Washington’s first nursing home ombudsman, she led state and national legislative reform for nursing home regulations. Her advocacy efforts led to the establishment of the Bill of Rights for nursing home residents in Washington, and she created resident councils in King County’s senior living communities to provide a channel of communication between residents and home administrators. Her passion for advocacy and service has helped those around her see nursing home residents in a new light—as autonomous, dignified people capable of advocating for themselves, regardless of their age and health. Hilke is 74.

Aging and Disability Services extends kudos to each of Inspire Positive Aging award winners for their awesome contributions. For more information about this Sound Generations awards program, visit

Photo at top by Irene Stewart, Aging and Disability Services.