Previous Recipients

The Gold Standard Award for Optimal Aging celebrates and honors adults aged 85 and older who embody the Trager Institute’s vision for a world where all older adults lead engaged and flourishing lives. These individuals are recognized by their community as outstanding models of optimal aging in the following areas: physical, social, spiritual, and creative. Winners are separated into individual and couples categories.

Previous Recipients: 2014  2016  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021

Recipients 2016

Sherrill Brakmeier, 93: UofL Spirit Award

Ms. Brakmeier is an example of optimal aging because she stays engaged in the organization that has given her pleasure and joy her entire life - UofL. She attended UofL as an undergraduate and played all four women’s sports at the collegiate level. She then became a faculty member at UofL and helped develop the Recreation Education Major. She coached Field Hockey at UofL for 30 years. Mrs. Brakmeier has the distinction of being the first woman to be inducted into the University of Louisville Athletic Hall of Fame. The Athletic Department presents a yearly student-athlete award in her honor. Now, she is a UofL Booster and attends all the UofL games. Her love of alma mater is an inspiration to us all!



Representative Thomas Burch, 85: Male Industry Award

Rep. Burch serves as the Democratic House member from Jefferson County. He retired from General Electric and served in the US Navy and US Navy Reserve. He has received the Kidney Foundation Legislative Award, the KY Assoc of Homes for Children Circle of Love Award and was Legislator of the Year. He received the KY Outstanding Legislator Award for Health Legislation and the Distinguished Service Award. He is a member of the Natl Org for Women, the KY Domestic Violence Assoc. and the Lions Foundation. As an active member of our Ky. Legislature, he is most industrious.

Cecil Burnett, 105: Years of Wisdom Award

Ms. Burnett is a beautiful, vibrant woman who has faced many challenges in her life but has remained optimistic and self-assured, according to her “Happiness is a choice.” During a time of oppression, she was able to obtain what many only dreamed. As a black woman in the early 1900’s she had many obstacles to face but did so head strong, remaining positive and unrelenting. Her motto says it best: “If the other fellow can do it, I can too.” Cecil Burnett deserves the recognition of the Optimal Aging Award, she teaches us all that we have the ability to age well and stay humble.




Sister Mary Brendan Conlon, OSU, 89: Outstanding Female Award

While she may not wish for recognition, wanting to give acknowledgement to others, Sister Mary Brendan Conlon, is living fully every day of her life as an Ursuline Sister of Louisville. She lives according to her faith, especially acting with respect for the earth and for all of God’s creatures. She tutors a Spanish speaking woman and two Vietnamese young adults in English. She is a grant writer and monthly visits inmates at PeeWee Valley Women’s Prison. She is intellectually curious and an engaging conversation partner; no matter the subject, Sr. Brendan will have read or heard about it. She has a warm smile and a laugh that includes everyone, a genuine example of a woman who is aging optimally.



 Anthony Heitzman, 85: Outstanding Male Award

Mr. Tony Heitzman is an amazing human being. He began a new career as a hospice chaplain at age 58 after leaving a 30-year ministry. He worked full-time until age 81. At 82, he was diagnosed with early stage dementia. His energy is still surpassing adults that are several years his junior. He actively participates in continuing education at Bellarmine University’s Veritas Program. He is outgoing, friendly, and thoughtful of others, as evidenced by his continued volunteer work and community outreach and service. He is a man of deep faith but has an open mind and heart to those around him. Tony continues to be approachable, humorous, and easily accessible. He is a genuinely loveable man!


Clarence Hunt, 91: Male Veteran Award

Mr. Hunt is a member of the First African American Marine division in the United States, “The Montford Point Marines.” This group served valiantly and with distinction at Pearl Harbor. Mr. Hunt, along with the few other surviving Montford Point Marines, was awarded the Highest Award our country can give, last year, by President Obama at the White House. Mr. Hunt remains active in the community, serving as a driver for Meals on Wheels and as an usher in West Chestnut Street Baptist Church. 


Rose Moore, 89: Female Industry Award

Ms. Moore exemplifies the true spirit of being the best at whatever you do in life. She is a member of the cleaning crew at Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC and is required to be on her feet, constantly moving. Her incredible warmth is demonstrated daily. In addition to her cleaning work, Rose prays for the attorneys with whom she works and treats them like they were her own grandchildren. She is always vibrant and happy and is the epitome of good health. We might venture to guess that she is holding it together for all of us with God.





Edith Pitzer, 93: Female Industry Award

Ms. Pitzer is a warm, engaging, active, thoughtful, and playful person who defies her age of 95. She still safely drives herself to church and joins her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the swimming pool. She talks to school groups about her participation in the Navy during WW II. At a recent event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II, she was seen dancing. She is a delight to know!






Walter "Stu" & Carolyn Reichert, 86 & 86: Outstanding Couple Award

Mr. and Mrs. Reichert have always given to others no matter what they are involved in - political, religious, and social. And, they give in ways other than just financial. They are always helping someone in some fashion. They teach through example the importance of knowing your neighbors and being there to help; the importance of making a new friend everyday and always greeting someone with a smile. They understand the importance of being involved in government - no matter what the role - because it’s your civic duty. They are always giving and supporting of others and the gift of their time and talent means a great deal to everyone.

Jacob & Maria Vermeulen, 88 & 85: Out-of-State Award

Mr. and Mrs. Vermeulen have been married for 60 years and have managed life as a couple, dealing with the different difficulties, joys, and challenges together as a couple. Mrs. Vermeulen symbolizes what it means to stay with her partner until “death do us part.” She supported her husband as a pastor through many difficult transitions in South Africa. Mr. Vermeulen fought apartheid his entire life and lost many opportunities to advance because he refused to support an oppressive system. They have always dealt with family issues jointly, never allowing them to be pulled into different directions. The death of their son 15 years ago placed an incredible strain on them, but they survived together, moving forward facing the loss of a son. Then, Mr. Vermeulen was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. Since the diagnosis, Mrs. Vermeulen has celebrated all the little things to be thankful for – her husband still being able to make her a cup of tea, losing that ability but still being able to eat dinner with her, losing that ability and still just being there with her. She is the most remarkable person when it comes to looking at life through an appreciative eye. Her love for her husband shows she is willing to love without expecting anything in return and willing to love him so intensely that she is willing to lose her own health in caring for him. She has lived up to her promise to never leave her husband and is always focused on ensuring her husband’s dignity.

 John "Jack" Wright, MD, 88: Outstanding Male Award

Dr. Wright is an inspiration. He served as Chair of the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine (DFGM). Until a few years ago, he worked as a ski patrol member. He is engaged with the medical community and still attends weekly Grand Rounds and activities within the Department. He recently worked on a research project at UofL and updated his research training. He adapts to the times and stays current with Geriatrics. He started the Geriatrics program at UofL and is invested in its success. We are all appreciative of his innovative mind and commitment to UofL Geriatrics!

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