Nona Penner of Yukon was honored, posthumously, for positively impacting the lives of others throughout her life. She was named the recipient of the 2017 AARP Oklahoma Andrus Award for Community Service, which is the highest honor presented by AARP, at a luncheon in Oklahoma City on November 14, 2017. Penner was one of six nominees.
AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl said, “Nona Penner’s generous and giving spirit exemplifies the best of Oklahoma and we honor her commitment to community and service.” Voskuhl shared how Penner’s service was a lifelong journey with the 120 guests in attendance.
As a child, Ms. Penner often assisted ill neighbors, tending to their garden or harvesting crops. She was in high school during World War II and diligently prepared care packages for soldiers. After graduation, she rolled up her sleeves to support the military and went to work at Douglas Aircraft (now Tinker Air Force Base) to become an official “Rosie the Riveter.” Ms. Penner’s dedication to family, faith and community never waned. She often opened her home to returning servicemen, those reentering the community from prison, and to children who had no family of their own. Ms. Penner volunteered with UNICEF, the library, Meals on Wheels, supported the Angel Gift tree, and tutored numerous children and adults. Ms. Penner was active in her church for more than four decades, teaching Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, volunteering in the church nursery and starting a Mother’s Day Out program. Alongside her husband, Dan, she tended to the church flower gardens and lawn mowing for 30 years. Throughout her 92 years, Ms. Penner dedicated her life to offering a helping hand to those who needed support, encouragement and a kind word.
Penner’s daughters Patty Huffman and Donna Black accepted the Andrus Award for Community Service on her behalf. Black commented, “The last paycheck she received was as a “Rosie the Riveter” for 75 cents an hour. She never worked again, but she was always very busy.”
AARP Oklahoma State President Joe Ann Vermillion praised the volunteers who give so freely of their time and talents saying, “You get good when you do good.”
Other Andrus Award nominees recognized included: Gloria Basinger of McAlester, JoAnn Gandy of Tulsa, Patty Hazlewood of Guthrie, Donald Herrian of Ardmore, and Donna Nolen of Tulsa.