By Jane Bigda
State Representative Brian Murray, D. Milford, summed up what Mendon’s annual Senior Citizen Day celebrates. “You can tell the difference between a town and a community,” said Murray. “A town is where people live…a community is where people thrive.” He added those who make that crucial difference “are like the people we are honoring here today, John and Ann Vandersluis, who have helped make Mendon more than a town. It is a community. And the community owes them a debt of gratitude for what they have done.”
That gratitude for lifelong contributions was expressed to all the community’s older residents on September 19 and especially to Vandersluis’s, Mendon’s Senior Citizens of the Year 2021.
Riding in a Mendon fire truck, the couple led a parade through town before being awarded with three citations — one from the community presented by Select Board member Mike Merolli and one each from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate given by Murray. State Sen. Ryan Fattman, R. Sutton, had stopped by the celebration earlier. The couple also received a number of gifts from the day’s sponsors: the Mendon Council on Aging, Mendon Lions Club, and Friends of Mendon Elders.
Each citation referred to the couple’s long list of accomplishments. Moving to Mendon 19 years ago when she married John, Ann, has been helping the town’s seniors as a member of the Council on Aging for 12 years, holding the office of secretary since 2012, and leading the Senior Center’s Beautification Committee. She volunteers for the Tri-Valley Elder Services Nutritional program, serving meals twice weekly to Mendon’s senior guests for 12 years, and, since the start of the pandemic, works in the Mendon Food Pantry. Additionally, Ann is a soprano with the Mendon Minstrels, the Senior Center’s chorus, and a member of the St. Gabriel the Archangel choir. She joined the Mendon Senior/Veteran Abatement program in 2009 and is a poll worker at town elections. A former resident of Rutland, she has two daughters and four grandchildren.
The Senior Day celebration also featured a performance, Celebrating New England, by singer-storyteller, Davis Bates, a program sponsored by the Mendon Cultural Council.