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Schenectady County Announces 2023 Karen B. Johnson Older New Yorker of the Year Awards

2023 Older NYer of the Year Awardees

2023 Theme: “Aging Unbound”

Event Video

The Schenectady County Legislature announced the winners of the 2023 Hon. Karen B. Johnson Schenectady County Older New Yorker of the Year awards, which are sponsored by the Schenectady County Department of Senior and Long Term Care Services. The awards were presented at a luncheon held yesterday for the awardees and their guests.

The awards were created to recognize older adults in the community who have offered their time and experience to worthwhile projects or causes, either through professional or volunteer efforts. The Senior and Long Term Care Services Advisory Council voted to rename the award in 2019 after Karen B. Johnson, who previously served on the Council and was a liaison between the Department of Senior and Long Term Care Services and the County Legislature.

“Schenectady County is truly fortunate to have a network of individuals who contribute to the betterment of our community through volunteering, advocacy, and other supports,” said Schenectady County Legislator Michelle Ostrelich, Chair of the Health, Housing & Human Services Committee. “Today we honor eight individuals who have dedicated their time and expertise to serving others. Their contributions have touched countless lives, enhanced the fabric of our community, and serve as an inspiration to us all.”

2023 Schenectady County Older New Yorker of the Year Awardees


Dr. Heidi L. Andrade

Dr. Andrade is a native New Yorker who grew up in the town of Gardner, NY. She had a hunger for learning and following high school graduation she worked many jobs through college to pay for her own education, and graduated from Harvard. Dr. Andrade is a highly publicized author of many studies and articles specific to her discipline in educational psychology and is the mother of a 21-year-old son whom she adopted the day he was born. Dr. Andrade makes a pronounced positive difference in her community each day and is intensely concerned with environmental issues. She donates much of her income to worthy causes aimed at improving the quality of life for all and regularly gives away healthy meal gift cards to those she sees are down on their luck.

David Connelly

A Schenectady native, David is a father to six children and five grandchildren. He has been retired since 2014 and currently spends his time volunteering to make Schenectady a better place. David started his volunteering life as a parent coach for his children’s’ soccer team, which he did for 15 years. He managed the pool at their swim club, was the Booster Club President, and ran the concession stand for sporting events. He is currently n the boards as an officer for this Neighborhood Association, Rotary and Hibernians.

John Fiore

Born in 1917, John lived in Schenectady most of his life, graduating from Mt. Pleasant High School in 1933. John loved to garden and give away his produce. He was an active bowler and the league secretary for two bowling leagues. When his son Nicholas Fiore was growing up, John took part in his activities, which included: being an Officer in the Carmen Little League and Commissioner of Rotterdam Babe Ruth Legague. John ran the Luigi Restaurant golf tournaments for several years and was presented with a sweatshirt and hat by Union College for his years of service and love of the college. He currently resides in Rotterdam.

Gary L. Geiger

Gary has been a banker, traveling auditor for several Eastern Hotels, and was a Head Comptroller of the Schenectady Hotel. His father’s family migrated from Germany and his mother’s family came from Italy. Both settled in Schenectady. Gary was the victim of a shooting at the Motel and nearly died. His story was featured on HBO in 1993 and won a Cable Ace Award. He then embarked as a volunteer and spoke at many prisons in New York and other states to help prisoners understand their victimizing behavior, their own victimization, and spoke of ways to live once released. He volunteered at the Albany jail for six years and became a much sought after speaker in local high schools, colleges, and victim groups, and was also involved in the Littleton County Community. Gary organized “Preventing Violence and School Safety” presentations throughout the Capital District, with three victims of the Columbine tragedy as guest speakers. In 2006 he was awarded the National Stimmel Peace and Justice Award for his volunteering and teaching Restorative Justice to schools, prisoners, and victims of violence groups.

Schenectady County Hon. Karen B. Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award

Joan Ma

Joan has two children and two grandchildren, and was a nurse at Ellis Hospital for over 40 years. She has been actively dedicated to this community for more than eight years. Currently Joan leads a senior study group, drives those who need transportation to doctors appointments, and helps with translating, allowing CDTA to provide transportation to over 13 members of our community to county events. They have come to love attending county programs due to Joan’s ability to translate and make everyone feel welcome. Joan provides help with documents, applications, and meeting the social needs of her community. She organizes many events and is widely respected and loved by the senior groups, other groups, and individuals. She is active, altruistic, willing to help, and a role model for many people.

Schenectady County Hon. Karen B. Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award

Elizabeth C. Paul

Elizabeth has lived in Schenectady for the past 32 years. During her time here she has worked as a food service worker at Union College and at Macy’s. She has three children and a spouse and loves to see the smiles of others. Elizabeth makes sure that the people are taken care of, even if it’s as simple as providing coffee. Her presence is not just felt here in New York but also in India. A lot of people look up to her, especially in her tradition and culture. One of her mottos is “to do one good deed a day”, and she knows the importance of not just her wellbeing but especially the wellbeing of others. Elizabeth has dedicated her entire life here in New York to sharing the good things she has experienced, which shows in her volunteer work.

Phyllis A. Tariello

Phyllis has lived in Schenectady for 68 years and has owned a home with her significant other in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood since 1988. She worked for over 37 years for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and since retiring has volunteered for over six years at the Hon. Karen B. Johnson (Central) Branch of the Schenectady County Public Library. While volunteering she established a special system for storing newspaper clippings and helped individuals find their relatives through genealogy research with older source materials. Since 2022 she has served as a volunteer front desk receptionist for the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, a not-for-profit organization. Phyllis has also been seen mowing the lawns of and shoveling snow for her older neighbors.

2023 New York State Senior Citizen of the Year Nominee

Barbara K. Wruz

A mother of two and grandmother of four, Barbara has volunteered for our community for over 40 years. She served as an elementary physical education teacher for 35 years at Scotia-Glenville. During her tenure, she understood the funding constraints of schools and worked diligently to creatively fund physical education program initiatives through grants. After assisting the district with obtaining a $1 million grant for physical education, she served as the grant manager for three years. Her work on this front has been recognized with Scotia-Glenville’s Distinguished Service Award and Capital District Amazing Person Award in 2019 by the NYS Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYS AHPERD). Barbara has volunteered in numerous roles in service to NYS AHPERD and was a jump rope coordinator for 22 years and continues to assist with their conferences and student leadership awards. For the past 10 years she has also supervised student PE teachers from SUNY Cortland who are working in Capital Region schools. Barbara has served on the Town of Glenville Park Planning Commission since the mid-1980s, and has advocated for the development of town parks to include a multitude of youth sports leagues as well as other recreational opportunities for all ages.