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Longtime Treasure Island volunteer, 98, gets a surprise

Volunteer Maudie Gurak recently turned 98. She’s joined by Mayor Robert Minning, left, council member Phil Collins and Jack Hawkins.

Courtesy of Linda Tyler

Volunteer Maudie Gurak recently turned 98. She’s joined by Mayor Robert Minning, left, council member Phil Collins and Jack Hawkins.

TREASURE ISLAND — Maudie Gurak, in blue slacks and a sparkly blouse, beamed up at Mayor Robert Minning as he heaped accolades on the volunteer.

It would have been just another ceremony honoring another hard-working volunteer, except for one fact: Gurak is 98 years old.

"She's the epitome of a resident volunteer," Minning told the crowd at the Treasure Island Community Center on Thursday as he gave the petite woman a hug. "She just shows up, shows up, and shows up. She always has a smile on her face, she's just a positive person."

Then Minning, along with other city officials, revealed the new yellow and blue sign hung across the front of the community center kitchen. "Maudie's Kitchen" it read, in honor of the woman who spends dozens of hours each week helping at community events.

The city also designated April 24 — Gurak's birthday — as Maudie Gurak Day.

Gurak seemed nonchalant about the fuss.

"It gives me something to do. I like being with people," the 42-year resident of Treasure Island said as she leaned a little on her walker, her only concession to age.

A Canadian native born in Ontario, Gurak had just celebrated her 98th birthday Wednesday with family from home. She still spends two months every summer visiting relatives there.

But most of the year she can be seen driving her baby blue 1978 Lincoln Town Car from community event to community event. She is a member and past president of the Treasure Island Islettes and the Treasure Island Action Club. She also belongs to the Sunshine Homeowners Association and was a volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce. In 1992, she was recognized as Citizen of the Year by the chamber and was given the Thousand Points of Light Award by President George H.W. Bush.

It was fellow volunteer Jack Hawkins' idea to honor Gurak.

"She's a wonderful woman," he said. "She cares about everything. She has a walker now but that hasn't slowed her down."

Volunteers Lois Nelson and Carol Lee can attest to that.

"She's a hard worker, no matter what, she's always here," Lee said.

Nelson said Gurak can come off a little gruff to newcomers who don't know her. "She's a strong woman. She lets you know she can do things herself," Nelson said. "Inside she has a very big heart."

Recreation director Cathy Hayduke, who knows Gurak well, says she is constantly in motion.

"I asked her to go to lunch one day and she said, 'I'm too busy to go to lunch with you,"' Hayduke said with a laugh.

Since her husband, a former Ford Motor Co. executive, died in 1980, Gurak has continued to live in Treasure Island, helping at community get-togethers nearly every day. She has discovered one thing in her long life.

"I'm lucky, really lucky," she said.

Longtime Treasure Island volunteer, 98, gets a surprise 04/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 5:50pm]
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