As many of you know, on Monday, Jan. 27, I was honored with a surprise retirement party at the Shirley Senior Center. More than 100 people came to wish me a happy retirement and to show their appreciation for what we have accomplished over the last five years. I was both humbled and pleased with the turnout and the words spoken at this event.

I want to thank a lot of people and I hope I do not miss anyone in particular (sorry, in advance, if I do).

First, I want to thank all the people who came by to say "hi" to me. It was a great turnout and I was almost speechless.

Next, I want to thank the people who did all the work: Joyce Patton, John and Kay Tohline, Elaine Quinty, Donna Brun, Sally Hamel, Jon and Olga Pender, Shirley and Ron Deyo, Rhoda Dow, David Januskiewiecz, Barbara Nole, Nancy Siedliski and Kathy Becker.

In addition, Chip Guercio, Kendra Dumont, Kathy Becker and Ann Towne who spoke so nicely (and briefly) about what we have done for the seniors over the years.

Also, I want to thank my wife, Charline, for both keeping the secret about the party and for all the help she has given me over the last five years.

Lastly, I want to thank every person, every company and every foundation that has been willing to make an investment in the seniors of Shirley over the last five years. Nothing would have been accomplished without the time, the energy, the funding, the ideas and the support that you provided to this fledgling organization in the past and even into today.

We have grown from a defunct COA and senior center (yes, Ron, there was one prior to the current one) 10-12 years ago or so, into a thriving, growing organization with a broad range of activities and services.

We have recommitted the town's support to meet the needs of the seniors of Shirley, and we have promised that we would be here to help with a wide range of programs and services. We agreed we would be their eyes and ears into the services provided by state and federal governments for their benefit. We committed that we would enrich their lives with programs that kept them healthy, allowed them to have fun, provided them socialization to avoid isolation and gave them services to let them live in their homes longer than they may otherwise be able to do.

We made "aging with dignity" more than a catch phrase.

It has been my honor and privilege to have served as your COA director and I leave filled with a cautious optimism that what we have built will continue to grow, prosper and evolve as the next generation of seniors come looking for the support services that the current set of seniors get today.

THANK YOU.

JOHN OELFKE

Former COA director