AGE WHEN NOMINATED: 85
CITY: Ann Arbor
Jim Toy is a man who lets his life speak for itself. He was the first openly gay man in Michigan, a founding member of Ann Arbor’s Gay Liberation front, and opened the first campus center devoted to gay and lesbian issues. Unwilling to formally retire, he continues his life-long commitment to equality and human rights to this day. At the community center named in his honor, Jim still counsels those who feel marginalized, many of whom later credit him with saving their lives. He always lends a kind ear and a soft voice of understanding. But Jim downplays his importance and says he is nothing more than a good listener who helps people come to decisions on their own. Even with a community center and library in his name, a mayoral proclamation honoring his achievements, and other honors throughout his life, Jim maintains a spirit of humility. When asked about his proudest moment he replied, “Proud?– I don’t know if that’s in my vocabulary.” He never talks about his life without mentioning his fellow activists and his thankfulness for being part of a greater movement. He describes how together, they were able to bring about real and lasting change. At age 85 Jim is not slowing down. He prefers to say, “My age is one thread of the tapestry of my identity.” He embodies the spirit of what it means to be Senior Strong. Still active in his community, embracing new challenges, and never losing his fighting spirit. Mr. Toy is a Michigander who continues to have an impact felt across the state as well as the nation. We are thankful for his work to make our corner of the world a brighter, more inclusive place.
Watch Jim Toy’s IAmSeniorStrong interview HERE.
Gay Nell Jenkins
AGE WHEN NOMINATED: 60-65
Gay Nell has a long and dedicated career working with seniors and serving her community. In recent years she has met Metro Detroit seniors in their homes to help them identify and apply for benefits that improves their lives. With a primary focus of obtaining food benefits, her goal was to help them improve their health, nutrition, and create a sense of security. She developed close bonds with countless seniors through her upbeat and positive attitude and support.
AGE WHEN NOMINATED: 71-75
CITY: Lake Orion
Lynn has been a part of OLHSA Grandparents Raising Grandchildren long before I began coordinating it in the fall of 2013. She was raising one teenaged granddaughter at the time. Lynn went back to school and recently earned her Bachelors in Social Work. She had worked with OLHSA Head Start as an Assistant Teacher this school year. Lynn recently transitioned her grandson from out of state, into her home and now raising two teenaged grandchildren. They are in the process of moving to provide more space for her and the teens.
In my eyes, she is SENIOR STRONG!
AGE WHEN NOMINATED: 76-80
Esther Lupyan was born in Minsk, Belarus. She lived in a ghetto during Nazi occupation and survived despite all odds. Today, she is a strong advocate for the Holocaust survivor community of Metropolitan Detroit; particularly the Russian-speaking survivors who are often at risk of experiencing a bit more isolation.
As a survivor, Esther takes time nearly every week to speak to students at the Holocaust Memorial Center. She shares her story and answers any questions they may have for her. She has even spoken to groups at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center via Skype, showing her dedication to Holocaust education even outside of Michigan.
Esther has had many articles published in Russian magazines highlighting a variety of topics, ranging from her experiences volunteering at the museum to continued issues of anti-Semitism. She is on the board of the Holocaust Advisory Council, helping to ensure stability of aid programs and bringing up any concerns among community members that she believes need to be addressed. Esther is a true advocate inside and out, and would never think to ask for any special recognition; her happiest moments are most simply those where has been able to help another.
H. Bill Maxey
AGE WHEN NOMINATED: 75
Bill Maxey is a community activist with a soul full of justice. After serving his country in the U.S. Air Force, he focused his passions on his home state of Michigan. In his hometown of Pontiac, Mr. Maxey is thoroughly involved. He sits on the board of the NAACP, is committed to feeding the homeless and helping fellow veterans, and still finds time to mentor local youth. Additionally, Bill has made his voice heard as a board member of the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (OLHSA) for the past 15 years. Here he plays an important role, identifying, organizing and working with ex-offenders to expunge their records, reducing the level of recidivism in his community. Bill’s presence commands respectful attention. He speaks with an even confidence that comes from a lifetime dedicated to serving others and combating injustice. He firmly believes that seniors should be leaders and role models in their community — a belief he lives daily. Mr. Maxey lives beyond himself and his community. When he sees injustice, he is a man of action. At 75 years and holding, Bill does not see age as limiting. Because of the knowledge, wisdom and resources that come from experience, he describes getting older as a “wonderful thing.” Mr. H. Bill Maxey is a model Michigander. For his giving spirit, passion for service and commitment to the city of Pontiac, he is Senior Strong.
Watch H. Bill Maxey’s IAmSeniorStrong interview HERE.