Community awards: Citizen of the year |

Community awards: Citizen of the year

The Community Awards recognize the people who make our communities special.

The Nevada Appeal solicited nominations for the awards during May, and a panel of readers chose three finalists and the winner in each of the 12 categories.

The awards banquet is at the Carson Nugget from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. today.

First lady Dawn Gibbons and Appeal Publisher John DiMambro will present the awards to the winner in each of the categories.

Today, we feature the finalists in the category for Citizen of the Year Award.

Darline Harper and Rose Stieha

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At 81 and 72, respectively, Darline Harper and Rose Stieha would hardly be faulted if they missed a beat now and then.

But they never do.

The women, both long-time residents of Carson City, are committed to helping seniors lead active, healthy lives. In addition to volunteering with a variety of organizations, they have been teaching an Aquacize class at the city aquatic facility for close to 15 years.

“We depend on them,” said Jeri Edwards, who has been attending the class for several years. “We’re so happy they’re there for us.”

The women lead the class every weekday morning, and, according to Edwards, are nothing if not reliable. “They’re there all the time,” she said. “If one isn’t there, the other is.”

In addition to assisting seniors remain fit, the women also try to ensure their students have active social lives.

“They make it possible for us to be alive again,” said Edwards. “They make it possible for these people to be involved with other people their age.”

“We got started in the Aquacize because we wanted to save the program,” said Harper. “We thought that there was a danger of it falling apart, and the lady who was doing it could no longer do it.”

“Some of these people really can’t afford to pay even a dollar a class,” said Stieha, explaining their decision to volunteer.

The class, she says, is mostly women, many in their 80s and 90s.

“There are a few brave men who come,” she added.

Both women also volunteer at the city’s senior citizens center, and Carson Tahoe Cancer and Rehabilitation centers.

Harper is a retired florist. Her late husband, Jim, worked for the highway department. Stieha has lived in Carson City with her husband, Ken, for 37 years. He attends all of the Aquacize classes with his wife.

John Tatro

Judge John Tatro was appointed to the Carson City Justice Court in 1995 and has been retained by the people of Carson City ever since.

“He’s been my partner now for 12 years,” said Judge Robey Willis, who has been a judge for almost 24 years.

Willis said Tatro is “a very hard worker,” not only in the courts, but in the community.

“He really cares about the people he deals with,” he said, adding that Tatro’s wife, Kathy, is also very active in the community.

“She’s a person that sleeps about five hours a night and then just jumps straight up and starts working on projects,” he said. “Both she and John are just very community involved.”

Tatro is past president and serves on the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Club, past president of the Rotary Club, a member of Partnership Carson City and a member of the Homeless Coalition.

His community involvement, Tatro says, is a natural part of his work.

“Being a judge, I see all the different problems and unfortunate things that people go through,” Tatro said. “Without people volunteering, they’d never get help.”

From child neglect to domestic violence, Tatro says, he is reminded daily of the many problems that face city residents.

“I’m so aware that it’s happening that I feel like I have to volunteer,” he said.

And volunteerism is a responsibility that everyone in the community should share, according to Tatro.

“If everybody did, the world would be a better place and Carson City would be a better place.” he said. “Although I think Carson City’s a great place.”

Tatro was voted Judge of the Year in 2003 by the Nevada Judge’s Association.

He attended Boise State University and has attended numerous classes at judicial college. He has nine brothers and sisters, many of whom are in Carson City.

The Tatros have three children: Don, 25; Adriene, 21; and Nick, 16.

Chris Bayer

When Chris Bayer isn’t working at Court Appointed Special Advocates to help children, he’s volunteering to the same end.

As director of CASA, Bayer acts as an advocate in the court system for children who were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

But Bayer is more than the director, he’s the reason the organization exits, according to Monte Fast, executive director of Friends In Service Helping.

“If it weren’t for him we wouldn’t even have it,” said Fast. “The judges are really becoming dependent upon the CASA people. It’s just a critical need.”

Fast has known Bayer 10 years and met him because FISH regularly makes use of CASA volunteers.

“Chris is a long-time servant of this community,” said Fast. “He has done more than almost anyone I know.”

Bayer, however, says there are many committed volunteers in the community, including the 23 volunteers he oversees at CASA.

“They’re not paid staff and they are the ones that truly donate time.”

In addition to his work with CASA, which began several years ago when he was one of the program’s volunteers, Bayer is also an artist and musician. From directing plays at the Brewery Arts Center to playing his fiddle at local dances, he is a familiar face in the arts community and often uses his talents to raise money for charity.

“I’ve been a musician for many years, and I guess I don’t see it as unrelated,” said Bayer. “I think that music and the arts in general are just a fundamental thing that happens between people in healthy communities.”

His wife, Darla, is the coordinator for the Brewery Arts Center television station. They have a 14-year-old daughter, Danita.

“I can’t emphasize enough how selfless he is,” said Fast. “The CASA volunteers think the sun rises and sets on him, and it does.”