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Locals will be honored at annual banquet
March 24, 2017

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Two Poland residents will receive honors at the United Veterans Council of Greater Youngstown's annual Recognition and Awards Banquet Friday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Center, 4500 Norquest Blvd., Austintown.

In its 76th year, the organization will recognize Rosemary Antonucci as the Citizen of the Year and Poland Seminary High School senior Jeffrey Vrabel Jr. as Youth of the Year.

Antonucci was nominated by VFW Post 9571 and the VFW district commander.

She is a graduate of Youngstown State University and a licensed social worker in the state of Ohio. She began her career at St Elizabeth's Hospital 43 years ago and has worked on every unit of the hospital at one time or another, either as a full-time or part-time employee. She also worked as a social work consultant to Shepherd of the Valley and as an on-call social worker for Olsten Home Health Services.

In 2003, Antonucci transferred to the Community Outreach Department and became the manager of the Humility of Mary Health Partners Prescription Assistance Program, which helped un-insured individuals obtain free medications.

She is a former member of St. Elizabeth's Mission Committee and the Sojourner House Shelter Advisory Board as well as a past member of the Catholic Charities Board and the Silver Lining Cancer Fund Board. She is a founding member of the Ohio Medication Assistance Program specialists.

In 2013, Antonucci became the manager of Volunteer Services for Hospice of the Valley. She began working with the We Honor Veterans program in 2014. During 2016, she was able to really see her efforts develop by collaborating with local veteran service organizations. As a result, Hospice of the Valley has worked with approximately 25 facilities throughout Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties in Ohio as well as Lawrence and Beaver counties in Pennsylvania to recognize and honor more than 445 veterans in the past three years.

She seems to get as much out of the program as she has put into developing it, stating, "It is an honor and a privilege to spearhead the We Honor Veterans program for Hospice of the Valley. It publically affirms that it is never too late to thank veterans of all ages for the dedication, service and sacrifice they have made in defense of the nation's freedoms."

Antonucci is married with two adult sons, two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren. She resides in Poland and enjoys baking and gardening.

Vrabel was selected as the Youth of the Year, a recently included award. He was nominated by American Legion Post 15 and described as "a well-rounded young man," having interests in veteran, patriot, civic and school programs.

He has been a member of the Sons of The American Legion Mahoning Valley Squadron 15 for nearly 18 years, joining the day he was born.

During the summer of 2016, Vrabel worked on a project that got the owner of the Chick-fil-A store in Boardman to donate the flag pole from the old restaurant building to the War Memorial Building Post 15.

He also works with the coordination and execution of the annual Memorial Day parade and memorial ceremonies in Poland, which Squadron 15 sponsors. And, he participates in grave decorations in Poland, where nearly 1,500 American flags are placed at the headstones of veterans of the U.S. military.

Making visits to hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities is also a priority for him, as he enjoys seeing and talking to veterans, many of whom have become friends.

Vrabel serves on the color guard, honor guard and firing squad, in which he has contributed to 63 events / dedications and gave final honors to 27 veterans. Recently, he has increased his skills for a role in honoring veterans by learning to play "Taps" on the trumpet, so he can perform for funerals with the American Legion Post 15 as well as VFW Post 9571 of Ellsworth.

He has served as past assistant sergeant-at-arms for Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Ohio during the 2005-06 membership year.

In June 2016, Vrable had the honor to serve as a delegate at the prestigious American Legion Buckeye Boys State, which is an eight-day hands-on experience in the operation of the democratic form of government, the organization of political parties and the relationship of one to the other in shaping Ohio government. While at BBS, he was elected president of council in the BBS city of Brady in Konold County. This role emphasizes his interest in politics. He is a member of the Mahoning and Columbiana County Young Republicans organizations and has volunteered daily from August up until Election Day for President Trump's campaign as well as multiple state and local candidates by making phone calls, painting, assembling and installing signs, and knocking on doors. He was a vice co-chair of the campaign in Mahoning County and was the chair of Mahoning County Students for Trump.

At PSHS, Vrabel is a member of the Italian Honor Society and coordinated with the Spanish, French and Italian clubs, the French, Spanish and Italian honor societies, the National Honor Society and Leadership to provide a cleanup of the War Memorial Building Post 15 grounds in preparation for Memorial Day.

For the past five years, he has been involved with the Simply Slavic Heritage Festival in Youngstown that's mission is dedicated to educate both the large number of Slavic descendants and others interested in the Slavic heritage, showcasing the rich traditions of Slavic culture.

He volunteers for Special Olympics by operating the game clock at basketball games at Leonard Kirtz School in Austintown. He also has volunteered as an altar server at Saint Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church in Campbell and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church in Lowellville.

Vrabel was among students at PSHS who assisted younger students with school work in the "Big Dog, Little Dog" tutoring program.

He may not be recognized when he is in costume as "The Bulldog," Poland's mascot, at various athletic and academic activities throughout the school district as well as at other events throughout the greater Youngstown area.

The Veteran of the Year will be Ken Jakubec of Austintown, who has served on the Austintown Board of Education for 16 years from 1987 to 2003 and again from 2014 through 2018.

Has been active in the schools and community for more than 49 years. His wife, Lena, worked for the U.S. Army at Fort Myers, Arlington, Va., as well as the Pentagon, and together they have two children, Kimberly and Ken, and two grandchildren, Kaitlin and Dannah.

The social gathering will begin 6 p.m., with the dinner immediately following at 6:30 p.m. As part of the event, a veteran, citizen and youth will be recognized and presented with awards for their patriotic and civic contributions to the community during 2016.

In 1969, the United Veterans Council began recognizing important work and achievements by veterans who have affected and contributed to the veterans community. By 1971, this concept expanded to the non-veteran community for public recognition, and the youth category recently was added to acknowledge the young people in the community and encourage their efforts.

Tickets for the event can be purchased by contacting Treasurer Rod Hosler at 330-788-3270 or a participating local veterans post.

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