Embarrassed. That’s what Marilynn and Ken Pysher said they felt when learning they’d been selected as the Lions Club Citizens of the Year. They told Dr. Frank Adipietro, who chairs the selection committee, they didn’t want the attention.
But he convinced them such honors are about encouraging volunteerism in others and they finally agreed. “The emphasis should be on volunteerism, not on us,” Mr. Pysher said. On May 26, they will be celebrated at a dinner at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club.
“The Lions do so much,” Ms. Pysher said about why she and her husband joined the organization. “We are both very proud to be Lions.”
For Ms. Pysher, who had grown up as an “Air Force brat,” with her father’s military assignments demanding constant moves, Shelter Island was the first place she felt a real sense of community.
Mr. Pysher grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, but his love of fishing had brought him to Shelter Island many times. The couple bought their Silver Beach house in 1987 and became full-time residents here in 1994. Both were educators — he in math and science and she as an art teacher.
Mr. Pysher went on to work for IBM, while Ms. Pysher became a corporate executive vice president at Drake Beam Morin, a human resources consulting company, at the time the largest such company in the world.
As fulfilling as their careers were, they didn’t slow down in retirement.
Ms. Pysher joined Penny and John Kerr, volunteering to make sandwiches for homeless guests who spent winter nights at Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead. With the help of Alan Kraus, she launched the local chapter of Communities That Care, a data-based drug and alcohol abuse prevention program for students in grades 8 through 12. She ran the program for nine years. Each year, Ms. Pysher organized a graduation tea for senior girls in the program to bring them together with previous graduates who could share their experiences of college and offer some words of advice and caution about pressures the seniors could face. Ms. Pysher reasoned that adults would be less effective in imparting the same wisdom that would be more readily heard when spoken by the former graduates.
School District Clerk Jacki Dunning continues the teas.
Ms. Pysher served on the Board of Education for a term, leaving to take on other challenges, saying she felt her interests could be channeled in other directions. Her legacy for those years was in lobbying Town Board members to hire a part-time social worker to assist with needs she knew existed on the Island. There was a lot of skepticism, but it finally happened, and today Lucille Buergers fills that role.
Ms. Pysher has offered workshops on adjusting to becoming empty nesters; transitioning to retirement years; selecting the right life partner; and in 2018, through Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, launching Suddenly Alone, a workshop on becoming a widow or widower and being prepared for that transition. She also worked with Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli to form the Friendly Visitors program as an outreach to seniors living alone. Along with social studies teacher Peter Miedema, who helped to form the Lions Leo Club — the student affiliate of the Lions Clubs — and is on the Shelter Island Educational Foundation Grants Committee.
Ms. Pysher also runs a book club every three months to discuss nonfiction books and spark lively conversations among members.
Mr. Pysher serves on the Silver Beach Association Board and, while not a church member, has served on the Presbyterian Church Building and Grounds Committee and was instrumental in efforts to solve a serious nitrate problem in the drinking water at the church.
He’s an active member of the Town’s Water Advisory Committee and was active with Friends of Music and the Community Housing Board at its inception. He served on the Board of All For the East End, helping to secure grants for Shelter Island organizations. The aim was to mobilize assets to enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods.
Mr. Pysher was also among the original members of the library’s movie group, purchasing and installing equipment and participating in the selection of movies for bi-monthly showings.
Today the Pyshers are constantly involved with the Island’s seniors, with Ms. Pysher joking about the fact that both are in that age group, but still talk about “them” as a group of people outside of their age group.
Mr. Pysher drives seniors to medical appointments and the IGA to shop.
“He never says ‘no’,” Ms. Pysher said about her husband’s response to a request to help.
Similarly, Ms. Pysher makes regular calls to seniors to check on their well-being. “You need something to get you out of bed in the morning,” Ms. Pysher said about their ongoing efforts to help others.
Tickets for the Lions Club dinner, which begins at 6 p.m. on May 26, are available on the Shelter Island Lions Club website at shelterislandlions.org.Concerned about rising COVID numbers, the Lions Club will issue a full refund to anyone who may have purchased dinner tickets but now is not comfortable attending. However, GBCC officials have said outdoor seating on its covered porch can be provided for those who may prefer that to the indoor seating.