Community

Citizen of the Year: Lilo Rustmann

Lilo Rustmann - Journal photo/ Cali Bagby
Lilo Rustmann
— image credit: Journal photo/ Cali Bagby

She sells cinnamon rolls at the Senior Services’ Parking Lot Sale, scrambles eggs for the Mullis Center’s pancake breakfast, greets visitors at the Chamber of Commerce, visits with elderly at the Islands Convalescent Center and does odd jobs at the San Juan Community Theatre — all for free.

But no one can quite calculate how many hours of volunteering Lilo Rustmann has contributed to the island.

“Oh gosh, longer than I remember,” said Bonnie Sliger assistant at the Senior Services about Rustmann’s time there.

Rustmann doesn’t keep track of her hours either, she just volunteers for as long as she’s needed.

“I like to keep busy,” she said. “It’s very rewarding working with other people all the time and everyone is so nice and friendly here.”

It’s because of her motivation, dedication and optimistic attitude that the Journal of the San Juan Islands has chosen Lilo Rustmann as the 2011 Citizen of the Year.

Rustmann, 79, moved to the island in 2005 from Sacramento, Calif., and is known for her scrambled eggs at the center, which she has been cooking to perfection for about three years at their monthly pancake breakfast. It takes a special technique to cook a dozen eggs at a time, according to Georgia Baciu.

“She’s an absolute angel,” said Baciu, vice chairperson for the Mullis Center Advisory Committee. “She’s a dedicated worker — very responsible, she does more than her job and never com

plains. Everyone loves her.”

Mary Blevins, business manager at San Juan Community Theatre, has worked with Rustmann for two years and says she’s not only an excellent volunteer, but a friend as well.

Rustmann helps Blevins with general office tasks — stuffing programs in playbills on performance nights, selling tickets, ushering, making coffee, and working at the concession stand.

“She’s the first one in and the last one out,” Blevins said.

She describes Rustmann as always ready to do more work, whereas other people need convincing —  Rustman calls ahead wanting to know how she can help.

And while actors shine under the theatre’s spotlight, Rustmann is happy working behind the scenes, putting the small pieces together that help the theatre run.

“She doesn’t need the applause,” Blevins said. “She’s gratified just by doing a good job.”

After watching Rustmann’s work ethic at the theatre — Minne Knych asked Rustmann if she’d like to volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.

“She’s always willing to work and be flexible,” said Knych. “Plus she really seems to love it.”

In the summer, vacationers are met by Rustmann at the chamber’s visitors’ center. Peggy Burton said it’s a special treat for foreign visitors especially those from German speaking countries to be greeted in their native tongue — Rustmann is from Hamburg, Germany and still has an accent.

“She is one of the best volunteers I’ve worked with,” said Burton, the chamber’s communication and events coordinator. “She’s such a treasure. She’s our volunteer anchor, always at the ready.”

At the annual Christmas party for chamber members, Rustmann received a certificate of appreciation for her service to the chamber and the community.

Burton said that there was no question as to who should receive the acknowledgment.

“There are lots of volunteers that do great things, but Lilo is special,” Burton said. “Her sincerity and warmth set her apart.”

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