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Honoring Excellence


Columbia Staff

Ronald and Elizabeth Simurdiak of Father John Patrick Slowey Council 2963 in Phillips, Wis., and their family were named the Order’s 2011 International Family of the Year.

At the annual Supreme Knight’s Award Session in Denver Aug. 3, awards were given for achievements in various categories, including membership recruitment, insurance and exemplary practice of the Order’s principles in council activities. Here is a brief account of some of the awards and recipients.


Ron Simurdiak and his family are models of charity and Catholic values in their Wisconsin parish and community. Ron belongs to Father John Patrick Slowey Council 2963 in Phillips, and his father, Joseph, has been a member for more than 60 years. Ron and his wife, Elizabeth, both teach religious education classes.

Their son Joseph, 19, attends St. Norbert’s College in De Pere, and their son John, 17, is a high school junior. Their daughter Jenna, 9, was born in China and was adopted when she was 13 months old.

The entire family participates in Knights of Columbus activities, including the annual candy drive for persons with disabilities, pancake breakfasts and fish fry dinners. In 2005, Ron was elected president of the newly established St. Vincent De Paul Society in Price County. And the following year he was one of four Knights who provided collateral for the purchase of a former furniture store building to start a St. Vincent De Paul thrift store. The family literally “bet the farm” — taking a mortgage on their land to help fund the purchase. Proceeds from the store have enabled them to help 11 needy families with rent, utilities and prescription medicines. And last year, they launched a new St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry, which distributed nearly 5,000 pounds of food to 182 needy families in December alone.

Now as Knights of Columbus Family of the Year recipients, the Simurdiaks hope to bring the message of faith, hope and charity to others.


Stella Maris Council 4265 in Fort San Felipe, Luzon, assisted in building a shrine dedicated to Blessed John Paul II in order to strengthen the faith of the local community. The shrine honors John Paul II’s 1981 visit to the Philippines and his role in giving hope and encouragement to thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees.

Council members, along with their pastor and bishop, raised funds for the project by soliciting materials or monetary donations and by organizing a “Walk for Pope John Paul II” fundraiser.

Construction, led by council members, began Feb. 2 and finished with a dedication May 2 — one day after Blessed John Paul’s beatification in Vatican City. Thirty-five Knights volunteered 9,800 hours to the project.


A Quebec council raised more than $100,000 to purchase a handicapped-accessible van for Les Amirams de la Vallée, an organization that transports people with disabilities to educational, cultural and sporting activities, as well as respite care.

Along with volunteers from Amirams, 180 members of Des Lacs Council 10048 in Lac au Saumon, Quebec, volunteered more than 2,300 hours to raise the funds needed to purchase the van. The new vehicle, emblazoned with the emblem of the Order, replaced an out-of-service van and now provides transportation for children and adults to educational, cultural and sporting activities, as well as respite care.

In addition to offering safe transportation, the van provides a permanent job to a driver and greater autonomy to the clients of Amirams.


When education officials approached a North Dakota council to ask for help raising funds for a new elementary school, Knights donated $100,000 to the project.

In turn, Wahpeton Council 2205 was allotted a room in the school — designed by council members — that could be used for gatherings and activities. The Knights contributed an additional $60,000 for materials and furnishings. An image of Father McGivney and the council’s charter are now displayed permanently in the finished meeting room, which features a large conference table, leather conference chairs embossed with the emblem of the Order and modern A/V equipment.


Islands Council 10579 in Savannah, Ga., solicited the help of parishioners at St. Peter the Apostle Church to collect baby and childcare supplies for a U.S. military clinic serving civilians in Afghanistan. Through a local contact, Capt. Kim Phillips, a doctor assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Afghanistan, requested supplies to help care for sick and injured children.

The response included enough clothing, shoes, toys, stuffed animals, baby lotion, plastic wrap, and other baby and childcare items to fill more than 100 individual packages. Knights coordinated with the U.S. National Guard to ship the packages to Capt. Phillips in Afghanistan.


This year, a Washington council obtained a box truck outfitted with a pro-life billboard that was visible at 40 Days for Life, pro-life marches, Planned Parenthood demonstrations and other high-visibility events.

Kennewick Council 8179 has a strong history of pro-life service. Knights host a biannual pro-life conference, coordinate trips to the state capitol for the annual march for life there, participate in 40 Days for Life and conduct monthly pro-life educational seminars. They also sponsor billboards and advertisements on Catholic radio stations.

The council’s most recent endeavor — the pro-life box truck — was a dominant sight at the pro-life march between St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the soccer field at St. Joseph School, where Knights staked more than 500 white crosses as a tribute to lives lost to abortion.


St. Mary Council 4458 in Derby, Kan., contributed 475 hours each month to host activities for the youth of its parish and community, providing a series of healthful activities while promoting a positive attitude toward the Knights of Columbus goals of charity and family values.

Knights held activities like a parish family golf tournament, a “Knights vs. Teens” softball game and cookout, a soccer challenge, a fishing derby (including clean-up of the area around the pond), a Christmas celebration, a free throw championship, a movie night, a vocations poster contest, an Easter egg hunt, a parochial school picnic, and a day camp for children with special needs.

Through these activities, the council kept the young people and their families engaged throughout the year, dramatically increasing the visibility of the council and generating significant goodwill in the community.


Marc G. Bouchard of Alberta, Canada, was the number-one general agent. He finished the year at 196 percent of quota with a volume per member of $15,532. His total gross volume was $262,429,000.

Kevin G. Pfeifer of Nebraska was the number-two general agent, finishing the year at 179 percent of quota with a volume per member of $11,194. His total gross volume was $176,867,000.


Marvin J. Doerhoff of the Rackers Agency in Missouri was the number-one field agent in 2010. Doerhoff met 544 percent of his quota with a volume per member of $17,361 and a total gross volume of $19,080,000.

Neil S. Bouvier of the Marc Bouchard Agency in Alberta, Canada, was the number-two field agent in 2010. Bouvier met 427 percent of his quota with a volume per member of $17,662 and a total gross volume of $16,232,000.