International Family of the Year
Wisconsin Family Is ‘Epitome of Giving’
Ron Simurdiak and his family are models of charity and Catholic values in their Wisconsin parish and community, though they never measured the impact of their actions. Still, they learned just how large an influence they exercise when their Knights of Columbus council proposed them for the Order’s International Family of the Year, which they were awarded at the Supreme Convention in Denver.
A member of the Order for 32 years, Simurdiak was surprised by the honor because he is more accustomed to giving than receiving.
“When you get an award like this it inspires you to live up to what it represents,” he said after receiving the award with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children, Joseph, John and Jenna. “It is humbling because you know there are so many other people doing more than you who will never get the recognition.”
Their pastor, Father Gerald Hagen of St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Phillips, Wis., describes them as “the epitome of a giving family.” Ron spent eight years as a Jesuit, and holds a degree in philosophy. Elizabeth has an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s in counseling. After college, both of them taught Native American children at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Ultimately, Ron decided to return to Wisconsin to take over the family farm, and today he and his family raise hay crops and operate a logging business. Ron belongs to Father John Patrick Slowey Council 2963 and his father, Joseph, has been a member for over 60 years! Ron and Elizabeth both teach CCD classes. Ron also teaches confirmation classes, serves as a lector, and is on the parish council. Elizabeth belongs to the Council of Catholic Women and is both a lector and extraordinary minister.
Their sons – 19 year old Joseph and 17 year old John – have both served as altar boys. Joseph is an Eagle Scout and attends St. Norbert’s College, where he serves as a lector. John is a high school junior who excels at sports, especially running. Nine-year old Jenna was born in China and was adopted when she was 13 months old. She received first Communion in May of last year, and is now an altar server.
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 DePaul 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 DePaul 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 DePaul 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.