Three who make ‘our community a better place to live’

Lon Cole turns the struggle with Alzheimer’s into poetry. Kirk Larson shines light on Social Security. And Linda McCone gives a shoulder to lean on for caregivers.

Pierce County Human Services – Aging and Disability Resources (ADR) honored the three individuals on behalf of older adults and disabled persons during ADR’s appreciation event Dec. 19. They were nominated and picked for recognition based on their long-term commitment to service and advocacy. 

“Many people make our community a better place to live,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Aging and Disability Resources. “Recognition of hard work is important and we are delighted to have the opportunity to recognize the contributions of three wonderful.”

  • Lon Cole was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. He was inspired to write poems about his struggles and has published two books about living with Alzheimer’s — â€œAlive and Thankful, Life is a Gift” and “You’re Never Alone.”  The books offer support to individuals coping with Alzheimer’s, as well as their caregivers, families and friends. 

His poetry offers insight about the Alzheimer’s journey, the ways he says Alzheimer’s has made him a better man, and how the disease forces people to take it one day at a time. 

Cole gives his time and energy to community groups throughout the Puget Sound area and is active with the Alzheimer’s Association. 

  • Kirk Larson is the Alaska/Washington public affairs representative for the Social Security Administration. With over 25 years of experience with Social Security, he actively shares his knowledge of program benefits. That includes time with Aging and Disability Resources providing presentations. After each presentation, he holds court, talking with attendees who queue up with questions to ask.

Many people who have heard Larson speak have heeded his wisdom to increase their benefits so that their retirement years are more secure, or have accessed needed benefits because of disabilities that have arisen or chronic conditions that will soon lead to an inability to work.  In addition, Pierce County case managers call him directly to solve some of the more convoluted situations. 

  • Linda McCone is a program director for Lutheran Community Services Northwest. She has responsibility for the Caregivers and Senior Friends programs and oversees the Early Stage Memory Program, Zoo Walks and three Memory Cafes. She also teaches and trains church leaders in Support U: Fostering Caregiver Wellness classes. In 2017, she began a new Senior Friends program. And she is taking a lead role in discussions of dementia-friendly communities.

Prior her current duties, McCone was a volunteer for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and an Alzheimer’s support group. 

At the December awards event, Aging and Disability Resources also honored Bonnie Gill,

who is retiring from the agency’s Advisory Board after eight years of service.