101-year-old New Yorker awarded for encouraging people to vote

North Country

Senator Ritchie is pictured in the above photo with Thelma Koelmel and her family (photo: Senator Patty Ritchie’s office)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — A Watertown resident is being recognized by the state for her recent civic engagement. Thema Koelmel, 101, was awarded on Thursday with the New York State Senate Commendation Award. This for inspiring people to vote.

She was born one year before the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote for the first time in U.S. history in 1919, was ratified. Koelmel has been voting for over eight decades. The first presidential election she voted in was in 1950, when Franklin D. Roosevelt faced Wendell Willkie.

According to Sen. Patty Ritchie, who presented the award, Koelmel was highlighted in 2020 for heading to the polls in person to vote in the presidential election. She applauded Koelmel’s civic engagement and her leadership in the North Country community.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and a right that many fought hard to attain,” Senator Ritchie stated in a press release. “While many people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to vote, it is truly amazing that at 101 years-old Thelma Koelmel has continued to do so. It is my honor to present her with the Senate’s Commendation Award and I would like to thank her for inspiring so many others to be civically engaged.”

The New York State Commendation Award recognizes exceptional individuals who contribute to their community. Award recipients are noted for devoting their personal time, energy, creativity and expertise to others.

Past recipients of the award included a North Country Navy veteran who made over 100 masks for frontline workers and a Watertown family who organized food pantries during the coronavirus pandemic.

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