Tuesday, May 2, 2023


WCCOA Announces 2023 Poetry Contest Winners

The Wood County Committee on Aging (WCCOA) would like to announce the winner for the 18th Annual Poetry Contest. Submissions were accepted from Wood County residents 50 years of age and over, with a theme of “Loss and Gain”. A total of 31 poems from 21 authors were submitted, and a BGSU writing professor read the poems and selected a winner and an honorable mention.

 Karen Wood from Bowling Green received first place with her poem entitled “Manual for Life” winning a $100.00 gift card sponsored by Bowling Green Manor.

 Karen has only written two poems, and has not previously entered the WCCOA poetry contest. The other poem she wrote was for a contest in Toledo. Her other poem focused on the importance of community gardens in urban settings. She wrote her poem specifically for the poetry contest, wishing to convey the loss and gain playbook of our lives. When speaking about winning the contest, Karen said, “This is only the second poem I have ever written. The first one is etched in the cement in a park.” Who knew this one would be a winner too.”

 Honorable Mention was awarded to Scott Regan with the poem “An Ode to Sacandaga”.  Congratulations to Karen and Scott and thank you to everyone that participated in this year’s contest. We received many fantastic entries and look forward to more next year.

A note from our judge, a BGSU Writing Professor on the winning poem: 

1st Place: “Manual for Life” 

As its title portends, the winning poem reads as lyric instructions for operating one’s life. Through cascading indented lines reflecting the outward-to-inward shift in perspective that accompanies aging, the poem imparts much insight to the reader: the wisdom each of us might have benefitted from sooner; the revelations that come to those fortunate enough to see their life span beyond middle-age; and essential directives for navigating the inescapable losses accompanying life’s gains. 

Winning Poem for 2023 

Manual For Life


Karen Wood, Bowling Green, Ohio  

When You’re Young, No One Tells You To

     Start a 401(k) ASAP, or

          Major in something you love, or

               Not hold grudges or make enemies, or

                      Say I Love You to your grandparents twice a day, or

                            Always have 5 bucks in your pocket for the unhoused guy, or

                                  Know the good life is not a boat or diamond ring or Gucci.


And When You’re Old, You Figure Out That

                                   AARP magazine is going to come on your 50th birthday, and

                             The first thing you do each day is read the obituaries, and

                       Time goes really, really fast and there is no slowing it down, and

                   Losing friends and loved ones never, ever gets any easier, and

             The young do not want to hear that you walked uphill in the snow to school, and

       Doctor appointments take up more and more space in your daily calendar.


If only we were issued instructions at birth that told us

      Be Bold

            Love Fiercely

                  Stay Strong

And that even though we might lose our friends and loved ones and money and

    maybe our minds and eventually our very lives,

          If we do it right, and with a lot of luck, and a little help from our friends,

                We may have everything we need.  And that’s all that matters in the end.

Honorable Mention 

An Ode to Sacandaga


Scott Regan from Bowling Green, Ohio  



A hairpin turn off the lumber trucking highway leads down a magic trail.

Past becomes present as cabins compete with forest and granites along the shore.

Campers mingle with residents: chipmunks and squirrels, eagles and loons.

Morning mist rises over the ever-peaceful lake.

A paddleboarder and a family of ducklings sail by in silence.

Morning sun brings walkers and joggers battling the gnats that surround the fields.

Laundry chores compete with unread chapters to engulf the morning hours

until, slowly, inflatable dolphins carry towels and treats to the beach.

Children rediscover the joy of wet toes in the sand, rebuilding castles of their dreams.

Grown ups, armed with fly swatters, lose themselves in racy novels, and with the endless task of solving the mysteries of the world.

Evening falls early in the mountains and wine, food, and flashlight-tag frame the day.

But the new day will no longer dawn.

              Let the school bell toll one last time.

              Sacandaga summers have passed but the memories remain.


 Loss and Gain


Lisa C. Chavers


Envision a life with no losses and gains.

What would become of our celebrations, deep griefs, and pains?

What if we could obliterate perpetual losses or endless gains?

Our existence might be imbalanced, or, some might say, “insane.”

Together they make us stronger, and shift our perspectives for sure.

Both may cause us to pray and ask the Lord for grace to endure.

Losses could cultivate a spirit of patience, deep within our souls.

Gains can create a spirit of gratitude that may never grow old.

Losses and gains flavor our lives, and stretch our human souls.

And prompt us to set balanced, tenacious, and flexible goals.

A life without losses or gains is, quite frankly, unrealistic.

These two elements help produce a journey that is wholistic.

                                                                      Gain and Loss


Tessa Sworden


With age There is growth.

We All have experienced pain

And Loss.

But; yet; we have gained the

Ability to Fully experience

Joy; Love; Friendship.

Good Health is our Friend.

Moreso when we survive illness.

So; my Fellow Life Travelers

Embrace sorrow and Loss.

For with it comes Joy and Full

Appreciation of our Families and

Friends still with us.

Exude the pure exileration of

Being Alive and well.  We are

All aware of how This Life ends so;

Experience Loss and Gain as


As Fellow Travelers in our Journey.


My spirit says,

This is My Life; My Time.






Donald F. Czerniak


From the day I was born,

Someone has been giving me orders:

My parents, priests, nuns, and teachers.

Then it was the Air Force for four years.

Afterwards, the tech school instructors,

And finally from management where I worked.

I married at forty-six and stayed married,

Until my wife passed away after I retired.

For the first time in my life I lived alone,

Without taking orders off anyone.

It was great after being ordered around

After seventy-two years of being

Browbeaten into submission.

So I finally got freedom as an elderly man.

It is wonderful and beautiful, too.




Donald F. Czerniak


After my wife passed away,

For a while I felt so alone,

But gradually I made

New friends who filled

The void of emptiness.

Now I am no longer alone,

Seeing my friends and talking

To them quite often,

Good for my mental health.




Pattie Brown


The innocence I once knew

has been replaced with


I believe change is coming.

I now see a brighter future.

Judgement will be replaced

with tolerance and objectivity.

Kindness will become contagious.

Faith will strengthen our trust

and confidence.

Hope will make things happen.

Love will be the glue that

endures and unites us all.




Pattie Brown


Aging is not for sissies

We only lose when we

cling to the past.

Pain is unavoidable,

suffering is optional.


We deserve our own love

and affection.

Shaping our thoughts

with compassion and

forgiveness will brighten

our path.




Marshall J. Ducat









                                                           Ode to Decomposers


Lee Meserve


Even when they’ve died and they’ve fallen down

And they’re layin’ there on the brown cold ground

Dead trees still have a function I suppose

‘Cause decomposers gotta have sumthinta decompose.


Fungi and mosses and ferns and vines

Semi-botanical things of many kinds

Depend on those dead trees I suppose

Because decomposers gotta have sumthinta …

(wait for it) ….. DE … COM … POSE!!

                                                     IT’S ONLY A NUMBER


Lee Meserve


When young I thought one was old at eighty.

As I approach that number the years aren’t that weighty.

I still walk a lot

To minimize brain rot

And enjoy days with my 55 year matey.

Since retiring Marge and I have travelled lots.

Out west and European spots.

A Seine riverboat cruise

Was the first Marge did choose,

And we stay flexible by doing some squats!!

In the words of my sainted mother

“Keep putting one foot in front of the other!”

Enjoy every day

With some work and some play,

And something new try to discover.

So remember IT’S ONLY A NUMBER!

Do something new, learn how to rumba!

Enjoy all your days

In old and new ways,

And don’t let that number your joy of life encumber!


Camera Happiness


Barbara Gould


There once was a Puffin

Who sat on a hill

But for me to shoot

He had to stay still


There was a twinkle in his eye

As people admired this quiet guy

It seemed to pose, so time to try

Till a glistening fish swam by

Flew off for lunch with no good-by


But always the Puffin will be

there in my minds eye


The Cost of Loss


Frank W. Day


What is the cost of loss so black?

When the days seem dark not shining.

Where the parks and fun and sun now slack.

The sparkle gone, the laughter not driving.


When does the sun rise again in the east?

When do the stars and moon return to the sky?

Where does the pain come from? The beast!

Eyes red, body sapped, hurtful cry.


Time passes and I laughed today inside.

I walked the morning forest glen.

The bed now slept in dreams a better ride.

Is this a glimmer of hopeful when?


Now I think of good things time past.

The bad recedes from last year’s river course.

Yet loss rebounds but less a blast.

The sun shines more, the moon and stars now a force.


The Songs Became Silent


Frank W. Day

The songs became silent.

With time I heard them once again.


My Time


Carol Kinsey


It’s time

There were other times it was time

Marry, leave the religion of my youth, have babies, move to new places, move to new thinking,

find others to seek with, cut a path to better

Life holds us in its grip along the way, not clear in the moment where going

But time tells

It really does

Has brought more and more clarity

The delights, the losses,

the questionable decisions, the absolutely unquestionable decisions

All woven into my story

It’s the right time to take it all in and say

Here it is – full, flawed, fabulous, mine

It’s been about time for awhile.


Fog Days


Betty Winslow


Grief, like fog, wraps round my heart

And make it hard for me to see

Or safely walk.

Take my hand, O Lord!

Lead me through the densely opaque clouds

That fill my days

And chill and dampen me

Clear to the bone.

Cling to me, O Lord,

For my numb fingers

Cannot tell

Whether You are there or I’m alone.

Don’t let me go or I will wander

Too near the abyss that yawns

Below my grief and waits for me.

You are my hope.

Eventually we will find

The light of day,

But don’t let go, O Lord.

Don’t let me walk alone.


The Captain Sails with Me


Betty Winslow


My timber’s weak, yet I do not fear,

For the Captain sails with me,

And we will weather any storm

Over any kind of sea.

So, when circumstances darken

And begin to overwhelm,

I just hold onto the fact

That it is Jesus at the helm.


Though I sometimes long for harbor

When I hear the snapping sail,

And mt decks and masts cry protest

As they battle through the gale,

My heart rests in the knowledge

That soon the storm will cease

And the winds will die (and so will I)

And my ship will dock in peace.




Shirley M. Kingsley



We may have aches and pains

Yet all our years are golden

Still it seems it is our bladders we are a hold’en

We may walk slow take our time

Got there faster in our prime

Arrive at our destinations so very proud

May be the last one there but still welcomed by the crowd

We may say what more often to our peers

They understand because they also have bad ears

We laugh more often this is true

Keep others laughing whatever you do

Our journey has been long still more ahead

Enjoy each day and keep taking your meds




Shirley M. Kingsley



When we are born

We’re very small you know

Then before long

We began to grow


Childhood moves

Kind of slow

If we could look ahead

We wouldn’t think so


You turn sixteen

Learn how to drive

Wow you feel

Like you’re really alive


The next thing

You’re a big twentyone

We are adults now

We can have lots of fun


Where did thirty years go

It went so very fast

It’s behind us now

I knew it wouldn’t last


Forty and Fifty retirement

Is not far away

No way can

We keep it at bay


It’s not all that

Big of a deal

As we soon will be

Getting Meals on Wheels



Time is All We Have


Pam Day



Careers close as offspring fly

Bodies betray and losses multiply


Death suddenly snatches away

A child…a spouse…a friend


Terrible losses that gray hair brings

Alongside solace in newer things


Yearnings for life to slow down

Now granted, ahhhhh…just breathe


Breathe freedom of spontaneous

Smell-the-roses garden strolls


Park yourself beside friends

Share memories, make new ones


Experience talents unexplored

Nurture faith…question everything


Risk it all…for all we have left is time




Dru Cunningham

I stand in amazement

When I look around,

Could it be that I’m standing

Upon holy ground?

Ground that provides both food and care

For everything living. . .

If we only will share


But change makes a difference,

We must decide.

Should we enjoy walking,

Or just step aside?

We live in a place where fine people abound,

Caring, sharing so much good to be found!


We must count the cost. . .

What could be lost?

To think with our heart

Is the best place to start.

If a change will take away joy in a life,

Should we be a maker of loss or strife?

What do we care about. . .

To give our all?

Should we stand up now

Or just watch the wrecking ball?


We must think of what’s best,

The good for all. . .

With eyes wide open,

We must make that call!

The past must be saved,

But we learn more each day;

We will know our next step


If we let Love show the way.





Sharon Bronsink



In the quiet of the night

You said “I’m too old for you”

I have heard that phrase before

To me it wasn’t new

To me you are so special

Age doesn’t mean a thing

You still have the gift of eternal youth

With all the joys it brings

You always have a cheerful word

A smile upon your face

A cloud of joy engulfs you

Your world is a happy place

The time we’ve spent upon this earth

Began the day we met

Everything before that day

Was you and not us

If my age bothers you

Yours doesn’t bother me

I’m proud to be with you

For all the world to see




Sharon Bronsink



You saw to it that we did things right.

Our values and goals we learned.

Because you set our sights

In the right direction early in life.

Now we are mothers same as you.

Often, I wonder.

Do my children feel about me as I do about you?

Your once golden curls are now a silver crown.

The years have been kind.

They’ve not let you down.

Mom, we all love you.

I hope that you know.

It’s just sometimes,

We forget to tell you


Loss and Gain


Lisa C. Chavers



Losses and gains can make us vulnerable in a way.

At least, that is what ancient and contemporary philosophers say.

Whether you are un-noticed or notorious:

You may be vulnerable, yet victorious.

Throughout the seasons of this experience that we call life,

Personal, financial, social losses or gains can run rife.

Despite gains and losses, choose to be content!

‘Cause they don’t determine what makes you significant!

Significance is larger than the things we experience.

The true source of significance is not so mysterious.

Losses or gains may seem like uninvited trouble.

They remind us that we don’t live in a bubble.

The rhythm of life includes losses and gains,

recognition, rewards, plus struggles and pains.




Karen Witte

Sometimes one person’s loss is another

person’s gain.  In spite of all the sorrow,

suffering and pain.

Losing may seem very hard in life or in a

game.  But if one bears it bravely, he is a

winner just the same.

He will gain persistence, faith, hope and

Strength, that conquers fear.  He will gain

the will to carry on no matter what the cost.

These qualities of heart and mind are never

to be lost.  The things we lose seem quite

small, for they are of the earth. The things

we gain, are priceless for they are heaven’s



In His Hands


Marty Almanson-Reffner



As I progress to “sunset years”

And journey on through life,

I’m more aware, as time goes on,

That there’s both joy and strife.

One can’t assume that every day

Will be a bed of ease.

We truly can’t expect that we

Will get just what we please.

You may be in a season

Filled with heartache, loss and grief.

You may begin to wonder

Will there ever be relief?

Just when we think our days are filled

With sadness, gloom and rain,

The Lord can turn around our “loss”

And change it for our “gain.”

So if we trust our Father

Right through the ups and downs,

We’ll find that in the valley

His awesome love abounds!


My Child


Robbin Click



As seasons change, so do we

Like the leaves that fall from the autumn trees.

As the sun comes up, it must go down

It warms us up and cools us down.

As youth we grow

With that comes knowledge

Of what we know

We have family and friends

Who come and go

How long they stay

We do not know

We lose patience

We lose sleep

But we have memories

That we can keep

Like grapes, we wrinkle

And age like fine wine

Just as we lose daylight

We also, lose time.


Gain and Loss


Dorothy Ellis



As life unfolds with happenings,

Gains and losses we’ll call them.


Do we gain from loss or lose from gain?

Only you can answer that question.


As for me, I’ve gained from both.

Let me tell you how it happened


I’ve learned to be thankful for all that I have,

Not letting my joy to be dampened.


In the process I’ve matured in life

accepting each day as it comes.


Looking for good in others as well

Keeps negativity on the run.


Live your life with gain and loss,

There is no other way.


Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not here.

You only have today.




Barbara Gould


Sitting on top of the world

and everything is going fine

When “plop” a loss drops into our laps

And suddenly its a downward line


This can be deterred by us

But it takes guts and will

Look at the better side, don’t cuss

Time to take an attitude pill


That attitude pill is a smile

Sometimes its not easy

The road may seem a mile

The effort may not seem breezy


Actually you even gain

friends who help to ease the pain

Keep on walking in the rain

The sun will shine once again


Look back at what you’ve done

You may gain, as its just begun

You can gain joy and peace

Those hidden songs will release

Songs of strength and the bad news will cease

Keep looking and your gain will increase


Infinite Gain


Martha “Marty” Hogle


When I arrived on this earth

Was my destination determined from birth?

Will my life be counted a loss or a gain

No need to achieve great fortune or fame

Only footsteps to follow in your family name

I will stay on a pathway of virtue and trust

Choose good friends not money when I must

Good friends will be there, in good times or bad

Money will be gone, with you feeling sad

The loss of your earnings will be a tough blow

The loss in the stock market will fall and rise

But the loss of a friend will break all ties

It will pain you forever, the hurt will remain

Good friends you should try hard to sustain

When you lose your health, for long term or brief

When good health returns it’s such a relief

When you lose your keys or a valuable item

They are only misplaced, no need for nerves to heighten

If your garden crop is not the best

You may need more sunshine, rain or rest

When did you pray last thanking God for all He has given

For friends and family and all things living

What a great gain what have I enjoyed most

No losses I can count, of the gains I’ve had I will boast



Grandma’s Tears


Martha “Marty” Hogle


There is a tear flowing down her wrinkled cheek

It is staining her face, it’s a heart filled leak

Those cloudy blue eyes now filled with pain

She is the “Rock” of our family What caused her such strain

What caused these precious eyelids to flicker and flow?

Was it something I did or said, I don’t know.

Or my unspoken word, or no place to go.

Just a few minutes of my time would that have been enough?

To have made her less lonely and her life not so rough

How much I love her, yes those tears told so much

I long for her hugs and kisses and her gentle touch

Was our last conversation filled with anger and remorse?

Was I thinking of my feeling and plans, of course

The theft of that visit and our precious time

Was the theft of the moment and truly a crime?

Can I ever give back what was wrongfully taken

Can I now dry those tears or is my heart forever shaken

Will she be able to forgive my insensitive actions, I hope

Now I have sustained a great loss and I must cope

Can I dry her tears with love and kisses

Or it’s only my time and visits that she really misses

Grandma’s tears will soon vanish

But her special love you can not banish

Grandma’s tears are now in the past

And her hand was so cold when I held it last

Her joyfilled eyes were not to be seen

I waited too long now wasn’t that mean

Such a great loss what did my absence gain

Precious moments together all wasted in vain