Joe Zdenek of Rock Hill says people most likely know him as the wheeler dealer the guy peddling tickets to fundraising events for the nonprofits and charities he supports.
Zdenek has found his way to those organizations, which include Pilgrims Inn womens shelter, the Museum of York County and the Sierra Club, mostly by answering their calls for help, he said.
Now that giving spirit has earned him a distinguished honor.
Tuesday, Zdenek, 81, will be one of three recipients of the 2012 Keepers of the Culture award from York Countys Culture and Heritage Museums, which include Historic Brattonsville in McConnells, the McCelvey Center in York, and the Main Street Childrens Museum and Museum of York County in Rock Hill.
Nominated by the community and selected by past winners and museum leaders, Keepers are community members who have illustrated a deep commitment to culture through their work, community service, teaching, research, advocacy, patronage, performing, visual or literary arts, or commitment to conservation and preservation.
A ceremony honoring the recipients will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the McCelvey Center. Nashville musician and Grammy-winning songwriter Darrell Scott will perform.
Other Keepers of the Culture recipients include Pat Veasey of Rock Hill, who is honored for her longstanding commitment to local history and education.
An historical researcher, scholar and periodic guest curator for the museums, Veasey served as director of education and programs at Brattonsville for 12 years before retiring in 2002. Since then she has continued her research and has shared her work through articles, workshops and symposia.
Allan Miller, radio personality and co-owner of Our Three Sons Broadcasting, is being honored for his service to community organizations, including serving on the board of directors for Rock Hills Come-See-Me and ChristmasVille festivals and the Culture and Heritage Commission.
Miller is in the South Carolina Broadcasters Hall of Fame and was the 2011 Rock Hill Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year.
These are people who have really contributed over the years, said Carey Tilley, the museums new director since March. I have been impressed with their resumes and what theyve done with the community in keeping culture and heritage alive.
Wanted to stay busy
It wasnt until he retired from teaching Spanish at Winthrop University that Zdenek (STEN-ick) found the enthusiasm for volunteerism that now defines him.
His wife, Connie Zdenek, says playfully that she came home one day to find him sleeping on the couch at 10:30 a.m. Joe doesnt remember that day, but said she pushed him out the door and back into painting, a hobby hed abandoned when he started teaching. He has been attending a painting class at the McCelvey Center in York ever since.
Some people when they retire have no idea what theyre going to be doing, he said. Ive always wanted to stay busy.
Now he enters his watercolor paintings into juried exhibitions, gives them away, and donates them for sale in charity art auctions. Some will be available for auction in a fundraiser benefiting the Arts Council of York County next week.
An active member of the state and local Sierra Club, Zdenek helped bring the organizations Cool Cities initiative to Rock Hill.
Before becoming a board member for Pilgrims Inn, Zdenek dedicated 12 years to cooking for the shelters annual fundraiser, Be Irish for a Night.
He signed up to be a docent giving tours at the Museum of York County after hearing they were looking and figured, I like animals.
No matter what hes doing, the reward comes in hearing testimony from the people and families who receive help through the organizations he supports, he said.
These things keep you going.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062