Sisters of Providence choose two recipients for 2002 Mother Joseph Award

November 8, 2002


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Sisters of Providence will present two recipients with the 2002 Mother Joseph Award in ceremonies in December – Dr. Ken Kapstafer, a Spokane pediatrician and leader in the medical community, and Mitzi VandeWege, retired assistant administrator at Providence Centralia Hospital.

The award is named in honor of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the first Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Providence in the West, who was a distinctive figure in early Northwest history.

There were 10 nominations, “each worthy of an award,” said Sister Roberta Rorke, who coordinated this year’s award process.

This is the first time the award has been presented since the Mother Joseph Province was formed by the merger of the former St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart provinces in 2000.

The Mother Joseph Award is given to a person within the boundaries of Mother Joseph Province who “exemplifies the values and courage of Mother Joseph.” It will be presented by the Provincial and the Leadership Team on behalf of all the Sisters of Providence in the province, which includes ministries in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and El Salvador.

Dr. Kapstafer will receive his award at a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. December 6 at Mount St. Joseph, 12 West Ninth Avenue, in Spokane. Mitzi VandeWege?s award will be presented at a reception from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. December 8 at St. Joseph Residence, in Seattle. This weekend was chosen because December 8, 1856, was the date that Mother Joseph and her sister companions first arrived in the Northwest.

The Providence Services Eastern Washington leadership council unanimously agreed to nominate Dr. Kapstafer for the honor. This highly regarded Spokane pediatrician has dedicated the last 36 years of his life to the mission, values and vision of the Sisters of Providence, his nominators wrote.

From the beginning, Providence has played a significant role in Dr. Kapstafer’s professional career. He graduated in 1957 from the College of Great Falls (Mont.) with a degree in chemistry. After receiving his medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine in 1961, he completed his internship at Sacred Heart Medical Center in 1962. Since 1966, he has served on the medical staffs of Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital, both in Spokane.

Mitzi VandeWege, an employee of the Sisters of Providence for 34 years, was nominated for the award by a dozen of her former colleagues at Providence Centralia Hospital. She came to the hospital when it opened in 1989 as an experience professional who had worked for nearly 24 years at St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, first as staff charge nurse, then nursing supervisor and later director of nursing.

Mitzi, as she prefers to be called, was only on loan to Providence Centralia as assistant administrator, but she stayed and selflessly served patients, employees and her community for 11 years before retiring in 2000. Even as a retiree, her dedication and commitment remain, and her face still is a familiar one at hospital events and activities.