Max Liebers Rotary winner

Zimmerman Award recipient Max Liebers shows off his plaque with Deborah Brogdon, Rio Rancho’s director of senior services, who nominated him for the honor.

Although Max Liebers says he doesn't drive at night anymore - the striping is too hard for him to see - it's about the only consolation he's given to being 93 years old.

The Nebraska native will drive during the daytime hours, including to and from Meadowlark Senior Center, where he volunteers on a daily basis. And the mind is still sharp: He clearly remembers where he was on April 14, 1944, "around noon." He'd been driving a general around in a Jeep when a platoon called to say they'd found a concentration camp.

The Germans knew the Americans were coming and abandoned it, leaving 3,000 or so Jewish women, many starving, alone. Liebers said someone had to shoot off a padlock to gain entry, and the women seemed afraid of what might happen next.

Closing in on 70 years since that happened - Liebers later served in Korea and Vietnam - he still corresponds with one of the women he helped rescue. She lives in Phoenix, he said, and he talked to her on the telephone last week.

Liebers' latest great memory occurred Tuesday evening, when the Rio Rancho Rotary Foundation of Rio Rancho presented him with its prestigious Zimmerman Community Service Award.

Named in honor of Harold and Malena Zimmerman for their generosity in support of community projects, the Zimmerman Award annually rewards people or entities for their outstanding contributions to the community of Rio Rancho.

"It is for people who have done something for Rio Rancho," said Dan Buchly, head of the Zimmerman Award committee and past-president and member of the Noon Rotary Club, which meets Tuesdays at noon. The foundation is separate from the club, Buchly said. "This is the third year we've given the Zimmerman Award."

In submitting Liebers' name for consideration, one of six candidates, MSC noted that he "has been the mainstay of the congregate meal program" at the center since he joined in 1987. The number of hours he puts in in the MSC kitchen helps "reduce the dependency on paid staff ... (and) provides a measure of self worth among those who volunteer and a means of meeting new friends."

Indeed, as Senior Services Director Deborah Brogdon led Liebers, assisted in his walking by the use of a cane, around MSC last week, everyone coming in contact with him said, "Hi, Max."

They're probably not aware that this 32-year veteran of the U.S. Army won two Bronze Stars; it isn't something Liebers talks about regularly.

"It's quite a deal," Liebers said of the Zimmerman honor. "I was so surprised." It wasn't so long ago that he also worked with the Ronald McDonald House and ran the bingo game at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Albuquerque.

"He's our oldest volunteer," Brogdon boasted, telling Liebers, "You should be proud of everything you've done."

Liebers' wife Cloe, who passed away two weeks before their 65th anniversary in 2005, also had been an MSC volunteer for many years.

"I've been real fortunate in all the things that happened to me," Liebers said.