Stories Showcasing the Good Works of Agents Demonstrate Benefits of Life, Disability and Long-Term Care Insurance; Featured in Newsweek and Honored at Eleventh Annual Awards Gala

Washington, D.C. – September 5, 2006 – Good communicators know that showing, not just telling a story is one of the most effective ways to ensure that their message is heard and remembered. This September, the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) hopes to achieve just that by highlighting real people’s stories to help demonstrate the benefits of life, disability and long-term care insurance. Today the organization announced the five recipients of its annual realLIFEstories(r) Client Service Awards program, which was established in 1995 by LIFE and Newsweek, Inc., and recognizes insurance professionals for their outstanding efforts on behalf of a family or business at a time of great financial need.

The recipients of this year’s award were featured in a special advertising section of the September 4, 2006 issue of Newsweek and were additionally honored at LIFE’s realLIFEstories Gala Awards Banquet, held at the annual convention of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) in San Francisco, Calif. on August 28.

"The stories LIFE collects through the realLIFEstories program are arguably our most effective resource for illustrating the profound and positive impact that proper insurance planning can have in people’s lives," said David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, LIFE’s president. "These stories serve as a reminder to us all that life is unpredictable, and that planning ahead with the help of a qualified insurance professional might be one of the smartest decisions an individual will ever make."

The 2006 realLIFEstories honorees are:

  • Joseph St. Onge, Jr., ChFC, John Hancock Financial Network, Sarasota, Fla. An insurance agent himself, Mark Wandall didn’t need to be convinced to purchase life insurance. But he would never know how much the decision would come to mean for his family. At the age of 30, Mark was killed by a car that ran a red light. The benefits from his life insurance enabled his wife Melissa to be a full-time mom and to set aside money for college for their newborn daughter. Melissa also started a charitable foundation in her husband’s name and is leading the charge in the Florida state legislature for policy changes that would reduce the incidence of red-light running.
  • Paul C. Miller, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, AmerUs Life, Maquoketa, Iowa. When Peggy Claus’s consulting business took off, Paul Miller encouraged her to double her life insurance coverage to account for her increased income. Two years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cash value from life insurance policies purchased many years earlier helped pay for uncovered medical expenses. Sadly, Peggy passed away after a three-year battle with the disease, but the insurance proceeds enabled her husband Dan to pay off remaining medical bills and half their mortgage, and accept a lower-paying job closer to home so he could better care for his teenage sons.
  • Rich M. Lazarski, CLU, CPCU, New England, Chicago, Ill. When Frank Szatkowski and his business partner set up their dental practice, they listened to insurance agent, Rich Lazarski’s advice, and established a buy-sell agreement and purchased life and disability buy-out contracts to fund it. They also purchased business overhead disability insurance and individual disability policies. At age 56, Frank was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and was forced to quit working. Fortunately, the one thing he didn’t lose was his financial security. The insurance allowed Frank’s partner to buy out his share of the dental practice, and saved Frank and his wife from having to sell their home or liquidate other assets in order to pay for Frank’s costly medical and long-term care services.
  • Gillian Lotz, New York Life, Columbia, Md. As Cindy and Matt Wrenn were closing on their dream home, disaster struck when Cindy developed a brain aneurysm and then suffered a stroke. With Cindy out of work and in critical condition, it seemed certain that the couple would lose the house. Thankfully, agent Gillian Lotz had helped the Wrenns purchase individual disability insurance, which combined with Cindy’s disability coverage through work, replaced 70 percent of her salary until age 65. The insurance enabled them to get approval for a loan and purchase the house. Today, Cindy has fully recovered, is off claim and she and her husband are the proud parents of a two-year-old daughter.
  • Stacia Vetter, CLU, CLTC, LUTCF, National Health Care Corporation, Murfreesboro, Tenn. Working as a nursing home administrator, Barbara Farone witnessed many families struggle financially to pay for care for their aging loved ones. So Barbara made sure that she and her husband Vince purchased enough long-term insurance coverage through their agent Stacia Vetter. Several years later, Vince developed a rare degenerative brain disorder that required constant care. His long-term care coverage enabled Barbara to purchase medical equipment, make necessary modifications to their home and hire daily caregivers to assist her until Vince passed away four years later at age 73.
  • To pick this year’s realLIFEstories award recipients, LIFE and Newsweek collected hundreds of stories from full-time licensed life and health insurance agents and brokers in the United States, which displayed how life, disability and long-term care insurance helped their clients’ get through difficult financial times. Each entry consisted of a one-page application form and short essay, and was reviewed by a panel of independent judges who determined the five winners.

    About LIFE
    The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) was founded in 1994 in response to the public’s growing need for information and education on life, health, disability and long-term care insurance. LIFE also seeks to remind people of the important role insurance professionals perform in helping families and businesses safeguard their financial futures. To learn more about these topics, please visit


    Brooke Parker

    Ashley Gillam

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