Soroptimist International of Hood River presented its annual Women of Distinction awards at a luncheon Friday at the Hood River Inn. The awards are given each year in several categories to three local women who have accomplished outstanding service toward the betterment of the community.

Dollie Rasmussen won in the category of Economic and Social Development. In introducing Rasmussen, Jenny Copper noted that “her work and love for her community” can be felt in many realms of local life. Rasmussen is best known most recently for spearheading the “safety corridor” on Tucker Road which culminated in the installation of a traffic light at Tucker and Eliot Drive.

Rasmussen, a founding member of the Hood River County Fruit Loop, has also been instrumental in promoting the Loop around the region as a tourist destination.

Linda Rouches also won in the category of Economic and Social Development. Rouches was one of the first women to join the Hood River Rotary Club where she “immediately got involved in the club’s activities,” said Jon Laraway, past president of Rotary, in his introduction of Rouches.

Rouches started the popular Lunch Buddies program, where Rotarians “adopt” an elementary school student and have lunch with them periodically throughout the year. Rouches also organized and has helped sponsor the annual ATT/Rotary Golf Tournament which has become a major fundraiser for Rotary. She also has served as president of the club.

Laraway noted Rouches’ accomplishments as chair of the Hood River County Library Foundation during the critical fundraising period which resulted in the remodeled and enlarged library. Under her guidance, the foundation raised nearly $1 million. Rouches also has served on the Hood River City Council for six years, and is currently president of the council.

Bessie Asai won in the category of International Goodwill and Understanding “for all she’s done to continue the Japanese heritage in the valley and beyond,” said Raye Hukari in introducing her. Asai has been active in the Japanese American Citizens League since its inception in 1946. She worked closely with the Oregon Historical Society in assembling a traveling Issei exhibit in the 1980s, sharing artifacts, pictures and stories about the first generation of Japanese immigrants who came to Hood River. The exhibit traveled around the country, was featured at the Smithsonian Institute and is now on permanent display at the National Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles.

Asai also was a 4-H leader for 28 years — continuing her involvement in the organization for 19 years after her own children were grown. She served for 12 years on the hospital board and was on the board at Down Manor for eight years. She was one of the first to join the hospital’s volunteer group when it formed in 1990 and still volunteers once a week at the reception desk.

Hukari also noted Asai’s long-time involvement in her church and the schools. Last year, at the age of 80, Asai spent one day a week helping third graders with their reading. The Soroptimists have been giving the Women of Distinction awards annually since 1988.

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