On the ‘MARC’

Sun Health Executive Vice President Honored for Leadership

By Shanna Hogan

Joe La Rue, executive vice president of Sun Health, doesn’t like to use the term “senior” when referring to the three West Valley communities Sun Health owns and manages.

“I don’t think of it as senior living,” Joe says. “It’s really purposeful, engaged and healthy living.”

A lawyer and longtime West Valley resident, Joe joined Sun Health in 2005 after practicing law in Arizona for 16 years, primarily for Sun Health. Since 2008, he has participated in the evolution of Sun Health from a hospital operator to a focus on healthy living through community programs and life care communities.

“Sun Health shifted from the acute care hospital business and focused on healthy living, working to keep you out of the hospital,” Joe says. “We want to support healthy living, not only in our senior living communities, but throughout the greater community.”

Recently Joe was recognized for his work enriching the community when he was honored with the West Valley Inspiration in Leadership Award at the 25th anniversary of WESTMARC Best of the West Awards Dinner. WESTMARC, the Western Maricopa Coalition, is a partnership of 15 communities in the West Valley.  Joe was also recognized as one of its founding members.

In addition to being a former member of the WESTMARC Board of Directors, Joe currently serves on the Arizona State Transportation Board. Joe previously served on various boards and commissions in Maricopa County, and he also served on the Peoria City Council. Joe is also active in philanthropic work with charitable organizations. “Giving back to the community is fundamental to who I am and is the core essence of Sun Health.” he says.

“Sun Health has a culture of encouraging its employees to give their time, talent and treasure to help build community,” Joe says. “The early leaders of Sun Health recognized that the stronger that we grow and the greater community, the stronger that the Sun Health community becomes. We’ve always had a purpose and passion to empower all those around us.”

Joe has lived in Maricopa County for over 40 years, and has watched the West Valley grow and flourish around him. He resides in Peoria with his wife Suzy. They have five daughters and four grandchildren.

“Thirty years ago I was a kid lost in the cotton patch,” Joe says, “because 30 years ago the West Valley was predominantly cotton fields.”

He adds, “You had these little towns with cotton and agriculture fields between them.”

He has found his way with Sun Health, however. In just three decades the population of every West Valley city has ballooned. Big-city amenities, like the football and spring training stadiums and hockey rink, have replaced the cotton fields, transforming the area into a premier recreational and entertainment destination in Arizona. As the communities have grown, so has Sun Health.

“The dream for WESTMARC is 15 communities speaking with one voice,” Joe says, “so you can live, work and play in your own backyard, in an engaged, purposeful and healthy way!”

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