|2009 Hometown Hero Award Ceremony|
Reminder Publications Hometown Heroes winners announced
Reminder Publications is proud to announce the recipients of the 2009 Hometown Hero Awards Robert Kuehl, Timothy Herlihy, Mary Benoit Houser, Lorraine Gorham, Rosemary Stella, Eleanor Stolar, Edward Dzielenski, Jim Cooper, Dana Pixley, Melvin Edwards, Sr. Constance Gemme, M.S.O.L.A., Joan Kagan and Sandy Federico.
These exceptional individuals are being recognized in honor of Reminder Publications' co-founder, Anne Buendo, for their outstanding contributions to the community. They were honored at a social event on Feb. 5, 2009 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. They received a feature story in our publications, a donation in their name to the charity of their choice, salon services by Visual Changes and a portrait by Robert Charles Photography.
The following excerpts from the nomination statements are for the award winners from East Longmeadow, Hampden, Wilbraham and Longmeadow.
Mary Benoit Houser, Longmeadow
Nominated by Stacy Magiera
"The passion that Mary holds in her heart to give children an opportunity that they may never otherwise experience is immense. What started with the question, 'Do you need any volunteers to work with kids?' turned into a year-round commitment to a music program that she designed.
"The Springfield Boys and Girls Club is so very fortunate to have a dedicated volunteer who recognized a need for these city children and made it her mission to make a change in their lives.
"Mary has always been very creative in her teaching methods and she makes sure that the kids learn and have fun. They have made their own instruments, written their own music and performed it for their families. Many of these kids would never have the chance to even hold a musical instrument, much less learn to play one without Mary's program. She inspires the children to believe in themselves and they never hesitate to come to her as a surrogate Mom.
"When Mary noticed natural talent in a couple of her students, she took it upon herself to make it possible for these kids to get professional lessons at the Community Music School. She spent endless hours talking to people and raising money to provide tuition for these kids to pursue their passion ... Her enthusiasm is inspiring and those who know her know the genuineness of her heart and the sincerity of her passion."
Eleanor Stolar, Longmeadow
Nominated by Rose Morace
"The Town of Longmeadow is fortunate to have Eleanor Stolar as an advocate for seniors in their town. Eleanor Stolar is a member of the Board of Directors of the Longmeadow Council on Aging and is also the chairperson for the Senior Action Committee. This committee hears the concerns brought by seniors to the Council on Aging Board for discussion and then goes to the Select Board for review.
"Wherever the town's seniors have a need, Eleanor seems to recognize it and act. When she discovered that the Town of Longmeadow did not have a van to transport its seniors, she took on the task of pursuing this problem along with some committee members. The process she initiated took many months of fundraising to realize her dream for seniors. Last year, her goal was achieved and the Council on Aging now has a van to transport seniors to places such as the Symphony, shopping malls, the Big E, etc.
"Eleanor did not stop there. She pursued getting insurance, securing grants and even got a cheaper rate for gas for the new van.
"The goals of the senior center are to provide seniors with educational seminars, safety education, nutritional programs, arts, camaraderie, friendships, personal development and more, and Eleanor Stolar is always there to help. As a spokesperson for Longmeadow seniors, she is always getting information out to them, getting public support for programs and showing them what can be done to enhance the lives of seniors."
Rosemary Stella, East Longmeadow
Nominated by Mary Kossick
"Five years ago, the St. Michael's Parish Hall was almost always dark. Today the hall, renamed the 'St. Michael's Community Center,' is a place where everyone is welcomed and where our kids really want to be, all thanks to the vision of Rosemary Stella.
"Rose is Director of Religious Education for St. Michael's Parish (SMP) in East Longmeadow. When she took on the position, she hoped to create a place of belonging, a place where kids, especially teens, could gather and get involved.
"Rose asked herself, 'How can I reach these kids? How can I get them to know the love of God -- they don't want to sit in a CCD classroom' . and through her hard work and determination, 'The St. Michael's Players' Community Theater Group' came to be. 'Hello, Dolly!' marks SMP's fourth musical production. 'Word on the Street' is a faith-based community service youth group...I agree completely, since God sent Rose Stella to the kids of St. Michael's!"
Edward Dzielenski, Longmeadow
Nominated by Richard Kmetz
"Mr. Edward Dzielenski has given major amounts of his time to directing work and participating at the Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Refuge, a large park-type area along the west Connecticut River area of Longmeadow. Ed has been president of the Refuge for more than 10 years. The Audubon Bird group has taken many tours in this area.
"Ed has orchestrated, managed and led the maintenance of hiking trails, fields, drainage and dirt roads, including the installation and maintainance of bird and bee hive areas. Many residents enjoy these areas. Ed works with and directs Boy Scouts who build bridges and walkways to get merit badges or Eagle Scout approval. These bridges extend the trails over many parts of the Refuge to and along the river. Recently, Ed has worked with town and state commissioners/personnel to reduce and remove flooding over dirt roads in the Refuge.
"Ed also spends time, as much as two to four hours a week, upgrading and improving the Swap Shop area of the Recycle Center. This is part of his work as a Longmeadow Recycle Commission member, a post he has held for many years. He also gets books ready for the Hands Across the Water organization that delivers them to needy students and people in Africa."
Dana Pixley, Hampden
Nominated by Heather Long
"On Oct. 21, 2007, my 28-year-old son, Matthew Long, was in a serious motorcycle accident, hit by a car on Cooley Street in Springfield. Mr. Dana Pixley, a former Hampden police officer, out on a ride with his family, stopped and saved Matt's life. Matt's carotid artery in his neck was severed, and he was losing life quickly. Dana took off his shirt and applied pressure to stop the bleeding. Matt had more than 35 bones broken, including his hip, leg, arm, wrist, fingers, jaw, ribs, foot, etc. Dana's compassion and lifesaving skills in the nick of time gave Matt his life back. Dana told us Matt was close to death (as he had witnessed with other accident victims passing away). He reassured Matt, by name (found in wallet), that there were people there who cared, and stayed with him until the ambulance arrived.
"Matthew received 16 units of blood products over the next few hours, and we later learned the trauma surgeons didn't think he'd make it, either. I am thrilled to report he not only lived, but has healed miraculously, is still walking, and taking care of his son, Jacob, born on Christmas Day 2007. Matt was in intensive care at Baystate for 22 days and in a nursing home and rehab center for two more months. Many have helped Matt and his wife, Marcia, along the way, but Dana made it all possible by not hesitating to stop and help. For this, we as a family are eternally grateful.
"Dana disappeared into the crowd of about 200 onlookers that evening, went into Brooks Pharmacy, cleaned off the blood, and bought himself a T-shirt to wear home. He tried to find out over the next few weeks whether Matt lived. He didn't want any accolades and he is a humble, wonderful person. We wrote a letter to The Reminder trying to find out more information about the accident and Dana responded and filled in the details for us as Matt was in a coma at the time.
"We took pictures of Matt to Dana's home to show him he was indeed alive and progressing. Dana was very emotional and enjoyed hearing Matt was married with his first baby on the way at that time. Matt was transported by ambulance from Heritage Hall East to Baystate for Jacob's birth on Christmas Day. At that point, Matt could only sit in a wheelchair for a part of the day. Now, one year later, he is on his way back to normal life...As parents, we are so very grateful for the Dana Pixleys of the world who are not afraid to step up in an emergency."
Robert Kuehl, East Longmeadow
Nominated by Maureen Paquin, Mark Kuehl, Dr. Maryann Lowen, Cynthia Korhonen, Philomena Gajda , Joan Kuehl, Nancy Barber, Theresa Banas, Jean Maynard
"I would like to recommend Robert Kuehl for the Hometown Hero Award.
"This man is one of the most unselfish people that I know. Not only has he suffered two strokes but also conquered prostate cancer. Bob rented a bus from a local bus company and with the help of his family he was able to provide a tour of Bright Nights for all the members of his stroke support group. It was then that I thought about nominating him.
"In addition to running his own metrology business, Northeast Metrology Inc., he put in endless hours to a local Boy Scout troop and became a member of the East Longmeadow UNICO. After his treatment for cancer, he was so incredibly thankful for all the doctors, and staff that took care of him that he felt that he wanted to give something back. That is when he established the Northeast Metrology Prostate Cancer Charitable Foundation. For the past six years Bob has organized a golf tournament in which the proceeds go to local cancer treatment centers.
"Bob Kuehl is an incredible, caring, humble man, always willing to help, not asking for a thing in return. I am also very proud to say that he is my Dad."