Joshua Norton and Terri Day were named 2019 Man and Woman of the Year at the 61st annual Citizen of the Year Awards Banquet in Myrtle Creek on Saturday.
Every year, the Myrtle Creek-Tri City Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes a female and a male citizen who have been actively involved in the community for the last several years. The chamber also names a business of the year and gives a lifetime achievement award, a special recognition award and two presidents awards.
Ted Romas, secretary and treasurer of the chamber, introduced Norton, who works as the city recorder of Myrtle Creek and manages the South Umpqua Memorial Pool, before presenting him with the award.
“Even in preschool, his loving sprit was contagious,” Romas read from a statement by one of Norton’s lifelong friends, Melodie Branham. “When (Norton) started working in our community a new light came over him. He found a love for giving back to those he served, the employees who worked for him and his community as a whole.”
Amid clapping and cheers from the crowd, Norton stood speechless at the podium.
After half a minute, he thanked everyone and said he was honored. But then Norton started to work up the courage to make a personally-significant announcement.
“Bear with me for a second, because I’m going to say something,” Norton said. “A lot of my role models when I was growing up are in this room right now, and the pool is a huge part of my life and it’s what kept me coming back.”
“But I have something a little more in-depth that I gotta talk about,” he said. “I do a disservice to anybody that has ever looked up to me — those kids right there in the back — if I accept this award, and I am the leader of your community, and yet battle and deal with a very big part of my life. And I’m going to regret this tomorrow morning.”
Several audience members began to cheer and encourage Norton to continue after he paused.
“A couple nights ago when the power was out, I sat in my living room with a couple of my friends that are back here at the table, and I said that I’m struggling recently because I need to be who I needed when I was younger, and I haven’t done that,” he said.
“I will take this recognition as a leader of this community by saying that I am a gay, active member of this community.”
The audience stood and erupted with applause.
“To everyone listening, and to me when I was younger, what I want to say is I see you and I accept you and you’re okay, and if there isn’t a spot for you in the community, then make one,” Norton said. “And once you’ve made one, make one for another person, and thank you for doing that for me.”
Friends and family embraced Norton as the audience continued their applause.
Denise Ware, vice president of the chamber and owner of Soco Coffee Company, congratulated Norton again on his announcement before introducing Terri Day, manager of the Myrtle Creek St. Vincent de Paul, as 2019 Woman of the Year.
Ware noted that after serving 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, Day has continued to serve her community. In addition to bringing St. Vincent back from financial hardship, Day has worked to provide clothing and food to kids in need, Ware said. The Friday summer snack program “included handing out over 600 snack bags” to youth this summer, she said.
With her family up with her at the podium, Day said, “After 30 years in the military, I figured out that you’re not successful if you don’t take care of the people around you.”
“A lot of people go into helping me make St. Vincent de Paul a success,” she said. She thanked her father and mother, who works with her at the thrift store. “Thank you to everyone. St. Vincent de Paul has gotten to be a huge program and we really appreciate everyone’s support.”
Jerrie Thomas, owner of Goodog Bakery and recipient of the 2018 Business of the Year award, presented the 2019 Business of the Year award to Edward and Morgan Hernandez, owners of Ed & Mo’s Diner.
After almost six years in business, the diner has been nominated business of the month four times.
Thomas said one customer described the business as, “My favorite place to eat,” another said, “It’s so homey,” and another described the diner as, “warm and cozy.”
Morgan Hernandez said she and her husband couldn’t imagine doing business anywhere else.
“This is so exciting,” Hernandez said. “This community is so giving and loving.”
Edward Hernandez said, “This community is incredible, incredible,” after thanking everyone.
City Councilor Bill Burnett presented the lifetime achievement award to Ken Brouillard, former mayor of Myrtle Creek, and his wife, Marilyn.
“This is probably one of the most difficult ones you can receive because it involves most of your adult life giving your time, your money, your energy, your membership to a variety of different organizations in our community,” Burnett said.
He said the Brouillards could not be there to accept the awards due to health issues, but he would accept it for them and present it to them the next day at the hospital.
City Councilor Susan Harris presented the Special Recognition Award, which cannot be given to a for-profit business, and instead goes to an individual, a group, an organization or a club that demonstrates outstanding service.
Harris presented the award to Ray Munoz, who has run the annual community Thanksgiving dinner the last two years.
This year, two people received the chamber’s presidents’ awards, which are given to people who help the chamber fulfill its mission at no charge.
Jodie Hall received the award for becoming the chamber’s bookkeeper when the position of treasurer was recently left vacant. Melodie Branham received the award for building a new chamber website.
The chamber also inducted two people who recently passed away into its Legacy Circle for their service to the chamber and the community.
Pastor Dan Jacoy and Steve Hall gave two passionate and emotional eulogies for inductees, Maureen Butler and Frank Bartley, respectively.