The spirit of community service was on display May 11 when The Daily World staged its annual Citizen of the Year banquet, this year hosted by the Hoquiam Elks Lodge.
Former Hoquiam mayor Jack Durney served as master of ceremonies as Dr. Eugene Schermer, recently-retired Ocean Shores Police Chief Mike Styner and volunteer firefighter Josh Ambrose were honored for their decades of community service.
Durney pointed out that the honorees may have received the awards for 2017, but their service has been evident for years and will be for years to come. “The people who get this award don’t get it and say, ‘Well, this is it.’ Their service to the community carries on.”
Citizen of the Year
Dr. Eugene Schermer was a longtime teacher and administrator at Grays Harbor College. He has been active most of his life within the community and is a strong advocate for the homeless. He is a longtime member of the Lions Club, serves on the board of the local Salvation Army, is on the scholarship committee at the college and currently is working with area churches to provide safe places to stay for the county’s homeless.
Schermer was introduced by Al Waters, immediate past president of the Aberdeen Lion’s Club. He began by paraphrasing a quote often attributed to Chaucer. “Gladly would he learn, gladly would he teach and gladly would he follow. I think in broad strokes, that does a good job of describing Gene.”
He brought up Schermer’s many years of teaching at Grays Harbor College. “There are hundreds of students out there who have moved on to bigger and better things because of what he did. He leads by demonstration. It’s like, when you grow up, you want to be like Gene.”
Schermer took to the podium and thanked his wife of 59 years, Eileen, for her support and willingness to put in similar hours of community service as he does.
“I am fortunate to live in a community so endowed with volunteerism,” he said. “Perhaps so many volunteer because we have a lot of need. But more than that, we have a real culture of volunteerism here.”
He saluted the many people who give of their time and money to serve their communities and talked about the thousands of dollars he has been part of collecting with the Lions Club, the Salvation Army Kettle Klash, and singled out Grays Harbor Relay for Life as being among the top chapters in the nation in money raised every year.
“I accept this award on behalf of the hundreds of volunteers who give their time to their communities,” he said.
Police Officer of the Year
Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers presented recently-retired Ocean Shores Police Chief Mike Styner the Donald M. Burke Memorial Award, named after a Hoquiam patrol officer who was shot and killed while on duty in 1980.
“Mike is a guy who steps up and gets it done,” said Myers. He added that Styner grew up on Queets Avenue in Hoquiam and started his law enforcement career as a reserve deputy with the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office in 1976. A few years later he moved on to Ocean Shores, where he was named chief in 2007. Myers noted that a few years after that the city found itself in dire financial straits and needed a fire chief, Styner was “temporarily” appointed to the position, which he held for five years in addition to his duties as Chief of Police.
Styner singled out Myers as a person who was always there for him, no matter how often he asked.
“I also want to thank the men and women of Ocean Shores, the citizens of that community,” he said. “And also my wife and family for their sacrifice. In all these years I’ve heard not one complaint about me missing dinners and events for work.”
Firefighter of the Year
Grays Harbor Fire District 2 volunteer Josh Ambrose was presented the Denny York Memorial Award — named after a Cosmopolis volunteer firefighter who lost his life in an industrial accident in 1986 — by his chief, Leonard Johnson.
“Josh has a story, but his years of service are just a part of it,” said Johnson. “He has won numerous awards, conducted countless hours of training and is excellent in his job as a firefighter and EMT.”
Ambrose said firefighting is his passion: “It takes an army to win a war, learning, strategizing and a strong work ethic. It takes people working together for a common good.” He thanked his fellow volunteer firefighters. “I can’t tell you how much dedication it takes to juggle family, work and a social life and still volunteer,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a while and I still admire people who step up for their community.”
Each recipient was given a plaque featuring the front page of The Daily World from the day the story of their award appeared.