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Friday, March 18, 2011

Citizen of the Year

I spoke with Peggy O’Connor the other day about being named Sherburne’s “Citizen of the Year.” Typical Peggy, she was humble. Very.
“I’m still scratching my head,” she told me. “What have I done for Sherburne?” How strange these days that we feel we actually have to “do” something to be recognized as a special person. This of course isn’t to say that Peggy hasn’t “done.” She is, in her own way, an ambassador for this town.

A few Peggy O’Connor vignettes:

Peggy was in my high school graduating class. As a senior, she was voted Most Humorous, a title well deserved (just ask anybody from the class of 1974). That’s because Peggy always had (and has) a smile on her face, which as far as I’m concerned is one of the best reasons in 2011 to go into the Sherburne post office. I know I’m going to get a hearty “Hello!” when I walk in, and in fact try to schedule my mail pick-up times when Peggy’s there. Not a day goes by that I walk out of the post office without a smile on my own face after hearing Peggy’s greeting.

I have a client for whom I manage a substantial mailing twice a year. When my office was downstate, the postal employees would groan when they saw me coming. Not in Sherburne! Postal employees here not only avoid the groan, but Peggy thanks me for the business. The first time she did I blinked as though I’d lost my hearing. I have never before, in 30 years in the workplace, been thanked by a postal employee for delivering a thousand envelopes for them to process. And if that wasn’t enough, Peggy now asks when I’m coming back with more, and says “We appreciate it!” when I promise to return soon, laden with mail.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held this year on snowy March 6, has become another reason to look forward to spring in Sherburne, one that helps local business and that brings people together in a way that can only be appreciated if you live in a small town. Floats and bagpipers and…dare I say it again? Smiling people. Peggy and her sister Kathy are an integral part of this event. They are, in fact, the parade’s lifeblood. I hope people here thank them frequently for all their hard work. They deserve it.

Who doesn’t remember the popcorn stand? If you don’t, your youth is showing. It was a staple here for many years, and behind every cotton candy twirl and bag of corn handed out to elated children was Peggy O’Connor and her family.

I know Peggy won’t be happy with me for telling this one, but at our last class reunion there were a few who couldn’t afford to pay. Peggy covered their cost. When she walks to work, she calls "hello!" and waves to people. Behind the counter, she offers stamps and shipping advice and, when necessary to strangers passing through town, directions. She has an infectious laugh full of fun and welcome and, yes, a touch of mischief. She is, in a word, delightful. I’m thinking Peggy O’Connor might be the nicest person in town.

So Peg, when you scratch your head and wonder why people voted for you …stop. You’ve got this one coming.

The official ceremony for the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award will be at the American Legion on Sunday, March 27. I hope the event is standing room only. If it’s not, it should be. We should all be there cheering Peggy on. Come on down to the Legion and wish our latest inductee well. More importantly, bring your kids and grandkids and explain to them what’s going on. Show them it doesn’t take being a billionaire, or an American Idol contestant…or God forbid a troubled celebrity shouting “Winner!” on YouTube…to be recognized. Tell them that sometimes – and not often enough – being a happy, honest, considerate, polite, and first-rate citizen is all it takes to be a star.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Thank you Kathleen and congratulations Peggy!!! As one of the O'Connors returning to Sherburne for the reunion last summer I was a beneficiary of Peggy's generosity of spirit. Thanks for a wonderful time Peg! Enjoy your day at the Legion.

Lucky for Sherburne! For all the O'Connors that went away the very best of us stayed.

Cousin Peter, Haliburton, Ontario

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum