Most Viewed Stories
A night to shine
Edwards is Man of the Year, Foerster is Woman of the Year
Widespread cheers, applause and good-natured ribbing filled the Veterans Memorial building on Monday night at the annual Porterville Chamber of Commerce Awards and Installation banquet.
Five individuals, two businesses and a service project were all recognized for their various beneficence to the community.
Humility was the theme of the night.
“First of all I think this is a mistake. I know a lot of my friends have won. I’ve enjoyed doing the history of Porterville. Porterville has the best history of the West [from] mining to outlaws” said local historian Jeff Edwards, who was named the Man of the Year for his role as a living monument to Porterville’s past.
Edwards has written over 50 books about local history and has an immense collection of more than 50,000 photographs. At age 90 he is still very active in the community as he is an avid photographer who is camera ready at different community events and partners with the Porterville Historical Museum and the Zalud House to present lectures. He also performs historical skits. His interest in local lore began when he talked with a distant cousin of his who had about 150 old pictures.
“[We] got together and that’s what really started me,”explained Edwards after the dinner who added that receiving the award was a highlight.
“It just means that they’ve appreciated the work I’ve done over the years,” stated Edwards.
One speaker intertwined humor with gratitude.
“This is a humbling experience and [there’s] a lot of liars in this room,” said Woman of the Year Recipient Eleanor Foerster to a roar of laughter. A leader in education and local arts Foerster is a retired educator and counselor from the Porterville Unified School District. She was the main driving force behind the Gifted and Talented Education program and has served as both a mentor and an advocate for numerous educational programs including the American Association of University Women. (AAUW).
“[The] lifeblood of my existence in Porterville is the University Women,” added Foerster who also put together the first Dinner & Arts on Main which took place this Fall. When not involved in community efforts she is an avid iris gardener and a bridge club player. She also enjoys book clubs.
After the event Foerster explained what the AAUW provided for her.
“[It] gave me the energy to do a lot of things. I’m a risk taker,” explained Foerster.
The Volunteer of the Year award went to Agustin ‘Augie’ Gonzalez, Jr for his involvement in a variety of projects around town
“[This was] something I certainly wasn’t anticipating. I love this community. Three years ago [this] community was here when my son was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. God bless you all,” said Gonzalez. He has been involved in the Iris Festival event in logistics and helps with fireworks booths, Christmas parades, Relay for Life, Leadership Porterville, St. Anne’s Parish and a multitude of other events in town.
The Male Student of the Year award went to Milton Ramirez who thanked his parents and his counselor.
Ramirez is a senior at Granite Hills High School who has a 3.95 grade point average and is involved in a number of school clubs including Rotary Interact, Kiwanis Educated Youth (KEY) Club, MECHA and is a reporter for the “Grizzly Gazette.” He is also a tennis player.
Madeline Garcia a student at Harmony Magnet Academy was named the Female Student of the Year. Garcia has a 4.06 grade point average and is involved in Key Club International, the Junior Statesmen of America and Academic Decathalon. As an aquatic athlete she is a member of both the Varsity Water Polo and the Varsity Swim teams.
Suttons Iris Gardens was named the small business of the year.
“Being up here with all you small business owners, you are the background of America. You created your business,” said George Sutton to a roll of applause.
The business started in 1983 under the name of Sutton’s Green Thumber. In 1988 the Sutton’s moved to Porterville and today it is made up of 120 acres of a plethora of irises including those of a hybrid variety. The Iris festival which is comprised of vendor booths and tours of the business attracts thousands of national and international visitors and tourists every year. In 2012 it had a record 243 vendor booths and over 30,000 attendees.
The large business of the year award was given to Sierra Forest Products which employs 120 people.
“[I] wanted to thank the Chamber and the community,” said Kent Duysen. “As the company grew the community grew too.”
Sierra Forest Products has a saw mill and sells by-products like wood chips and sawdust.
The Marching through Time Mural was honored as the Community Service Project of the Year. It was undertaken by members of the Porterville Mural Committee under the umbrella of the Porterville Art Association and the Time Marches On Committee.
“[I want to] thank the Chamber for this wonderful honor. [This] mural would not have happened without Dick Hatfield,” said Denise Marchant a band mural committee member who accepted the award.
Band directors Buck Shaffer, Dale Anderson, Frank Howard and Bill Robbins were all included on the mural which depicts the history of music in Porterville.
Winners at a glance:
Man of the Year: Jeff Edwards
Woman of the Year: Eleanor Foerster
Male Youth of the Year: Milton Ramirez
Female Youth of the Year: Madeline Garcia
Volunteer of the Year: Agustin ‘Augie’ Gonzalez, Jr.
Community Service Project of the Year: Marching Through Time mural
Small Business of the Year: Sutton’s Iris Gardens
Large Business of the Year: Sierra Forest Products