Interviews illuminated Suffolk’s best

Published 9:39 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

After a handful of interviews I’ve done in recent weeks for various stories, I’m further convinced that Suffolk is a great place because of the people who live here.

It’s not that I didn’t know that already, but rather because in the past few weeks, I have had extensive interviews with three of the people who have helped this town become what it is today. For our annual Horizons edition, I sat down with Billy Chorey Sr. and LeOtis Williams for our “People” section, and last week I talked with Doug Naismith to do an article on him as the recipient of the First Citizen award, given by the Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary clubs.

These three men all are different. They are in different occupations, come from different places and have different families.

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However, in interviewing them, I discovered a common tie that links each of them, as well as hundreds of other people in the Suffolk community. I noticed two similarities in each interview — first, I spent several minutes on the phone with each man trying to convince him he was worthy of a story, and second, each truly believes in giving back to the community in any way he can.

For Mr. Chorey, it took several phone calls to talk him into even meeting with me to do a story. Though he serves in several different capacities throughout the area, including sitting on the board of several important business and educational opportunity organizations, he kept stopping in the middle of our interview to insist that I should do a story on somebody else.

What draws people to Mr. Chorey, I think, is the genuine love for God and for other people that emanate from him at all times. He runs his business and his life with honesty and integrity, and it shows in what others say about him.

Mr. Williams took the most prodding to get an interview out of. I ensnared him by saying that I was doing a story on his $5,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help with Haiti relief, and his challenge to other local businesses to do the same. I did that story, but after that interview I turned the focus towards him. He became reluctant to talk, and I didn’t get too much more out of him.

Mr. Williams is the owner of LW’s Lawn Service, the one known for handing out thousand of turkeys and fixings every year before Thanksgiving to people in our community who could not afford it otherwise. He loves his community and his neighbors. Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson said it best when I told her I was doing a story on Mr. Williams: “What a human being.”

It was somewhat easier to convince Mr. Naismith to meet me for an interview, primarily because he was given the First Citizen award and therefore there was an actual news story to do and an expectation of cooperation built on the history of the award.

Mr. Naismith is best known in Suffolk as the longtime head of school at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, but since his retirement from there, he has gotten involved with many other causes, most notably the Obici Health Care Foundation and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Mr. Naismith called those two boards the most rewarding volunteer ventures for him, saying they had the most potential to affect people’s lives. Mr. Naismith said he was raised to believe that if you are able to volunteer, you should do all you can.

Congratulations to these three men on their many awards and honors throughout the years, and thank you for agreeing to the interviews. You deserve it.