Lessons learned from the First Citizens

Published 6:27 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

One of the great lessons in life is also one of the hardest to learn: The most worthwhile things we do are often the hardest.

For each of the past four years, I have participated in the effort to put together the video presentations that are shown during the ceremony honoring Suffolk’s First Citizen. It’s an assignment through the Rotary Club of Suffolk for which I am wholly unqualified, and it’s one that consumes a surprising amount of time, usually at a time when we’re swamped with special sections or other projects that already have me pretty busy.

I don’t say that to blow my own horn. In fact, it’s only because we found talented people who understand how to film and edit a 12-minute video presentation that the First Citizen video committee has been able to pull off the feat during that time. And it’s only because of the talented and hard-working people in my newsroom that I’ve been able to carve out the hours necessary to do my part of the volunteer job.

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But the lesson about worthwhile things being hard is one that hits home each year when we see the results of all that time and effort. More to the point, it’s a lesson that asserts itself as I have gotten to know some of the incredible people who make Suffolk special during the filming of those videos.

I knew the late Bobby Harrell, for instance, from our time serving together on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, but it was only during the time we were filming and interviewing at his home last year that I got to know his wonderful wife, Monette, and to experience the love they had for one another.

Similarly, I had already known Dr. R. Leroy Howell prior to his being named the 2013 First Citizen. But only when I visited his home near Chuckatuck did I get to meet his granddaughters and see how highly esteemed he was in their eyes or to visit him in his dental practice downtown and enjoy the camaraderie he has with both patients and employees.

Each of the First Citizen honorees has taught me something important about community service and about my personal responsibility to make Suffolk a better place, and those lessons are a cherished part of my time back in this city where I grew up.

As the First Citizen nomination period prepares to draw to a close on Sept. 9, I find myself eager to learn whom I’ll get to know better this year. I’m sure there are lessons I can learn from lots of other folks in Suffolk.

To nominate someone for First Citizen, visit www.suffolkrotary.org and download the forms. Be sure to attach letters of endorsement to the application. When complete, mail to Suffolk Rotary Club, c/o First Citizen, P.O. Box 1972, Suffolk, VA 23439-1972. Nominations must be postmarked by Sept. 9, and nominees must be residents of Suffolk.

The reception honoring the recipient will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Event registration is $35 per person, and sponsorships are available.

Join me this year in celebrating the contributions of some special person to this special city.