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Congratulations, John Harrell

There’s something special about a community that sets out to honor the people who work so hard to make it great. That’s what the Suffolk First Citizen Award is all about, and city leaders turned out once again on Tuesday to bestow this year’s award on a man who definitely deserved the recognition, even if he was a little uncomfortable having the spotlight turned for the night on the things he has done.

At 78, Harrell has made his mark in Suffolk in business and industry, in health and education, in economic development and in philanthropy.

Harrell has served on the boards of directors for the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce, for Central Fidelity Bank and for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, which built the current cafeteria/science lab building while he was chairman of the building committee.

He served on the city’s former Industrial Development Authority when that organization was laying the groundwork for the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront and Suffolk Conference Center.

Harrell has presided over the Suffolk Lions Club, the Rotary Club of Suffolk and the Jolly Boys social club, all of which have benefited through the years from his quick wit, dry humor and gracious generosity.

One of Harrell’s most important volunteer jobs in the community has been his long service on the board for the Birdsong Trust, a philanthropic foundation that was instrumental, among other things, in the launch of the Suffolk Family YMCA. The trust’s generous contributions each year have enabled many nonprofit agencies in Suffolk to do great work for those who live in and around this city, and Harrell’s quiet leadership on the board has been a great benefit to people who will never know that he helped them.

“He is a great example of what good citizenship is all about,” said Leroy Howell, who, along with his son, Ralph, nominated Harrell for the First Citizen award. “He’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve this community. He’s always willing to chip in and do his part and more.”

Congratulations to a well-deserving Suffolk First Citizen, John Harrell.