GOWANDA — The Gowanda Area Chamber of Commerce held the annual Spirit of Gowanda Awards Dinner on Saturday, Sept. 12. With coronavirus safety measures still in place, it was a smaller event than usual with some alterations made.
Each award recipient chose someone to introduce them. First up was Carol Sheibley to introduce Gary Patterson, owner/operator of the Garden Gate Greenhouse. Sheibley spoke about Patterson, a 1970 graduate of Gowanda Central School who attended Alfred State College and, in 1977, opened his first greenhouse and now has a total of four.
Outside of his business, Patterson is active volunteering in Gowanda and is particularly active with the Chamber of Commerce, where he was the most recent past president.
As Gary Patterson accepted his award, he commented that he was not a limelight person, but rather someone who enjoyed working behind the scenes. With that, he simply thanked the Chamber and those who had nominated him for the award.
Next, Sal Dicembre introduced John Rebmann, owner of Radio Shack/Rebmann Electronics. Dicembre talked about Rebmann opening the Gowanda Radio Shack 18 years ago. To that, he had added four other stores in other locations in Western New York.
During the period when the Hollywood Theater board was running the Hollywood Happening, Rebmann’s band performed free of charge in support of the fund-raising effort. It was also noted that Rebmann was active at Gowanda’s Saint Joseph’s Church including assisting with streaming the weekly masses.
Rebmann thanked his parents for giving him faith and a strong work ethic. He thanked his wife, Deb, for her encouragement, love and support. He thanked all of those who support local businesses in Gowanda. And he thanked God, who makes all things possible adding “may God bless you and may God bless Gowanda.”
Gowanda Mayor David Smith next introduced Bill Cain, the community service award winner. Smith noted that he was active with the Gowanda Legion Post, active with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and a substitute teacher. Smith additionally noted that both he Cain had started at the high school together in 2003.
Much of Cain’s acceptance speech took the form of a family and community history, about growing up on a dairy farm in Zoar and of a father who drove a school bus. After college, he spent some time in the army and in various administrative jobs before becoming a substitute teacher after retiring. Cain said that teaching “kept him young”.
Next, Evon Lloyd, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, introduced Special Recognition Award winner Ken Hawkins. Lloyd noted that Ken had been the first person to greet her when she first came to the church as a new pastor saying that he was all about hospitality. She went on to say he was “always about service in some form.”
Lloyd said that “if Gowanda is ‘the beautiful valley between the hills,’ then Ken is the jewel in the valley”. In a return to very short acceptance speeches, Hawkins simply said that he wanted to say “thank you to all”.
Finally, Barbara Dempsey introduced the Excellence in Youth Award, which went to Tatum Stitzel. Dempsey noted that her first advice on pubic speaking had come from a Stitzel. Police Chief Stitzel had once told her “you don’t have to talk as long as your predecessor.”
She then described Tatum, a 2020 GCS graduate and as someone for whom family always came first. She also said that Tatum was someone “always knows what she wants to do” and “always stays focused”.
As she concluded the introduction, Dempsey noted that Stitzel was starting at St. Bonaventure this Fall and that she was someone who would do very well there. Following that, the speeches wrapped up with Stitzel simply thanking Dempsey for the comments and thanking her family for all their support.