He cajoled. He recruited. He begged.
And he did it all without expecting any kudos.
Without longtime Kiwanis Club member Vince DeLisi, the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key might not be in existence today.
And, when the Kiwanis Club decided to honor one of its own members at this year’s 2009 “Citizen of the Year” reception, the guy who never expected any recognition was the clear choice for the kudos.
“Vince has been the biggest unsung hero of the club,” Longboat Observer Editor and Kiwanian Matt Walsh said at the reception. “He leads by doing.”
The Kiwanis Club honored DeLisi as 2009 Kiwanian of the Year, along with Firefighter of the Year David Kyle, Police Officer of the Year Randy Thompson and Citizen of the Year Ron Johnson Monday, Feb. 22, at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, a Division of Ringling College of Art and Design.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Rich Dickerson honored Kyle for his service to the town, including his dedication to the “File of Life” program and initiative in organizing the department’s open house last year. In his acceptance speech Kyle said that he loves serving the people of Longboat Key.
Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle said that supervisors unanimously voted Thompson as 2009 Police Officer of the Year. He helps to train new officers, a process that takes months.
“He’s the officer in the department who has the most patience and who gets things done,” Hogle said.
And he also has a knack for catching criminals when they come to Longboat Key, Hogle said.
Introducing 2009 Citizen of the Year Ron Johnson, Walsh said that Johnson’s service to the Key followed a pattern similar to that of his career. As a young man, Johnson almost followed in his father’s footsteps to a career with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. But after training to become a journeyman dye-maker, he went back to college at night while working days.
“He had an inner burning that propelled him to want to reach higher,” Walsh said.
He retired to Longboat Key in 1996 but didn’t really retire. He served on the Longboat Key Town Commission for eight years, including two as mayor, and worked to build relationships with Sarasota and Manatee county officials and reduce noise from airplanes and Jet Skis. He advocated for the construction of new town facilities. And at Mote Marine Laboratory, he started out as a volunteer, guiding tourists through the facility. Today, he is chairman of the Mote Marine Foundation.
Accepting his award with his wife, Jinny, by his side, Johnson spoke about the wonderful people he has met on Longboat Key. Signing off with a salute, he ended his speech with the words that Bob Hope used to end his USO shows: “Thanks for the memories.”
Contact Robin hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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