HERMISTON - Hermiston's 2006 Man of the Year - Russell Allen "Spike" Piersol - lives his life at warp speed.

The retired firefighter serves on a couple of boards, chairs the Umatilla County Fair Parade, helps with school events, listens to kids read, lends a hand with Special Olympics events and still finds time to be Santa Claus in December.

Piersol was honored Tuesday evening at the Distinguished Service Awards Banquet, a gala sponsored by the Greater Hermiston Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Sherman, a retired Hermiston teacher, described Piersol as a hard-working dynamo.

"The community is better for his presence," Sherman said.

Piersol, a Blue Mountain Community College graduate, served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and spent time in Japan during the Vietnam War. The Hermiston native is a member of the Umatilla County Fair Board and serves on the Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services Board of Directors.

Piersol spent three terms as a Hermiston School District board member and volunteers with SMART (Start Making a Reader Today). He also operates Piersol's Sewing & Hobby Center.

Woman of the Year

Hermiston's Woman of the Year, Connie Ferranti, performed on her high school cheerleading squad. Since then, Ferranti has preferred to work more in the background, said Janet Cooley, who nominated Ferranti for her behind-the-scenes service.

"Communities can't get along without those people who are willing to be in the trenches and not always on the front page," Cooley said in her nomination letter.

In the past few decades, Ferranti has been active in many service organizations including Junior Women's Club of America, Jaycees, United Way, American Cancer Society and Altrusa International.

As an Altrusa member, she held several offices, helped organize the annual Hermiston Relay for Life and has chaired the club's annual fundraising dinner and auction.

Margaret Sayler, who presented Ferranti with her award, said the honoree helps out with the Umatilla County Fair Parade and with her grandchildren's school functions.

"She bows all the homes on her street at Christmas time," Sayler said.

Ferranti and her husband Dick own the Ferranti-Leavitt Insurance Agency.

"Some people walk into a room and suddenly everything is different just because they are in it," Cooley said. "Some people make their town a nicer place simply because they live in it - Connie is one of those people."

Business Person of the Year

This year's Business Person of the Year is actually a committee and a board - the Farm-City Rodeo Committee and the Umatilla County Fair Board - for working together to solve long-standing conflicts.

"Both committees have worked diligently to repair a fractured relationship and provide a cohesive fair and rodeo," wrote Jeanne Daly in her nomination letter, "and have accomplished this goal, exceeding the expectation in one year's time."

Daly, who presented the award with Umatilla County Commissioner Larry Givens, praised Fair Manager Peggy Clough for her role in the healing process.

"With the addition of Peggy Clough as fair manager last January - all parties are a team," said Daly.

Givens said a finely-tuned rodeo/fair duo brings the community plenty of economic benefits, along with beautification of the rodeo grounds and surrounding landscape and quality entertainment.

Accepting the award was Fair Board Chairman Don Miller.

"We've moved forward into a collaboration," he said. "We talk to each other now."

Distinguished Service Award

Jan Schroth, recipient of the 2006 Distinguished Service Award, was praised as a champion of people with disabilities. As the mother of a disabled child, Schroth researched legal rights and responsibilities of disabled people.

"This led her to the realization that many parents of children and adults with disabilities do not have an advocate to make their needs known," said Joyce Beemer, coordinator of the Lifespan Respite Network, in her nomination letter.

Schroth became active in The Arc of Umatilla County, an advocacy organization, and worked with two individuals at the Hermiston Good Samaritan Center who struggled with physical and mental impairment.

"There are times when families and disabled individuals, often in a crisis situation, have difficulties with state and county agencies," Beemer said. "Jan will always find the time to help individuals and families that need an advocate."

Outstanding Young Citizen

Dee Strawick of Hermiston's Altrusa International presented the Outstanding Young Citizen Award to three students: Jennifer Macias, Mitchell Drinkwater and Elisha Adkins.

Macias distinguished herself on the Hermiston High School cross-country team where she was two-time district champion. Her activities include student government, Key Club and coach for the Hermiston Hurricanes Youth Track Team.

Drinkwater, student body president at HHS, excels in theater, art, speech, debate and music. Drinkwater maintains a 3.9 grade-point average while participating in school activities and teaching piano.

Adkins, a 2005 HHS graduate, has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average at Eastern Oregon University. She is a hospice volunteer who participates in a variety of college leadership activities.

Educator of the Year

Educator of the Year is Neely Kirwan, a science teacher at Armand Larive Middle School. Hermiston School District Superintendent Darce Driskel presented the award.

"Neely was selected by her peers for consistently demonstrating the outstanding qualities of a teacher immersed in our profession," Driskel said.

Centennial Awards

Winners of the chamber's Centennial Awards were Marian Christley, Ethel Myers, Fred Reeves, Irene Atlebury Van Patten, Linda Marie Gilleese, Lauree Marvel and Frank Harkenrider. The Centennial Award is awarded to lifelong Hermiston residents.

Reeves, who died last week at age 92, left Hermiston only to accept a football scholarship at Pacific University and to serve in the U.S. Army. Reeves was Hermiston's postmaster from 1965 until 1976.

Christley, who still lives in her family's farmhouse, is a lifelong reader and supporter of the Hermiston Public Library.

Myers remembers Hermiston as a farming community where everyone knows your name and no one locks their doors.

As a child, Van Patten once helped her family bring milk to town in a wagon from her family's dairy farm.

Gilleese is a member of the Desert Arts Council and Atrusa International and worked five years as Umatilla Fair Manager.

Marvel, a 1943 HHS graduate, worked for Hermiston's housing authority and also for ordnance housing.

Harkenrider, former Hermiston mayor, was lauded as Hermiston's greatest booster. Harkenrider followed in the footsteps of his father, who served as mayor of Hermiston. The junior Harkenrider was mayor until 2000.

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