With both winners were praised for their humility during their nomination speeches and Dwight Johnson and Bonnie Douglas stayed true to form Friday night while accepting their awards for man and woman of the year at the Pendleton First Citizens Banquet at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino.

A visibly overwhelmed Johnson dedicated his award to his comrades on Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue Unit.

“I accept this award on behalf of everybody I work with,” he said.

What the winners lacked in speech length they made up for with levity.

As former state senator and master of ceremonies David Nelson regaled the crowd with tales from the Oregon Legislature, winner after winner used humor to brighten their speeches.

After accepting her award, Douglas said she finally figured out why her husband cut short a trip to Seattle to see their grandchildren.

Man of the Year

Like many a retiree, Dwight Johnson enjoys making pancakes every Sunday morning.

Unlike most retirees, he doesn’t make those flapjacks for himself or his family, but instead for the homeless at Veda’s Breakfast.

Feeding the hungry is only one part of Johnson’s impressive post-career résumé.

As the commander of the Search & Rescue Unit, Johnson helped save a lost and injured hunter outside Milton-Freewater in November. After descending from a helicopter, Johnson walked with the hunter for three hours until they reached safety.

Additional philanthropic activities Johnson participates in includes Pendleton Lions Club, Pendleton Warming Station, Cub Scouts and the Helping Hand Board.

Woman of the Year

Bonnie Douglas’s case for Woman of the Year can be surmised in the quotes Betty Klepper and Karen Kullnat included in their nomination letter.

People that have worked with Douglas have called her “the backbone of the organization,” a “true advocate” and “a woman of character and integrity.”

Since arriving in Pendleton in 1975, Douglas has volunteered at various events and organizations a combined 42 years.

Douglas has volunteered with New Directions, a program that provides Eastern Oregon Correction Institution inmates with college-level classes, Peace Lutheran Church Food Pantry, Pendleton Friends of the Library and Oregon Trail Manor, an organization that provides affordable housing for senior citizens.

Business of the Year

One of the events sponsors, Cayuse Technologies, also became the business of the year.

Mary McCord, co-founder and general manager, said the award wouldn’t have been possible without the company sticking to its six core principles — diversity, integrity, quality, work ethic, teamwork/family and a harmonious heart.

President’s Award

Nelson prefaced the award presentation by saying it isn’t always issued annually and is given at the discretion of Pendleton Chamber of Commerce president.

Citing their successful $55 million bond campaign, President Susan Bower presented the Pendleton School District with the award.

Assistant Superintendent Tricia Mooney was “at a loss for words,” something she said doesn’t happen to her often.

Boss of the Year

To complement his victory for boss of the year, the curtain behind Intermountain Education Service District Mark Mulvihill opened behind him to reveal his family bearing mock Time magazine covers with his face on it.

After joking about his family and his days as a high school quarterback, Mulvihill said this was the “best recognition” he could receive.

Customer Service Excellence

The nomination speech for Armchair Books’ win for the customer service excellence award was rife with references to the willingness of the business to find any book for their customers.

During her acceptance speech, co-owner Terry Dallas pulled out the blank card she carries with her everywhere just in case she gets a request from a prospective customer.

Employee of the Year

Fighting back tears, the spotlight couldn’t keep employee of the year Megan Miller of Blue Mountain Creations from cracking wise.

“I just thought that if I ever got this (award), I’d get a better table,” she said.

Tourism Excellence

For providing tourists with Umatilla County’s rich history, the Heritage Station Museum received the tourism excellence award.

Like a true historian, Umatilla County Historical Society Executive Director Barbara Lund-Jones credited previous generations for making the museum what it is today.


Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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