ILWACO - Christopher Reeve, who played a fictional super-hero and lived the life of an actual one, once said, "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
One particular act, one moment in time, does not always define a hero, but rather the way someone chooses to live their lives on a day-to-day basis.
On Thursday, Oct. 21 family, friends and dignitaries gathered at the American Legion in Ilwaco to acknowledge six such individuals by awarding them the 17th Annual Derald D. Robertson Safety Award for doing what they could to make the lives of those around them better.
State Reps. Brian Hatfield and Brian Blake were there, as were County Commissioner Jon Kaino, Sheriff John Didion and Long Beach Chief of Police Flint Wright. Harry Easley, American Legion Post law and order chairman, acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, while his wife Janet made sure the event ran smoothly.
Each of the award recipients had distinguished themselves by earning "individual of the year" awards in their respective departments, but to a man, they denied doing anything extraordinary. They seemed embarrassed by the attention.
"It's a real honor to receive it," said Long Beach Officer Paul Jacobson. "There's a lot of guys around here who deserve it."
Coast Guardsman Francis Hussey echoed Jacobson's sentiments.
"It's much appreciated," he said. "Other people are deserving of it."
The evening started off with a social hour and dinner. The crowd's mood was festive.
Lenette Hussey, wife of Francis Hussey said, "I think it's good they are honoring support personnel." Hussey makes sure the Coast Guard buildings, some built in the 1950s, are safe and livable.
"My little boy is growing up," said Hussey's fellow Coast Guard member with a smile, wiping an imaginary tear from his eye.
After dinner, speeches were made and the awards were presented.
Carmen DeFlumeri spoke from personal experience. In July, he and his wife Jean were awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of breaking glass. A criminal had invaded their home.
"You don't know how terrifying it can be," he said.
He dialed 911, and was thankful for the swift response he received from the law enforcement agencies and the fire department.
"You don't sleep for weeks," he said. "I'm glad we've got a couple of the boys here. I really want to thank them."
Bob Wallace, department commander and former Coast Guard member, spoke of how the American Legion holds law enforcement agencies in the highest regard.
"October is National Crime Prevention Month," he said. He urged citizens to help fight crime by becoming involved in the process, to learn about the criminal justice system, and to participate responsibly.
He complimented those individuals who work for public safety agencies.
"Ilwaco is well protected by those who are here," he said.
Award recipients were then called up to receive his awards. Summaries of their nomination letters were read.
Deputy Sheriff of the Year Pat Lynn was the lead investigator in a homicide investigation.
"His professional skills, experience and determination led to the arrest and conviction of the suspects. He coordinated the efforts of 44 law enforcement personnel consisting of federal, state and local officers. During this time he continued to assist fellow officers with other emergencies."
Long Beach Police Officer of the Year Paul Jacobson "is an outstanding officer and a perfect example of community policing. He is approachable for the local youth and many troubled teens come to him for advice. He also coaches varsity football and basketball at Ilwaco High School."
Washington State Patrol Trooper of the Year, Scott Johnson, "is a valuable resource for the Naselle detachment of the Washington State Patrol. He has completed 20 years of service in the patrol, of which 19 of them were spent protecting lives in Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties."
Lynn and Jacobson's acceptance speech brought laughter and applause from the audience.
"Thank you," they said.
Johnson's speech was a little longer, but equally amusing.
"Everybody knows I like to talk," he said. He then said that when he prepared for the ceremony, he had dug his old dress shoes out of the back of the closet. He had not worn them in some time. During the evening his son noticed that he was finally taller than his father, a proud moment. Only later in the evening did Johnson realize what was happening. The bottoms of his shoes were slowly disintegrating, leaving pieces of rubber scattered about the hall. As he left the podium, the audience craned their necks to confirm that, yes, Johnson did leave a trail of black bits wherever he walked.
"There's a little sole food," said Master of Ceremonies Harry Easley.
Coast Guardsman of the Year Francis Hussey received his award because "through his dedication to duty, he has performed an outstanding job of refurbishing the quarters of Coast Guard personnel. He also refit a 19th century bunker into usable office space. Through these acts he has trained junior members of the Coast Guard in the necessary tasks for their damage control rating, and saved the Coast Guard station many thousands of dollars. In addition, he as worked in the community coaching youth baseball and soccer and helped the Ocean Beach Education Foundation with their auction."
Firefighter of the Year Tom Hersey "is the mechanic for Fire District No. 1. He keeps over 30 emergency vehicles operating smoothly, efficiently and safely. Vehicles that fail to run cannot help the district save lives or property. When the district is inundated with emergency calls, he responds on a fire truck or ambulance. He is definitely one of the unsung heroes of Fire District No. 1."
Coast Guard Auxiliaryman of the Year Allen Wald Sr. received his award for his "outstanding performance and unwavering dedication. He has trained auxiliary members in boat crew positions, vessel examinations, as instructors and in marine dealer visitations. He has also worked on numerous boating safety classes for the public which has resulted in a decrease of loss of life at sea."
Hussey was the last to give his acceptance speech before the evening ended.
"I only wanted to say one thing," he said to the hushed crowd, all eyes upon him. "And that's, 'Go Red Socks!'"