77.8 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Good afternoon. President Yvonne, fellow Rotarians, former Persons of the Year, their families and friends, as well as other distinguished guests, it is my distinct honor to make the 21st announcement and presentation of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas II's Person of the Year Award.
Ever since I began to assist Macon Berryman, my predecessor and founding chairman of the Person of the Year Committee, I have been impressed by two things: The first is the gravity of choosing and honoring one person who embodies the spirit of Rotary as well as the characteristics set forth by the creators of this award, and the second is the difficulty of selecting from among the many citizens of our fair community who clearly qualify.
This award is the oldest continuing award of this or any other Rotary Club in the Caribbean. When it was established by our charter members over 21 years ago, our patron Rotarians set extraordinarily high standards for recipients of this honor.
They sought to recognize someone who, through their words and deeds, has demonstrated their allegiance to the principle of service to others above service to self. By this recognition they hoped not just to honor such a person, but to hold them up to their fellow citizens as a beacon to light the way for us all in the ensuing years. The honor roll of recipients has fulfilled or exceeded our founders' hopes. In fact, we believe that the recognition of these distinguished individuals has inspired the minds and hearts of their fellow inhabitants to fight against the odds, to eliminate the concept of surrender from their philosophy, to stand up to opposition from any person or condition, to strive for excellence, and to work tirelessly to achieve a better society for us all.
To represent these noble goals, our founders chose an artistic rendering of Miguel Cervantes' 16th century fictional character Don Quixote, the legendary knight renowned for jousting at windmills in his quest for honor and truth — and, of course, for dreaming the impossible dream.
Year after year, our selection process reminds us of a little-noted but undeniable fact about our community: We are blessed by a wealth of qualifying individuals from which this difficult choice must be made. It is all too easy to allow the burdens of the moment to cause us to ignore the fact that there are so many walking among us who are unselfishly devoted to the progress and growth of our community.
Such a selection is also made more challenging by the importance of continuing the line of distinguished recipients upon whom this award has previously been bestowed, many of whom are either in this room today or are represented by deservedly proud members of their families.
Wilbur "Bill" LaMotta
Albert Aubain
Dr. Roy Schneider
Costas Coulianos
Calvin Wheatley
Dr. Alfred Heath
Alexander Farrelly
Irvin Brown
Ron de Lugo
Dilsa Capdeville
Athniel Ottley
Leona Bryant
Edward Thomas
Juel Molloy
"Vinnie" Mohanani
Sen. Lorraine Berry
Nick Pourzal
Randy Knight
And last year's honoree: John P. de Jongh Jr.
These men and women are distinguished in many respects. They all share an ability to laugh in the face of overwhelming odds, and to see only challenge where others see immovable obstacles. These individuals observe opportunity in adversity and perceive potential to perform service to others where ordinary people see only the needs of others. With unerring consistency, they demonstrate their willingness to dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star.
They continue the fine traditions of Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, whose life story was also remarkable for rising above the concerns of the moment to lead an existence marked by service above self. Harris asked, "What are we here for?" and in answer he taught us that the most important lesson we are here to learn in life is to wean ourselves from ourselves.
He believed that, sooner or later, we must inevitably be separated from self. The phenomenon might be reserved for our last day here on Earth, or it may come naturally, gradually and, yes, gratefully. Paul Harris knew that, at age 18, we are all 100 percent ego. We are not merely self-centered, we are self, through and through. Then comes business, and we make a surrender. Then comes marriage, and another capitulation for the forces of self. Eventually, if we work very hard at it through the course of life, there will be very little left of that 100 percent ego, and our separation from it will have come about so gradually, so naturally and so gratefully that we will have scarcely realized what was going on within. And when the final day comes, there is little left to surrender. If we are no more than 1 percent ego, that 1 percent will flicker and go out, but the 99 percent will continue to live on.
It is only through a lifetime of service to others that we may find some degree of immortality. This approach to life embodies the real spirit of Rotary and the Person of the Year Award.
Let me take a moment to speak about the element of surprise in awarding this honor. As the knowledge of and esteem for this award has grown over the decades, so has it become increasingly difficult to achieve the complete surprise which we believe to be an exciting and festive element of the award of this honor. This year has been no different. One need only refer to our past recipients, busy and perceptive men and women one and all (many of whom pride themselves on never being surprised by anything), for one to appreciate how difficult it is to devise a strategy which will result in their total astonishment. Past recipients can tell tales of the lengths to which we are willing to go to accomplish our aim.
Thanks to many co-conspirators, it is with pride that I announce that our record of success continues unblemished, as I believe we have, amazingly, once again succeeded in achieving this end. (There is, after all, a little Don Quixote in all of us.) Thus, we believe there is an individual in this room who is unaware that they are about to receive one of this community's most prestigious honors in recognition of their contributions to the Virgin Islands.
The woman we are here to honor today came to our island nearly 35 years ago on a vacation. Like so many before her, the beauty of the environment and the people who populate it caused an epiphany which resulted in her permanent relocation here. A writer by God-given talent, she was also trained in business management and public relations. After joining a local firm in her field as a senior account executive, she quickly became involved in community affairs. With the passage of time, her participation in the life of our islands only deepened. By now she had become a leader in such myriad organizations as the League of Women Voters, the St. Thomas-St. John Arts Council, the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, the Ad Club of the Virgin Islands, and the Friends of Fort Christian, among others.
Finally, in one of those fateful twists of destiny, a certain revered and newly retired editor of an old-timey print newspaper, who had an idea about establishing a news organ to take advantage of the infant Internet, was sitting in a local restaurant. In walked our recipient, and the rest, as they say, is history. Despite a dearth of training or experience in journalism, our recipient jumped at the idea of establishing on online newspaper for our islands. And Penny Feuerzeig promptly immersed her in journalism 101-through-a-graduate-degree, delivered on her living room sofa. With this footing, our recipient founded the St. Thomas Source in January of 1999, the St. Croix Source in July of that year, and, finally, the St. John Source five months later.
All three newspapers reach local readers looking for accurate, complete and unbiased news and insightful commentary about their home. And because they are electronic, these newspapers also instantly reach thousands of people around the world who also have a vested interest in keepin
g up with the news we make here. They are read faithfully by the major decision-makers in government and the private sector — in the territory, in the nation's capital and beyond.
Producing a daily newspaper with a very small staff means that our recipient is on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day. When most of us are forced by nature or the system to take a break — when the power fails, when the rains flood our roads, when unions strike, when carnival is in full swing, when hurricanes loom and lay waste to our islands — our community expects and relies on our recipient to work harder than ever. And she does. We reap the benefits of this hard work on a daily basis.
Through these efforts, and countless other unheralded ones, she continues to uphold the standards of honesty, integrity, generosity of spirit and community commitment that we have come to expect.
She is supported in this endeavor by her husband, Wally Bostwick, who is here with us today, and her two sons, Aaron and Jason Reiff. Also present and hiding down on the lower tier of seats so as not to tip her off, are friends and members of her loyal staff.
I give you a proud Virgin Islander, a journalist, a truth teller, a leader, the founding publisher and owner of the Source online newspapers, a woman for all seasons — and the person of the year for the year 2001 — Shaun Pennington.

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