Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dwyer Award dinner a special night

Let me offer my belated, but no less sincere, thanks to the Tribute to John R. “Jack” Dwyer Committee for presenting me with its 10th annual tribute award in early June.

The committee – which includes the late undersheriff’s two daughters, Nora and Susan, as well as Jim Tompkins, Lou Desso, Greg Cholakis, Frank Merola and Nick Nicholas – is a great group of people, and I was truly humbled by the award they gave me.

I normally don’t like being the center of attention, but it’s hard to say no to Nora. Anyone who knows Nora knows that once she sets her mind to something, there’s no turning back.

Maureen Baxter, nurse manager at New York Oncology Hematology, left, Nora Dwyer, center, and me, Lisa Robert Lewis.

Also, as a breast cancer survivor, it’s hard to say no to anything that helps those battling cancer. Proceeds from the Dwyer dinner benefit the Capital District Cancer Resource Foundation, which helps provide funds for daily living and support services for local residents undergoing cancer treatment.

And while I stick to my stance that I don’t like being the center of attention, I have to admit I had a ball at the dinner and enjoyed being with a terrific group of people.

There are so many people I need to thank for making this a special night.

First, there’s Nora, who nominated me for this honor. Frankly, I adore the woman. I am grateful for her friendship and I have a lot of respect for all she does for this community. In fact, I told her it’s too bad she can’t receive the award because I am sure her Dad is proud of all she does for the community he loved.

Thanks also to Jim, Susan, Lou, Greg, Frank and Nick for going along with Nora’s nomination.

I am grateful also for the beautiful plaques and certificates I received from our state and local representatives – state Senator Roy McDonald, state Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, Rensselaer County Legislator Lou Desso on behalf of Legislature Chairman Martin Reid and the rest of the county legislature, and Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian – and the John R. “Jack” Dwyer Award itself.

The Dwyer committee actually found three people to speak on my behalf -- Sue Chasney, The Record newsroom’s administrative assistant and my friend; Amy Jupin, my sister, and Jerry Weaver, vice president emeritus of the Flag Day Parade Committee. Kathy Jimino, Lou Desso and Nora also offered kind words on my behalf during the program.

Stepdaughters Christie Harris, left, and Melissa Coons, right.

No one could ask for a better Master of Ceremonies than Neil Kelleher. The man is charming, witty and so naturally funny.

Special thanks, too, to the staff of the American Legion on Main Avenue in Wynantskill for that wonderful Italian dinner!

One of the best parts of attending such an event is sharing it with old and new friends.

I was happy to have my current and past co-workers with me that night including Sue Chasney and her husband Ken Villeneuve, advertising director Heather DeForge, former night editor Jan Shields, former city editor Nick Cantiello and his wife Pat, former photographer Tom Killips, former reporter Rich Crist, and Barbara Lombardo, managing editor of The Saratogian, The Record’s sister newspaper in Saratoga Springs. It was also great to see my former boss, Kathy Condon, who now runs Condon Communications, and her husband, longtime area radio personality Joe Condon. Accompanying them at the event was Bob Wolfgang, former Albany Police Chief and president of the Albany Aqua Ducks. Few people probably know this, but Bob, who was also honored that evening at another event, served an internship at The Record while he was pursuing an advanced degree.

That Pat Cantiello is one classy, generous lady. She won the evening’s 50/50 benefit and promptly donated her winnings back to the Capital District Cancer Resource Foundation.

My thanks also go to the Carras family: Jimmy for taking photos at the event for The Record, and his wife, Jeanne, for her help in producing the evening’s program as part of her responsibilities at Alchar Printing on Pawling Avenue in Troy.

It meant a lot to me that many people I have dealt with over the years were able to attend the event including Kay McCarty and Betty Owens of the St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary, Kathy Sheehan of the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Sharon Smith, executive director of the Troy Boys & Girls Club; Joe Killeen and Cindy Bizaro Wilson of the Troy Flag Day Parade Committee, Record "Investors Corner" columnist Ray Osterhout and his lovely wife Carol, and Carmella Mantello, who I’ve known since her days as a city councilwoman in Troy.

What made the night particularly special was being able to share it with my family: My sister Amy, her husband Andy and their children Jared and Meighan; my brother Mike, his wife Lisa and their daughter Elizabeth; my brother Dave, and my stepdaughters Melissa Coons and Christie Harris.

State Senator Roy McDonald, R-Wilton, speaks with my dad, Col. John P. "Jake" Robert.

Most of all, I was proud to share the night with my Dad, Colonel John P. “Jake” Robert, who showed me by example the importance of a strong work ethic and being involved in your community.

Thanks Dad!

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