Stephen Rosales was named Citizen of the Year for 2007 at the Sequim-_Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Feb. 26 and he came with his own set of pint-sized cheerleaders.
Nearly a dozen kindergartners from the Boys & Girls Club showed up at the Sequim Elks Club, accompanied by several club employees, to support Rosales and burst into cheers when he was announced as the winner.
"Stephen is tireless," said Sequim resident Jim Grow, who nominated Rosales. "A lot of the time Stephen is doing the unglamorous work. His energy and enthusiasm are endless."
2006 winners Bob and Elaine Caldwell presented the other nominees, second runner-up Jack McGhee and first runner-up June Robinson, with awards before giving a plaque to Rosales.
Rosales, a native Texan, worked with the lieutenant governor of Texas for nearly three decades before retiring to Sequim nearly three years ago with his wife, Kim, and daughters Elizabeth and Ashley. Upon relocating, Rosales decided to dedicate his life to volunteering full time. He works with the Boys & Girls Club, Sequim Food Bank, the Sequim Police Department's Volunteering in Patrol (VIP) program, Habitat for Humanity, Little League, First Teacher and the school district. His daughters attend Sequim schools.
"I am in awe ... anybody here could have won (this award)," Rosales said after accepting the award. "We are blessed in this community to have so many great people."
In his acceptance speech, Rosales thanked many members of the Sequim community, including his wife, Boys & Girls Club unit director Mary Budke and Sequim Food Bank executive director Nina Fatherson.
Rosales also thanked his fellow nominees - Robinson, who was nominated by Elna Kawal for her work with the Sequim school board, the county Heritage Advisory Board and the Musuem and Arts Center, among others, and Jack McGhee, who was nominated by Paul McHugh for his work restoring and preserving several Sequim buildings, including the legendary red town hall.
The light-hearted awards luncheon was a welcome break from recent drama for many chamber members and interim chamber president Walt Schubert had hopeful words for the gathered crowd.
"It's great to see smiling faces," Schubert said. "Believe me, this chamber will get back to smiling faces."
Dozens of community members stopped by to congratulate Rosales at the conclusion of the luncheon, including his 6-year-old daughter Ashley.
"Did you win, Daddy?" she asked him, to which the 2007 Citizen of the Year responded, "Everybody won, honey!"
Past Citizen of the Year winners include Lee Lawrence, Emily Westcott, John Beitzel and Gil Oldenkamp.
Bill, Esther Littlejohn receive special
Before the Citizen of the Year was revealed, former winner Rand Thomas announced that the committee had decided to create a new humanitarian honor that would be awarded as needed to a citizen who had displayed tireless support to the community.
The Bill and Esther Littlejohn Humanitarian Award was given to the Littlejohns for their copious financial bequests and support to a number of Sequim/Dungeness Valley-area organizations, Thomas said.
"The reason we named it after them is that we've never seen anything like this," he said, listing off the peninsula organizations the couple has contributed time and hundreds of thousands of dollars to, including Olympic Ambulance, the Dungeness Valley Health and Wellness Clinic, Helen Haller Playground Fund as well as the Littlejohn Scholarship Foundation. "I hope it will be given out once in a great while or as much as needed.
"This year their name came up ... not only what they did personally as volunteers but (for) the money," Thomas said. "We haven't had anyone like that before. They were kind of the pinnacle of what we ever dreamed of."
The Littlejohns said they were stunned with the honor.
"It was a total surprise," Esther Littlejohn said. "It comes easy to do something for a community that you love."
Added Bill Littlejohn: _"Sequim has been good to me, and it's just fun to be in a position to give back to the community. The Lord's been really good to us. I've never regretted living in Sequim."
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