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ON THE SCENE: Four inducted into LP Hall of Fame

November 17, 2016
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

A tank full of escaped trout flopping about the lobby of the Holiday Inn was one of many memorable stories told by or about the four 2016 Hall of Fame inductees at a ceremony held for them at the Lake Placid Conference Center Saturday, Nov. 12.

Dennis "Denny" Allen, Jim LaValley, Caroline Draper Lussi and Roby Politi drew one of the largest such audiences at the 33rd annual celebration honoring lifetime contributions of people from the Tri-Lakes/High Peaks area. Since 1983, more than 100 people have been recognized, starting with such luminaries as Godfrey Dewey, the Rev. J. Bernard Fell, Stan Benham, Ardelle Sanderson, Henry Uihlein, and Craig Wood.

The Hall of Fame Committee has a running list of more than 80 people on file, all nominated, all considered each year, along with any recent nominees.

Article Photos

Four people were inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Lake Placid Conference Center. From left are Jim LaValley of Tupper Lake, North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, Olympic Center Manager Denny Allen and Lake Placid hotelier Caroline Lussi.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

"We look for people who have contributed to the community through their volunteer efforts, good work, and lifetime achievements that have benefited the Adirondack region," said Hall of Fame Committee member Sue Cameron. "The contributions made by the people who are being inducted tonight are substantial. Some of the contributions relate to their work and all have contributed well beyond that. Job-related or volunteer-related, it doesn't matter. We look for the lifetime achievement of contribution to community."

"All four of these people are way overdue," said committee member Ron Butler. "They're all very deserving. They've been giving of themselves for years and years and years."

"What makes the difference?" said Jack LaDuke. "Look at their accomplishments in the community within the Olympic area, what they give of themselves over time. Every year we receive nominations for very good people. We are fortunate to have so many."

Receiving the award takes one's breath away, especially when one is lined up with others selected, and also considers how much has been given by those who've not yet been recognized.

"I'm speechless!" said Lussi. "It's a huge honor. Probably the most difficult thing about it is the realization that you must give an acceptance speech. How do you let everybody know how deeply appreciative you are?"

"Did Serge coach you at all?" I asked.

"No. It's the first time I've written a speech on a computer. Who knows if I can read it or not."

Denny Allen is something of an arena rat, literally growing up in the facility playing hockey on the ice or shadowing his father Bob Allen, the long-serving Olympic Arena manager and North Elba Park District director.

"I'm quite excited, a little nervous, and pretty humbled by the whole thing," said Allen. "I was shocked, very shocked. It's nice, very nice. The town means a lot to me. It's my hometown. I'm a native. I know the history and I know the people. I'm proud to be a part of it. I love the place. My dad and my mom are in the Hall of Fame. That's the best part for me."

"I feel honored," said LaValley, best known for working with the ARISE group to reopen Big Tupper Ski Area. "It came out of the blue, totally unexpected. We all work so hard at making the region more of what it might be. You never expect the accolades so when something like this comes along it's, like, wow! I'm tickled to be honored with the others. It's a great group.

"I feel very passionate when it comes to this region. I'm moved by the natural beauty of the Adirondacks, but such a big part of it is the people who work so hard to make this place a little bit better. I love the Adirondacks for everything that it is."

"It's an honor to be one of this group," said Politi, a real estate professional who is currently the town of North Elba supervisor. "It's not something I wanted or expected. Given that I've always felt a responsibility to give back to the community, I have a bit of a hard time honoring people who, I believe, have a responsibility to make life better for others. But it's a nice honor, a real nice honor."

"I'm very proud of my dad," said Nick Politi. "He's put in a lot of years as a volunteer. He's given a lot to the Lake Placid community. I know he never wants this kind of recognition, but it's very nice. As his son or for the son or daughter of any other active community member, I think maybe we should follow in their footsteps, give back to the community as well."

"I think it's pretty awesome that my mom was selected," said Cristina Lussi. "It's a great tribute because she's been doing all these cool things all these years, so this is a very nice honor. We're pleased. She has had a lifetime of giving to this community in ways that some people may not know of. She's a little quiet in some cases, a little ebullient and flamboyant in others."

"I think this is wonderful and she is very pleased," said Serge Lussi, Caroline's husband. "It's nice for her and nice for the community."

Master of ceremonies Jim Rogers III began by inviting those already inducted into the Hall of Fame to stand. Some two dozen people did. He thanked them for their service and for coming to witness the latest inductees being honored. All of the inductees spoke of others who had mentored them, but none as memorably as Allen, who praised Serge Lussi for teaching him the meaning of work: "If you weren't doing three or four things at once you weren't really working." He said Serge gave him confidence in himself and in his own work ethic.

"I did, however, cause Serge some aggravation," said Allen. With that, he launched into a story of cleaning out a holding tank for live fish that customers would select for their dinners. He made the mistake of transferring the fish to a large uncovered barrel, from which they leapt for freedom. Fish put greased pigs to shame when it comes to the challenge of catching them and Serge's shout of "Denny, what have you done now!" from the front registration desk had Allen convinced he was in greater danger of being fried than were the dozen flopping fish.

When Butch Martin introduced Allen, he praised his mentorship of his staff. Judging from the fish story, mentoring skills that include giving people second chances have been passed down from Serge and are now being passed forward - albeit perhaps in lessons less dramatic. With more second-generation Hall of Famers being introduced and inducted now, it's clear that lessons learned, inspiration, and passion are cherished and endure to benefit future generations.

"I like this class of inductees," said Martin. "It's a nice rounded class, some very deserving people including a couple of very good friends of mine. That's always nice."



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