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Wilmington honors citizens at Community Dinner

Wilmington Town Clerk Gerald Bruce gives a speech Tuesday, March 10 at the Hungry Trout Restaurant after being give a Lifetime Achievement Award during the annual Community Dinner. (Provided photo — Ed Burke)

WILMINGTON — The town of Wilmington celebrated its 35th annual community dinner Tuesday, March 10 at the Hungry Trout Restaurant and R.F. McDougall’s Pub.

The event kicked off with a lively, informal cocktail party downstairs at the pub then moved upstairs for a relaxed sit-down dinner in the restaurant before getting on with the business of the evening.

Although the restaurant was filled to capacity, it had the feeling of a warm, extended family dinner with memories, stories and laughter being shared with old and new friends.

Michelle Preston of the Whiteface Mountain regional Visitors Bureau offered “special thanks to the Bottcher family and their staff for all their work to make this such a wonderful evening.”

The Wilmington Community Dinner actually traces its beginnings to Jerry and Linda Bottcher, owners of the Hungry Trout Restaurant and longtime Wilmington residents.

Jerry Bottcher (Provided photo — Ed Burke)

The invocation was delivered by Eugene Loughran of the Wilmington Church of the Nazarene, and he included the town’s newest residents by pointing out “you’re only new once; you’re family now.”

The evening’s program began with a “special toast” from Charlie Terry memorializing his best friend and former town Supervisor Randy Preston, who died last summer after a lengthy illness. Preston was warmly remembered at the dinner for his many contributions to the town.

Preston began his commitment to Wilmington in 1977 when he joined the town’s volunteer fire department where he continued to serve in different roles for over forty years. He was the town supervisor for 10 years.

Cunningham Lane Festival Field on Springfield Road in Wilmington is also to be renamed Preston Memorial Field in his honor.

Next on the evening’s program was the welcoming of Wilmington’s newest residents. They came from as far away as North Carolina, Syracuse and the Bronx and as close as Lake Placid. Many shared that they have been coming here since childhood and have always dreamed of living here.

Roy Holzer (Provided photo — Ed Burke)

Michelle Preston put each of Wilmington’s newest neighbors on the spot for a brief “meet and greet” introduction and all rose to the occasion. They are Patrick and Lorraine Reilly, Doug and Janet Clayton, Rob Ickowski and Emily Brown, Bob and Heidi Read, Whit and Lindsey Bissell, Andrew Wotton, Terry and Beth Buczkowski, Larry Gibbons and Addie Balliett, and Drew and Alison Haas.

This year’s Citizen of the Year was awarded to lifelong Wilmington resident Tina Preston. She was introduced by her sister, Mary Minogue, who spoke of her sister’s long history of volunteering going back to her childhood.

Tina is a mother of two boys, Trevor and Colton, and works as a medical office assistant at the Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center. She was honored for her many volunteer efforts which have included her work with the Wilmington Youth Center, Sunday school teacher at various churches, Lake Placid Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities, Wilmington Whiteface Whiskey Run, fire department ladies auxiliary, and an EMT for the Wilmington Fire & Rescue.

In accepting the award, Tina spoke of her work with suicide prevention and summed up her caregiving efforts with “smile and say hello to everyone you meet because your act of kindness goes a long way.”

Wilmington Town Clerk Gerald Bruce received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the community. He is also a lifelong resident of Wilmington whose record of service to the town goes back to the 1960s. His family roots in Wilmington goes much further back.

Bruce was introduced by Wilmington Supervisor, Roy Holzer, who began by mentioning his humble beginnings working on the Whiteface Memorial Highway.

“Gerald left his jacket on the side of the road one day, and it was graded into the highway where it is to this day,” Holzer said, adding, “Gerald is the Andy Griffith of Wilmington” and quoted Abraham Lincoln with, “it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years.”

David Lally, a visitors bureau board member who counts Los Angeles as a past address, offered the closing statement. He reinforced the quality of lifestyle the area offers and characterized the goodness and genuine caring of the community for its neighbors as “something that you just don’t find often.” He summed up with a nod to the town’s newcomers.

“It gets no better than living here in Wilmington,” Lally said.