There were moments of laughter as well as at least one instance in which a number of eyes dampened during this year’s Spirit of Bartow awards luncheon that was held at the civic center Thursday, May 15.
The annual event honors and recognizes those from multitude walks of life who, in one fashion or another, improve Bartow on a consistent basis.
As he has done in years past, Dr. Thomas McMicken served as emcee and this year he opened with an anecdote he told about his son who at the time was working a job for the city. In his prelude, McMicken said often times people who are looked upon as heroes are those who are athletes or entertainers. But this time the doctor pointed out to his son that the real heroes are people such as his son’s co-workers. Day in and day out, with little, if any, acclaim, they put forth their all in order that others may enjoy.
“Those are our real heroes,” said McMicken.
Among the first to be recognized were those who serve (excluding military personnel), beginning with Cpl. Bryan Dorman named Bartow Police Officer of the Year. Dorman heads up the Community Services Team and the unit has dramatically made a significant impact in reducing crime in a number of neighborhoods.
Following Dorman’s award announcement, the next was a family affair. Jeff Adams was named Bartow Firefighter of the Year while his wife, Marsha Birdsong Adams received the same honor as EMT of the Year. In his summary, McMicken spoke of how the couple came upon a man who had collapsed and how through their training and effort, saved the man’s life.
“We’re extremely lucky to have Jeff and Marsha taking care of us,” said McMicken.
In a slight break from announcing further Spirit of Bartow recipients, members of the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce Diplomat Corps were recognized and those present were asked to stand after their names were called out. The Diplomats are volunteers whose contributions of time help advance the work the Chamber does on behalf of members and the community. It was also a Spirit award, this year’s given to Shirley Pittenger. Due to illness, however, the award was accepted on behalf of Pittenger by Ruth Trainor.
Following a presentation to Lloyd Harris, who has shown his love and devotion to the community. Harris is known for chronicling the history of Bartow in a number of areas, even recently coming out with a book titled “Bartow.”
The next presentation proved poignant to many and when her name was announced, there were some in the audience seen brushing away a tear or two. This person, said McMicken, was someone you knew could be counted upon. If something needs doing, Gail Murray was the person who most often stepped up to get it done. McMicken likened Murray to a favorite dessert.
“Others are like layers of a cake,” he said. “Gail is like the icing on the cake.”
Kathryn Hall, this year’s Crickette Club president and long-time friend, along with other members of the Crickette Club joined McMicken in accepting the plaque for Murray. Afterward, Hall spoke of her friend.
“If anyone is deserving of this award, it’s Gail Murray,” said Hall.
The last award presented by McMicken went to Carver Young. As he approached the front of the civic center to receive his plaque the room stood up and applauded.
“Although he’s not one for accolades and recognition, we’re going to give him one anyway,” said McMicken as the applause continued to ring out.
However, there was one last award and Myrtice Young, this year’s Chamber president, was given the honor of presenting it. Judging by the reaction of the recipient, it was totally unexpected. It went to McMicken.
In her speech, Young spoke of the impact McMicken had on the community in the 40-plus years he had practiced in Bartow. One of the points she brought up about the doctor was that he not only faithfully serves Bartow, but that he also served the nation when as a soldier he served in Vietnam.
Again the audience rose to their feet as a somewhat stunned McMicken received the plaque. He kept his thank you heartfelt yet (mostly) lighthearted. In one comment he acknowledged the passage of time and physical infirmities that often accompany aging.
“Unfortunately, I’m at the age where my mind writes checks my body can’t cash anymore,” he said. The comment brought about further applause mixed with a smattering of laughter, perhaps from those who identified with the remark.