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A Night of Appreciation in Mexico
Clockwise, from top left, are Citizen of the Year recipients Joe and Marjorie Richard; Town Manager John Madigan with Part-time Employee of Year Gary Wentzell, the fire chief; Fulltime Employee of the Year Jeff Wade; Town Manager's Award recipient Thelma Giberson, Rumford General Assistance director; and Louise Arsenault, presenting the Volunteers of the Year Award to Kim and Mike Chiasson. (Times photos by Bruce Farrin)
MEXICO -- More than 100 people gathered in the rec center gymnasium for good food, laughs, door prizes and recognition for the town's volunteers and employees.
It was the Town of Mexico's annual Night of Appreciation. The master of ceremonies was Town Manager John Madigan, who noted that the town has 19 fulltime employees, 15 part-time employees and 30 volunteer firefighters.
With a slideshow with pictures of people serving the community, over the course of better than two hours, volunteers for all the committees and groups as well as employees of the town were recognized before the announcement of the town awards.
Honored as Citizens of the Year were Joe and Marjorie Richard, a couple who volunteer wherever they're needed in town.
Married for 54 years and parents of seven children, the couple volunteer at the weekly Greater Rumford Area Ministers Pantry Service lunches, help groom snowmobile trails, participate in the annual Christmas in the Valley parade, and help out wherever there is a need.
Marjorie, who was George H.W. Bush's nanny, has been a Girl Scout leader, operated a thrift store and day care center, and served on the town's Budget Committee.
“They are a very devoted couple and are always there when we need them. They support their church, their children and Marjorie stands strong for what she believes,” said Selectman Byron Ouellette, who read the nomination application for the couple.
Joe is a retired paper mill employee who has given of his time with his wife as much as possible.
“They are a good team together and role models in our community,” he said.
Fulltime Employee of the Year was Jeff Wade, the town highway mechanic for about 20 years.
A nominating letter said that Wade has often been under a plow truck during a snowstorm fixing the hydraulic hoses and plow cables.
He is also frugal with the town's money and has worked hard to save the town thousands of dollars.
Volunteers of the Year were Kim and Mike Chiasson.
In her nominating letter, Louise Arsenault said the couple organized a benefit for a seriously ill employee, regularly participate in the Relay for Life, has served on the Mexico Recreation Board and are involved in peewee football.
Part-time Employee of the year is Fire Chief Gary Wentzell.
He was cited for saving the town hundreds of thousands of dollars on the purchase of firefighting equipment, for working together with Rumford for the purchase of a combination aerial ladder and pumper truck, and for working with the town of Byron to provide fire protection.
“I think it's time Fire Chief Gary Wentzell was recognized for all he has done for both the fire department and the town of Mexico,” said Madigan.
The Town Manager's Award went to Thelma Giberson, the Rumford General Assistance director, who has been providing that service for Mexico for a fee for the last three years.
Noting the professionalism in which she does her job, Madigan noted that she has done a terrific job for Mexico, while saving the town money. He said the town's yearly budget of general assistance funds was as high as $67,000 and was $38,000 the year before Giberson took over.
Since that time, the yearly budget total has dropped to $29,000, to $26,000 and in the last year, $15,000.
Among those thanked was Wayne McPherson (known as the Grill Doctor), who made the porkloin dinner enjoyed by the attendees.
Thanks as well to Sue Byam and John Blais, who supplied the pumpkins and gourds.
Madigan announced the current Boston Gold Cane recipient, Earl Murray. He was not able to attend, but he will 99 on Dec. 4.
Recognized for their 63rd wedding anniversary were Darrold and Berl Comstock on their 63rd wedding anniversary. Noting that Darrold does a lot of volunteering for the town, Madigan concluded, "If you want a happy marriage, volunteer for the Town of Mexico!"
The 50/50 for $98.50 was won by Janet Touchette. After coming to the front table to collect her winnings, she started back to her seat when three-year-old Brody Chartier stood up and boldly, but innocently, asked for all to hear, "Would you buy me cookies?"