Ligonier chamber names Paul Fry Person of the Year
Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Holly Mowrey welcomed a full room of chamber members and guests to the group's 64th annual dinner meeting on March 20 at the Antiochian Village in Bolivar.
“At a time when many chambers of commerce are shrinking or disappearing, our chamber continues to grow,” said Mowrey. “It is the support and dedication of our members that makes growth a reality.”
Following a review of the 11 successful chamber sponsored events and 14 Sunday band concerts, Mowrey explained how the Ligonier Ice Fest was promoted on TV nationwide.
“We are becoming famous,” said Mowrey. “This January, we received an email from NBC's Today Show asking for information about our Ice Fest to air on their Sunday morning show. We were able to pull it off with a video included in the coverage.”
Jack McDowell introduced Paul Fry as the recipient of the 2013 person of the year award for his contributions as a person who has been an outstanding volunteer to the chamber and the community.
“This guy has made a significant contribution to the chamber and the community. This guy is all that and a whole lot more,” said McDowell. “He has the most amazing knowledge of the infrastructure of this town.”
McDowell presented a list of the most amazing things he knew about Fry including the fact he is currently involved in more than 15 organizations.
“He is the most resourceful man I know,” said McDowell. “And, he has the most unique collection of Ligonier memorabilia.”
The list includes his job as Public Works Director and Secretary/Treasurer of Ligonier Borough Council.
“In most towns, three different people perform these duties. In Ligonier, Paul Fry does it all.”
Fry also serves on the Ligonier Library board, the Ligonier Valley Rail Road board and the Fort Ligonier Days committee.
“He is amazingly committed man to a special place we know and love called Ligonier,” said McDowell. “He is also an expert at shenanigans.”
McDowell concluded his introduction with several stories he called tales of Paul's life in days gone by.
Fry provided rebuttals to many of McDowell's claims. He said he realized something was up when he saw his mother and his brother, who lives in Atlanta, sitting at his table.
“If I would have known about this, you would not have seen me here tonight,” said Fry about the surprise recognition.
Fry explained how he got his start by working at Ligonier Hardware as a teen, a career that extended from 1968 to 1995.
“I got an introduction into the business community from Merle Wilt to see what business was all about,” Fry said. “I learned about friendship, trust and loyalty to your community.”
Fry then worked at Horrell-Neiderhiser Home Center in Ligonier until 2000, when he was approached about the public works director position for Ligonier Borough.
“I got to be in charge of Ligonier and make it beautiful,” said Fry.
Fry credited his friendship with the late George E. Carr III for teaching him about getting involved in community activities.
“He was a good person,” said Fry. “He was a mentor, a friend and perfectionist. He helped me get my foot in the door to get involved with stuff.”
Fry expressed appreciation to his wife, Nancy.
“My wife is the best part of my life. She puts up with a lot,” he said. “I also have a great work force of employees and assistants, Jan Shaw and Carol Henderson, behind me.”
Mowrey said Fry joins a list of deserving persons of the year the chamber has recognized since 1996.
“I personally would like to say thank you to Paul, who has been such a huge help to me,” said Mowrey. “Paul, you are a true friend to the chamber and you are Mr. Ligonier.”
Taking a lead from a slogan made famous by a local amusement park, Fry says his motto is “You can't beat Ligonier.”
Speaker promotes preservation of local history
The annual dinner included guest speaker Joanne M. Hanley, president of the Gettysburg Foundation. Hanley of Ligonier spoke about the importance of preserving local history.
“History is to the country what memories are to an individual,” said Hanley. “Branches of our family tree of America tell the story of our country.”
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.