Ralph Goneau was honored Saturday, August 21 as the sixth recipient of the Alf Evers Award for Volunteer of the Year…but not just for dashing out of the hardware store he previously owned to stop traffic. Rather, for a lifetime of dedicated service to the town he loves.
The award, named after the man who gave Woodstock its history, is presented each year to that individual who has demonstrated a “lifelong commitment to the Town of Woodstock and for best exemplifying the generous spirit and service to others revealed in the life and words of Alf Evers.” Created by the Town Board following Alf’s death, past recipients have included Andre Neher, Duncan Wilson, Mescal Hornbeck, the Maclary family, and Kathy Longyear. Contributing to the evening was the work of the Alf Evers Award Committee, whose time and thoughtful consideration each year insures that the stipulation of the award is honored. They include, Gale Brownlee, Michael Densen, Terrie Rosenblum, Fern Malkine Falvey, Shelley Shakerdge, Rennie Cantine, and Barry Samuels.
So it was, in that tradition, that Terrie Rosenblum, filling in for Supervisor Moran, stepped to the microphone at Andy Lee Field on Saturday evening and announced this year’s recipient of the award. It took a while, however, as the list of activities in which Ralph has been involved over the last 40 years ran to almost three pages. They included, working as a member of the Woodstock Library Board, the Woodstock Sewer Committee, the committee for the purchase of Comeau, the Woodstock Assessment Board, Post Office committee, President of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, President of the Empire Railway Museum, helping to organize neighborhood groups in response to last year’s H1N1 scare, and most recently, as one of Woodstock’s most active volunteers in the town’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
In his remarks, following acceptance of the award — along with a copy of Alf’s epic history, Woodstock – History of an American Town, presented by Overlook Press publisher, Peter Mayer — Goneau recalled arriving in Woodstock in the late sixties. He noted, in growing up, that he never really had a home town, but, in Woodstock, had found one. Such is the story of so many who have arrived here. Rather than just being content with running a business, however, Ralph chose a “second business,” that of quietly helping others without the need or desire to bring attention to himself. Such is also the story of many Woodstockers, as Saturday’s Volunteers Day so vividly reminded us.
Some towns and cities mark their history by commemorating great battles, or by erecting signs noting where George Washington might have slept. Woodstock, of course, has it’s own claim to history, one rich without fabrication. Central to that history, as the words of Alf Evers remind us, has always been those who embrace the spirit of giving back. Along with Ralph Goneau, 1,100 volunteers were honored on Saturday. Think of it — 1,100. That’s not a bad history to have. ++