Two individuals received standing ovations on Saturday night when the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce presented its 42nd annual Celebrate St. Clair awards.
One of them was Dottie Nelson when she was named 2012 St. Clair Citizen of the Year. The other was St. Clair R-XIII School District Superintendent Mike Murphy, who earned the Chamber’s outstanding public service award.
That award is presented annually “in recognition of dedication and support to our community,” reads the plaque given to the recipient. It is given to an individual who through his or her job exemplifies outstanding public service to the customers and community of St. Clair.
The winner was chosen by the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors based on nominations received.
“Our recipient, I believe, has one of the most important and critical jobs in our community, and a ton of responsibility goes with it,” said presenter Keith Domke, who earned the award a year ago. “On a normal day, the job this person has is a tough one. Throw a monkey wrench or two in the mix, and, well, the task gets even more difficult.
“And, unfortunately, we had a few too many monkey wrenches last year.”
Domke was referring to the three tragic St. Clair High School student suicides that occurred during the first semester of the current academic year. The deaths rocked SCHS as well as the community, and through Murphy’s leadership and guidance, the R-XIII School District and St. Clair community in general dealt with the tragedies, consoled each other, started to heal and slowly moved forward.
“This man helped steer the ship he captains through extremely choppy waters and managed to maneuver it to calmer seas,” Domke said. “As our community suffered through some horrific tragedies toward the end of last year, this person was there every step of the way doing all he could to maintain stability and keep things calm and moving forward.”
When Domke announced that Murphy was the recipient, the 200 or so in attendance rose to their feet and applauded.
“I’m honored to serve this community,” Murphy said. “And I’m humbled to be given this honor while serving the community. We did go through some difficult times in the fall, and we could not have gotten through it without all the people who surround me and work in the district.”
Murphy was one of three educators who received awards on Saturday. Lonedell Principal Jenny Ulrich was presented the Youth Mentor of the Year award and St. Clair Junior High School teacher Carolyn Barnes was given the Educator of the Year award.
“Thank you to the Lonedell and St. Clair communities,” Ulrich said when she received her plaque. “I accept this award on behalf of the entire Lonedell community. It’s a privilege and an honor.”
St. Clair High School Air Force Junior ROTC instructor Greg Cohen, a retired master sergeant and recipient of the award last year, said “our recipient is actively involved not only in the education if her 300-plus students, but also in other aspects of their lives.” Cohen said the individual who nominated Ulrich stated that “never have I seen an educator with more passion to help young people better themselves in every aspect of their lives. She is caring, compassionate and a true, dedicated leader in her school and community.”
Barnes teaches math at SCJHS. She was described as “one of the best teachers in the junior high school system” as well as “caring, giving and more than just a teacher.”
The person who nominated her said that “with every lesson of math comes a heartfelt lesson in life.”
Chamber board member Stephanie Smith presented Barnes with her award.
Other award recipients on Saturday were St. Clair Route 66 Farmers Market organizer Paula Dace, volunteer of the year; Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Roger Altenberger, spiritual leader of the year; and SCHS senior Jessica Perkins, outstanding youth award.
In addition, Tim Shipp was named the police officer of the year and Adam Hansel was named the firefighter of the year. Farmers & Merchants Bank was named the 2012 Business of the Year.
Andrea Cheatham Quattlebaum was the emcee for the evening. She blended spirited introductions of all the award presenters with a good-yet-gentle sense of humor to keep the evening moving along.
She and 2013 Chamber board President Bob Triphahn also handed out several door prizes throughout the evening.
Quattlebaum is co-owner of the Otis & Maclain clothing line.
“This young woman grew up in St. Clair and graduated from St. Clair High School,” Domke said in introducing her to the audience. “And when she started to put together this fabulous career she is enjoying, she decided to make St. Clair, Missouri, the home base for her business. We’re talking about an international headquarters here, folks, and we’re talking about a successful entrepreneur who has deep St. Clair roots and a love for her hometown who wanted to stay here even though she probably could have picked just about anywhere to set up shop.
“This woman often must travel to Los Angeles to work with her business partner, and she could have located her business out there in La-La Land,” Domke said. “Or, she could have gone to New York, maybe even Paris or even someplace closer like St. Louis. But, no. She chose to house her international headquarters in St. Clair, and she tries to spend as much time here as she can both working and playing. She is here because she loves it here and wants to be here. What a testament to our great city and to this incredible young woman.”
Otis & Maclain is becoming known around the globe and is being recognized as a more popular designer clothing line for women every day. The apparel is being sold in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and the United Arab Emirates as well as right here in the USA.
The clothing she and her business partner design has been worn by Kate Hudson, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Rihanna, Rachel Zoe, Tori Spelling and the Kardashian sisters.
“I must admit I have never attended this event before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect,” Quattlebaum said when she took the microphone. “But, it’s pretty impressive.”
Quattlebaum said she is a fourth-generation St. Clairian and married another fourth generation resident, Tyson Quattlebaum.
“While preparing my comments for tonight, I did a lot of reflection on our four generations’ contributions to the community,” she said. “Between Tyson and me, our families have merchants, entrepreneurs, volunteer firemen, we have a former mayor, school administrators, a former fire chief, volunteer ambulance personnel, teachers, several have served on city committees, and many service organizations, with the Lions Club being most important. My dad told me to say that!
“My uncle, Paul Parks, donated the property where city hall sits today, and my great-grandfather, J.E. Lewis, donated the Evergreen Park property. Oh, and by the way, Mayor (Ron) Blum, where your new spray park is at used to be my grandpa’s pigpen.
“As you can see, it has been a family tradition to make St. Clair a better community, and this is a theme that Tyson and I hope to continue.”