WELLSVILLE - The chamber's choice was also the people's choice as the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce presented its 2013 Citizens of the Year awards dinner at the Wellsville Alumni Center on Thursday night.
Reprising his role as guest speaker from the 2012 event was Judge Dwayne Woodruff, former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback and Super Bowl champion, who currently serves as a judge with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh.
Woodruff fondly recalled last year's dinner, when he asked if there were any Cleveland Browns fans in the audience. One such person was village resident Steve Creaturo, wearing on orange shirt and Browns tie, who proudly stood with his arms in the air. "It was sort of ironic for me to see, because that usually signals a touchdown. And I know he hadn't seen that very much in Cleveland," Woodruff said, to appreciative cheers and laughter from the Steelers fans present
Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Dwayne Woodruff, now a judge with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh, reprised his role as guest speaker at this year’s Citizens of the Year awards dinner, presented by the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night.
Creaturo was not in attendance, however, having suffered a stroke recently, and is recovering at home. Woodruff singled him out in order to pass along his best wishes to Creaturo. "I really enjoyed him being here last year, and our prayers do go out to him," Woodruff said.
Woodruff revisited topics he touched upon last year, including the difficult 1989 season-opening loss to the Browns, and the way he and his teammates faced up to the adversity, making it to the divisional playoffs that year. It was far from his first encounter with difficult circumstances, he said, recalling the death of his mother from cancer at age 47.
Woodruff also recalled the way his eldest daughter bounced back from having failed her medical board exams. With a great deal of work and study, she passed on her next try. According to Woodruff, a fellow student came up to her and told her that, despite his fear of failure, the example she set had inspired him. "He said, 'You have encouraged me. I'm going to go take it this time. And if I need to, I'll take it again and again and again, because of what I saw in you.'"
Becoming emotional, Woodruff continued, saying the power to overcome life's difficulties doesn't all come from within, but from what we observe in others. "So think about that when you have a smile on your face and you're going through adversity."
Woodruff also said that society should reconsider its priorities when it comes to the needs of America's youth. He has seen the consequences of a lack of education and preparation as a juvenile court judge and the role that poverty plays in the outcomes. "Poverty may not be a learning disability, but poverty ignored is disabling," he said. "We must realize that we cannot just focus on student achievement without addressing the other issues of health, homelessness, clothing and food."
Woodruff said that society must summon the will to care about its children, who represent the future, as much as it does its favorite sports teams. "We should ask if there is anything wrong with our thinking if we can invest in some of the best arenas and stadiums in the world and then find no money for the advancement of education," he said, to words of approval and applause from attendees.
Winner of this year's Man of the Year Award was George Crews, with the announcement drawing great cheers from the crowd. Crews thanked everyone who voted for him for the award, as well as village officials, volunteer laborers and those who donated funds for their collective help in constructing the recently-dedicated veterans Honor Roll.
Receiving the award for Woman of the Year was Esther Jackson, also an apparent crowd favorite. Like Crews, Jackson accepted her award humbly. "I'm a servant, and I serve," she said. "I just want to help people along this journey called life." She thanked the chamber and the community for their recognition as she continued with her work toward that goal.