Past Recipients: 2000-2009



Kennewick police chief named Tri-Citian of the Year

Published Sunday, April 5th, 2009, Tri-City Herald
By Joe Chapman, Herald staff writer

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg is the 2009 Tri-Citian of the Year.

Ken Hohenberg has been keeping Tri-City streets safe since he was a crossing guard as a boy, and he has hardly stopped serving since.For that life of service to his community, the Kennewick police chief was named 2009 Tri-Citian of the Year at a banquet Saturday at the Pasco Red Lion.

“Nobody gets anything done by themselves,” Hohenberg said, giving a nod to the evening’s theme of community service. “It’s all about relationships, and it’s all about a desire to make things better in this community.”


Local Kiwanis, Soroptimist, Lions and Rotary clubs put on the event. An independent committee selects the recipient, someone who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed positively to the community through public or volunteer service.


“I’ve also been blessed that I’ve had many people that have allowed me to serve and to serve with them, and they’ve created opportunities for me,” Hohenberg said.


Many have opened doors for him, including Bud Knore, who invited him to sit on the United Way board, he said.


Expressing his dedication to the Tri-Cities, he said, “We live in a great community, and we have a lot of work to do. These are tough times.”


Hohenberg has lived in the Tri-Cities all his life, having made up his mind as a kid that this is where he would live as an adult. It also was at a young age that he set his sights on becoming a police officer.


He reached that goal 31 years ago, when he started out as a patrol officer in the Kennewick Police Department. He rose the ranks, becoming chief in 2003.


Knore, one of Hohenberg’s nominators for the award, said the chief has been serving others since childhood. He once earned “Patrol Boy of the Year” honors for his crossing guard service.


“When most are too busy, Ken is always available,” Knore wrote in his nomination letter. “When most are too tired, Ken is ready and eager to get started. When most think they have done their share, Ken is looking for more opportunities.”


Hohenberg encourages his staff to be community oriented, said Capt. Craig Littrell and Linda Spier, assistant to the chief, in their nomination letter. In 2008, his staff helped raise more than $40,000 for Special Olympics.


He set the example, Littrell and Spier wrote, plunging into the near-freezing waters of the Columbia River in mid-winter for the Polar Bear Plunge and waiting tables at Red Robin and Red Lobster during the police department’s “Tip a Cop” campaign — both events to benefit Special Olympics.


His volunteer efforts are extensive, reaching organizations such as the Reading Foundation, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, Camp Fire USA, Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties, March of Dimes, Tri-Cities Cancer Center and others.


“My passion for a lot of things that I’m involved in revolve around my mother,” Hohenberg told the banquet’s audience. His mom, one of several family members he introduced, survived melanoma when he was a teenager.


As police chief, Hohenberg ushered in a state-of-the-art Kennewick police station in 2008, that also houses the Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Crimes Task Force, Child Protective Services and domestic violence advocates.


He committed a full-time police officer to target sex offenders, and he worked with the city attorney and county prosecutor offices to implement a new law that allows police to serve trespass notices in multiple jurisdictions to keep offenders away from Kennewick libraries, parks and schools.


In 2007, he started the Kennewick Police Department’s participation in the National Missing Children’s Day “Take 25” initiative at Columbia Park, encouraging parents to fingerprint their children and meet officers.


He also worked with the Kennewick School District to develop the Student Protection Team and developed the Juvenile Action Team to help at-risk youths.


Hohenberg has been honored before, including as the Kennewick Man of the Year in 2005, Benton-Franklin United Way’s 2003 Volunteer of the Year and as one of Central Washington University’s Law and Justice Outstanding Alumni in 2007-08.


He’s a past president and current member of Columbia Center Rotary.


He and his wife Trish celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary last month. They have two daughters, Melissa and Michelle, who are attending college.

Ken Hohenberg excellent choice for Tri-Citian 2009

Published Sunday, April 5th, 2009, Tri-City Herald

On paper, this year’s Tri-Citian of the Year sounds a bit like an action hero.


For a good cause, he’ll plunge into a freezing river in the middle of winter or run a five-mile leg of a relay at 3 a.m.


And being a police officer, he fights bad guys too.


Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg is this year’s recipient of the community’s highest honor. The selection committee couldn’t have picked a more deserving person.


Hohenberg was born and raised in the Tri-Cities. He spent his law enforcement career with the Kennewick Police Department, working his way up to chief in 2003.


Along the way, he has served on countless boards and commissions in the community and has won numerous awards. Listing them all would fill this column.


The Tri-Citian of the Year traditionally had been sponsored by the local clubs of Rotary International, but beginning last year the local Kiwanis, Lions and Soroptimists clubs also joined in sponsoring the event.


As always, the award goes to someone who unselfishly devotes their time over and over again to help the community.


Hohenberg fits that description perfectly.


Among the statements recommending Hohenberg for Tri-Citian of the Year was this quote: “When most are too busy, Ken is always available. When most are too tired, Ken is ready and eager to get started. When most think they have done their share, Ken is looking for more opportunities.”


Hohenberg has served and held leadership positions on several community boards, including Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, local chapters of the March of Dimes, Boys & Girls Club, Red Cross, Columbia Center Rotary and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation.


He also has been a board chairman for United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties and in 2003 was named the agency’s Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.


Other awards include Kennewick Man of the Year, Rotary President of the Year, the Spirit of the Red Cross award and the Community Partner Award by the Mid-Columbia Education Alliance.


One of the organizations that is dear to Hohenberg’s heart is Special Olympics. To raise money for the program, Hohenberg has participated in the Polar Plunge for the past three years, jumping into the freezing Columbia River in January.


He also has participated in the torch run for Special Olympics, which is a relay from Pullman to Tacoma for the start of the games.


In addition to his volunteer efforts, Hohenberg also has done an excellent job as police chief in Kennewick. Under his leadership, Kennewick became the first agency in the Tri-City area to partner with the FBI in the formation of a Violent Crimes Gang Task Force. He started National Missing Children’s Day, which encourages parents to fingerprint their children. Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him a member of the Washington State Auto Theft Prevention Authority in Olympia.


And even with his busy schedule, he finds time to spend with family — his wife Trish and their two college-age daughters, Melissa and Michelle.


The Tri-Citian of the Year award is a reminder of how much individuals can accomplish if they care enough to help their community.


Ken Hohenberg sets a great example for everyone else.


Tri-Citian of the Year honoree Schwenk committed to community

Published Sunday, April 6th, 2008, Tri-City Herald
By Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writer

A community advocate for education and economic development was named 2008 Tri-Citian of the Year on Saturday.Mike Schwenk was stymied and teary-eyed at being singled out for his longtime commitment to the Tri-Cities – a place he’s called home for nearly 30 years.

“I’m going to have to keep it light or I will never get through it,” he said, wiping his eyes while receiving the honor. “I am incredibly humbled and moved by this, and can’t thank you all enough.”


Schwenk is the vice president and director of commercial partnerships for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He said during the introduction he had flashbacks over his years of service, and one notable memory was his effort to minimize job losses with the 1988 closure of N Reactor by launching Tri-Cities Renaissance, an economic revitalization and diversification program.Schwenk said his recognition is because of a collective effort, even though this “just happens to be my year.”


“This isn’t about me and this award isn’t mine. I think it’s about all of us and this award is ours,” he said.


The Richland resident was joined on the stage by his wife Sharon, their two children Brian and Stacy, and a half-dozen other family members. He was introduced by George Garlick, the 2007 winner, before a record-breaking crowd of 450 at the annual award banquet at the Pasco Red Lion.


“This individual’s career encompassed many of the company’s in our community,” Garlick told the audience. “What was important was not the ‘What’ he did because he does everything with unbounded energy. More importantly, it was because he saw the opportunity for our community to have a lasting impact on the local area, the state, the country and the world.”


Schwenk was nominated by Brad Fisher, senior vice president and branch director of RBC Wealth Management, and jointly by Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council, and Karen Blasdel with PNNL’s community and regional outreach.


Fisher said Schwenk was the perfect candidate because he “embodies the true spirit of this award … service above self!” He described Schwenk as a gifted community servant who can lead effective discussions and quickly get to the heart of an issue.


The event – which has recognized 42 Tri-Citians during its 37 ceremonies – has been organized by local Rotary clubs since 1980, but this year included Kiwanis, Lions and Soroptimist clubs. An independent committee selects the recipient.


Sandy Matheson, the 2003 Tri-Citian of the Year, said in her endorsement letter that it’s a joy to work with Schwenk because his serious leadership is peppered with “uproarious humor.”


“Mike becomes a leader in every organization he joins because he has the rare combination of meaningful vision, the ability to communicate and the ability to implement his vision … ,” said Matheson, director of the state Department of Retirement Systems. “His list of community activities can best be described as ‘everything.’ ”


Schwenk was the owner and operator of General Business Services for two years in the mid-1980s. He has served as director of Fluor Daniel, Westinghouse Hanford, ICF Kaiser International and RL Ferguson and Associates, and was executive vice president of TRIDEC from 1986-89.


He is chairman of the Washington State University Tri-Cities Advisory Council, the TRIDEC board and the Three Rivers Community Roundtable, while also serving as co-chairman for the Tri-City Chamber Higher Education Task Force.


His lengthy résumé lists numerous organizations and boards, including the Richland School Board and the Richland School District Foundation, CREHST, Columbia Industries, the Blue Mountain Council for Boy Scouts of America, the Washington Export Council and the Leadership Task Force on Sustainable Development.


Schwenk has been the recipient of several community service awards, most notably the 2003 Sam Volpentest Leadership Award.


The 15 letters submitted in support of Schwenk’s nomination were a who’s who of the Tri-Cities, including WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Vicky Carwein, Herald Publisher Rufus Friday, AgriNorthwest President Don Sleight, Rich Foeppel, president and CEO of Columbia Industries, and Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield.


“Mike has volunteered hundreds of hours of his own time, expecting nothing in return, simple because he cares about the Tri-Cities community and its people,” said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.


Jim Toomey, the Port of Pasco director, said, “Mike’s involvement was never about Mike. He has always been making something bigger, making something better and making something that would have a sustained benefit for all.”


Entrepreneur Named Tri-Citian of the Year

Published Sunday, April 1st, 2007, Tri-City Herald

Richland entrepreneur George Garlick was named as the 2007 Tri-Citian of the Year on Saturday.


“All I can say is wow, I’m just overwhelmed,” Garlick said, upon receiving the honor.


Joined by Carol, his wife of 46 years, and flanked by his children and grandchildren, an emotional Garlick thanked his family for their support through “missed meals and missed opportunities.”


He was introduced by Frank Armijo, the 2006 winner.


“Integrity, commitment, community and service are the type of words that come to mind when I think of George,” Armijo wrote in an endorsement letter. “A quiet man who never seeks the spotlight, George is the first to offer his time, his expertise and even his money in support of a worthy cause for our community.”


The recognition was announced at the annual award banquet at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick before a crowd of more than 400 people.


The Tri-Citian of the Year award is sponsored by the Rotary clubs of the Tri-Cities, with the winners chosen each year by an independent committee. Earlier this year, the Richland Rotary also awarded Garlick its 2007 Sam Volpentest Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.


Referencing Volpentest and his community service to the Tri-Cities, Garlick thanked God for smiling down on him. “If He is smiling on me like he did for our good friend Sam Volpentest, I still have 30 years of contributions to make.”


Garlick did pass out briefly before the program started, requiring assistance from paramedics. He said he was all right and that it was something that has happened in the past and was due to pushing himself too much.


He made headlines recently for his philanthropy, giving $50,000 in February to support WSU Tri-Cities’ first freshman class and following it up with March’s $300,000 unrestricted donation to The Chaplaincy at Hospice in the Tri-Cities to honor a former employee who had died of cancer.


However, Garlick’s “service above self,” in the Tri-Cities goes back four decades and even earlier, to when he was growing up on a Nebraska farm during World War II. He worked two jobs while attending college, determined to find ways to provide for himself and his family while also remaining committed to his Christian faith.


It was on that farm, Armijo said, that Garlick learned “the value of neighbor helping neighbor.”


It was also, Garlick said, where he learned four lessons from his father that have guided him through life. Those were to never criticize another person; be the first to apologize regardless who is at fault; never defend yourself if people say false things about you; and always think of the interest of others first.


Garlick’s father, who never graduated eighth grade, taught his son those lessons, as well the value of getting an education while he also went blind from cataracts and, as a result, had to take a $1 a day job in town as a janitor.


Garlick got that education, eventually earning his doctorate in electrical engineering. He remembers the story, he said, of how after graduating he was flown first class to California, where he was met by a limo and offered a great job.


In contrast, he was flown economy class to the Tri-Cities, landed in the middle of a sand storm and there was no car waiting for him. And he said the Tri-Cities has met every expectation he has ever had since.


He helped develop and direct during the 1960s the Joint Center for Graduate Study — now Washington State University’s Tri-Cities branch campus. It was during that time he also developed the acoustical holography technology that Advanced Imaging Technologies — of which he is founder and chairman of the board — is putting to work in early breast cancer detection.


He’s started more than a dozen companies, and his Tri-City Science and Technology Park in north Richland was recently recognized as one of the top 10 research parks in the country.


He is the president of Garlick Enterprises; founder of the Gloria Meek Garlick Foundation; president of the Steven Center Properties and manager of the Smart Park Properties.


“It is hard to quantify the number of people that have been touched by George’s generosity, dedication and accomplishments,” wrote Lura Powell in her nominating letter. “In his 44 years as a community member, George has enriched the Tri-Cities in many ways. He has created a rich legacy, which will continue to bear fruit.”


Others submitting letters in support of Garlick’s nomination were a who’s who of the Tri-Cities, including letters from past Tri-Citians of the Year Fran Forgette, Bob Lampson, Armijo, and Sandy Matheson.


“His quiet but enduring service to the community has helped create better lives for everyone he touches,” Matheson said.


Forgette said, “His expertise is indeed diverse, running from electrical engineering to science, to higher education, to commercial construction, to development and beyond. His seemingly simultaneous pursuit of all these fields always orbits around the central goal focused on what’s best for the Tri-City community.”


Frank Armijo named 2006 Tri-Citian of the Year

This story was published Sunday, March 5, 2006, Tri-City Herald
By Andrew Sirocchi, Herald staff writer


A surprised Frank Armijo was named the 2006 Tri-Citian of the Year on Saturday night before a cheering and applauding crowd of about 450 people, winning the award for a long record of community service.


The recognition, announced at the annual award banquet at the Three Rivers Convention Center, came only a day after what’s likely Armijo’s biggest community achievement yet.



He was saluted for leading the successful effort to win legislative approval for four-year status for Washington State University Tri-Cities.


That single accomplishment stands to benefit the region for decades to come and put the Pasco native at the top of the list of community-minded nominees for the award.


“I’m honored to be a part of this prestigious group,” Armijo said while standing at the podium cradling the award in one arm. “The value I’ve been able to gain through volunteerism is truly the relationship I’ve formed with so many of you.”


Armijo credited his parents for creating a loving environment under which he could flourish. He brought both of them on stage with him, where he also was joined by his wife Sherry and two daughters, Alexis and Rachel. He was nominated for the award by his longtime friend, attorney Fran Forgette.


“I cannot emphasize enough my high regard for Frank as a leader and a volunteer in our community,” Forgette wrote in his nomination letter. “The fact that he took on this higher education project in spite of his already crowded calendar amongst career, family and other volunteer commitments was far and above and beyond the call of duty.”


As the vice chairman of TRIDEC’s Higher Education Committee in 2005, Armijo led an effort begun more than a year ago to unify the vision for a four-year college to serve the region. Most of the work was accomplished under a tight seven-month deadline, culminating with Senate approval Friday of legislation that now awaits Gov. Chris Gregoire’s promised signature.


TRIDEC President Carl Adrian found it fitting that Armijo accepted the award one day after learning of the bill’s success.


“Frank has been working on this all year and he put a tremendous amount of time into it,” Adrian said. “It’s really a tremendous tribute.”


Armijo’s effort in 2005 was far from his first attempt to improve others’ lives through learning.


He long has championed education for Hispanic children and in 1990 was a founding board member and first chairman of the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program. HAAP has since provided Tri-City Latinos with scholarship money that is expected to surpass a combined total of $1 million this year.


Armijo also was one of the founders of Leadership Tri-Cities and the Reading Foundation, both community efforts to improve the welfare of children and adults in the region. He is involved in the United Way, the Washington State Economic Development Commission, Washington State University and the Columbia Basin College Foundation.


Gregoire also appointed Armijo to the Washington Learns Task Force steering committee to help improve the state’s education system.


Calvin Dudney, the winner of the Tri-Citian of the Year award in 2005, said Armijo joins a list of honorees who started with little but through hard work became community leaders.


“First, the men and women who are honored as Tri-Citians of the Year live the American Dream,” Dudney said. “They started with modest circumstances and through hard work, determination and a belief in themselves have persevered to be successful.”


The definition fits Armijo and makes it perhaps less surprising that he understands the value of education so well. Born to hard-working but not wealthy parents in Pasco, Armijo had to compete for scholarships, get financial aid, apply for grants and work a job to become the first person in his family with a college degree.


After graduating from Eastern Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems, Armijo rose through the business ranks. Now the program director and general manager of Lockheed Martin Information Technology in Richland, Armijo oversees 700 employees and $85 million in federal programs.


The Tri-Citian of the Year award is sponsored by the Rotary clubs of the Tri-Cities, with the winners chosen each year by an independent committee.

Tri-Citian for 2006 a true native son
This editorial was published Sunday, March 5, 2006, Tri-City Herald
Editorial Staff


We’re not sure how many Tri-Citians of the Year have been home grown, but it’s certain the ratio favors newcomers.


We’ve long been a community populated by folks born elsewhere, and the history of the award reflects that fact.


This year, however, the award goes to Frank Armijo, a local production. We’d be hard pressed to come up with a better example of the best the Tri-Cities can produce.


He’s a native of Pasco, the son of migrant farm workers, the first in his family to attend college, an alumnus of Columbia Basin College and Eastern Washington University in Cheney.


Armijo has since devoted much of his time to making sure more Tri-City students from similar backgrounds can achieve similar successes. Toward that end, Armijo and his wife, Sherry, helped found the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program in 1990.


Largely through Armijo’s fund-raising efforts, HAAP is on track this year to exceed a combined total of $1 million in scholarships for Tri-City students.


His additional contributions to education include serving on CBC’s board of trustees, helping found the Reading Foundation and sitting on the Washington Learns steering committee, a statewide panel working improve education.

Anyone following the successful efforts to establish a four-year university in the Tri-Cities is aware of Armijo’s leadership role in that endeavor.


As head of the Tri-City Industrial Council’s higher education committee, he was instrumental in obtaining the Legislature’s approval for a plan to expand Washington State University Tri-Cities.


Armijo is program director and general manager of Lockheed Martin Information Technology, and his volunteer work fittingly includes an economic development component.


He’s served as chairman of TRIDEC and a member of the boards for Washington Technology Center and the Washington State Economic Development Commission. He was a founding member of Leadership Tri-Cities.


Any community would welcome a leader like Armijo. To produce one is a source of pride.


Dudney named Tri-Citian of the Year

This story was published Sunday, March 6, 2005, Tri-City Herald
By the Herald staff


When it comes to community service, few can match Calvin E. Dudney, a soft-spoken man whose personal motto is “do the right thing.”


When the Playground of Dreams was built in 1999, Dudney was there.  And again in 2004, he was there when the playground was rebuilt after an arson.


He’s organized book drives, collected food to be given away during the holidays and had his hands in several construction and landscaping projects at the Hospice House, the Developmental Center, Head Start and Master Gardeners gardens.


Years of volunteer work added up to Dudney being named Tri-Citian of the Year for 2005 on Saturday night before a crowd of about 400 at the Three Rivers Convention Center, which he played a key role in creating as a founding member of the Kennewick Public Facilities District board.


Dudney was joined onstage late Saturday by his family, while more than 30 of his relatives stood nearby for support.


“I don’t know why I got this except for one reason, because I’ve been on good teams.” said Dudney, who held back tears during his brief speech to the crowd.


Dudney’s service to the community he has called home for 45 years includes projects as little as helping on Earth Day cleanups and remodeling bathrooms at the Boys and Girls Club in Pasco and as large as making decisions on the construction of the $19 million convention center.


Dudney, who lives in West Richland, is married and has a son and daughter, was nominated for the award because of his extensive community involvement and for his effective leadership on a variety of projects.


“Everyone who has had the opportunity to serve in the capacity with Calvin has been impressed with his leadership, motivation, drive and perpetual can-do attitude.” wrote Donald Ray, lieutenant governor for Kiwanis International, in his nomination letter.


“He cares about his family, his country, his community and people he works with,” Ray added.


Erin Tomlinson, foundation specialist at Kennewick General Hospital, got to know Dudney when they were officers of Leadership Tri-Cities Class IV in 1998-1999.


“I think of his passion of helping to make our community a better place in which to work, live and raise our families.  (He) has a remarkable ability to serve the community through effective partnership,” Tomlinson said.


She said he exemplifies the award’s purpose–to recognize “service above self.”


Dean Strawn, president of the Kennewick PFD, said Dudney, as on of its five board members, served admirably and “readily volunteered to perform any task that he saw as necessary to accomplish (building the convention center)…displaying the highest levels of integrity, honor and dignity.”


Dudney’s boss at Fluor Hanford noted that Dudney demonstrates in his daily life the Golden Rule of generosity, kindness, and positive living.


He also emulates the best of what service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis Club preach, even though he personally is not a member of either group.


The award is sponsored by the Rotary clubs of the Tri-Cities, but the winners are chosen each year by an independent committee.


Tri-Citian of the Year Craig Eerkes says he is ‘humbled and honored’

2004 Lewis & Sara Zirkle

Doctor couple honored

This story was published Sunday, May 23rd, 2004, Tri-City Herald
By Chris Mulick Herald staff writer

About 300 people packed the Pasco Red Lion Saturday to toast Lew and Sara Zirkle as their 2004 Tri-Citians of the Year.


And in Zirkle fashion, they wasted no time in giving back.


“We salute you, too,” Lew Zirkle said.


The award, given by local Rotary clubs every year since 1962 to Tri-Citians who demonstrate “service beyond self,” is the community’s most prestigious.


Like past award winners, the Zirkles have developed lengthy rap sheets when it comes to civic service since moving to the Tri-Cities in 1973.


Dr. Sara Zirkle, who served on the Kadlec Hospital Board for 12 years and long has been active with the Benton-Franklin County Medical Society, has been lauded for her work in examining children who may have been sexually abused, then using the results to testify in court cases. She helped establish the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Kadlec Medical Center and later the Reading Foundation in the Tri-Cities.


She was honored in 2002 with a distinguished service award by the Tri-City law enforcement community for her two decades of work.


“She is the model of a compassionate, sensitive caring physician,” wrote Richland’s Sunny and Bob Cook in their nomination letter.


Dr. Lew Zirkle is best known for his work in developing countries — most notably Vietnam — teaching new techniques to treat severe fractures. He has developed those techniques at the Surgical Implant Generation Network, or SIGN, a nonprofit organization he founded in Richland which manufactures rods and screws that don’t require expensive equipment to insert.


More than 8,000 of his surgical nails were distributed last year and more than 550 surgeons in 36 countries have been trained to use SIGN instruments and techniques.


“Physician and ambassador of peace, Dr. Zirkle puts the Tri-Cities on the world map one nail at a time,” the Cooks wrote.


“Their lives are an ongoing labor of love and an incredible example of service above self,” Sandy Matheson, last year’s Tri-Citian of the Year, said before introducing the Zirkles.


“We’re very surprised and very happy and, actually, very grateful,” Lew Zirkle said shortly before a long reception line ended.


Surprise is a traditional element of the annual event. Sara Zirkle had been told her husband would win alone. Lew Zirkle, who had never attended the annual ceremony before, had written a speech to honor a colleague he thought was going to win.


But that didn’t explain a visit from his three out-of-town daughters, who normally aren’t all able to get back to the Tri-Cities at the same time more than once a year. Still, the story held.


“He was really upset because he wanted to stay home with us,” Molly said of her dad.


As it turned out, they got to spend the evening together anyway.


“I think they’ve made an incredible contribution to this community,” daughter Liz said. “They are always trying to find ways to help people.”


“It’s a huge honor,” daughter Julie said of the award.

An outstanding award for outstanding couple

This story was published Sunday, May 23rd, 2004, Tri-City Herald


Being named Tri-Citian of the Year has long been considered the highest honor a local citizen can receive.


This year, the honor goes to two citizens, a husband and wife team, and they bring at least as much honor to the award as it brings to them.


Dr. Lewis Zirkle Jr. and Dr. Sara Zirkle lead remarkably generous lives. We call them a team, but that is more a matter of their spiritual union than their working practices.


Dr. Lewis Zirkle is an orthopedic specialist with a worldwide reputation.


In 1997 he received the Kiwanis World Service Medal — a high international honor presented on behalf of Kiwanis by Gov. Gary Locke.


Another recipient was the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for her decades of service to India’s poor.


Zirkle also received the Red Cross Heroes Award in 2002.


He achieved world renown for his volunteer medical help to the people of Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador and Southeast Asia. He returns annually to Vietnam, where he served as a young surgeon in the Army Medical Corps in 1968.


He instructs, provides equipment and helps improve the state of orthopedic surgery for Vietnam’s doctors. He’s recruited other U.S. doctors and medical professionals for international relief work.


It goes beyond orthopedics. He’s worked to get iodine routinely added to salt in Vietnam, helping prevent mental retardation and other widespread health problems.


Dr. Sara Zirkle, a development and behavioral pediatric specialist, worked part-time early in her career, as she and her husband reared their children.


She was instrumental in the creation of the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Kadlec Medical Center and the Mid-Columbia Reading Foundation.


She was honored in 2002 with a Distinguished Service Award bestowed by Benton and Franklin county prosecutors and law enforcement officers for her sensitive and caring work with children who may have been sexually abused.


She is a well-known advocate for children’s and family issues and testifies in abuse cases. In her work with abused children, she takes a careful approach emphasizing that the child has done nothing wrong.


Sara Zirkle told the group that honored her in 2002, “I really don’t think I’ve done anything out of the ordinary.”


The Tri-Cities is blessed to have such “ordinariness” in its midst. The Zirkles are models of humanitarianism and the most lofty goals of medical care.


Sandy Matheson named Tri-Citian of Year

This story was published Sunday, March 16th, 2003
By Nathan Isaacs Herald staff writer

Community volunteer and businesswoman Sandy Matheson made history Saturday night when she was named 2003 Tri-Citian of the Year, the first time a woman has been honored individually with the award.


The community’s most prestigious civic award recognizes a person who has provided outstanding leadership and personal contribution to the growth and quality of life in the Tri-Cities.


“I can’t tell you how touched I am,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “None of this happens without a team.”


Included on Matheson’s team is her family, which kept the secret by leading her to believe they were doing something else on Saturday.


Her husband was supposedly in flight school in Tucson. Her Chicago-based daughter was going to the library. Her mother was on the links in Denver and her son was traveling in California.


All made the trip to the Tri-Cities for the occasion and were quickly, and humorously, admonished for their deception.


Matheson, 50, has left her fingerprints over the last three decades on nearly everything in the Tri-Cities. Her efforts include volunteer work in health care, economic development, education, tourism, the arts and social services.


Her supporters credit Matheson’s leadership skills in helping give lasting direction to whatever project she embraces. They also credit her ability to help raise millions of dollars for those projects.


“She puts her heart and soul into the community,” said her husband, Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson.


The civic award dates to 1962, when Owen Hurd, a leader in the energy community who served as general manager for the Benton PUD, became the first Tri-Citian of the Year.


Attorney Fran Forgette earned the honor in 2001 and semi-retired businessman Red Rutherford won last year.


The two past women recipients — Mary Gallant in 1981 and Billie Jane Lampson in 1992 — shared their honors with men.


The award is given by local Rotary clubs to a Tri-Citian who demonstrates “service beyond self.”


Matheson was nominated by Pasco resident Bill Moffitt, a retired Hanford executive. In his nomination, he wrote that Matheson “makes a difference everywhere you turn in the Tri-Cities.”


“She exemplifies what it means to be a community developer through her leadership by example,” he wrote. “She has worked and led in many community areas that improve our quality of life and attract others to our community.”


Matheson was president and chief executive of the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation from 1993 to 2000. She now owns a consulting company in the Tri-Cities.


She also has held, or holds, leadership positions with United Way, the March of Dimes, the Tri-Cities Corporate Council for the Arts, the Tri-City Industrial Development Council, Tri-City Cancer Center, Three Rivers Community Foundation, CREHST, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Columbia Basin College, Mid-Columbia Reading Foundation, Kennewick General Hospital, Kennewick School District and the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau — among many others.


In fact, Mike Schwenk introduced her last year at a press conference for the Tri-Cities’ 9/11 Memorial Ceremony as “Sandy Matheson, chair or past chair of everything in the Tri-Cities.”


However, Dick Hoch of Kennewick wrote in his endorsement of Matheson’s nomination that she does not push herself into these things.


“She does not have a political or personal agenda to promote,” he said. “She never seeks the limelight, and typically credits her accomplishments to others. The community simply turns to her when something needs to get done. When asked, she steps up and does it.”


Hoch said many people likely are surprised she hadn’t been honored as Tri-Citian of the Year earlier.


But Matheson has some past honors on her rsum including Leadership Tri-Cities Volpentest Leadership Award in 2001 and Kennewick Woman of the Year in 1993.

She and her husband raised two children, Michelle, 23, and Doug, 25. That could be considered three children if one counts Lucy, the family’s 3-year old pug, for whom Matheson is known to sew canine outfits.


Matheson graduated from Northwestern University in Illinois, where she also met her husband. She returned with him to the Tri-Cities in 1976.


She said she has no regrets and no plans to quit, which is a good thing for the Tri-Cities.


“Every decade, a few people emerge in our wonderful community, people with charm, talent, energy, vision — in short, leaders whom others are ready and willing to follow,” Jim Cochran, former dean at WSU Tri-Cities, wrote in his endorsement letter. “Sandy Matheson is one of those people.”


Red Rutherford named Tri-Citian of Year

This story was published March 24, 2002, Tri-City Herald
By Wendy Culverwell and Mary Hopkin Herald staff writers

Red Rutherford, a longtime Tri-City businessman and civic leader, on Saturday night was named 2002 Tri-Citian of the Year, the community’s top honor.


A tearful Rutherford was joined at the podium with more than 20 members of his family, who donned Charlie Chaplin-style glasses and fake noses as they entered the banquet room at the Pasco Doubletree Hotel.


Some of the family members had traveled from as far away as Louisiana and Oklahoma to watch Rutherford receive the award.

“We’ve spent the last four hours in a hotel room telling jokes,” said his son, Randy Rutherford of Kennewick.


As last year’s winner, Fran Forgette, introduced the award, Red Rutherford secretly was hoping someone he was close to would be named.


“In the back of my mind I was hoping my wife, Sally, would get it because she volunteers so much time at the hospital,” he said. “She is the real winner.”


Forgette described Rutherford as always having a joke to share, a hand to shake and a friend to make. But receiving the award left Rutherford, 77, with little to say.


“The joke was on me tonight,” Rutherford said. “This will be the first time you see me at a meeting without a story. You have left me speechless.”


The award is given annually by Tri-City-area Rotarians to a Tri-Citian who demonstrates “service beyond self.”


Kennewick residents George Jones and Cathy Merrill nominated the 54-year Tri-Citian for his history of service to the community and to children in particular.


The Rutherfords moved to the Tri-Cities in 1948.


Rutherford worked as a self-employed developer who established a number of businesses, such as Red’s Trailer Mart and Sun Meadows Mobile Home Park. He was a leader in the mobile home industry for more than half a century, serving as president of the Washington State Mobile Home Dealers, the Columbia Basin chapter of the Mobile Home Dealers and the Washington Mobile Home Parks Association.


On the civic front, he worked to start the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and is a longtime backer of Meals on Wheels, Tri-City Prep, Special Olympics, the Humane Society, Boy Scouts, St. Joseph’s Church, Shriners and a host of other causes.


His efforts to launch the cancer center brought a bit of public attention in 1993, when he bought a new Ford Taurus and donated it for an auction to raise money to build the clinic.


At the time, Rutherford said he had planned to donate to the $2.1 million project. By giving an attention-grabbing item to the auction, his original donation was multiplied many times over through the magic of ticket sales. The raffle raised nearly $90,000.


Rutherford was back in public view two years ago when Washington State Patrol Trooper James Saunders was shot and killed in Pasco during a routine traffic stop. Rutherford engineered a similar raffle to raise money that paid for 22 cameras installed in patrol cars throughout the area.


He participates in the Kennewick Kiwanis Club’s annual gift program to ensure children at Bailie’s Memorial Youth Ranch have gifts on Christmas. As a Kiwanian, he helped push development of the Family Fishing Pond at the east end of Columbia Park.


His volunteer work extends to the Benton-Franklin County Fair, where, for 30 years, he has coordinated ticket sales and organized volunteers who work at the entry gates and sell tickets.


He also established the Kennewick Kiwanis Foundation, which raises money to support youth-oriented projects. The Rutherford Scholarship is named for him and his wife.


Rutherford is an active woodworker and bird lover as well. He built more than 200 birdhouses used in Ephrata to increase the area bluebird population.


Kennewick attorney named Tri-Citian of Year

This story was published April 8, 2001, Tri-City Herald
By Wendy Culverwell and Dori O’Neal Herald staff writers


Growing up in a large family taught Fran Forgette a lot about involvement. And it wasn’t just family that held his attention and compassion.


Just name a cause near and dear to the hearts of Tri-Citians, and chances are good Forgette is involved, one way or another.


Are environmentalists demanding the removal of the four lower Snake River dams? There’s Fran — organizing the Save Our Dams effort and voicing TV spots encouraging community members to attend a pro-dam rally on the cable bridge.


If school teachers are reaching into their own wallets to pay for classroom technology, there’s Fran, creating a grant program to channel money for software and computer peripherals to most every elementary school in the area.


For his efforts to rally community support for the four dams, his efforts to help teachers pay for classroom technology and countless other projects, Francois X. Forgette was honored Saturday night as the 2001 Tri-Citian of the Year by the Rotary Clubs of the Tri-Cities.


As is tradition, the club kept the identity of its honoree secret until the last possible second, when Forgette’s name was announced by John Nolan, the 2000 Tri-Citian of the Year.


“Wow! This is so neat,” a clearly surprised Forgette said once the thunderous applause died down.


Forgette certainly wasn’t expecting the honor — when Nolan was getting ready to introduce the winner, he left for the restroom. Nolan had to drag out his introduction until the man of honor returned.


Forgette, a Kennewick attorney, soon found himself surrounded by his wife, Debbie, and two sons, Joey and Patrick.


Also present were his mother and one of his sisters. He introduced them to the packed ballroom at the Pasco Doubletree, keeping up a lively banter with his sons and colleagues.


But he turned serious when he said, “I haven’t done anything that hasn’t required a lot of great help. You can’t do what you do in a community without support at home.”


Forgette was nominated by James Spracklen, director of the Department of Energy’s office of security and emergency services — and one of Forgette’s neighbors in Kennewick.


In his nomination, Spracklen noted Forgette not only lends his name and energy to a dizzying array of causes and agencies, but also strikes a balance in his life.


“Fran has been able to balance family, business and social life while being a leader in our community who is not afraid of a battle or to share a tender heart with someone in need,” Spracklen observed.


Forgette’s civic résumé is extensive. He has presided over the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, the Tri-City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Estate Planning Council. He has served on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club, Catholic Family and Child Services, the Kennewick School District’s facilities and technology committee, the Mid-Columbia Education Alliance, the Safetown Project and the Save Our Dams project.


He lends his professional expertise to the Tri-Cities Industrial Development Council.


In the education arena, he is best known for creating the Adopt-A-Disk program after he visited his son Joey’s elementary school class in 1995. There, Forgette was impressed by a classroom computer project — and dismayed to find the teacher, Ron Trautman, had bought the gear with his own money.


From modest beginnings in 1995, Adopt-A-Disk has become a communitywide grant program that funnels $500 each to all elementary schools in six area districts and a handful of private schools.


The money helps teachers purchase software and peripherals they can use for special class projects and motivate kids to investigate math, history and other topics.


The Kennewick School District honored his efforts in 1997 when it named him an Outstanding Partner.


In the business arena, Forgette was president of the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce when it became the Tri-City Area Chamber in a bid to give the region another strong voice. He also donates his legal expertise to the Tri-City Industrial Development Council as its volunteer counsel.


Forgette was president of the chamber when he delved into salmon recovery issues and came to be a community spokesman for saving the four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River. He also has led efforts to restart the Fast Flux Test Facility to produce medical isotopes.


He’s well known in the medical community, too, where he has served the cancer center in a variety of positions, including president, board member, counsel and chairman of the negotiation team.


Forgette has been honored in the legal profession, as well. Last fall, he was among seven attorneys statewide to receive the Washington State Bar Association’s “Proud to be a Lawyer” award for his civic work.


Forgette is a partner with the Kennewick law firm of Rettig, Osborne, Forgette, O’Donnell, Iller & Adamson.


The Tri-Citian of the Year program dates to 1963 when Sam Volpentest was honored as the first winner.


Nolan named Tri-Citian of the Year

This story was published March 12, 2000, Tri-City Herald
By Melissa O’Neil Herald staff writer


Articulate. Focused. Insightful. Candid. Devout. Humble. Steadfast. Revered. Noble.


A true gentleman.


Those adjectives and more were cited by those who nominated John Nolan for Tri-Citian of the Year 2000. And they were recited again Saturday night as he received the Tri-Cities’ most prestigious award.


Nolan, 74, is a former Westinghouse Hanford president and a leader in numerous community organizations.


“I’m proud to have done what I’ve done,” said Nolan, who was surprised with the award before an audience of about 400 who attended the 21st annual banquet at the Pasco Doubletree Hotel.


“There’s nothing more rewarding than to get accolades from friends.”


The Tri-Citian of the Year award is sponsored by the Tri-Cities’ six Rotary clubs, recognizing a community leader for “service above self” and outstanding contributions to economic growth and the quality of life.


Nolan and Dotty, his wife of 47 years, have seven children and 25 grandchildren. Four children, including a daughter from Virginia and a son from Chicago, and three grandchildren shocked Nolan when they appeared on stage.


The guest speaker was Rich Cowan, director of The Basket, a movie partially filmed in the Tri-City area, in its 10th week at the Carmike Cinemas in Kennewick. Cowan said his experience filming in the Tri-Cities was excellent, and he asked those at the banquet to vote with their feet by seeing quality movies.


“The only thing Hollywood listens to is the money side of things and attendance,” Cowan said. “You don’t always need dark, edgy movies. There is a desire and a need for films with good values.”


Nolan epitomizes values such as caring for others and being dedicated to his community.


Nolan, although retired, still is Kadlec Medical Center board chairman, a Tri-Cities Cancer Center board member, a Boy Scouts Blue Mountain Council executive committee member, Richland Kiwanis secretary and a Eucharistic minister for Christ the King Church.


“John Nolan is one of the most selfless human beings you could find,” reads the nomination essay. “He has been one of our most important individuals in economic development and (in) increasing employment during his 20 years in (the) Tri-Cities.


“He is often the quiet reason that never criticizes but clears the cobwebs of question or concern. He is the unsung hero who inspires others to go beyond themselves, to enjoy the pleasure of doing and to really treasure the moments we share working together.”


Nolan spent his entire 40-year career with Westinghouse Electric Corp., starting as an engineer in Pennsylvania and retiring in April 1990 as president of Westinghouse Hanford in Richland.


He actually was the Westinghouse Hanford president twice – from 1980 until mid-1987, stepping to executive vice president during a consolidation period, then taking the helm again from late 1988 until his retirement.


His career accomplishments include:

  • — Receiving the Department of Energy’s Distinguished Associate Award in 1990, the highest public service honor given to an employee or contractor.
  • Receiving the Westinghouse Electric Corp. Order of Merit in 1984, the highest honor bestowed on an employee. It was based on Nolan’s contributions to advanced nuclear plant engineering and operations management.
  • Seeing the Fast Flux Test Facility chosen in 1983 as one of the “Ten Outstanding Engineering Achievements” by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

FFTF was a plan on paper when Nolan first visited Hanford in 1969. Thirteen years later, the test reactor became reality. Nolan was the FFTF engineering manager.


DOE is studying whether FFTF should be restarted for several nondefense uses, including making isotopes to be used in new ways to treat cancer and heart disease.


Nolan said his advice over the years to managers was, “Don’t do anything stupid. I’m taking my own advice. I think I ought to quit talking.”