In a night defined by recognition of community service leaders, Al and Robyn Flory were honored as Citizens of the Year by the North Fork Boosters Saturday before an audience of around 100 people inside the community’s Town Hall.
“Al and I feel incredibly blessed to be here,” Robyn Flory said with a teary smile. “This is an incredible, incredible community, and it’s an absolute honor to be recognized like this. There’s so many people who do so many wonderful things here, I don’t even know if we were the ones who should have been picked.”
The Florys have been active in the community for several decades. Robyn, a teacher at North Fork Elementary School for 30 years in the fine arts of music and drama (K-5th grade music, 4-8 drama), will retire at the end of this year. Robyn has also been with Sugar Pine, a musical group that has performed for 28 season at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
Al, who will retire in the near future, has been with the U.S. Postal Service for 38 years serving in Burbank, Madera, Oakhurst, Bass Lake and Coarsegold.
Both Florys regularly participate in the Squirrel Cage Theater Company and have run the beer booth on behalf of the Boosters at the Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree, one of North Fork’s most popular annual events.
Also nominated were Jennifer Pearson, Jennifer McMillan, and Ranay Lutz.
Pearson, an instrumental part in establishing the North Fork Visitors Center, also donates time to the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, its annual Hot August Night car show, and the Loggers Jamboree.
“Any contribution is appreciated and noticed and it’s very gratifying,” said Pearson, who moved to North Fork with her husband around eight years ago. “There’s so many other people in this community that have contributed over many years, so they deserve it more than me.”
McMillan, who purchased North Fork’s Old Town in December of 2013 and renamed it to Bandit Town, is known for hosting regular events such as an annual chili cook-off and casino night, which boost the area economy.
“I don’t think I deserve this as much as everyone else,” McMillan said. “But I’m proud of this honor, it really means a lot.”
Lutz was nominated for her work with the North Fork Recreation Center’s summer program, while donating time to an annual fishing derby and assisting at the school.
All nominees were introduced by last year's winner Linda Gott-Maddox.
Cathey Thornburg, president of the Boosters, said through anonymous submissions for the award since it began in 1979, nominees are chosen for their hard work to better the small town and contribute towards its economic progress and strength as a community.
“Each and every one of them was so deserving,” Thornburg said. “We’re proud of all of them.”
Long time North Fork resident and Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler emceed the event, and has served as its chair for 25 years. He was named Citizen of the Year in 1984.
A moment of remembrance was also held for Zelda Whitener, who passed away in January. Thornburg spoke about Whitener, a North Fork native who attended Sierra High School, as a tireless volunteer who spent time at the Sierra Mono Museum, Grace Community Church and many community events.
“She was nominated many times,” for the Citizen of the Year award, Thornburg said, “but she always declined the honor. She was always willing to do whatever she could to help ... she was a humble, hardworking person who never wanted praise, but always deserved it.”