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REDWOOD TIMES PHOTOS BY SUSAN GARDNER

1. Emcee Estelle Fennell keeps things moving smoothly during the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year dinner Friday night at the Benbow Hotel. John and Teresa Porter hold the many babies presented to them by Chamber members to recognize an event involving a women who was breastfeeding in the hotel.

2. Longtime friend and employee John Dowd thanks the Porters for always being there to give him a job. He first met John when he applied for a job at the Eureka Inn many years ago. Dowd said he has shown his dedication as an employee many times, including being shot repeatedly during the murder mystery weekends held at the Benbow Hotel. He also said he had job security by keeping the Porters supplied with abalone.

3. John Porter thanks everyone for all the hard work, kind words, presentations, and for attending the event.

By now most of you know that John and Teresa Porter were chosen as the 2010 Citizens of the Year for the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce. As the owners of the Benbow Hotel & Resort, the obvious venue for the event was the Hotel itself.

A large tent was set up outside on the terrace with beautifully decorated tables and an outstanding buffet dinner. This was obviously going to be an elegant evening and dining experience. The Hotel has been sold to the Redwood Legacy Group and so the Porters will be leaving Benbow, which made this event even more bittersweet for everyone in attendance.

Chamber President Linda Brodersen opened the evening’s celebration by reading the many accolades of the Porters and what they have meant to Southern Humboldt and especially to Save Our Schools. The Porters participated with the Garberville Rotary Club and SOS to hold their Super Schools Fundraisers at the Hotel to raise money to help our local schools. They have also made many, many donations of complimentary rooms and meals over the years to the various non-profit groups in the area, for which they should be thanked.

Among the scheduled speakers for the evening who presented the Porters with various certificates and awards were:

* Tony Smithers, Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau

* John Woolley, for Assemblymember Wes Chesbro and Senator Noreen Evans

* Skip Stone for Congressman Mike Thompson

* Stephen Quiggle for the Cameron Varnell family

* Bunny Wilder and Brian Elie, Garberville Rotary Club and Super Schools Fundraisers

* Sheriff Mike Downey

* Supervisor Clif Clendenen

* Kitty Yancheff, Humboldt County Library

* Bill Stewart

* John Dowd

* Annie Porter, daughter of John and Teresa, and sons, Tyler and Sam

Various friends and family members also talked about their experiences as friends of the Porters, including well-known former San Francisco Examiner travel writer Georgia Hesse, who has been coming to the Benbow Hotel for years. She became acquainted with John when he was the manager of the Eureka Inn. Porter said it was a story about the Eureka Inn by Hesse, that broke things loose and turned it around.

Probably one of the most colorful and boisterous group of celebrants was some very longtime friends who have know John since 1965. The four of them all attended college together and are still very close friends. These guys were all from the east coast and had an incredible culture and climate shock when they arrived in Las Vegas to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

One statement summed up their friendship when John said, “If one of us had a dollar, we each had 25 cents.” That says it all.

Employees from the Benbow Hotel spoke about how caring the Porters are and how hard they have worked to make the Hotel a great place not only for their guests, but also for their employees to work.

John and Teresa thanked everyone for helping them celebrate this very humbling honor and for all the hard work that goes into the event each year. Teresa said it best with two very important and powerful words – “thank you.”

Past Citizens of the Year include:

1999 – Bunny Wilder

2000 – Bea Anderson

2001 – Brian Walker

2002 – Dennis O’Sullivan

2003 – Estelle Fennell

2004 – Jim Johnson

2005 – Roy Heider

2006 – Linda Brodersen

2007 – Syd and Diane Lehman

2008 – Diana Totten

2009 – Nancy Wilson

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