They gave, the community received.
The annual Esmonde Awards recognize ordinary folks who – by circumstance or intent – acted in extraordinary ways. Given the usual budget constraints, there is no monetary award, plaque or certificate. There is just the satisfaction that comes with the public recognition of generosity, good work or perseverance.
Tammy Schueler and Richard Rice – Losing a child is an unimaginable tragedy. Losing a child because of someone else’s recklessness compounds the grief. Seeing the perpetrator dodge justice assaults a parent’s peace of mind, if not sanity.
Yet the day after James Corasanti avoided felony conviction in the drunk-driving death of their teenage daughter, Alix Rice, the teenager’s parents faced a roomful of reporters with grace and poise. Rice and Schueler even expressed sympathy for the presumably guilt-laden physician who blasted their longboarding daughter off Heim Road. Corasanti failed to stop, claiming ignorance – although his subsequent actions screamed self-preservation. Her parents’ absence of vindictiveness in the face of injustice spoke to their character and emotional health, and set a standard for behavior in the face of injustice that stayed with me through the year.
Benny Kirkland – The 40-year-old transportation worker is part caped crusader, part moral avenger.
After seeing drunk driver Michael Ettipio run down a teenage bike rider in Lancaster last May, Kirland jumped in his car and tracked Ettipio to his house several blocks away. Kirkland confronted the blotto 23-year-old in his driveway, grabbed him by the shirt and drove him back to the scene to deliver him to police. Ettipio subsequently pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the death of Bryce Bucholz and was sentenced to one to three years.
I only wish Kirkland had been on Heim Road the night Alix Rice was hit.
Chuck Peters – Overshadowed by the news of last month’s $2.7 million wrongful-conviction settlement to Lynn Dejac Peters was the bulldog-like loyalty of her husband. Peters had barely moved in with Dejac when she was convicted in 1994 of killing her teenage daughter. He raised their twin sons, as well as each of their kids from a prior marriage. He married Dejac in jail, although she faced another 20 years behind bars. Convinced she was innocent (she was freed five years ago after DNA evidence was uncovered), he stood by his woman – exhibiting the Patience of Job and the perseverance of Tammy Wynette.
Rocco Termini – The developer’s reclamation of the circa-1904 Hotel @ the Lafayette did more than restore a rotting masterpiece. It ended any debate on the economic value of saving and reviving our grand old buildings.
Although many have forgotten, Termini first publicly displayed his preservationist’s heart 14 years ago. He tried to talk the city out of demolishing an 1850s brick cottage on the West Side.
“I’m a developer,” he said at the time, “so you would think I’d be interested in having it knocked down so something brand new could go up there.”
Despite his interest, city officials “mistakenly” demolished the cottage. Termini has not since let many good old buildings get away.