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Ada Distinguished Awards gala celebrates three outstanding contributions

Top) Ada Automotive, Business of the Year, 2023; L-R below) David Lusk, Distinguished Citizen of 2023, Jill Simmons, volunteer of the year.

Additional photos follow below

By Paula Pyzik Scott

On Thursday, February 29, the Ada community gathered for a celebration of individuals and organizations that made outstanding contributions during 2023. Based on nominations from individuals, recipients were selected for outstanding volunteer, business of the year and citizen of the year.

The ticketed event was at Liberty Oaks venue and included a generous offering of hors d'oeuvres and desserts. The tone of the evening was energetic and often humorous. Prior to presentations, pianist Dean Altstaetter entertained attendees who filled the large main room.

The program was emceed by Ohio Northern student Jacob Bassitt and began with opening remarks by Mayor David Retterer representing the Village of Ada, President Melissa Baumann representing Ohio Northern University and Assistant Principal Britton Devier representing the Ada Exempted Village Schools.

Two business anniversaries were recognised: the 15th anniversary of the Inn at ONU and the 100th anniversary of the Ada Kiwanis. When it came time to recognize the award recipients, only one had been announced in advance, resulting in moments of surprise and emotion.

The Chris Burns-DiBiasio Make a Difference Award was presented to volunteer Jill Simmons by Becky Neville, the chamber president. Simmons was commended for her volunteer support of programs and events including Merry on Main, eye screenings for children, early voting in nursing homes, and being active in the county as a master gardener. Neville said, “Jill does many, many things for our village…. She helps the whole community.” 

The Business of the Year award was presented by nominator Ann Donnelly to Ada Automotive, 4565 State Route 235, represented by Aaron Hughes, Rick Hughes and Eric Flowers. Donnelly spoke of how the business routinely “goes above and beyond” to help scheduled and unscheduled customers, such as a student she discovered rolling a tire down Main St. Donnelly also noted the business’s support of the Wounded Warrior project, numerous golf outings, the Patrick Archer Memorial Softball Tournament, the Pork Rind Heritage Festival, the Pride of Ada Fireworks and the Park-in-the-Park car show, among others. On behalf of her daughter, Donnelly also gave a shout out to the shop dog Axle, and passed along a treat for him, a Slim Jim. 

The Distinguished Citizen of the Year was presented by the Ada Town & Committee to recently retired Ada High School science teacher David Lusk, who had been surprised some four weeks earlier in front of a cafeteria full of cheering Ada students. In his introduction, Bassitt noted that Lusk “made students feel like science was for everyone” during his 43 years of teaching. Lusk is also a lay preacher for the Northwest Plains district of the United Methodist Church.

Lusk opened his acceptance speech by saying, “please take out your homework” and threatened Dr. Devier with detention for an unguarded word earlier in the evening. Lusk turned serious when he quoted Isaac Newton to express the feeling that he was only there because he “stood on the shoulders of giants.” He thanked his parents, wife and children, as well as his own teachers, his colleagues, his students and their families. And he said that he could think of no better place to call home than Ada, Ohio.  

The award recipients were also officially recognized by Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Treasurer of State Robert Sprague and State Representative Jon Cross.

The awards and gala were coordinated by the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce with assistance from Ohio Northern University. The Town & Gown committee is Carla Cole, Rhett Grant, Jamie Hall, Lindsay Hollar, Terry Keiser, Laurie Laird, and Carol Turchick.