The Annual Persons of the Year Awards.

December 28, 2012

Uncategorized is proud to pay tribute and give kudos to and collect payments from, those handful of Rockland residents who step up and go above and beyond the normal call of duty through the year finding their name on these pages as a person of the year.  In the year of our Lord,  Two Thousand and Twelve, many such fine restless natives have stood tall for the greater good in Rockland.  Some are paid handsomely  for their efforts and others never receive a dime in the way of compensation. Some have lived in Rockland for more than half a century and some only one year.  The candidates are selected by a combination of criteria, including eyewitness accounts, word from the grapevine, barroom rumor,  front page headlines and overall likability. So,without further digression , let’s meet the 2012 Persons of the Year. Man of the Year goes to Jared Valanzola.  Jared, a young man in his early twenties, has contributed to Rockland all year long. His work on the School Building Committee, the Charter Committee and various town projects has been outstanding.  Jared also heads up the Rockland Republican Town Committee and was a major player in the campaigns of Senator Scott Brown and Governor Mitt Romney. Valanzola was also the campaign manager for Korey Welch, candidate for State Representative and played a pivotal role in local conservative circles helping Sen. Hedlund and others win re-election.  Valanzola also began work at WATD radio in 2012, where he is a rising star in the local talk radio scene.  Jared has also become a proficient and popular bartender at the Banner Irish Pub in Rockland.  Jared also serves as vice president of the Rockland Lions Club, giving hundreds of hours to the fight against blindness. Valanzola did all this while attending Bridgewater State College full time.  Well done, Jared! Woman of the Year, Marilyn Werkheiser.  Marilyn was on the School Building Committee before it was fun. Marilyn worked to build momentum for the $80 million  project for close to decade before its ribbon cutting.  Without her grassroots organizing, her nose to the grindstone persistency and consistency,  the project may never have happened. Even after it was approved, Marilyn took a backseat to the spotlight, never taking a bow for her success, and just kept working away.  Marilyn is the first one there when it comes to any kind of volunteering for Rockland school kids. Her tireless work on the School Committee as well many other school-related groups has paid dividends back to the Rockland people and their kids.  Marilyn also heads up Rockland Cares, an organization put together to do the hard and thankless work of reaching out to kids and families who have fallen into substance addiction and abuse.  From candle light vigils to community outreach, Marilyn has been the leading  voice for Rockland and its children year in and year out.   Great work,  Marilyn.   Thank you  for your dedication and love of Rockland’s people. Entertainer of the Year goes to Nick Johnson.  Ten years ago, a young Nick Johnson sat in the Rockland Music Store with a small crowd gathered around him and effortlessly picked out some of the most difficult Led Zeppelin licks there are. That day,  I predicted that Nick was bound for greatness; and in 2012, Nick proved me correct. Nick relocated to the Atlanta music scene where he found himself on the fast track to stardom. Playing with some of the greatest blues and jazz players on the planet, Nick found himself performing at the highest levels of  the music business.  Already a  serious, no-nonsense renowned lead, blues guitarist Nick began to sing in 2012 on certain blues numbers at various gigs, opening eyes and wallets all over the Georgia music world.  Nick found friends in the Allman Brothers Band as well as many big names in the business.  He is currently traveling the world with Bonnie Raitt, sharing  the stage with the Grammy-winning, worldwide superstar dozens of  nights per year .

Nick Johnson, Exporting the Rock from Rockvegas. Public Servant of the Year, Derek Ewell.        Derek Ewell hit the ground running in 2012 as the founder of the Friends of Rockland Park- lands group.  From the highest point in Plymouth county, atop Beech Hill, Ewell spearheaded the new Ralph C. Ewell Memorial Greenway, a 2.2 mile gravity park suitable for mountain biking,  hiking and nature trails.  Most of the hand-made  bridges, berms and features were made by Ewell.  Derek then set his sights on the new Rail Trail, leading dozens of volunteers to clean and preserve the new outdoor town treasure. The Rail Trail is a two-mile converted rail bed that provides a hard-packed level path for walking, strolling, hiking and biking.  The trail runs from Hanover to Abington and Ewell has already begun installing safety gates engineered and built by Derek himself.  Derek also planned and organized the revitalization of Hartsuff Park Conservation area. The forty-acre park boasts a swimming hole, two duck ponds, towering pines and splendid groves. Ewell, along with his uncle,  “Peter Park” Ewell and the FORPL, has many plans in place for 2013 at Hartsuff, including a new pavilion sponsored by Home Depot.  Ewell continues to work  on Rockland’s great parklands at no cost to the town.  Helping maintain clean, safe areas of natural beauty for the townspeople is Derek’s calling.

Well done, Derek,  for Keeping  the Rock Climbing in Rockland. Business Owner of the Year,  Robbie Benson, of K Benson Pies, DBA Domino’s Pizza Rockland. 

For nearly a quarter century now, Rob Benson has been banging out pizza pies from his small shop on Market Street. In fact, he has cooked, boxed and sold more than a million pies over the years as one of the area’s most successful food establishments.  Not only has Benson provided Rocklandites with world-class hot, fresh food delivered to their doorstep, he has provided hundreds of them with good-paying jobs from  part time drivers and cooks up to full time managers and assistants who have drawn a paycheck from K Benson, Inc. over the years.  Benson pours advertising dollars into the local economy as well by running regular promotions and marketing campaigns.  He has faced tough competition through the years from the Mom and Pop type shops all over town to national leaders like Papa Gino, Papa John and Little Caesar’s.  Rob has seen good times and bad times but has always maintained his stellar work ethic and dedication to his brand. Rob Benson,  Owner/Operator of Dominos Rockland, Making Rockland a great place to eat. Athlete of the Year,  Bobby Gasdia!   Rockland is well-known for its great athletes through the years.  No sport better showcases the diverse facets of athletic ability than Mixed Martial Arts or MMA.  A few years back, young Bobby Gasdia was your typical smart-aleck teenage kid.  He always enjoyed and excelled  in every sport he played but then he decided to become a grappler.  Bob’s Dad brought him to the world-famous South Shore Sports Fighting in Rockland where Bobby had his face repeatedly mashed in the mat  by some of the biggest names in professional MMA.  Number one contender Josh Grispie called Bobby Gasdia “a monster in the cage” the day he first worked with the young fighter.  From there, Gasdia has gone on to become one of the toughest expert teens in the MMA. world. He fought through tournament after tournament, beating kids he was never supposed to be able to beat, before being crowned New England Champion this past summer.  Gasdia displays incredible strength, lethal holds, amazing wrestling, devastating strikes and an unstoppable ground and pound. All the while,  he maintains  a professional, gentlemanly demeanor and displays a humble respect of others beyond his years. Gasdia is currently wrestling for Rockland High School and has a bright future on the world stage.

Bobby Gasdia, Enjoy a Choke today!