Honoring heroes of Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Honoring heroes of Nevada City

Sitting with my back to one of the stone walls of Nevada City’s Miners Foundry Saturday evening, my mind wandered to a time maybe 40 years earlier when I ran down the hall of the National Hotel dressed in my pajamas and snow boots, screaming something about Black Bart chasing me. My parents and their good friends and maybe 10 or 11 of us kids had driven up from San Francisco for the Christmas holiday.

I can still remember sliding down the hill behind the hotel on a saucer. The snow was probably only a foot or two, but it may as well have been 30 feet, for all we cared. We didn’t get snow in San Francisco, and it was a beautiful thing to behold.

I was in Nevada City Saturday night to celebrate the annual Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and Community Awards dinner. For more than a century, they’ve been gathering to recognize and applaud the many, many people who have worked so very hard to preserve the Nevada City I remember as a boy.

As I get older, I tend to drift back from time to time (actually … as I get older, I just tend to drift), wondering perhaps if my life has come full circle, the way they say life sometimes does when you’re not paying attention to details.

Whatever it is, something has kept me connected to this spectacular place most of my life, and I’m pretty sure by now that this is where I’m supposed to be.

Sometimes we just need a little reminder and that’s what Saturday night did for me. It reminded me that there are lots of good people who have followed lots of other good people in a gallant effort to preserve Nevada City as a storybook town. Do they go too far at times with their preservation efforts? You bet. And I’ve called them on that a time or two. Only because I think more people ought to be able to share in the wealth that Nevada City offers.

Then again, many of those fighting for that preservation are not wealthy people. Not in a monetary way, at least. Dave Parker is one of those. I’ve known Dave for a long time. He is a talented artist who represented us on the Sierra College board for a couple of decades. And in typical Nevada City fashion, Dave was probably one of the only trustees I have ever known to hitchhike to a board meeting in Rocklin. Dave reminded me the other night of a few good times we had when I had hair on my head and Dave had trouble up his sleeves. As a reporter for this newspaper, I covered the Sierra College board a time or two. Back in the days when trustees had a lot more trust than they apparently do today.

Paul Mattson is another on a long list of Nevada City’s “volunteer curators.” Mattson served on the City Council as long or longer than Parker served on the Sierra College Board. Paul earned the Elza Kilroy award for community service in 1992 and he’s still going strong. I also remember Paul from the Nevada Theatre, where I’d go sometimes to watch an independent film, such as “Kiss of The Spider Woman,” up in the balcony.

Nevada City’s current mayor, Conley Weaver, welcomed a fellow who may soon become the city’s 3,003rd resident. It’s still a town where a newcomer is cause for celebration.

Councilman Steve Cottrell was looking sharp and seems to be holding up well for a guy who should have been mayor years ago. In spite of his many years on the City Council, Cottrell can’t seem to get the mayor’s gavel because some are afraid he’ll use it to point out a few things they don’t want pointed out. Either that or they are afraid the council meetings will last 16 hours. Cottrell is a first-rate storyteller and if he has a microphone in his hands, grab some coffee and a soft cushion.

This year’s Elza Kilroy Award went to Nevada City Police officer David Burke. He was the first law enforcement officer since 1969 to win the coveted award. The Chamber’s Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey described Officer Burke as “one of those rare individuals for whom a last name is unnecessary. To most of us, he’s simply Officer Dave.”

This year’s Visual Arts award went to Diane Dyer, whose efforts to establish hanging flower baskets in downtown Nevada City earned her special recognition.

The Hat Store, which reopened at 314 Broad St. last summer, earned the Chamber’s Stan Halls Architectural Award. Incoming Chamber President Bob Buhlis said The Hat Store owner Gregory Spotts “had a vision and was able to see it through to completion. He has one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Nevada City.”

Actor Tim O’Connor won the 2004 Lewis Award for Performing Arts. Before settling in Nevada City more than 20 years ago, O’Connor’s acting career spanned television and motion pictures, appearing in “Peyton Place,” “Naked Gun 2 1/2” and the television series soap “General Hospital.”

David and Dawn Gonzales were on hand to receive a special award for their new 5 Mile House restaurant. They have transformed that historic roadhouse into one of the area’s finest dining establishments.

Musician Ludi Hinrichs gave one of the best acceptance speeches (he sang it, he hummed and he be-bopped it) I have ever heard in receiving the 2004 Live Music Award. Hinrichs’ diversity is something very special, and his musical efforts have endeared him to Nevada City locals and visitors for many years.

Congratulations to all of the recipients, to the Chamber board members past and present, and to the many, many people over the years who have helped preserve this treasure that is Nevada City.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, jeffa@theunion.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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