Date: May 29, 2007
About: Les Fonza - Class of 1963
Heroes recognized during Mens and Womens Day
These were heroes cast from a different mold, for a different purpose.
They have not hit the longest home run, jumped the highest or scored the most touchdowns. None have found a cure for cancer or solved the problems surrounding public health care.
"We look for individuals whose lives have become an inspiration — their life is a hero," said the Rev. Cecil G. Fletcher, pastor of Union Baptist Church.
Union Baptist's third annual "Men's and Women's Day" on Sunday paid tribute to the everyday heroes of Quincy's black community. It was a program started in 2005 and has steadily grown in scope and impact.
This year's honorees — Jeanetta Green, Tracy Lewis, Alan Hickman, Les Fonza, the Rev. John Henry Mims and Barbara "Easter" Dixon — have all made subtle, yet lasting, impressions on the lives of many.
"Individuals you may never have thought would become heroes, have become community heroes," Fletcher said. "Prayer does get answers, when you look beyond faults and see possibilities."
Green was singled out as a mom who taught her sons how to treat a woman, Lewis and Hickman for their behind-the-scenes work with youth in the community, Fonza for his contributions as a musician and educator, Mims for his work as a pastor and Dixon for her strong religious beliefs and example she has set for others.
The program at Union Baptist was one of the city's highlights during a busy Memorial weekend. None of the recipients, who all were presented medals of religion and knowledge and trophies of achievement, knew they were receiving any sort of recognition until the program was under way.
One of the most surprised was Fonza.
"I am just overwhelmed," Fonza said. "You do things not to be rewarded, you just do them because you are able and you can."
Fonza, an accomplished saxophonist and singer, played "Amazing Grace" and sang in the Illinois and Missouri Men's Chorus. Fonza, Ben Bumbry and Jeff Green were all featured soloists during the program.
"I just thought I was supposed to be here to play a solo," Fonza said jokingly afterward.
Rachel Green contributed two songs during the service, "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and "I Need You." She dedicated the "The Wing Beneath My Wings" to award winner Green — her mother-in-law.
"This is about community," she said. "We need each other ... we need each other to survive."
Church member Roger Wilson said Sunday was a cause for great rejoicing.
"We're here to celebrate something good," Wilson said. "There's so much bad in the world, but we're here to celebrate, celebrate something good."
Fletcher also paid tribute to past award winners in the crowd, plus making certain all in attendance knew for a community to exist, grow and thrive there must be equal contributions.
"James Brown once sang, 'It's a Man's, Man's World' ... but it wouldn't be nothin' without a woman," Fletcher said. "And for all you past recipients, you will be community heroes forever. Whether we are arguing in the board room or about philosophies ... you are still my heroes."
Also contributing to the program were Valerie Maxie and Jerolene Benton with Scriptural readings, Deacon Tommie Lee Benton with the invocation and Margo Robinson and Bessie Lewis with special readings.
Contact Staff Writer Steve Eighinger at email@example.com or (217) 221-3377