Tom and Janet O'Connell of Hudson were the winners of the Marie Blakeman Award at the annual Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau banquet Thursday, Jan. 27 at the Hudson Golf Club.
In addition, several local people and businesses were recognized at the event. Other awards were: the Community Volunteer of the Year award went to Yvonne Larsen; the Chamber Member of the Year went to Gene Haberman of Citizens State Bank; Large Business of the Year went to Konrad Companies; Small Business of the Year went to Art Doyle Spokes and Pedals; and the Chamber's first annual Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award went to Traci Leffner of Sylvan Learning Center.
The banquet also included the introduction of the 2011 Chamber Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp of San Pedro Cafe. He took the reins from 2010 Chair Randy Penkwitz of Investment Centers Of America who presided over the evening's events.
Chamber President Kim Heinemann also spoke briefly.
Tom and Janet O'Connell have lived in Hudson for all of their married lives. Tom, a Hudson native, met Jan in 1951 and the couple were married five months later - they celebrate their 60th anniversary this year. The couple opened the O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson 25 years ago.
Both have been very active in the community all of their lives. Tom has served in city government, county government and has volunteered with numerous charitable organization including the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Salvation Army, EMS, St. Patrick's Church and many others. Jan has also worked with several of those organizations, and many others.
The Blakeman Award was established for Marie Blakeman (1917-1999), who along with her husband, Harry Blakeman (1912-1976), owned Nor-Lake Inc. for much of their lives. Marie was extremely active in the community. The award exemplifies her community leadership, contributions and passion. The award is presented each year by Marie's daughter Barb Richardson.
"Marie came to Hudson in 1947 and served throughout her life," Richardson said. "Tonight's winners have the same qualities Marie displayed -- leaders, compassion, love of community, selfless contributions, inspiration and offer encouragement.
"This couple has suffered great personal loss (referring to the shooting death of their son Dan O'Connell and intern James Ellison at the funeral home in 2002), yet this couple walks side-by-side in their business with those who suffer personal losses,"
Tom O'Connell said he was honored to receive the award.
"Harry and Marie were great people and we are honored to receive this award," he said.
Longtime Hudsonite Yvonne Larsen received the Community Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by the Chamber. In presenting the award, 2010 Chamber Board President Randy Penkwitz said the award goes to a community member who makes a difference in the community.
"She serves tirelessly," Penkwitz said.
Larsen is Acting Director for Youth Action Hudson and is active in numerous organizations in the community. Among the organization in which she has served are Rotary, Salvation Army, Youth Court, Home Tour, Phipps, Hot Air Affair, Women's Club, Pepper Fest, Turningpoint, various high school organizations and various church groups.
"Thank you so much," Larsen said. "I'm overwhelmed. If you see someone skipping down the main street bragging about Hudson, it's me.
"Volunteering comes full circle, that why I like working with youths. They are the volunteers of tomorrow. I'm proud to be part of the Hudson community."
In presenting the award, 2010 Chamber Board President Randy Penkwitz said the award goes to a community member who makes a difference in the community.
The Chamber member of the year is recently retired Hudson banker Gene Haberman (Citizens State Bank). He has been extremely active with the Chamber, serving on the Chamber board, Executive Board, was Board Chair, Past Chair and was active in many fundraising activities
Haberman said Hudson has a "truly great" Chamber of Commerce.
"Over my career I have been involved with eight chambers of commerce and Hudson's is a great chamber," Haberman said. "I am humbled and very appreciative of this honor."
The Chamber Ambassador Award is a new award present for the first time this year. The winner was Traci Leffner of Sylvan Learning Center. The Ambassadors Committee of the Chamber make numerous contacts throughout the community. They visit new businesses, attend ribbon cuttings, host events and recruit businesses for chamber membership.
"They are the eyes and ears of the community," said Penkwitz.
Chamber President Kim Heinemann said the committee uses a point system and that Leffner accumulated 1,000 points and personally recruited 22 new chamber members.
The Small Business of the Year Award (less than 20 employees) went to Art Doyles Spokes & Pedals, 607 Second St.
"The business started in 1984 and he purchased his current building in 1990," said Penkwitz. "The business is 23 times larger than when it started."
He described the winner as being innovative, offering quality service, supporting the community and meeting business challenges.
Art Doyles Spokes & Pedals has been community minded, with owner Art Doyle being very active in many organizations, including the chamber. He has always donated bikes to the Hudson High School senior party, active in the Hot Air Affair and donated bikes the Hudson Police Department for a bike patrol.
"When I state in 1984 I just wanted to be part of the community," Doyle said. "It's a great town for a business. I appreciated the support of my family and my customers."
The Large Business of the Year Award (more than 20 employees) went to Konrad Companies, 1421 Hanley Rd. and owners Ken and Kathy Konrad.
The company offers products in two areas: precision machine products and marine propulsion products.
The company came to Hudson in 1987 and has doubled in size since coming here. The winner also demonstrates innovation, quality service, support of the community and meeting business challenges.
"Oddly enough we have no customers in the St. Croix valley, but we bring money into the community from around the world," Ken Konrad said. "In 24 years I can honestly say that I have never once regretted the move to Hudson - what a great community.
Kathy also said the community has been very good to the company.
"We try to give back to the community whenever possible," Kathy Konrad said. The company employs 45 people.
New board chair
Outgoing 2010 Chamber Board Chair Randy Penkwitz said the past year featured many highlights and he said it was a great experience to work with the chamber.
"Our goal is to bring people to you (chamber members)," Penkwitz said. "Our chamber is looked at as a model in this region."
Incoming 2011 Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp said he is looking forward to 2011.
"I'm looking forward to a great year," Knefelkamp said. "Hudson is a special community and we will continue to focus on marketing.
"The chamber offers many opportunities to engage all of you and I'm looking for an exciting year."
Two new directors have been named to the Chamber board. The new board members are Jim Wookey (WESTconsin Credit Union) and Kevin Blinsmon (The RiverBank).
Retiring from the board are Rick Holloway (eCycling of America), and Angela Popenhagen (Stevens Engineers). Each was presented with a plaque at the banquet.
Current board members are Chair Rob Knefelkamp (San Pedro Café), Past Chair Randy Penkwitz (Investment Centers Of America), Chair Elect LouAnne Berg (J & L Steel & Electrical Services), Treasurer Brian Zeller (Greystone Commercial), Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten (Hudson School District), Sandee Madigan (Elan Clothing & Gifts), Jim Wookey (WESTconsin Credit Union), Chris Anderson (Heywood, Cari, & Anderson, S.C.), Kevin Blinsmon (The RiverBank), Carla Timmerman (Best Western/ Hudson House Inn) and Meme Fehr (Sandeen Insurance).