Kudos to this year’s Persons of the Year class

For the past week, readers of the Sun-Gazette have been treated to a series of human interest stories on our front page each day.

This has been our ninth annual Person of the Year project, a series of stories on a diverse selection of local people whose efforts during the past year caught our attention.

“Special” is an appropriate word to describe each of the finalists, who were chosen from an even greater number of people who were nominated for this honor.

“Remarkable” could be another. “Deserving,” certainly, are each of them whose stories were told again in the final week of the year, leading up to today’s selection of the Sun-Gazette’s 2019 Person of the Year.

Let’s start at the beginning. When the selection process began, more than 30 people and groups of people were nominated. Each had merit, and it was difficult to narrow the field. We approach this project with a set of ground rules.

First, the nominee had to do something big during the 12 months prior to the start of the process that made this “their year.” The process normally begins by Nov. 1, so activities at the end of the prior year are considered.

We look for everyday people to honor. The nominations are gleaned from the stories we tell in the newspaper throughout the year. Our goal is to honor people from all walks of life, from sports to the arts, from the military and veterans community to volunteers who give freely of their time to improve the lives of others.

This year’s class included Mike Haven and the Williamsport Kiwanis. Not only did the local club host the state convention here this year, but Mike became governor of the state Kiwanis. The class included Ron Insinger, not only because he reached a milestone as a state record-setting basketball coach but also because of his long career as an inspirational teacher.

Others selected as finalists included volunteers and ushers at the Community Arts Center, volunteer firefighters and EMTs along with law enforcement in Montoursville when the borough was paid a presidential visit, Jessica Brown who organized on short notice a walk against violence and Frank Hartzell and Maurice PapLaRin who organize a monthly breakfast for military veterans.

Finally, today we honor Zoe Wagner for her efforts to raise more than $20,000 over the past four years for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Williamsport Area High School Senior follows in the footsteps of her older brothers Zane and Zac Wagner, who began producing benefit musicals for the foundation a full decade ago. A few years into it, Zoe was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, but that only strengthened her resolve to continue raising funds for Make-A-Wish.

This community is blessed, certainly, for the hearts and dedication of all of the people whose stories we’ve highlighted in the past week. Congratulations to each and every one of them! The only question now is, who will it be in 2020?


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