Two decades of special stars shining

Two decades is a pretty good stretch for an event to endure.

That’s been the case for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times’ Community Stars program that started way back in 1998, hard as that is for many of us staffers to wrap our brains around.

Great earth! Where have the years gone?

The 20th-annual installment was held this past Monday evening at Froehlich’s Classic Corner in Steubenville at a dinner presented by Weirton Medical Center with special support from M&M True Value Hardware.

Restaurant hosts Greg and Debbie Froehlich helped us at the newspaper roll out the red carpet for 10 ordinary yet extraordinary individuals who are the heartbeat of what makes our area such a sweet place to be — actually 11 people this year given a couple were among the 2017 honorees.

Check inside today’s Valley Life section — page 3E specifically — and you’ll find some candid shots I took at the banquet, an occasion I always look forward to because it’s a special evening with special people.

I like seeing people I know and meeting ones I don’t.

On the eve of the banquet, last Sunday’s newspaper included a special section shedding insight on what makes each Community Star award-worthy as they shared what their passions are and why they do what they do in their communities, not for recognition, not for prizes and praise, but just because that’s the way they’re wired to be — blessed to be a blessing.

Our 2017 honorees were Bobbyjon Bauman of Steubenville; Connie Crawford of Knoxville; Bruce Hornick of Weirton; Chelsea Householder of Salineville; Bill Kerr of Wintersville; Karen Lundquist of Toronto; Susan Nolan of Mingo Junction; Jason Polgar of Follansbee; Ralph and Jana Speer of Burgettstown; and Greg Tullis of Jewett.

Banquet attendees had one of those commemorative booklets at their place setting, but also got to hear some of the stars’ personal stories when Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, introduced them and invited them to the podium to receive their medallions and M&M True Value gift certificates.

In the early years of this awards program, the honorees didn’t necessarily say a whole lot other than a brief “thank you,” but that’s changed some through the years. Shyness or stage fright take a back seat now to sharing, and our 2017 stars, I have to say, spoke with eloquence, ease and emotion.

I was impressed and honored to be in their midst.

It also was an evening for many returning Community Stars to have a presence, there in support of the program in general or other stars specifically.

Among those I can remember seeing were Dee Ann Horstman of Scio, 2012; Doris Matyas of Toronto, 2012; Cathie Llewellyn of Steubenville, 2013; George Komar of Toronto, 2014; T.J. Anderson of Annapolis, 2014; Jerry Barilla of Steubenville, 2015; and Charlie Green of Wintersville, 2015.

And let’s not forget 99-year-old Anthony Violi of Steubenville, who was a Community Star in 2009 and has been attending these events ever since.

Violi recently marched with the Ohio State University Alumni Band during the OSU vs. University of Nevada, Las Vegas, game and was recognized at pre-game activities as the band’s oldest marching member.

Sadly, too, the evening included a moment of silence observed in memory of those stars no longer with us.

More than 200 local residents have been singled out as Community Stars since the program’s inception.

That’s 20 years of shining.

And that’s pretty special.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at