In what has been estimated to be one of the largest turnouts ever at the Crystal Room, four of Naugatuck's finest citizens were honored with dinner and an award ceremony to remember.
The Naugatuck Exchange Club ceremony recognized four residents in Naugatuck for the following categories: citizen, firefighter, police officer and teacher of the year.
The Tuesday evening started with Mayor Robert A. Mezzo and Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-78, recoginizing the honorees on the state and local level with proclamations. Mezzo announced, in honor of the National Exchange Club's 100th Anniversary, March 27, will be Exchange Club Day in Naugatuck.
Kevin DelGobbo was the first to receive his award, Citizen of the Year. Never one to use someone else's written words for his speeches, he relied on his family on this special occasion to supply some words for his acceptance speech. His nephew's speech for DelGobbo was short and sweet and to the point, "I am awesome." His niece's was more sentimental and heartfelt, "my niece is the best in all the world." Kevin also had words of his own.
"I feel humble to accept this honor," DelGobbo said. "There are easily hundreds of people in this town that could be recognized for this award."
Stephen Sousa was next up to his recieve his award, Firefighter of the Year. Sousa, of Bethany, has been involved in public service since the age of 15. Stephen also served his country in the United States Air Force. He thanked all his fellow firefighters and people who have helped in making his career successful.
Officer Danielle Parady humbly accepted the award for Police Officer of the Year. Tax Collector Jim Goggins, who filled in as master of ceremonies, read two letters from campers of a program called C.O.P.S. This is a summer camp in Wisconsin for surviving daughters of law enforcement officers, who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Parady is a mentor for this program and was deeply touched by the letters Goggin read. Parady, who transferred to Naugatuck from New Haven three years ago, has been an integral part in undercover operations, focusing on internet crimes. Officer Parady thanked members of the New Haven Police Department for giving her her start on the career path she chose. She also thanked her current co-workers at the Naugatuck Police Department and its Detective Bureau for "putting trust in me to do my job."
Lastly, the beloved Diane Doherty was up next to receive the Teacher of the Year Award. For over the past 30 or more years know to her students simply as Ms. D, she preferred to deflect the glory of the evening and recognize students, such as Keith Levesque who was in attendance, for their advancements in their own careers. Rebimbas said it best:
"I had the pleasure of having Ms. D during my days at Naugatuck High School. Please don't think my skills in the kitchen are a reflection of Ms. D's teaching skills."
As Mezzo stated, "My wife works with Diane, and she believes there are students who get on the bus only to go to Diane's class." She is loved by her students and can turn even the rowdiest of students into a calm and respectful person in her classroom. Diane thanked her family and reminded her son-in-law of his days as one of her students who kept telling her one day he was going to marry her daughter.
"A way to a man's heart is through his stomach.," Doherty said. "And I've been cooking for Fran Serratore for the past three years."
She continued, "I want to thank him for nominating me for this award."