LOVINGTON — Patsy Cunningham learned Thursday, while in Dallas, that she’d been named Lovington Chamber’s 2017 Citizen of the Year and the news left her surprised and “very honored.”
A large crowd packed into the city’s youth center Thursday night for Lovington Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet, where 2018 plans were discussed, dinner was served, board members named and a bevy of awards were bestowed upon Lovington businesses, citizens and city officials. Several people took advantage of a photo booth set up for the occasion and mingled with colleagues, peers, family and friends at the dinner before the event got started. Each year, the banquet saves two awards for last: Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year, which honors a person and a business for their contributions within Lovington.
The 2016 Citizen of the Year, Kim Osborne, announced Cunningham as the 2017 recipient and detailed her life in Texas and New Mexico, her military service, community service and decades long nursing career, including work at Nor-Lea in Lovington and the original Lea Regional hospital in Hobbs. Born in Lamesa, Cunningham moved to New Mexico and attended Hobbs schools. She later enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and worked at the Pentagon as a cryptographer. She married in 1959 and moved to Lovington where she began a family.
Osborne said her “love of country” continues to run deep to this day and Cunningham has participated in several events like Veterans Day activities, parades and also places wreaths on graves for holidays and funerals.
“Her name was included in the women’s memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Osborne said. “This memorial’s intention is to let the generations know that the women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.”
Osborne noted Cunningham is an “active member” of Hillcrest Baptist Church, described her work in the community and that she did the “little things right, day after day after day.” Her volunteer work also included support of the March of Dimes in Lovington.
“She woke up everyday, served her family and her employer above and beyond what was expected,” she said.
Cunningham was not able to attend the awards banquet as she’s caring for her husband in Dallas following surgery, but her son Tom Cunningham accepted the plaque and flowers on her behalf. He shared the news with his mother and said, “according to her latest text message, she’s saying ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’”
“Oh, it means a great deal,” she said via phone Friday. “I mean, unbelievable. I know people who have done a lot more than I have and that’s what’s got me so surprised. It’s just unbelievable and I’m just real honored — very honored.”
Cunningham said she recently retired from nursing after almost 50 years in the field and 45 with Nor-Lea, explaining that she became a nurse because she always liked to help people.
She also addressed the person(s) who nominated her and noted it’s “quite an honor.”
“I appreciate very much and I thank them very much,” Cunningham said.
The 2017 Lovington Business of the Year is HollyFrontier Navajo Refinery.
Mark Roddenberry, CEO of Federal Estacado Credit Union and 2015 recipient, presented the award after reading part of what he called a “huge lost list” of contributions and other projects the business was involved in within Lovington. Bill Romine, operations manager, and Eloy Hernandez, division operations manager, received a standing ovation from attendees as they walked to the stage and accepted the honor.
That list detailed HollyFrontier’s assistance with an array of community events or organizations, including the historic Lea Theatre, Chaparral Park Disc Golf course, Loving-ton Police Department’s DWI program, Lovington Public Library’s summer reading program, Smokin’ on the Plaza, Cinco de Mayo event, Heart’s Desire, Lovington Ironman teams, Cowboy Junction Christian Academy, Lovington Ride for Bikes, Lea County Fair and Rodeo, Lea County junior livestock sale, Relay for Life, Lovington schools’ Quest Center and STEM, Robo Cats robotics team, many city youth league and travel leagues for football, soccer, softball, baseball and basketball, and more.
“We’re humbled to be recognized by the community and it’s a pleasure to be able to support a great community like Lovington,” Hernandez said after the banquet.
Romine added that it’s important for them to be a “good corporate citizen” and called it a privilege to part of the community.
Cunningham and HollyFrontier weren’t the only ones honored Thursday.
Lovington MainStreet awarded its “Heart of MainStreet” award to Country Quilt Shop and its Saint Gustopher award to Gonzalo Medellin of Lovington, while the Lovington Economic Development Corporation honored the Loving-ton City Commission and City Manager James Williams with the EDC Partnership Milestone award. The first award of the evening was bestowed upon Polk Avenue Apartments by the Iris Garden Club for beautification efforts.