With the majestic backdrop of Magen’s Bay, a crowd of St. John and St. Thomas residents gathered at the St. Peter Greathouse on Saturday evening, June 13, to congratulate this year’s Chamber of Commerce Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Award honorees.
An educator, a philanthropist, a tireless community advocate and a dynamic real estate agent were among those honored at the fete.
In addition to being a renowned composer and musician, LaMotta, who died in 1980, was president of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce, a Small Businessman of the Year and a civic leader. The awards in his honor were originally established in 1983 to recognize public officials’ outstanding contributions which reflect LaMotta’s own life work.
Awards are handed out to individuals in the private, public and non-profit sectors as well as to students who show leadership skills and commitment to their community.
Esteemed St. John educator Guy Benjamin was honored with this year’s Public Sector Award. Benjamin was the first St. Johnian to graduate from the Charlotte Amalie High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Howard University as well as a master’s degree from New York University.
After returning to St. John from the mainland, Benjamin served his community as a teacher and superintendent of schools. His legacy lives on today as the Coral Bay elementary school just down the road from his house bears the name “Guy H. Benjamin School.”
“Benjamin is being honored for his many, many years an educator and for his significant contributions to improving the quality of life on St. John and the greater Virgin Islands’ community,” said Chamber president Tom Brunt.
John Foster, owner of John Foster Real Estate, was recognized with this year’s Private Sector Award for his professional work as well as his support of the Nana Baby Children’s Home.
“The Private Sector Award is being given to John Foster for his years of work as one of the most dynamic and successful realtors in the Virgin Islands and for his work with his partners in establishing the first enclosed mall in the territory, Tutu Park Mall,” said Brunt.
St. John residents Helen and Steve Simon were honored with the Non-Profit Award for their annual sponsorship of the St. John Christmas Music Festival and Children’s Parade, and their community advocacy.
Both of the Simons are strong supporters of education and public safety, dedicating countless hours to making St. John as a better community.
“Their contributions help sustain the community’s cultural fabric and at the same time stimulate our artistic community,” Brunt said about the Simons.
Student Achievement Awards were given to Charlotte Amalie students Lynette Boschulte and Akoya Hydman, both of whom have achieved a plethora of distinctions.
“These two young women demonstrate that being smart and working hard are goals that every students should aspire to,” said Brunt. “They are both great role models for our youth.”
After enjoying a delicious meal, guests packed the dance floor, grooving to the tunes of Sound Waves which featured St. John musicians including Lemuel Liburd, Delroy “Ital” Anthony and Mark Wallace. Nature’s Beauty was the theme of the night and one lucky person from each table took home a native plant or tree, which served as the centerpieces.