From high a school student working to tutor younger children and help at the public library to a septuagenarian volunteering to serve as a volunteer firefighter, Wyoming’s 2019 Citizens of the Year represent a broad swath of the community and showed once again how lucky Wyoming is to have such engaged and active residents.
The 2019 winners were honored at the end of January and selected from more than two dozen nominees for the honor by the Citizens of the Year Committee, chaired by Jim Lippert.
Here are the winners and their accomplishments:
As a Wyoming High school student in the 1990s, Emma Bernay participated in the Renegade Garage Players, a group dedicated to making the theatrical arts more accessible to people with disabilities, and she has continued this passion into adulthood. She is active with her family’s Ben Carlson Berne Scholarship Fund, which provides classical music lessons to economically disadvantaged children. You may recognize Bernay’s name as the co-author of the book, “Good Morning, Wyoming.” An author who has published over 100 titles for children and young adults, she shares her passion for reading and writing. Bernay was the 2018 Writer-in-Residence with the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and volunteers at the Corryville Library to encourage other writers. She volunteers with PSA and is a dedicated member of the Wyoming Junior Woman’s Club, having served as membership chair, vice president, and now president.
Dennis Brown is a familiar face to many Wyoming residents. Preschoolers know him as “Fireman Denny” when he visits to teach fire safety. St. James of the Valley parishioners know him for providing monthly blood pressure checks. Wyoming students know him from volunteering on field trips, lunch duty, and as a room parent. Brown has worked with the Wyoming Middle School Science Olympiad teams for seven years, first as a parent volunteer and then as a coach. The teams have made it to State finals five times with his involvement. Brown was a dad-volunteer and then a leader for the YMCA Adventure Guides and Princesses program for 12 years. He has served as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic in Wyoming and neighboring communities. He’s currently the District Chief and Fire Chief of the Wyoming Fire & EMS department. Brown helped build the Friendship Preschool playground and last year he and his daughter Kira helped build compost bins for the middle school, high school, and Community Gardens. And last but not least, every year Brown and his family host a New Year’s Day hot chocolate stand and bake sale to raise donations for Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center. The event, now in its fourteenth year, recently raised over $1,200 and has raised over $11,000 since its inception.
Ken Chen, a junior at Wyoming High School, was nominated by a classmate for his quiet dedication to volunteering. Chen’s friends describe him as “effortlessly genius” and praise him for tutoring other students at the middle school as well as the high school. He serves as an officer for Project Lead. As a cellist, he entertains the residents at Maple Knoll Village and Cedar Village every week, and has performed at Wyoming School Music Association’s fundraisers. Chen volunteers at the Wyoming Public Library, shelving books, helping with children’s activities, and training new volunteers. His volunteering efforts also take him to Matthew 25 Ministries and to Bethany House, a shelter for mothers and children, where he provides childcare while the mothers attend classes.
Hinkel has volunteered as a room parent for over 10 years, and has served as a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) rep at every level: at Vermont Elementary School, Wyoming Middle School, and Wyoming High School. PAC reps are responsible for communications between parents and school administrators, and they work with classroom parents to organize school events and volunteer needs. She has also been a dedicated parent volunteer with the Wyoming Seadragons swim team.
Karen Jordan’s list of volunteer accomplishments show her dedication to helping kids. Jordan has served as a playground volunteer, room parent, yearbook volunteer, and chaperone for field trips, dances, and proms. She has served as a PAC rep for the Wyoming Middle School and Wyoming High School, and developed the New Family Liaison program to welcome primary and middle school families. Jordan has co-chaired the May Fete Wheel-a-thon for four years, and continues to volunteer even after her own children have graduated. She has volunteered with the high school swim team. She’s a dedicated volunteer for the Friendship United Methodist Church senior high youth group, serving as treasurer for the youth group’s biggest fundraiser for six years and as a chaperone on three summer mission trips. Jordan serves as a co-chair for Friendship’s Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provides weeklong stays at the church for homeless families, including meals and activities for the children.
Wyoming’s Fire & EMS Department was on hand at the ceremony to cheer for Carol Pagliaro, a dedicated volunteer firefighter since 2004. A resident of Wyoming for 47 years, Pagliaro became a certified Ohio firefighter in her 50s when most empty-nesters plan to slow down. Pagliaro responds to over 100 runs every year, day or night, and is the only woman in the department certified to drive the fire truck. Pagliaro gives safety talks to students and tours of the station. She leads the Fire Cadet Program, teaching high school students how to use the equipment and how to assist firefighters around fire scenes, and encourages them to continue as volunteer firefighters. She has received numerous awards and citations including Firefighter of the Year. Ethan Pagliaro, her son and a fellow firefighter, states that Pagliaro “inspires others by showing that anyone can serve.”
Brenda Beeson Pantalone was introduced as one of Wyoming’s residents “who go above and beyond.” After retiring as a teacher at all three Wyoming primary schools, she found multiple ways to utilize her experience in education. She served as a PSA room parent and as PAC chairman with Wyoming High School. She was a co-founder of the Wyoming Science and Technology Camp in 2007, a summer program that has served over 1,500 students and which led to the formation of the Science Olympiad program at the high school. Pantalone has been a volunteer coach for baseball, basketball, and soccer, has taught ESOL classes, and has tutored children struggling in school. As a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, Pantalone has volunteered with Operation Christmas Child, the annual Drive-Through Nativity event, and other special programs. She has served on the board of the Wyoming School Foundation, leading numerous fundraising events, and currently serves as president-elect.
While many other Citizens of the Year have spent their lifetimes in Wyoming, Tony and Cathy Ramstetter have lived here only since 2009, but they quickly showed their enthusiasm for the community’s rich history. The Ramstetters live in Twin Oaks, the home of Colonel Robert Reily, a prosperous merchant and community leader. Built in 1854, the stone Gothic Villa house was the site of a meeting to name our community. The Ramstetters have been actively involved with sharing the story of Twin Oaks, and they host annual tours for third-graders learning about Wyoming’s history. They have co-chaired several fundraisers for the Wyoming Historical Society, helping raise over $10,000. Tony has served on the board of the Historical Society and assisted with the label design of the Society’s historical beers. Tony serves as a trustee for the Terry Ramstetter Foundation that has made donations to the Ronald McDonald House and to students at two inner-city Catholic Schools. Cathy serves on the Historical Preservation Commission. She founded a nonprofit, Successful Healthy Children, and served on the school board for Corryville Catholic School, where she was the volunteer School Health Coordinator.