By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Melvin and Cecil Ford were presented the Braswell Hatcher Service Award during the annual Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet last Thursday night.
Chamber President Bennett Hill, who presented the award, also introduced Water Valley’s newly selected Miss Hospitality and announced the new Chamber officers and directors for 2010-2011.
Miss Hospitality for 2010 is Suzanne Fischer, 19-year-old daughter of Paul and Sherry Fischer. She will be participating in the Miss Hospitality 2010 Pageant July 23 through July 31 in Hattiesburg.
New Chamber officers are: Bennett Hill, President; Toni Hill, Vice President; Tonya Eubanks, Secretary; and Craig Hart, Treasurer.
The Board of Directors are: Clay Ashford, Jeff Bynum, Barron Caulfield, Nat Dean, Tonya Eubanks, Nellie Gardner, Craig Hart, Bennett Hill, Toni Hill, Linda Trent, Cam Tyler, and Dan Whitehead.
During the Braswell Hatcher Award presentation, Hill said, “I am sure that I am not going to do justice for this next couple, but I am going to give it my best shot.”
“Mr. Melvin Ford is a retired teacher and administrator. He has been dedicated to the field of education for many years. After his retirement from the Water Valley School District, Mr. Ford worked for several years in the banking field.”
“Mrs. Cecil Ford is a retired teacher from the Water Valley Elementary School. She is remembered for her fairness in the classroom and her desire for each student to reach his or her maximum level of performance.”
Hill added that the Fords were instrumental in establishing the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Program and had spent days looking after and managing the Chamber office when no one else was available.
“In closing,” Hill said, “there is no way to count the number of lives that have been touched and the good deeds they have done and continue to do today. I am sure that everyone present here tonight has a wonderful story they could stand up and tell about the both of them.”
Accepting the award, Melvin Ford said that he and Cecil do not feel they deserve the recognition “because this community has done far more for us than we could ever give back.”
“We are proud to say we are residents of Water Valley and have been for almost half a century,” he continued. “We are now approaching the fourth quarter of this game called life. But, we hope the game will end for us right here. And, we wouldn’t mind a few overtimes.”
After the award presentation, former Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat performed with the Sharecroppers.
While most of Khayat’s comments were humorous, the former educator became serious when he discussed education. “The answer to every question we have is education,” he said.
“If we can be educated, we can address poverty, we can address crime, we can address unwed motherhood. So long as we can get the education part right.”
Khayat added that everyone had a teacher who changed his or her life. He nodded in the direction of Melvin and Cecil Ford and said, “God bless you.”
At the end of Khayat’s performance, the Chamber presented him with a gift certificate for Ron’s Music Store. “We took a vote,” said Sharecropper band member Clay Ashford, who serves on the Chamber board. “We decided he might need some voice lessons.”
Khayat grinned and thanked the crowd for not booing his performance. “For y’all to patiently sit here and let me try to sing and play the guitar without booing…God bless you and thank you very much.”