PLATTSBURGH - John H. Zurlo has been named the 2010 Irishman of the Year.
The honor was bestowed upon the Clinton County Clerk and Champlain resident during the annual Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce St. Patrick's Day Breakfast at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Angell College Center March 17.
Master of ceremonies Kevin J. Killeen made the declaration, which gives surprise recognition to those who continue to make contributions to the community. Killeen hinted at who the honoree was with terms like a "visual community leader" who is "proud of heritage" and "comfortable with cabernet or chardonnay," referring to Zurlo's pastime of winemaking. Making a reference to Zurlo's active volunteer work and fundraising efforts for nonprofit organizations, Killeen jokingly said the honoree is "known for pilfering pockets to fill local coffers."
When Killeen officially named Zurlo as this year's honoree, Zurlo made his way up to the podium, shaking hands and receiving pats on the back along the way.
"I really appreciate this honor. I can't believe this," Zurlo said upon arriving at the microphone.
The award meant a great deal to Zurlo, he said, considering he has dedicated his life to public service for several decades. Zurlo's numerous contributions to civic and nonprofit organizations include the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Rotary International, Kiwanis Club International and the Knights of Columbus, among others. In addition, he has been a member of boards of directors for CVPH Medical Center and St. Mary's Mission Center, and has served for several years as coordinator of the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign in the Northern Tier.
The retired teacher, husband, and father of two grown children, said he was "overcome" with the recognition and that he has only done what he feels is his duty.
"I told my wife when I die I want on my gravestone 'A Life of Service,'" said Zurlo. "And, that's what I try to do."