Bill (left) and Debra Brown (center) received their Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame plaque from master of ceremonies Ernie Porter (right) during the annual Hall of Fame awards ceremony, held Thursday evening at the Evangel United Methodist Church Family Life Center. The Browns were honored for their work in the Soldier area. Former Holton High School teacher Mike Ford (right) received his Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame plaque from fellow Hall of Famer Robert Brown (left), who joined the Hall of Fame in 2009, during Thursday’s Hall of Fame awards ceremony at the Evangel United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Ford, now a member of the Holton school board, was honored for his work in promoting the Banner Creek Science Center.The late Jim Potter was inducted into the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame during the annual Hall of Fame banquet on Thursday at the EUM Family Life Center. Accepting the plaque in honor of Potter were his widow, Patricia Potter (center); his son, Robert Lara (right); and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairperson Liana Onnen (left). Potter was honored in part for his work in bridging relations between the tribe and the county.Ernie Porter (left) presented honoree Brad Stauffer (right) with his Hall of Fame plaque. Stauffer was honored for his work with and for his fellow military veterans.

Hall of Fame Inductees honored

Amid the humorous and stirring remembrances involving the five men and women who joined the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame this year were certain words that Ernie Porter wanted citizens of the community to remember.

Those words, Porter said, included “advocate,” “communicator,” “volunteer,” “veteran,” “teacher,” “mentor,” “helper,” “servant” and “friend.”

“All of these qualities add up to leaders, and when leaders come together with a purpose of making life better, then we have a community,” said Porter, master of ceremonies at the annual Hall of Fame banquet Thursday at the EUM Family Life Center. “A community that is strong and vital becomes a place where people want to live and raise a family — a place like Holton and Jackson County.”

It’s the contributions of those such as this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Bill and Debra Brown, Mike Ford, Brad Stauffer and the late Jim Potter — that make Holton and Jackson County such a place, Porter said. Thursday’s Hall of Fame event was the 10th such occasion in which community leaders and volunteers were honored for their contributions to the community. 

First, Potter was remembered by Porter as someone who improved relations between the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, of which Potter was a member, and the rest of Jackson County. Potter was also remembered in a video presentation by current PBPN Tribal Chairperson Liana Onnen, his fellow tribal councilors Steve Ortiz and Rey Kitchkumme and others as someone who treated all he met with respect.

Onnen presented Potter’s widow, Patricia Potter, and other members of his family with his Hall of Fame award, remembering Potter as not only a friend, but also as a mentor. She also recognized Potter as someone who worked tirelessly to “bridge the gap” between his tribe and the county up until his death in June of last year.

Stauffer, also honored as 2014’s Holton High School alumnus of the year and grand marshal of Holton’s Veterans Day Parade this past November, was feted by Porter as a veteran who went “above and beyond the call of duty for his community, his country and his fellow veterans.” Some of those fellow veterans paid tribute to him in the accompanying video presentation.

A retired veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, Stauffer said in his acceptance speech that he decided that he wanted to do more for his fellow veterans after he retired and asked himself, “What do I really want to do when I grow up?”

“There were a lot of veterans out there who needed help, and I was one of them,” he said. “People helped me get through the (Veterans Administration) system… There’s a lot of red tape in that system for people who’d gone through the same thing that I did.”

Those people, Stauffer said, include “a new bunch of veterans” who are coming back from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is “unbelievable” that they have so much red tape of their own to go through when they come home. But as long as he can help them, he said, he will continue to do so, because “I love being a volunteer.”

One of the night’s most humorous remembrances was shared in the Browns’ video tribute by Darla Askren, who said they once attempted to turn an area at their Red Rock Guest Ranch near Soldier into an ice skating rink and nearly ran the City of Soldier’s water tower dry in the process. But what’s more important to remember about the Browns, Askren and others said, was their commitment to their community.

The Browns, whose guest ranch stands as one of the first agritourism businesses in the area, “continue to influence others with their volunteerism,” Porter said. Askren added in the video presentation that the Browns were “probably the nicest people” that she has ever encountered.

“We’re just doing what we believe is right,” Debra Brown said during her acceptance speech. “One of our core values is to serve the community in which we live and work, and we’ve done that to the best of our ability. You’re supposed to grow where you’re planted, and God planted us here in Jackson County. We’re so blessed to be part of this community.”

Bill Brown added that his military career has taken him to some exotic places around the globe, but his decision to move to Jackson County about two decades ago has been “such a blessing.”

Former HHS teacher Ford was honored for his work in education — behind the teacher’s desk and as a member of the USD 336 Board of Education — and for his promotion of the Elk Creek Observatory and the Banner Creek Science Center. But in the latter case, Ford said it was the support of many of those present who made the Science Center an asset to Holton and Jackson County.

“Elk Creek Observatory and Banner Creek Science Center and its observatory would not be possible without people like you who care about projects like this,” said Ford, who accepted his award from fellow Hall of Famer Robert Brown. “I’m only the thought process… It’s been a great ride.”

It was also noted that Ford’s interest in astronomy stemmed from his love of “those goofy sci-fi shows on TV” as a youth, and he said he still watches them whenever possible. Porter asked Ford whether his favorite of those shows was “Lost in Space,” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Twilight Zone” or “Gilligan’s Island.”

“Yes,” Ford replied, sparking one of the biggest laughs of the evening.

The evening’s dinner of beef bourguignon, side dishes and dessert was catered by Hall of Famer Gloria Stavropoulos and Holton Catering and served by members of the KAYS and StuCo from Holton Middle School. About 200 tickets were sold to this year’s event, it was noted.


The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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