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A chamber celebration

Daryl Johnson Award


Jason B. Smith
Ben Howell, Sr.

Ben Howell Sr.'s youth was spent on the way to Wal-Mart, long before the shopping center giant occupied the acreage on the north side of Thomson.

He'd ride his bike from the Howell house on Jackson Street to the pasture where Wal-Mart now stands, prodding the family's two milk cows with a walking stick along the way. In the afternoon, he'd return home, careful to avoid the 5:30 p.m. train that would spook the cows.

Over the years, Mr. Howell's life would take him to Athens for college, Germany for war and finally back home for his own family and business. Last week, his life and service to McDuffie County was honored with the Daryl Johnson Award from the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce.

"The (Howell) family has been a large contributor to the growth of this community through the years," said presenter Rusty Lovelace.

The owner of Thomson Wholesale Grocery, a hardware and building supply company that evolved into Lowe's and finally, Thomson Quality Salvage, Mr. Howell raised four children with his first wife, Robin. He's spent his retirement with his current wife, Bunnie, and their nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"Thank you all," Mr. Howell simply said after receiving the award. "I really appreciate it."

Volunteer of the Year


Jason B. Smith
Sue Richards

Ken Williams turned to Jefferson Award Winner Alice Sandstrom for words to describe Sue Richards: "Volunteers polish up the rough spots in our communities."

With that, he presented Mrs. Richards with the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce's Volunteer of the Year award.

There are very few activities with the Chamber that Mrs. Richards is not involved in.

"This is my heart," she said, award in hand. "I have to thank everybody here."

Away from chamber activities, Mrs. Richards has been married to John Richards for more than 30 years. They have two children and enjoy spending time at the lake and beach.

"But her eyes probably sparkle the most when she's asked about her grandson, Gabe," Mr. Williams said.

Small Business Person of the Year


Jason B. Smith
Nether Ivery

Nether Ivery is quick to point to others amid his success.

"I couldn't do it without you guys," he said moments after receiving the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year award. "You are my strength to get up every day and do it right."

Mr. Ivery -- and his wife, Stephanie -- are at the heart of three downtown businesses: Ivery's Restaurant, Stephanie's Stylon and Felicity's.

He's also a member of the McDuffie County Board of Education, sits on the Downtown Development Authority and the local tourism board and is an active member of Springfield Baptist Church.

Web posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004

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