Red Cross 2013 Real Heroes of the Mohawk Valley

By NEWSChannel 2 Staff

The American Red Cross honored several Mohawk Valley residents for their heroic actions during the past year.

The honors were distributed at the 14th annual Real Heroes Breakfast at the Radisson Hotel in Utica.

The Real Heroes Breakfast celebrates the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering by honoring people from throughout Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego counties who have performed heroic acts to help others in need.

Those honored were:

Michael Cianfrocco Humanitarian of the Year Award (Presented by the Carbone Family)

If you live in the Mohawk Valley, it’s not a matter of if you know Symeon Tsoupelis, it’s a matter of how you know him.

Born and raised in Utica, he’s the owner of one of the most popular eateries in the area, Symeon’s Restaurant in Yorkville. Symeon’s parents, Symeon and Ann, started the restaurant in 1973 on Oneida Street in Utica, relocated to New Hartford in 1976 and moved to its present location in 1982. Symeon took over the business from his father in 1999.

Through the years, Symeon has donated his time, food and money to various humanitarian organizations throughout the Mohawk Valley. He’s a member of the St. Elizabeth Hospital Board of Directors, and he donated a van to the Regional Cancer Center at Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare so patients without transportation could get to their treatment appointments.

Symeon has also been involved with the United Way, the Food Bank, Friends of the ARC Foundation, and the American Red Cross. His father was a longtime supporter of the Red Cross in this area before he moved to Cape Cod.

“I do it because I can,” Symeon told the Utica Observer-Dispatch when asked about his philanthropy. “It’s how I was raised.”
In 2009, Symeon was a Real Hero to a 100-year-old woman whose vehicle crashed into his restaurant. The woman had experienced a medical emergency while driving, and Symeon was the first person to assist her as they awaited help from firefighters who removed her from her car.

Over the years, Symeon’s kindness and generosity have helped thousands of people in the Mohawk Valley. He says it’s his way of paying it forward.

“What’s not to love about Utica?” he said in a 2011 interview. “I was born and raised here, and I want to do everything I can to improve it so my kids will want to stay here as well."

Good Neighbor Award, Scott Beach (Presented by NYSTEC)

On Christmas Eve, Scott was on his way to work his overnight shift as a nurse at the Crisis Psychiatric Center at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown when he saw flames shooting out of a home in Herkimer. He pulled over, ran to the house and started banging on the front door. The owners were gathering with friends and family
for a holiday meal and had no idea their house was on fire. While other people had called 911, Scott was the only person who stopped.

“Even though we lost our home, everyone was safe,” said homeowner Tom Brown, who has three children. “I can’t thank (Scott) enough. The fire spread quickly; I don’t know what might have happened if he hadn’t come to our house and gotten us out
when he did.”

Scott, of Herkimer, ran into the house to look for more people, and he also tried to retrieve the family’s Christmas gifts. But the smoke and flames were too much.

Fortunately, a local retailer replaced the children’s gifts. Scott’s selfless actions that night earned him the Bassett Medical Center’s Hero Award, and now he is an American Red Cross Real Hero!

Blood Donor Award, William “Bill” Sadlon (Presented by the Observer-Dispatch)

Bill, of Little Falls, is a regular donor at the Little Falls Elk Lodge blood drives and in his lifetime he has donated 208 units of blood – enough to save 636 lives!

Bill is a Real Hero to all of the people who have received his blood, and to the blood drive organizers and the New York-Penn Blood Region account managers who look forward to his regular visits and ever-present smile.

“Bill is always there at every blood drive and is well on his way to his 27-gallon pin,” said Emily Sokol, Little Falls Blood Committee Chair. “He is an inspiration to us all on the blood committee. We look forward to seeing him every 56 days at the Little Falls Elks with his bright outlook and ready smile.”

“Bill’s Rh is positive, and so is his positive attitude! I enjoy seeing Bill when I stop in to the Little Falls blood drives,” said Diane O’Donnell, NY-Penn Account Manager. “His dedication to helping save lives through the American Red Cross blood donation program inspires me to talk about him to others as an example of what a true hero

Animal Rescue Award, Gary Johnson and Lauren McEntire (Presented by New York Central Mutual)

When an animal is abandoned, lost or injured in the Sylvan Beach area, residents know who to call for help: Gary and Lauren.

“Last summer, they heard of a litter of kittens found in the Sylvan Beach area,” said Katie Hill, of Canastota. “I remember going with Lauren and Gary, spending hours trying to find the kittens in a wooded area, and they wouldn’t leave until they were all safe. Gary and Lauren caught the litter, took them to the vet and found forever loving homes for them.”

Gary and Lauren are both members of the Puppy Rescue Mission, an organization that rescues dogs from war zones overseas and finds them loving homes with U.S. soldiers. Gary and Lauren have helped transport the dogs along the East Coast, and they also raise money for the organization.

Gary and Lauren work with the Humane Society of Rome, and they’ve started their own local animal rescue organization they call Peek and Boo Animal Rescue. And even with all of that, these Red Cross Real Heroes have found time to prepare for another important event: They’re getting married in October!

Military Award, Master Sargent James Mauthe (Presented by International Wire)

Whether volunteering as a firefighter or serving his country as a Master Sargent in the Air National Guard, Jim Mauthe has gone above the call of duty time and again. When the tones go off, he risks his life to save homes and businesses from being engulfed in flames. In just one year, Jim responded to more than 100 emergency calls, extinguishing fires and igniting hope in the Village of Clinton and beyond.

On one occasion, Jim came to the aid of two pedestrians struck by a vehicle. As one of the first responders to reach the injured, he assessed and stabilized the most critical patient until paramedics arrived, rendering care that saved the person's life and set him on the road to a full recovery.

Switching uniforms, Master Sargent Mauthe serves as a Mission Crew Commander Technician in the New York Air National Guard based at Griffiss in Rome. Jim aids in our nation's air-sovereignty and air-defense operations for the Eastern United States and coordinates with state and federal agencies to protect our borders.
Jim is a Real Hero who shows us by his actions how to set the bar high – and then surpasses that mark!

Mary Haggerty Education Award, Debbie Nutty (Presented by Rome Strip Steel)

Debbie, of Whitesboro, has been a kindergarten teacher at Deerfield Elementary School for 17 years. Lisa Spina, her friend and a Reading Teaching Assistant at the school, said Debbie is “an inspiration to us all” who is “always there, encouraging us, praying for us, and making us smile with her infectious laugh that echoes through the hallway.”

“Her love of teaching is evident when your walk into her classroom,” Lisa said. “There is always laughing and singing and dancing to go along with reading, writing and arithmetic. She knows each child as an individual, understanding what each one needs to be successful.”

Last spring, Debbie was diagnosed with cancer. She maintained a positive outlook, telling her fellow teachers that teaching was her passion and she “wasn’t finished yet.” On Nov. 1, Debbie returned to school and didn’t miss a beat as she expertly taught a new batch of lively kindergarten students.

“Standards change, curriculum change, but Debbie just smiles, stays calm and confidently carries on,” Lisa said. “Several words come to mind at the mention of Debbie’s name, among them: educator, mentor, inspiration and most assuredly, hero.”

911 Dispatch Award Susan Crimmins, Natalia Rogers, Susan VanOlst, Kelly Wares (Presented by GPO Federal Credit Union)

March 13 started out like any other day at the Herkimer County 911 Center. But soon enough, it became a day like no other when four people were killed by a gunman in the early morning in Herkimer.
Susan Crimmins, the supervisor, and dispatchers Natalia, Susan and Kelly were on call that morning and handled all of the initial calls.

They worked under high duress, but remained composed and professional as they dealt with incidents at four different locations (the suspect’s home, John’s Barber Shop, Gaffey’s Car Wash, and the former Glory Days building).

“Under extreme confusion from callers, high emotion levels and a high level of both 911 and administrative line calls, these dispatchers remained calm, extracted the pertinent information and relayed that information to the field units,” said Robert Vandawalker from the Herkimer County Office of Emergency Services. “People can’t imagine the number of calls fielded not only from 911 lines, but also citizens worried about their loved ones, and calls from law enforcement, fire and EMS officials looking for details.”

Susan, Natalia, Susan and Kelly proved to be behind-the-scenes Real Heroes who helped keep law enforcement officials and the community informed under the most trying of circumstances.

Fire Rescue Award, Oneida County Water Rescue (Presented by Remington Arms)

Several volunteer firefighters from Sylvan Beach, Taberg and Oriskany have received extensive training for the Oneida County Water Rescue team and that preparation has paid off numerous times with successful local search-and-rescue missions. Because of their expertise, many members of the Water Rescue team from Sylvan Beach and Taberg were able to respond to a statewide call for mutual aid to New York City and Long Island when Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast last fall.

In a short period of time, the volunteers had to get time off from their regular jobs, rearrange schedules and family activities, pack supplies and equipment for several days, and get to where they were needed.

The Water Rescue members assisted overwhelmed local departments as they rescued stranded residents while dodging power outages and hazardous materials floating in the water.
Meanwhile, several members of the Sylvan Beach and Taberg departments, along with the firefighters from Oriskany, remained in Oneida County to make sure the Water Rescue team was ready to respond back home.

The Water Rescue volunteers who are able to conduct these specialized and operations are a credit to their fire departments and our region. They are truly Real Heroes who volunteer their time and talent to help people across the street, or across the state.

Adult Good Samaritan Award, David Kalk (Presented by National Grid)

In the early morning hours of Dec. 12, David was driving near the Village of Camden and noticed a house on fire. He stopped and as he approached the house, he heard screams for help.

David, a volunteer firefighter with the Camden Fire Department, immediately called 911 to report the fire and his mother Melody, a 911 dispatcher, answered the call. While relaying vital information to Melody so the responding firefighters would know what they were going to find, David helped a woman and her 9-month-old son get away from the burning home and he ushered them into his car so they could escape the freezing weather.

The woman, who had suffered burns, was screaming that someone was still in house, so David approached the home. Downed electrical lines were sparking in front of the house, so David advised his mother that the electric company was needed as well. David’s information was extremely helpful to the firefighters, who searched the home and determined that no one else was inside.

Thankfully, David called 911 to get the help that was needed. David is a Real Hero who used his expertise as a firefighter to help prevent a potentially tragic situation.

Kurt Wyman Law Enforcement Award, Trooper Mark Hale, Deputy Matthew Taylor (Presented by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield)

On June 4, New York State Trooper Mark Hale responded to an unusual 911 call: A man with a knife was pouring gasoline around the foundation of a house in Rome.

When he arrived, the house was in flames. Trooper Hale and Deputy Taylor, from the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, broke into the home and started yelling for the occupant to come out. But due to extreme heat and heavy smoke, they had to turn away.

They continued to look for ways to enter the home, and finally were able to partially open a side door that they couldn’t open all the way because a man was passed out behind the door.

Trooper Hale successfully pulled the man’s upper body through the doorway, but his lower body was still lodged behind the door. In the meantime, Delta Lake Fire Chief Larry Tamberino noticed a nearby water spigot “arcing” with electrical current, forcing the rescuers to retreat again.

Finally, two Delta Lake volunteer firefighters in full gear were able to enter the home and dislodge the man’s lower body from the inside while Trooper Hale and Deputy Taylor grabbed his upper body and then carried him away. Trooper Hale and Deputy Taylor are Real Heroes for risking their own lives several times that day to save the man’s life.

Youth Good Samaritan, Jesse Richard (Presented by NBT Bank)

On Jan. 22, Jeanne Richard was putting her son Jesse to bed when her husband Jason yelled that he smelled smoke and to call 911. But the phone lines weren’t working, Jeanne couldn’t find her cell phone, and Jason was trying to put out the fire. So Jeanne asked Jesse to run to his grandparents’ house across the road. The temperature was below zero, there were a couple of inches of fresh snow on the ground, and the Richard’s driveway is about one-quarter of a mile, surrounded by woods and fields.

Wearing only pajama shorts, a coat and boots, Jesse ran out into the dark night. “Jesse didn’t ask any questions and put all of his fears of the dark aside and ran,” Jeanne said.

Meanwhile, Jeanne located a cell phone and called 911, but lost the connection after giving the address. Since his grandparents weren’t home, Jesse flagged down a snow plow driver who called 911 for help.

“I cannot express how proud I am of my son, for the bravery he displayed that night,” Jeanne said. “I thank God every night for my wonderful, courageous son.”

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