Several honored by Chamber

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 22, 2002

A 43-year veteran in the surveying field who still finds the time to coach little league baseball and teach Sunday school.

Firefighters who saved the lives of three people stranded on top of their cars in a flooded parking lot.

A woman who sheltered 12 children in the remote jungles of Laos during the Vietnam War.

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All of these people live in our backyards.

At the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet last night, one man was honored as Business Person of the Year, and a group of firefighters and one woman were given the 2002 Courage in the Face of Danger Award. Also, award recipients were recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives, the Lawrence County Commission, and Congressman Ted Strickland.

"These people are worthy of their awards, no doubt," Pat Clonch, executive director of the Chamber said. "These are my favorite events because these people from Lawrence County and the Tri-State area have made overwhelming sacrifices to do what they have done."

Ronald L. Eastham, president of the Eastham and Associates engineering, surveying and planning firm in Chesapeake, was named "Business Person of the Year."

"I am humbled and thrilled," he said. "I have a small firm with 20 employees, and I wasn't expecting this."

Eastham credited his success, which includes 5,200 projects, to those 20 employees who he said are all dedicated. However, the work he does for his church comes first.

"The Lord's work comes first," he said. "I have a Christian obligation to my Heavenly Father, and all other things will fall into place."

On March 20, the service area of the Burlington-Fayette Township Fire Department's service area was the site of a flash flood, which threatened the safety of its residents. During this time, three people were stranded on top of their cars in the Chesapeake K-Mart parking lot.

To get to those people, Stephens said, the firemen rowed in makeshift boats with snow shovels as oars.

"We're proud, that's all you can say," Captain James Woda said. "We should have been scared, but we took care of it. We'd do it again."

In the mid-1950s, Ha Khounlavong was a mother of 11 children. During the Vietnam War, the Laotian Royal Regime kept her husband in an undisclosed location in the northern area of the country while she and her children had to flee from enemies. She and twelve children, one on her back and the others at her side, hid in remote jungles, moving from place to place through the night for more than six months.

Only eight of those twelve were her own children. Two of her own were lost in the war and one was in the military. The other four children were ones who had lost their families.

"She has demonstrated special courage and touched the lives of so many during the tortures of war," Strickland said. "She is a mother who fought to protect her children who came to this country to have the fruits of freedom. She has shown courage every one of us would love to have."

Speaking through her son acting as an interpreter, Khounlavong said she was honored to receive the awards and proud to be an American citizen.

Pheth Khounlavong said her mother-in-law, also honored by the Kentucky State Senate and Congressman Ken Lucas helped raise her children so she and her husband attend school. Ha also taught her children her customs and native language.

"I am proud of my culture and my family," her granddaughter Viviane, marketing director for the Chamber, said. "If it weren't for her struggle, we wouldn't be here."

Strickland said heroes and heroines aren't necessarily famous people.

"I think it's important that we recognize the heroes amongst us," he said. "Many us think heroes are on professional sports teams or Hollywood celebrities. But, we are surrounded by people, who in a quiet way, perform heroic deeds every day. We need to take the time to say 'Thank you.'"