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Mark Gherty of Hudson was the winner of the Marie Blakeman Award at the annual Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau banquet Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Kilkarney Golf Club. At the presentation were, from left, Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau President Kim Heinemann, presenter of the award Barb Richardson (Marie Blakeman's daughter), Mark Gherty and members of the Gherty family, wife Maeta, son Collin Geraghty, daughter Megan and Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors Rob Knefe...

UPDATE: Mark Gherty wins Blakeman Award at annual Chamber banquet

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Mark Gherty of Hudson was the winner of the Marie Blakeman Award at the annual Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau banquet Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Kilkarney Golf Club. In addition, several local people and businesses were recognized at the event.

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Other awards included the Community Volunteer of the Year given award to Bob and Carol Benish; the Chamber Member of the Year given to Dawn Marquart of First American Bank; Large Business of the Year given to Laser Magic/AccuMark, Inc., and owner Ted Bauer; Small Business of the Year given to Christiansen Creative and owner Tricia Christiansen; and the Chamber's Ambassador of the Year Award given to Pete Keskey of Minuteman Press.

The banquet also included the introduction of the 2012 Chamber Board Chair LouAnne Berg of J&L Steel and Electrical Services. She took the reins from 2011 Chair Rob Knefelkamp of San Pedro Café who presided over the evenings events. Chamber President Kim Heinemann also spoke briefly.

Blakeman Award

Mark Gherty, a local attorney, has lived in Hudson all his life and graduated from Hudson High School in 1971.

Gherty has been extremely active in many organizations in the community. Among them are Daybreak Rotary, Chamber of Commerce (past president), Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson Area United Way, Community Fund, Youth Action Hudson and a member of the UW-River Falls Foundation. He is also active in several state and regional lawyer and bar organizations. Gherty has also been named a "Super Lawyer" in the state of Wisconsin.

He is the son of a prominent Hudson attorney, the late Lawrence Gherty. Mark practices with his brother and sister-in-law, Terry and Susan Gherty in the firm Gherty and Gherty, 328 Vine St.

Mark's wife Maeta is also a Hudson native, the daughter of local businessman Alton (Helen) McKenzie, owners of McKenzie's Quality Food Market in downtown Hudson in the 1950s and 60s.

The Blakeman Award was established for Marie Blakeman (1917-1999), who along with her husband, Harry Blakeman (1912-1976), owned Nor-Lake Inc. for much of their lives. Marie was extremely active in the community.

The award exemplifies her community leadership, contributions and passion. The award is presented each year by Marie's daughter Barb Richardson.

"Marie came to Hudson in 1947 and served throughout her life," Richardson said. "Tonight's winners have the same qualities Marie displayed -- they show that the same attributes Marie had are alive and well today. Those include leadership, compassion, love of community, selfless contributions, inspiration, truth-telling, sacrifice and support for new ideas."

Gherty said he was humbled by being named the winner of the award.

"I love Hudson, I love my wife and I can't think of a better place to live," Gherty said. "Thank you."

Community volunteer

Hudsonites Bob and Carol Benish received the Community Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by the Chamber. In presenting the award, 2011 Chamber Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp said the award goes to a community member who makes a difference in the community.

"This couple serves tirelessly," Knefelkamp said. "They have been helping families and individuals for the past 15 years. They are humble and dedicated partners."

The Benishs have organized a free Christmas Day dinner at the United Methodist Church. Last year they served over 300 people. They also help with other food projects and collect food from around the community. They volunteer at the local food shelf.

Other organizations in which they are involved include the Christian Community Home Board, Prairie Enthusiasts board, The Willow River State Park OWLS Board and Art Along the Willow. Carol donates quilting and hats to the needy.

"We are humbled by this acknowledgement," Carol said. "Thank you for the honor and also thanks to the businesses, clients and individuals who have donated to help feed those in need."

Chamber member

The Chamber member of the Year is Dawn Marquart of First American Bank. After Chamber Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp read the long list of various Chamber functions in which Marquart participated, he said "that pretty much covers everything we've done in the past year."

In addition to her Chamber involvement, Marquart is active in Daybreak Rotary, Phipps Center for the Arts, Relay for Life and various vocal groups, including the choir at First Baptist Church.

"Thank you, this is a great honor," Marquart said. "I am blessed to live in this community and my success is because of you -- this is a labor of love. Thanks also to the bank staff."

Ambassador Award

The Chamber Ambassador Award was presented to Pete Keskey of Minuteman Press. The Ambassadors Committee of the Chamber makes numerous contacts throughout the community. They visit new businesses, attend ribbon cuttings, host events, initiate networking programs and recruit businesses for chamber membership.

Keskey thanked his wife and employees.

"Shop local, Keskey said. "Money spent in the community stays in the community."

Small Business

The Small Business of the Year Award (less than 20 employees) went to Christiansen Creative.

Chamber Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp said the business began in 2002 with one employee and one computer and just a few thousand dollars in sales. The firm now has nearly 10 full time employee and over a million dollars in sales.

Christiansen Creative specializes in branding, advertising, websites and more. Customers include local national and international clients.

"The company has grown every year and thrived through the recession," Knefelkamp said.

Owner Tricia Christiansen, a 1992 Hudson High School graduate, was unable to attend the banquet, but staff member Calvin Buchanan said "The company takes great pride in receiving this honor."

Large Business

The Large Business of the Year Award (more than 20 employees) went to The Laser Magic/AccuMark, Inc. and owner Ted Bauer.

Chamber Board Chair Rob Knefelkamp said the business opened in downtown Hudson in 1986 with two employees.

The business grew rapidly and built a new 5,000-square-foot facility in the Industrial Park in 1990. Building additions were added in 1995, 2002 and 2008 and the company now has 17,000 square feet. The company has 25 full-time and seven part-time employees.

"The firm has state-of-the-art equipment and in 2009 Bauer welcomed three sons back into the business. The firm offers a wide variety of lasers engraving, imprinting and other services.

"I'm overwhelmed with this award,' Bauer said, a 1971 Hudson high School graduate. "I couldn't have done this without employees, the community, the Chamber, schools, teachers, friends, family..." He said he was blessed to have the support of so many people.

New board chair

The 2011 Chamber Board of Directors Chair Rob Knefelkamp performed his final duties at the annual banquet. The 2012 chair is LouAnne Berg of J&L Steel and Electrical Services, but she was unable to attend the banquet.

Knefelkamp said he was proud of the organization's accomplishments during the past year and thanked the chamber members for their support.

Board changes

Three new directors have been named to the Chamber board. The new board members are Pat Cooksey (Hudson Hospital and Clinics), Traci Leffner (Sylvan Learning Center) and Brian Hinz (Elliot Architects).

Retiring from the board are Randy Pankwitz (Investment Centers of America), Brian Zeller (Greystone Commercial) and Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten (Hudson School District). Each was presented with a plaque at the banquet.

Returning to the board are chair LouAnne Berg (J&L Steel and Electrical Services); Chair--elect Jim Wookey (WESTconsin Credit Union), Past chair Rob Knefelkamp (San Pedro Café), Treasurer Sandee Madigan (Elan Clothing & Gifts), Kevin Blinsmon (Hiawatha National Bank), Chris Anderson (Heywood, Cari, & Anderson, S.C.), Carla Timmerman (Hudson House Grand Hotel) and Meme Fehr (Sandeen Insurance).

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