A "New York, New York!" atmosphere prevailed last weekend when West Virginia Northern Community College honored Ohio County Commissioner Orphy Klempa of Wheeling as an outstanding community volunteer.
Saluted for his community service, Klempa was the "man of the hour" at the fundraising dinner sponsored by the Wheeling campus Friends of the College and the West Virginia Northern Community College Foundation. The festive event was held at Northern's Education Center in downtown Wheeling Saturday, March 23.
To set the mood, chefs in the college's culinary arts department prepared "traditional New York street fare" for guests to sample at a reception preceding the dinner. Complementing the scene, New York street entertainment was offered by a mime and a sketch artist.
The New York City theme continued in the Education Center's multi-purpose room which was transformed into a glittering slice of the Big Apple. Large cutouts of the Statue of Liberty, skyscrapers and Checker cabs were positioned around the gymnasium floor. Strings of tiny white lights were strewn along the ceiling.
Hilary Curto, Northern's graphic arts designer, created tall centerpieces for the tables. Her design featured hearts (for the "I Love New York" theme), small cutouts of Checker cabs, sparkling gold accents and long ribbons in sheer black, accented with checkered trim (continuing the taxi cab motif).
To add a Radio City Music Hall touch, the Toni Zeakes dancers, known as "Wheeling's Rockettes," performed at the start of the dinner. The dancing young women then brought the guest of honor, Klempa, on stage. He was wearing his own fedora to complement his suit.
The dinner prepared by the culinary arts department also had a New York flavor. Guests were served matzo ball soup, followed by Waldorf salad. For the main course, guests had a choice of Delmonico steak with blue cheese butter, lobster Newburg or vodka pasta.
And dessert? Of course, it was New York-style cheesecake, presented with a choice of strawberry, blueberry or raspberry toppings.
Klempa, who served in West Virginia Legislature as a delegate and a senator before being elected to the Ohio County Commission last fall, is the fourth recipient of WVNCC's community service award.
Mary Beth Hughes, Waneta Acker and Larry Bandi, all of Wheeling, are previous recipients who have recognized as outstanding community volunteers by the institution.
Acker, who was honored in 2010, introduced Klempa to the audience at this year's dinner. Acker, a spry senior citizen, noted that she has been a volunteer for 95 percent of her life.
Klempa thanked the Friends of the College, the WVNCC Foundation, Northern President Dr. Martin Olshinsky, the faculty and staff of the college and his family.
On hand for the festivities were Klempa's wife, Mary Jo; two of his three sons; his daughter; two of his four siblings and his mother, Geneva Klempa, the 83-year-old "matriarch of the family."
The honoree remarked that Northern is "the biggest, most-attended community college in West Virginia." Referring to the college's ongoing development of its Wheeling campus, Klempa observed, "This whole end of town is truly West Virginia Northern Community College."
Nick Zervos, president of the Friends board, cited Klempa as "a wonderful example" of a person devoted to voluntary service.
"For everything you've done for this community, there is no one more deserving than Orphy Klempa," Zervos told the honoree and the audience.
The Friends-Foundation dinner coincided with Easter Seals' Stiletto and Steel fundraising event at the Wheeling Island casino and with professional bull riding at WesBanco Arena that evening.
Klempa referred to the latter event when he said it was "truly humbling to be honored" and he thanked those "who have chosen to give up the bull to be here with me tonight." He then joked that "there truly is a lot of bull going on down at the arena."
Happy Easter and Happy Spring, readers!
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer. net