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Pynchon Medal winners to be honored

Date: 10/19/2010

Oct. 18, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- For almost a century, the William Pynchon Medal has been awarded to those in the region dedicated to community service and humanitarian ideologies. Three more such veterans of public service will officially join the Order of William Pynchon during a ceremony on Nov. 18.

Members of the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts board of trustees revealed that Barbara Bernard, columnist for The Republican and MassLive, Mary Reardon Johnson, executive director of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, and York Mayo, CEO of Community Volunteers are this year's honorees during a press conference on Oct. 14.

"I think we have an exceptional group this year. They're all about community and helping to make people's lives better. We're very fortunate," Barbara Perry, president of the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, said.

Bernard has worked 60 years, since establishing the first independent Golden Age Club for senior citizens, to ensure the organization grows and thrives. She was just 23 years old when she founded the club, 42 years too young to be a member herself.

"I'm so glad I did it [founded the club]. I'm no longer an honorary member, I've been a member for a long time," Bernard, now 83, said with a grin. "Anything I've ever done it's because it makes me happy."

Bernard's dedication to community service extends beyond the Golden Age Club, including service on the Holyoke Medical Center board, the YWCA, Holyoke Junior League and the Holyoke Public Library board. She's also recorded more than 1,000 books for the blind.

"I'm humbled, honored and appreciative," Johnson said of being named to the Order of William Pynchon. "I've had a career at the YWCA, which has offered many challenges and opportunities to serve."

She added that service work is "never finished."

"There are so many opportunities and challenges and incredible struggles and opposition," Johnson said of the work to aid battered women and teen parents.

She has been the YWCA's executive director for its Western Massachusetts chapter for the past 27 years, completing a $7 million state-of-the-art women's shelter in Springfield, which opened in 2004, as well as this year's completion of an $8 million, 28-unit affordable housing project.

Her service also includes affiliations with the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and Girls Inc., as well as her work on the Governor's Commission on Women and Girls and the Governor's Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence.

"This is definitely one of the highlights of my life ... I don't believe in that theory we're self-made men or self-made women. We're standing on the shoulders of those before us, like William Pynchon," Mayo said at the press conference.

A 27-year employee of American Saw in East Longmeadow, Mayo decided to retire and devote his life to community service on Jan. 2, 2000, after reading "The Theology of the Hammer," by Miller Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.

He has since served as executive director of Springfield Habitat for Humanity, interim CEO, and president of Goodwill Industries, Hartford/Springfield and interim director of Girls, Inc., of Holyoke. Mayo is the current CEO and president of The Roger L. Putnam Technical Fund.

Mayo explained the purpose of the fund is to provide three-year scholarships for homeless students at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School, covering the costs of housing and their first two years at Springfield Technical Community College. He projected the housing unit for the students will open July 1, 2011.

The 96th annual William Pynchon Awards dinner and ceremony will take place Nov. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Chez Joseph in Agawam. For tickets, contact the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts at 736-2582.

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