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O-M's JoLynn Minnier is the winner
By Charlie Haeffner
ODESSA, April 15, 2020 -- The Susan B. Haeffner Sportsmanship Award was first presented to a high school student-athlete on June 8, 2005 in the Odessa-Montour High School's Fetter-Brown Auditorium -- during the school's Sports Banquet night. The recipient, held secret until the moment of announcement -- was O-M's remarkable Sally Wilcox, a fine and very determined athlete who I remember most for her basketball exploits, in particular draining free throws at key moments of big games with her trusty left-handed shot.
I initiated the award that year, seven months after the passing of my wife Susan from complications related to cancer treatments. I was living a nightmare, and wanted Susan remembered because of the remarkable woman she was.
Now, 15 years later, I am still presenting it -- The Susan Award -- on an annual basis, usually in conjunction with The Top Drawer 24 celebration of outstanding student-athlete-citizens at the Watkins Glen State Park pavilion.
This year, there is no such ceremony in this age of the pandemic, but The Susan Award continues, and it goes this time to a tough, determined and ultimately (through sheer will) successful athlete who has excelled at volleyball, basketball and softball.
Her name is JoLynn Minnier (pictured at right), a senior at O-M who has impressed me not only with her determination on the playing court and playing field, but also for her determination in life, working often long hours at Walmart in addition to her school and athletic responsibilities. I asked her about that once, and she said she needed the money to pay for her car insurance. (When I was a teenager, I had no such job and gave no thought to such things as insurance. But Jo is far ahead of where I was at her age.)
The vice president of the Senior Class, JoLynn has been enrolled in the Early Childhood Program at BOCES, and is a member of the National Technical Honor Society. She plans to attend Corning Community College and pursue a Teacher Assistant Certificate with an eye toward becoming a Special Needs Assistant.
I will, when I get a chance, secure a trophy emblematic of The Susan award, but for now am satisfied that shining a spotlight on JoLynn again (I say again because she was the last Watkins-Montour Student of the Month before school went on forced hiatus) will draw deserved attention to her accomplishments.
Back in 2005, at that first Susan Award presentation, I tried to explain in a speech what I was looking for in a recipient.
This is what I said, after presenting my first O-M Athlete of the Year Award to Katie Taber.
"This second award I'm presenting is very special to me. It is named after my wife, who -- though not a sports fan for most of her life -- became one through photography in her final years. One of the last jobs we worked on together was last year's NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. She thought it was very cool.
"But sports aside, my wife possessed those qualities that I find important in the makeup of sportsmanship: A core of kindness, which is essential; a drive to succeed, a focus on the goal at hand, a loyalty to teammates -- or, in her case, to family -- and a morality that does not condone immature behavior or cheap shots on the playing field or in life.
"This award -- which hopefully will become an annual one -- is named the Susan B. Haeffner Sportsmanship Award. It is being presented to a person I have had occasion to observe and admire for years; a person who has shown a dedication to several sports and a drive to succeed at them, and displayed consistently ethical behavior ... and a core of kindness that defines her.
"I considered many fine athletes for this honor; but the one I selected struck me as the person who most possessed those qualities embodied by Susan Haeffner (pictured at right) throughout her life. This athlete struck me as someone who would not only be honored by the award, but would honor its intent by her very nature -- by the way she competes on the playing field, and by the way she lives her life.
"It is my pleasure to award this trophy ... to Sally Wilcox."
(Sally then came up from her seat in the auditorium to receive her trophy -- a golden cup atop a square-shaped wooden base -- and as I held out my hand to shake hers, she did me one better. She gave me a hug and said in my ear, earnestly: Thank you. I hugged her back, and then retreated to my seat, tears welling in my eyes.)
Those same words still apply. But these many years later, they apply to JoLynn Minnier, to whom I say:
Well done. With your grit and determination and fairness, you’ve been both fun to watch, and inspiring. Congratulations. You’ve earned this honor.
Photos in text: JoLynn Minnier (top) and Susan Haeffner (File photos)
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869