A surprise after decades of community service
Ellen Kirby went to the Monticello High School Christmas concert with absolutely no idea that she would be named Monticello Citizen of the Year.
Kirby was given the annual honor by Mayor Tim Young at the concert on Dec. 17. Young called a surprised Kirby to the stage before a raucous crowd that gave her a standing ovation.
Kirby’s nomination letter for the Citizen of the Year Award was signed by 10 people, something that mayor Young has never seen before.
Young read the opening sentence from the nomination letter that was sent to the city council: “Thomas Edison once said, ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’”
Young continued reading, “There is a generous soul in Monticello who gives of her time endlessly year after year without the desire for recognition.
“This woman can often be seen with her knee pad, a bucket, gloves, and her good humor pulling weeds from rocks, fence lines, and sidewalks.
Standing as an example to all of what true public service looks like, she has quietly, for decades, pulled weeds on City property.
“It is time we publicly recognize and thank Ellen Kirby for her service.”
Young pointed out that he has oftentimes personally seen Kirby rolling up her sleeves and doing work for the community, evidenced by the fact the city leaves her an extra garbage can for the weeds she pulls on city property.
“No one ever asked her to do this,” Young said. “It doesn’t matter how cold it is, we see her out there doing it and it’s long overdue that she be recognized for it.”
Kirby was handed a bouquet of flowers and an honorary plaque by Young as she thanked the crowd and those in attendance who nominated her.
“This was an unexpected honor, and I can’t hold a candle to so many of you out there,” Kirby said, as she fought back tears of joy.
“Carol VanSteeter, Linda Lewis, I could name (them) all night long,” she continued, “but I am proud to live in Monticello. I know that there is a lot of pride for our wonderful community, and if you see a weed, pull it.”
Young reiterated Kirby’s final point by saying that he encourages all his cub scouts to be good citizens by telling them two things.
“If you see garbage, pick it up,” Young said. “If you see a weed, pull it. That’s all it takes to be a good citizen...and I give everyone the same challenge.
“Let’s keep Monticello beautiful and make it the place that people like Ellen have kept it for the last, many years.”
Kirby and Young walked off the stage to another standing ovation as she made her way to the back of the auditorium and a massed huddle of family and friends who awaited her.
The ovation continued for several minutes, and Kirby was so overwhelmed by the entirety, she had to step outside the auditorium to gather herself.
The award was kept secret from even Kirby’s husband, and the couple had to be coaxed out of an evening relaxing at home watching a new episode of Antiques Roadshow by friends to get the Kirbys to the concert to receive the award.
Kirby’s family even traveled from St. George in order to be present for the award ceremony, unbeknownst to her.
She didn’t know they were there until after the ceremony when they greeted her with hugs and congratulations.
The nomination letter attempted to describe the person Kirby is to those around her in the community.
“When she’s not tidying the city, you may be lucky enough to receive a kind or encouraging word from her; they are plentiful,” the letter reads.
“You may notice her tirelessly giving to her family, see her taking items to the needy, or simply brightening even a stranger’s day with her chipper, sweet, and positive outlook.
“Ellen is known for her compassionate heart, for there is no bigger. She has an air about her that exudes kindness. She truly cares for the members of our community. If only the world could be a bit more like Ellen Kirby.”