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CITIZEN OF THE YEAR
ISLAND CITY "As I looked around the room, I saw lots of people who do lots of good things," Delmer Hanson said, recalling Monday night.
But that night it was Hanson who was honored by the leaders of Island City for his contributions.
Friends and neighbors joined with city council members to honor Hanson as the community's 2002 Citizen of the Year, sending him home with a plaque in the shape of the state, and praise ringing in his ears.
"It was very enjoyable," Hanson admits, "and they said nice things. My friends were, thank goodness, reserved."
Hanson, a conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad, joined more than 11,000 other Americans last January to help carry the Olympic torch to Salt Lake City.
He was one of three UPRR employees in the Northwest region chosen to run a 2/10ths-of-a-mile leg of the torch relay. His piece of the relay occurred near Fort Boise Mid High School in Idaho.
Monday night, he didn't have to run again, but stepped into the limelight to accept the honor, which had almost been kept a secret.
"They fed me enough lines of BS that I wasn't sure what was going on," Hanson said, explaining how friends got him to the reception. His wife was completely surprised, but his son, Jake, had found out what was going on earlier in the day.
Hanson, a 31-year veteran of the railroad and a
La Grande High School graduate, has made a reputation for himself by improving safety conditions for employees, making railroad tunnels safer and improving sanitation on locomotives.
He was also heavily involved with the United Way several years ago, and has worked on various smaller projects, such as getting a backstop installed at Pioneer Park in the early 1990s.
Hanson has two children, Jake and a daughter who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and two grandsons.
Trying to summarize Monday night's surprise, Hanson said, "I was surprised and extremely honored."