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Local leaders honored

Legacy Auto Group representatives accept the EOU Partnership award at the Union County Chamber of Commerce Award Banquet. The Legacy representatives are, from left, Chris Huxoll, Greg Colozzi and Robert Bates. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Legacy Auto Group representatives accept the EOU Partnership award at the Union County Chamber of Commerce Award Banquet. The Legacy representatives are, from left, Chris Huxoll, Greg Colozzi and Robert Bates. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
A local business that quietly stepped forward in a big way to help those who endured one of the worst bus crashes in Oregon history was saluted Friday.

The Legacy Auto Group received the Eastern Oregon University Partnership Award at the 80th annual Union County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. 

The award recognized the Ford and Dodge dealerships of the Legacy Auto Group, which is owned by Tony Grover, for the help they provided EOU in getting its Eastern Promise program launched. The Eastern Promise is allowing many students in the region to earn EOU credit while taking classes at their high schools. Eastern President Bob Davies presented the award to Legacy and used his time at the podium to also recognize the company for the help it provided the survivors of the Dec. 30, 2012, bus crash on Interstate 84 near Deadman Pass. The accident, involving a British Columbia tour bus, killed nine people and injured at least 39.

Two days after the crash, Legacy Auto Group sent four vehicles driven by staff members to Pendleton to pick up those who had survived and give them free rides back to their homes in Seattle and Canada. 

Twenty-six people who had been on the bus received rides from Legacy in January.   

“They (Legacy) did it because it was the right thing to do,’’ Davies said.

Greg Colozzi, general manager of Legacy’s Ford division, Robert Bates, general manager of Legacy’s Dodge division and Sales Manager Chris Huxoll accepted the Chamber of Commerce award on behalf of Legacy.

“We love more than anything to help people out,’’ Huxoll said. “When we see a need we try to fill it.’’

The help Legacy, which has dealerships in La Grande and Island City, provided the bus crash passengers went under the radar for the most 
part in the United States but not Canada.

“We received letters from all over Canada thanking us,’’ Huxoll said. “It was cool, Canadians are very nice people.’’

Four individuals were honored at the banquet including Union County Circuit Court Judge Russ West, named Man of the Year. West was recognized for his extensive work as a community volunteer including time spent as president of the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. West was saluted in a presentation by John Howard of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for the work he has done to get a badly needed new courthouse built in La Grande. Construction of the new courthouse may start in about two years.      

Sherry Nantz of Imbler was named Woman of the Year. Nantz was recognized for more than three decades of service as a Union County 4-H volunteer. The announcement of Nantz’s selection, like all the award winners, was not made until the last moment by those making presentations. This made the announcement of Sherry Nantz’s selection particularly dramatic because it was made by Keith Nantz, one of her four sons.

“I introduce this year’s woman of the year, one of my best friends and my mom, Sherry Nantz,’’ Keith Nantz said.  

Greenwood Elementary School third-grade teacher Taunya Barnett was named Educator of the Year. La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze made the presentation, which included quotes from local educators such as Tina Bowen, an instructional assistant at Greenwood Elementary.

“She is passionate for her profession and is driven by the children that she works with. The love that she has for these students is beyond apparent in her daily interaction with them,’’ Glaze quoted Bowen as saying.

The Mountain Works Bicycles was named the Business of the Year. The Mountain Works is owned by Mavis and Whit Hartz. The store has operated in La Grande for about 37 years.

Friday’s awards dinner was conducted at the Blue Mountain Conference Center. 

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