TRAVERSE CITY — Dr. Hank Johnson didn’t see it coming.
The request that he perform with his barbershop quartet Backward Glance at the National Cherry Festival’s Distinguished Senior Breakfast at the Elks Lodge was one thing. A nomination for the Distinguished Senior award was another nice moment.
“This is a good thing, even to be nominated,” he said as he faced a room of more than 100 guests who came to the breakfast. Among them were past recipients of the award and many current and past volunteers for the National Cherry Festival.
Then came the best part. Johnson heard his name announced as recipient of the Distinguished Senior award and received an official tribute signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that recognized him for his local service and contributions to the state.
Johnson’s acceptance speech reminded others to “Sign up, show up and follow up, because that’s the only way you can raise money and get the job done.”
He ended his speech by reminding guests that servitude takes commitment.
“Making only one phone call never works,” he said.
Johnson was one of six finalists for the honorary title. He’s a retired dentist, served as a lieutenant for the U.S. Navy, has been a leader for the Boy Scouts of America and has traveled to the mountains of the Dominican Republic to help locals there with dental problems.
He might be most familiar here for serving on the YMCA Board of Directors and being instrumental in fundraising for the organization’s new building on Silver Lake Road.
“I expect and hope for spectacular things for the YMCA,” Johnson said. He was YMCA board president three different times and recently became an honorary permanent member.
Patti DeAgostino, Director for the Senior and Intergenerational Events for the National Cherry Festival, said the Distinguished Senior choice was difficult this year because each candidate is passionate about volunteering their time for important causes.
“It was only three points that separated the first from second place nominees,” she said. “It’s been such a pleasure to see these people give so much in the entire area, not just Traverse City, but other cities as well.”