Archie Ogden wins 2004 Person of the Year award

     Archie Ogden -- a person whose contributions to the Synagogue are myriad -- was named Sisterhood's 2004 Person of the Year at a special Erev Shabbat service April 23.
     The service, led by Sisterhood members and former Persons of the Year, culminated with the presentation to one of the most likeable, helpful and versatile members of our Congregation.
     And Archie actually seemed to be surprised, which means Ella did a good job of keeping his selection a secret! Happily, Dimitri was on hand too to enjoy seeing his dad honored.
     Penny and Hank Feuerzeig, both former recipients of the award, made the presentation. Here is their text:
     Hank: They say that when you get two Jews together, you get three opinions on pretty much anything. That was not the case when it came to choosing the 2004 Person of the Year. Among the past recipients - who, by the way, are the ones who make the selection - there was remarkable unanimity about this year's honoree.
     Penny: Here are some of the things people had to say about our Person of the Year:
     …so willing to help.
     …always cheery, fun to be around.
     ...easy-going and relaxing - even calms down the high-strung, type-A's among us.
     …makes suggestions in such an understated, often humorous, fashion that if you're not listening closely, you think it's a joke.
     …unflappable - doesn't get flustered.
     …very versatile - able to help with everything from the gift shop to the auction to the cemeteries.
     …totally dependable, except when he forgets.
     Hank: That last comment came from Ella Ogden, who removed herself from the decision-making because she has a conflict of interest. That's because this year's Person of the Year is Archie Ogden, a man for all seasons and a man for all reasons.
     Penny: Ella didn't vote, but she agreed that Archie is absolutely wonderful - period, but especially when it comes to pitching in and helping with anything and everything around the synagogue. If she needs something picked up at the last minute, he does it. If she's at her wit's end trying to juggle the office and the gift shop, he helps. In a pinch, he'll even fold the bulletin. As coordinator of the Antiques Auction, I can attest to the same - Archie is there any time I need him, whether it's packing up tchotchkes, or tagging jewelry, or picking up paintings, or organizing the warehouse. He's simply terrific. And he doesn't complain!
     Hank: Let us tell you a little about Archie that you may not have known. For example, did you know that he majored in speech and drama at the University of Virginia? Or that he fell in love with Irish music - and developed his eclectic repertoire of sea shanties and Irish songs - when he worked in Dublin? Or that he fell in love with Ella because she cooked him a corn omelet? Or that he once was hired by a West Virginia coal company because coal miners are tough and Archie could get along with anybody?
     Penny: But let's start at the beginning. Archie was born in New York and grew up in Bay Head, New Jersey, where he was educated in a one-class school. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1965, he headed for Dublin to seek work as an actor. Just one problem: He didn't have a work permit or a union card. So much for his acting career. However, he did learn to play the guitar. And he fell in love with Irish music and Ella Berman, in that order.
     Hank: When Archie left Dublin for London, again to try his hand in the theater, he was skinny as a rail, according to Ella. Not just skinny, but half-starved. She took pity on him and cooked him a meal - the famous corn omelet - and that was the beginning of something wonderful. During those years in the late ‘60s, Archie worked for the U.S. government's International Trade Promotion in London and later with the U.S. Commerce Department putting on international trade exhibitions around the world. Part of his success, again, was his ability to get along with anyone and everyone - even when they didn't speak the same language!
     Penny: Ella and Archie got married in 1971 in London. Christopher and Dimitri were born two years later while Ella was working on her college degree. When the twins were 4 months old, Ella and Archie decided to take a year off to go camping -- an idea half-way between adventurous and meshuganah. They went all over Europe - Spain, Italy and mostly Greece - but didn't make it to Israel, as planned, because of the Yom Kippur war.
     Hank: In 1975, after Ella got her degree, the Ogdens moved to West Virginia where Archie worked at the J&B Coal Company. He did everything but mining, and kept the miners in tow. However, when the mine closed in 1977 - which Ella insists was NOT Archie's fault - the owner of Tropical Shipping, who had been Archie's college roommate, asked him to come to St. Thomas to open up the Caribbean for Tropical. The rest, as they say, is history.
     Penny: Archie's involvement in the St. Thomas community has been legendary. He's been a Cub Scout den leader (the only den on St. Thomas that met on Sundays so his sons would not miss Hebrew School on Saturday), he's been a member of the Council on Alcoholism, a member of the Red Cross board, president of Rotary II and a Paul Harris fellow twice.
     Hank: And Archie was Jewish before he became Jewish. In his early days on St. Thomas, he led seders at his home for his family, the Blackhalls, the Weibels and others. He even led one seder for 30 Israelis who were working on the de-sal plants, and they said it was the best seder they ever attended. He was elected to the Synagogue board in the early ‘80s - the only non-Jewish person then on the board - and immediately became treasurer. In fact, he's back on the board again and again is our treasurer, though he insists his days of dealing with financials are, so to speak, numbered. He remains an active member of the Dead Jews Society, which means he's a mainstay in maintaining our cemeteries and has a small collection of artifacts to prove it.
     Penny: For recreation, Archie is teaching himself tenor banjo. He sings with friends, belongs to a regular poker group, crews on friends' boats and is an active member of the St. Thomas Garden Club for Men (don't even ask about that one!). Years ago Archie decided not to let a day go by in which he doesn't do something he enjoys - and he has kept that promise to himself. Archie loves life, and he makes life fun for everyone who comes in contact with him.
     Hank: We would be remiss if we didn't mention one other thing: Archie's love and devotion to Ella and his kids. He thinks they're wonderful. They think he's wonderful. He adores them. They adore him. It's a big love fest. And that's a major theme of Archie's life - love. Ladies and gentlemen, our 2004 Person of the Year, someone we all love very much, Archie Ogden.
     (For a list of previous Women of the Year and Persons of the Year, please click here..)