Bob Smith coined Irishperson of the Year

Mckenzie Delisle, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
·5 min read

Mar. 17—PLATTSBURGH — Robert "Bob" Smith followed in the footsteps of his father's ghillies St. Patrick's Day morning when he was coined 2021 Irishperson of the Year.

"This is something very special, at least to me," Smith said just after family, friends and the North Country Chamber of Commerce team surprised him with the annual award at his Route 3 Best Western Plus.

"Not only the meaning of what stands behind the Irishman of the Year, (but) what stands behind this community, what stands behind the chamber and everyone that makes this country and area so worthwhile to live in."

The longtime Plattsburgh businessman added the honor was extra special to second generation winners, like himself. His father, Edward W. Smith, was bestowed the same honor nearly a half century earlier in 1972.

"Thank you all very much," Smith continued. "And thank you to all of my friends that I see here who made this so special."

SPOUSAL THANKS

Just when his speech came to a close, Smith caught a glimpse of his wife, Diane, who, he joked, was "supposed to be at a doctor's appointment right now."

"I thank you and I love you," he said to her. "The support that you have given to our family over the years has enabled me to do other things in the community besides being a father and a husband."

Smith has been active in charitable organizations over the years, including the Rotary Club, CVPH Board and United Way. He was also the CVPH Board of Directors chairman, a member of both The Development Corporation Board and SUNY Plattsburgh College Foundation, as well as a Vision 2 Action founding member.

"That is something that I can't put a value on," he continued. "Thank you."

IN BUSINESS

The Smith family has operated restaurants in northern New York and Vermont since the 1950's, and, after serving in the Navy, the recent Irishperson winner had joined the family business himself.

Smith owns Nine Platt Hospitality Group, which oversees properties on Route 3, including the Best Western Plus, and also the former Ground Round Grill and Bar located just around the corner on Smithfield Boulevard. With none of his three children Lindsey, Kristen or Michael interested in the business, Smith hired the now Nine Platt COO/CFO and Vice President Julie Kramer.

It was announced early into the COVID-19 pandemic that locally-adored Ground Round was "forced to close" and would not reopen.

As previously reported by the Press-Republican, a year before the pandemic, Smith was planning his retirement and began the process of either selling or leasing the Ground Round property.

The global health crisis had pushed the eatery to close its doors and, not knowing how things would turn out, Smith shut them for good. Community members had posted on the restaurant's Facebook page with many saying they were sad to hear the news, but thankful to Smith and his colleagues.

In light of his local achievements, Smith's award proclamation was personalized to say, "Whereas such a person is with us this morning, continuing a decades-long family tradition. Raised in a hospitable way, this person has always been one of our greatest champions of the region, sharing our beloved Adirondacks with the world. This person is always willing to provide a meal or even a nice warm bed to travelers from near and far."

VIRTUAL AFFAIR

The chamber's annual St. Patrick's Day event was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, couple James and Joanne Hockney were awarded and, officials joked, it was fitting the two recipients had two years to enjoy the honor.

Amidst the continued pandemic, the chamber held the 2021 event virtually and it featured great craic Wednesday morning.

Matt Boire returned as the event's MC and, among other shenanigans, he shared some Irish-inspired jokes, took viewers on a tour of downtown Plattsburgh — where the event's former master of ceremonies Kevin Killeen was spotted at several downtown pubs — and judged a socially-distanced lip sync battle between CrossCountry Mortgage's Adam Crosley and Kavanaugh Realty's Gaelan Trombley.

Event sponsors included insurance lender CDPHP, Dannemora Federal Credit Union, Kavanaugh Realty and marketing agency Boire Benner Group.

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

PAST IRISHPERSON WINNERS

1959 Erwin "Joe" Bornstein

1960 Dr. George W. Angell

1961 Gen. Perry M. Hoisington

1962 Horace F. Davies

1963 Evalon A Merritt

1964 George M. Larios

1965 Dr. Angelo LaMariana

1966 Rev. Michael Reilly

1967 Maj. Gen. Warren Johnson

1968 Mayor Roland St. Pierre

1969 Moses "Scottie" Aspinall

1970 Marie L. Beemer

1971 James A. FitzPatrick

1972 Edward W. Smith

1973 I. Edward Klineberg

1974 Euclid M. Gordon

1975 Dr. Nicholas F. Troisi

1976 William McBride

1977 Jann M. Shambo

1978 Dr. A. B. DeGrandpre

1979 E. Glenn Giltz

1980 Curtis E. Shipman

1981 Dr. Alfred Light

1982 Rita Banks

1983 Clyde A. Lewis

1984 Mary Ellen Rogers

1985 Msgr. Morris Dwyer

1986 Christopher "Kit" Booth

1987 John & Helen Ianelli

1988 Michael Finnegan

1989 Elizabeth "Petie" Wheeler

1990 Keith Defayette

1991 Joe McGrath

1992 Paul Green

1993 Charles Lewis

1994 Michael J. Mannix

1995 Claire Norris Goineau

1996 Gordie Little

1997 Wayne Byrne

1998 Stan Ransom

1999 Bill Morgan

2000 Senator Ronald Stafford

2001 Jack LaDuke

2002 Jeanie Roberts

2003 Shirley O'Connell

2004 Mark Barie

2005 Art Spiegel

2006 Dr. Nancy Church

2007 John Masella

2008 Gordon Hazel

2009 Herb Carpenter

2010 John Zurlo

2011 Dr. Celine Paquette

2012 Hope Coryer

2013 Roderic Giltz

2014 Kjell Dahlen

2015 Devi Momot

2016 Robert Parks

2017 Sister Deborah Blow

2018 Kevin Killeen

2019/20 James and Joanne Hockney*

2021 Robert "Bob" Smith

*2020 event not held due to COVID-19 pandemic