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The 2012 Citizen of the Year was announced Monday night, with Vernon Conrad picking up the honor. Pictured (left to right) Conrad accepts the honor from New Richmond News advertising representative Lisa Woletz, New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Board member Paula Kolbeck and Chamber President Angela Olson.

New Richmond's biggest booster nabs honor

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When the winner of the 2012 Citizen of the Year award was announced, a loud cheer erupted in the upstairs banquet room of Brady's Brewhouse in downtown New Richmond.

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Vernon Conrad was the recipient of this year's honor. In previous years, the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and the New Richmond News selected and honored two separate Citizens of the Year. This year the two organizations combined their efforts to choose one honoree.

Conrad, who is known throughout the community as New Richmond's biggest booster, quietly accepted his award.

"I'm happy," he said. "I'm very happy."

Conrad, a developmentally disabled adult, has been a fixture at most high school sporting events and concerts for many years. He's also one of the biggest fans of the American Legion baseball team and the New Richmond Miller's amateur summer baseball team.

This past year, Conrad was the driving force behind an effort to erect a new flag pole at Citizens Field, where the Millers play their games.

"Vernon is extremely loyal and he's a fan of all things New Richmond," said Dave Newman, New Richmond News sports editor. "He's been great for the community because he gets things done. When he sees a need, he's persistent in making sure that need is addressed, like the need for a flagpole at Citizens Field. Vernon led the charge to get the flagpole erected."

In the 1980s, Conrad was dubbed New Richmond's No. 1 Band Booster. He traveled with the New Richmond High School band on its Russian tour and also worked hard to ensure the local musicians were able to take part in President Jimmy Carter's inauguration parade.

In years past, Conrad has also been a volunteer at a local nursing home, helping residents play Bingo on a weekly basis.

According to his legal guardians, Wally and Esther Lind, Conrad was born in Amery in 1946 and lived in Chippewa Falls for many years. He came to New Richmond in 1973 and lived in the Lowrey Hotel for much of his time here.

He moved into a group home on Hagen Avenue two years ago.

Wally Lind, who isn't related to Conrad but was asked to step in as his guardian, said the honor for his friend is well deserved.

"He's gotten awards over the years, but this is really neat," he said.

"This is great," Esther agreed.

Mike Montello, who has known Conrad for 30 years, said the local man is deserving of the honor.

"He's a New Richmond person through and through," he said. "This is a feel-good story. It says something about our community that we care for and would honor someone who might often be overlooked for such awards."

Others nominated for the community honor were Jill Schreck, Morrie Veilleux, Linda Skoglund, Heather McAbee, John Soderberg, Jill Luken, Linda Aton, Warren Bader, Troy Boe and Irv and Mary Sather.

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