Photo by Nick Fiala

Sean Egan (second from right) and his family receive the Rensselaer chamber’s Meritorious Service Award on behalf of his father, Dr. John Egan, from chamber President Samantha Joslyn (right).

RENSSELAER — The Greater Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce used a portion of its 2019 Chamber Dinner event to honor the memory of beloved figure Dr. John Egan with an award this week, in addition to numerous other special awards given that night.

The annual dinner took place at the Farmhouse Restaurant at Fair Oaks Farms.

Business milestones and anniversaries mentioned that evening included Teen Mission Jasper County (10 years), Ci Insurance (65 years), ConAgra brands (25 years), Steves Specialized Service (30 years), DeMotte Carpet (45 years), Claussen Equipment (60 years), Jackson Funeral Chapel (75 years), American Legion Post 29 (100 years), Jasper County Fair Association (95 years), Strack & Van Til (90 years), St. John Lutheran Church (125 years), Cooperative School Services (50 years), White Castle Rensselaer (30 years), Ron’s Barber Shop (55 years), Fountain Stone Theaters (15 years).

Beautification/Improvements of the Year Awards went to Autumn Trace, Shanley Construction, Little Coffee Shop on 231, Ayda’s, Tanqueria Mexico Restaurant.

Non-Profit of the Year went to the Main Street Rensselaer organization. Chamber Business of the Year went to Fenwick Farms Brewing Company, and Citizen of the Year went to eMbers Venue co-owner Ryan Musch. The President’s Award was given to Maggie Hickman by chamber President Samantha Joslyn.

The Good Neighbor Award was given to Aidan Geleott, who recently raised nearly $20,000 to purchase new microphones for the school’s auditorium. Despite having an original goal of just $10,000, donors contributed $19,270 to Geleott’s cause.

The Meritorious Service Award was given to the beloved local figure Dr. John Egan, who recently died. The award was accepted by his son, Sean Egan, who gave a speech honoring his father’s service to the Rensselaer community.

Sean Egan noted that his parents moved to Rensselaer in 1962, but John Egan had already been offered a scholarship to attend St. Joseph’s College nearly 10 years prior.

“He did not forget that generous offer,” his son said that evening. “When the time came for my mother and him to find a town that they wanted to call home, Rensselaer was at the top of their list.”

The younger Egan said his father “jumped into civic engagement” from the moment they arrived in Rensselaer. His father went to noticeable lengths to visit several different business offering the same services, just to do his part to keep them all in business.

“He made sure that we shopped at all the grocery stores,” Egan said. “When Washington Street still had clothing and shoe stores, that’s where our parents shopped for themselves and their seven children.”

Sean Egan was sure to remember his father’s participation at the local restaurants in town as well.

“My father single-handedly — or ‘single-stomach-edly’ — tried to take his meals at as many local restaurants as possible, in order to keep them alive, sometimes three times a day,” he said, earning laughs from the crowd. “This was a man dedicated to small local businesses.”

Egan’s son mentioned his father’s participation on local school and park boards, as well as his work as a founding member of what would become the Jasper Newton Foundation, among other things.

“John Egan was a living, breathing, one-man chamber of commerce,” his son said. “He loved all things Rensselaer. And, on behalf of our family I say, ‘Thank you very much for the supper tonight.’ Shop local.”