11/20/13 — Chamber honors longtime volunteer Ollie Toomey

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Chamber honors longtime volunteer Ollie Toomey

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on November 20, 2013 1:46 PM

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Ollie Toomey, right, accepts congratulations from Allan Pedersen at a surprise party thrown for Toomey at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

What did longtime Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ollie Toomey receive on Monday in honor of his more than two decades of service as chamber director?

He got tricked. And it was a good thing, too, since those who gathered to honor him Monday knew that was the only way he would accept their accolades in person.

Friends and colleagues gathered at the surprise social for Toomey, 95, to recognize his work with the chamber, and to announce a new volunteer award named in honor of the man who served the organization's director from 1963 to 1984.

"If we had of told him what was going on, he wouldn't have come," former Wayne Community College president Dr. Ed Wilson told the crowd.

"You're right about that," Toomey replied.

Wilson, Toomey's neighbor, drove him to the chamber building on William Street on Monday afternoon under the guise of attending a chamber committee meeting.

Toomey was greeted by about 100 people who remembered his years at the chamber fondly and wanted to share their memories with him.

The guest of honor took a seat and leaned on his cane as a processional of friends and fellow community leaders hugged him, joking every time he stood up to give someone a hug.

"I should be home in bed," Toomey said.

He said he was shocked when he saw how many people came out to thank him and to wish him well.

"He doesn't usually like all of this recognition, but he's having a good time over there," Wilson said. "He's moving around as good now as he has all year."

Stories were shared about Toomey's time as head of the chamber, including the revelation that lighting up the Goldsboro water tower was originally his idea.

"Apparently he said that 'We have something this big; we need to light it up'," said Kate Daniels, current chamber executive director, who acted as the master of ceremonies for the event.

Under Toomey's leadership, the chamber established its Military Affairs Committee, Crime Stoppers, the Wayne County Development Alliance and led the revitalization of downtown.

He also was a 2002 recipient of the chamber's Cornerstone Award, given annually in honor of service to the chamber and the community.

And on Monday, chamber officials announced the creation of another award, this one in Toomey's name.

Beginning next year, the chamber will present the Ollie Toomey Outstanding Service Award to a volunteer with the chamber who exemplifies the ideals of service Toomey has practiced for decades.

The award will be given at the chamber's annual banquet Jan. 9.

The timing of Toomey's recognition was chosen to honor him ahead of the chamber's 100th anniversary next year.

"The oldest minutes we can find are from March 10, 1914, so we will be celebrating our 100-year anniversary all next year," Mrs. Daniels said.