02/07/14 — Mount Olive honors distinguished citizens

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Mount Olive honors distinguished citizens

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on February 7, 2014 1:46 PM

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Recipients of awards presented by the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce are, front row from left: Nelson Bland, Outstanding Senior Citizen; Gaynell Brock, the Ruff Huggins Lifetime Community Service Award; back row: Jonathon Bond, the Lillian B. Langley Award; Jason Cox, Outstanding Young Educator; Reagan Jackson, Outstanding Teenager; and David Kornegay, Outstanding Boss.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Gaynell Brock, longtime operator of the Southern Belle restaurant, received the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce's highest honor, the Ruff Huggins Lifetime Community Service Award, during the eighth annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony held Thursday night.

"I can't believe it," Mrs. Brock said. "It's just unreal. I think it's so special."

The event was sponsored by the Chamber and the Mount Olive Jaycees.

Like every recipient of the six awards given out Thursday evening, Mrs. Brock was cajoled into attending the event by a carefully planned fib.

"They told me I was coming to see Nelson (Bland's award). That's what I thought. But when I saw my nieces and nephews, then I knew that there was something going on here," she said.

The presenter of Mrs. Brock's award, Carroll Turner, noted how well the ruses worked.

"I have concluded one thing this evening," he said jokingly. "Every single recipient that had been up there said 'My goodness, I had no idea. They told me I was here to see so-and-so this evening.' I'm telling you these people from Mount Olive are nice, but they'll tell you a lie."

Mrs. Brock ran the Southern Belle for the last 38 years, and her establishment became an icon in the community. The restaurant closed last year when Mrs. Brock decided to retire.

"If you thought of Mount Olive, you immediately thought of this lady," Turner said during the lead-up to the announcement of the award's recipient. "She has fed everyone in this room, hundreds of meals. And has always done so with a kind word and a warm smile."

"She became famous for her fried chicken. Col. Sanders tried his best to get the recipe, but he never did. She has served U.S. senators, governors and those who could not pay for their meals. They all received the same service.

"And she was there for the bad times. When there was a death in our family, she was at the back door with a platter of fried chicken," Turner said.

"I don't really know what to say. I'm honored and humbled, and I shouldn't be given this award. This award should be given to the people that stood behind me at the Southern Belle, and there is so many people out here tonight," Mrs. Brock said.

This year's awards banquet did not see a Distinguished Service Award recipient, an honor given out annually since 1951, because of lack of nominations by the larger community. Instead, last year's winner and past Chamber president, Tyler Barwick Graham, recognized past winners. Many were in the audience.

The other Mount Olive residents honored Thursday evening were Jason Cox, the choral director at Southern Wayne High School, for Outstanding Young Educator; Reagan Jackson, a senior at Spring Creek High School, son of Craig and Jan Jackson, for Outstanding Teenager; David Kornegay, founder of Kornegay Realty, for Outstanding Boss; and Nelson Bland, former reporter and columnist for the Mount Olive Messenger, for Outstanding Senior Citizen.

Jonathon Bond, the incoming chairman for the Chamber board, was honored with the Lillian B. Langley Award, which honors dedication to the Mount Olive Chamber, and Tyler Barwick Graham was given special recognition for her years of service with the Chamber as its past president.