In recognition of Palestine's rich railroad heritage, the chamber also named Union Pacific as Business of the Year and representatives of Union Pacific announced that the city has been awarded membership in Union Pacific's Train Town USA Registry as part of the railroad's 150th anniversary celebration.
Train service through Palestine dates back to 1872 when the International Railroad and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad met in Palestine. The two companies later merged and later there was a merger with Union Pacific.
The Palestine train freight car repair shop, which was built in 1954, performs heavy modifications and repairs and has a workforce of over 100 employees.
About 350 people, the largest crowd ever, attended the banquet at Anderson County Youth Livestock Pavilion. Six awards were handed out.
The chamber's new Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Robert E. (Bob) McKelvey, a former mayor and one of the leaders in formation of the Palestine campus of The University of Texas at Tyler. His widow, Mary Elizabeth McKelvey, and her son, Rob Stewart, accepted the award.
The recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award was Candis Wells, owner of Pumping Services Inc., which serves major oil and gas industry companies in central and east Texas.
Ms. Wells is a member of the Association of Desk and Derek, which promotes the petroleum, energy and allied industries; the Coyote Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force and Beta Sigma Phi International. She is president of Harvey Woman's Club and a past member of the chamber board.
Lupe Tyer was named ambassador of the year and Davi Ingram, rookie ambassador of the year.
In announcing Ms. Mollard as citizen of the year, Carson Wages, last year's recipient, described Ms. Mollard as “a true visionary with rare leadership traits.”
He recalled that she transplanted her antique business from Houston to Palestine more than 30 years ago and formed a wholesale and retail gift supply serving clients nationally and internationally.
Ms. Mollard served as chairwoman of the Main Street advisory board and the committee that produced the Roaring 20's Street Scene in downtown Palestine. She is a motivational speaker, a facilitator for the annual Santa's Workshop, promotes Palestine to tourism professionals for the Texas Travel Industry Association, participates in an effort to bring the film industry to Palestine and is a member of Palestine Rotary Club.
Ms. Mollard led in efforts to organize a nonprofit organization called Palestine Tomorrow that works to promote the arts and improve parks. Its first project is to provide an outdoor sculpture exhibit commemorating Palestine's railroad history.
In presenting the lifetime achievement award, District Judge Bascom Bentley said McKelvey earned a degree from Auburn University and served in the Army during the Vietnam War, flying hundreds of rescue missions and herbicidal warfare missions. He served as a flight instructor, pilot and company commander.
Then McKelvey began his career in the equipment rental business in Palestine with his father-in-law, K. A. Anderson.
McKelvey helped grow the small K Way Equipment Company to seven locations in Texas and Louisiana employing more than 150 people. After sale of the company, McKelvey did consulting and volunteer work.
While serving on the Palestine Library Board, he headed the library automation committee overseeing a major upgrading of the library's technology.
McKelvey led in the effort to establish the UT Tyler nursing school, which started with 22 students in 1995 and grew to a fully accredited college offering four-year degrees in nursing, business, education, health and kinesiology, history, marketing and other subjects.
McKelvey was president of Palestine Rotary Club and active in First Methodist Church of Palestine. He and his wife purchased Exploration Products Company in Palestine and Blasters Tool and Supply Company in Lawrenceburg, Ky.
“Whatever he did, it was always with great enthusiasm and dedication,” Bentley said.