by Shirley Pulawski
August 7, 2012
Residents, area leaders celebrate feat
"My secretary and all of the people in the office went home to watch. I was afraid I was going to miss something so I stayed. I ended up being there all by myself when she won and I ended up crying, watching her carry that flag," Difonzo explained.
United States' Jennifer Suhr vaults during the Summer Olympic Games in London. She won the women’s pole vault by reaching a height of 4.75 meters or 15 feet, seven inches.
The victory is shared by many, DiFonzo noted. "I am elated. I am elated for her; I am elated for her husband, her family and all of Fredonia."
"We're so proud of her ... She's a shining star. She made Fredonia proud and today, she made the whole country proud," he said.
When asked if any celebratory events had yet been planned, DiFonzo said, "I know there is going to be a celebration. I haven't had a chance to celebrate with anyone yet. We're proud of Jenn, whether she won gold or silver or bronze. We're proud that she was just able to compete."
Village of Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe, who was out of town for the weekend and returned just after the win, did not hold back his happiness.
"Woohoo! Outstanding! Isn't it the just the best news you've ever heard?" he asked. "I just pulled in and somebody left me a message ... it's just fantastic," he said.
Like DiFonzo, Keefe is interested in holding an event to celebrate the victory. "I think we certainly should plan some kind of celebration. I'd like to see us do an event. I think a celebration and some kind of ceremony is certainly in order."
Keefe would also like to see a permanent reminder of the victory in the village. "I know one of the things I'd also like to see us do is work on some permanent signage at the entrances to the village."
Ann Laduca, Suhr's former high school gym teacher, gushed with pride at the success of her former student. "Oh my gosh. What a thrill. What a thrill! I could not be happier," she said.
Laduca, like many in the area, watched live streaming of the event from a computer. "In fact, I was watching it with the phys ed teacher who took my place," she said. Suhr graduated from Fredonia Central School with Laduca's own daughter in 2000. Laduca said she knew the athlete was headed for bigger things. "I knew she was outstanding. She was just an outstanding athlete. She was an outstanding student. ... She is a six-footer. She asked to play against the boys. The girls couldn't challenge her. She was head and shoulders over everyone in so many ways. ... I am thrilled for her," Laduca beamed.
Suhr is also more than just a fine athlete, according to Laduca. "She is just a really, really neat girl. She's down to earth, a hard worker, and the kind of person you want wonderful things to happen to."
At the Dunkirk Common Council meeting Monday evening, council members erupted into applause. Councilman Michael Michalski noted many Dunkirk residents are related to Suhr. Councilwoman Stephanie Kiyak asked if any of the officials in attendance were related to the gold medalist. "I'm happy to announce my cousin just won a gold medal," said Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano.
However, area residents don't need to know Jenn personally to be excited by the win.
Fredonia resident Carrie Crockett said she's definitely moved by the performance and local enthusiasm surrounding the golden victory. "I don't know her personally but I think it's amazing and something to definitely be proud of."
Forestville resident Michelle Merritt said she is thrilled by the victory, but it wasn't unexpected. "Not surprised at all. She is such a superb athlete and still the best pole vaulter in the world. Fredonia should be proud."
Jody Briggs, Dunkirk native and Resource Development Director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo, had a strong positive reaction. "As I listened to the WDOE broadcast from my office and was cheering for Jenn, my co-workers couldn't help but join in with me. Having someone from our small community win an Olympic gold medal is utterly amazing. Let this be a motivation to our young people - you, too, can obtain your dreams. Set your goals high and the sky's the limit!"