By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
They call her an everyday hero.
'Because she works so tirelessly and graciously at everything she undertakes,' said Judy Duer from Altrusa International Inc. of Temple.
Those kind words are in reference to Tamara Clothier of Temple, the woman who was named Altrusan of the Year for 2009. Ms. Duer was one of several who spoke at Ms. Clothier's April 27 recognition program at the Temple College Pavilion.
The honor recognizes Ms. Clothier's club involvement and community service.
'Nominations came from members in the club, and then they went through a review committee,' said Ilene Miller of Temple, fellow Altrusan. 'It's a once-in-a-lifetime honor.'
Ms. Clothier had no idea she was the 2009 Altrusan of the Year when she walked through the Pavilion doors on April 27. She thought it was just another meeting.
But it wasn't. It was a surprise party for her. Everything in the room and most of the attendees had something to do with Ms. Clothier.
A picture slideshow of Ms. Clothier at Altrusa events was playing on the wall. And the dessert (a handful of Skittles) was served in a medicine bottle, as a nod to Ms. Clothier's 15-year career as an administrative assistant at the TAMU College of Medicine
Special guests were Dr. Kathleen Fallon, Ms. Clothier's boss at the TAMU College of Medicine; Deacon Bob Bliss from Ms. Clothier's church, St. Luke's Episcopal in Belton; Jeanne Clothier of Belton, Ms. Clothier's sister-in-law; and 8-year-old Rick Clothier of Belton, Ms. Clothier's nephew.
When Ms. Clothier walked in the room and saw everything, she put her hands on her cheeks and tried to keep her emotions in check. Tears were beginning to fall.
She looked straight at her nephew and said, 'You're supposed to be at school.' And then she looked at her boss and said, 'You're supposed to be in College Station.'
Her nephew grinned, and her boss laughed.
'No,' said Ginger Tolbert, club president, 'We're all here to surprise you.'
When the commotion of the surprise settled, several people took the floor to talk about why Ms. Clothier was best person to be named Altrusan of the Year.
Debbie Mabry, manager of the Scott & White transplant center, was first. She's the one who invited Ms. Clothier to join Altrusa in 2000.
'I met Tamara through the transplant program,' Ms. Mabry said. 'Someone needed a bone marrow transplant. That person was a perfect stranger to Tamara, but that didn't matter. She said she was there, glad and willing to help.'
It took two procedures to make the transplant a success.
'And Tamara was wonderful throughout all of it,' Ms. Mabry said. 'We kept on hitting snags, and we kept on asking her for things, and she always said yes.'
That cheerful attitude and desire to be of service inspired Ms. Mabry to invite Ms. Clothier to an Altrusa meeting.
'I told her I'd be very honored to be her sponsor,' Ms. Mabry said. 'Tamara is a life saver, and her gifts come on a daily basis. I wouldn't miss this day of honoring her for anything.'
Dr. Fallon, Ms. Clothier's boss, took the floor next.
'She listens to medical students with care, concern and worry,' Dr. Fallon said. 'The office staff adores her, and I can trust her with anything. Everyday I am amazed at how she juggles everything. She is such a busy person at work, at church, at home and here at Altrusa. How she manages it all is beautiful.'
Then club member Judy Duer discussed Ms. Clothier's many contributions to Altrusa.
'Functional literacy is something that is very important to her,' Ms. Duer said. 'When she was club president, that was her theme. Cat-in-the-Hat decorations were everywhere.'
And, as Altrusa president, Ms. Clothier established a library at the Wheatley Education Center.
'She provided books for the students and encouraged everyone to read,' Ms. Duer said. 'And over the years, she's served on several Altrusa committees, always willing to step in and help.'
In her nine-year membership, Ms. Clothier has served on Altrusa's education committee, cookbook committee and health committee. She's also participated in the Taste of the Holidays, one of Altrusa's major fundraisers, and the Caring Ball, the annual benefit for the Temple Free Clinic.
And when Altrusa launched its Central Texas club in Harker Heights, Ms. Clothier was there to ensure it got off to a good start.
'She was instrumental in helping the Central Texas Club grow,' said Connie Kuehl, secretary to the Central Texas Club. She recruited new members and served as liaison.'
And for 2009, Ms. Clothier is the Central Texas club treasurer.
'There's just so much that she's done,' Ms. Duer said. 'It would be hard to list everything. Instead we thank her for her attitude of service.'
At the conclusion of the program, Ms. Miller presented Ms. Clothier with her award - a plaque and a $100 check to go to a charity of her choice.
'I want the check to go to the bone marrow program, because if it wasn't for that I'd have never found my way to Altrusa,' Ms. Clothier said as she thanked her fellow club members for the honor.
The award, she said, came at a vulnerable time.
'I've been thinking about my life value,' Ms. Clothier said. 'And this helps me to see how important my volunteer work is. It's like my life is a tripod. I've got my church, my job and Altrusa. Without any one of them, I'd wobble and not be able to carry on. You, Altrusa members, give me the strength to carry on, and I thank you for that.'