George Eames III and James McLaughlin were recognized Sunday afternoon for their many years of public service to the Town of Durham.
Family, friends and distinguished guests gathered at the to pay tribute to both men during a ceremony that included special recognition by the U.S. Senate as well as stories about the pair's shared love of golf.
"On behalf of the residents of the Town of Durham, a very heartfelt thank you for your service," Durham First Selectman Laura Francis announced to the crowd of about 75 people gathered for the ceremony.
"Thank you for being a epitomy of a role model of what it's like to give back to your communities," she said.
Eames, who was born in Bridgeport and moved his family to Durham in 1954, from the town's Planning and Zoning Commission after serving on the commission for 55 years, most recently as chairman.
"It's been a pleasure for all these years to live in Durham and serve the Town of Durham. I couldn't think of a better place to live," said Eames, who thanked his wife, Lee, and four children for supporting him over the years.
Eames served as the town's tax collector for eight years and was elected or appointed to numerous boards and commissions. He was formerly the CEO and president of Durham Manufacturing Company and remains an active member of the United Churches of Durham.
"Here in Durham there are few who can say that they have done so much for the town government and for the townspeople themselves," Robert Poliner, chairman of the Durham Republican Town Commitee, said of Eames.
A former radio disk jockey in Pittsburgh, McLaughlin moved to Durham in 1969, along with his wife, Ona, and four children.
Along the way he's , including a term as First Selectman, and as a member of both the Durham Fair Association and the Durham Fair Foundation.
"I'm just going to start off by thanking everybody who came today," said McLaughlin whose accomplishments also include serving on the town's Economic Development Commission, the 1977 Charter Revision Commission and like Eames, as a longtime Justice of the Peace.
"With me, it's all about Durham. I can't think of a nicer town to live in and a nicer town to serve in office in," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin and Eames, who both live in Durham's Historic Distric, were recognized for their passion and committment to preserving the town's history.
"Jim has worked unselfishly to maintain Durham's heritage and to remind all of us of the greatness of our town," said Martin French, reading from a statement written by Renee Edwards who was unable to attend the ceremony but wrote about McLaughlin who she considers a close friend.
"In essense, Jim is defined by Durham," she wrote.
During the ceremony, Eames and McLaughlin were presented with several declarations of recognition from state officials, including state Rep. Matthew Lesser and state Sen. Ed Meyer.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal traveled from Washington, D.C. to present the pair with certificates of special recognition from the Senate.
"I know you think the Senate isn't doing all that much," Blumenthal joked, "but these were adopted overwhelmingly, a bipartisan recognition of two great citizens. I am just very, very admiring of the amazing contributions that they've made."
Before the ceremony ended, Kerrie Flanagan presented Eames and McLaughlin each with a gift - golf balls with the Town of Durham seal on them.
The ceremony was co-hosted by the Durham Democratic and Republican town committees and emceed by Durham Senior Citizens Board members Anne Cassady and Maryann Boord.