“We do everything together – always have,” said Henrietta. “We just want to keep active. It keeps you young. We just love it.”
It’s only fitting, then, that the two will be side by side on Jan. 26, when the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce honors them as the 2012 Citizens of the Year. “It was quite a shock,” Henrietta said of the call from incoming Chamber President Ken Seamann informing them of the honor. “We never expected something like this. Ken’s call made me cry.”
The choice, however, was not a surprise to the many who have benefited from the Fontes’ volunteer efforts over many years. “I believe this is way overdue for Henrietta and Ray,” said Jilda Fairhurst of the Chamber. “They’ve helped at the CornFest, the golf tournaments, Hometown Halloween, the parades. They’re an amazing couple. They have never, ever said “no.”
While many never learn his name, just about everyone who has attended the CornFest has seen Ray at his post near the entrance. A member of the security team since “before there were any fences,” Ray remembers with a chuckle some of the situations he’s experienced.
“One time we found a couple of teens wandering around apparently lost,” said Ray. “It turned out they were foreign exchange students and not familiar with the area, and when the sun went down they got disoriented.”
A veteran of the Korean War, much of Ray’s volunteering is done through the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He’s spent countless hours caring for the Brentwood Veterans Hall, and is a go-to handyman whenever anything needs fixing there, at the Chamber offices or anywhere else there’s a need.
Henrietta was the first president of the Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary, and has also been part of the Women’s Club, Garden Club and Senior Citizens Club in Brentwood. “What we do, we love doing,” said Ray. “The joy we get is out of this world.”
If the honors are late for Henrietta and Ray, the same could also be said of Jim and Karen Spann, whose business, The Monthly Grapevine, was named Business of the Year. A fixture in local mailboxes for 18 years, the Grapevine magazine is packed full of ads, stories and photos of East County offerings.
“We’re local,” said Sonya North, the Spann’s daughter and company CEO. “It’s where our heart is. We want to help the community. We bring something to the community that’s unique.”
Karen said The Grapevine was born in her home nearly two decades ago. Jim took a leave from his job at Lawrence Livermore Lab to sell ads for the first edition, which was “all of 12 pages,” she recalled. Her grandfather had brought her, an aspiring graphic artist, to his workplace at the Modesto Bee, and when she saw the paper zipping through the press, a new publisher was born.
“It got into my blood somehow,” she said. “It’s been a joy. We love helping businesses, just like my grandfather.”
Last year, the Spanns stepped back from the operation – which now includes an online coupon service and website – to spend more time with family, turning the business over to Sonya to run.
“She knows the business inside and out,” Karen said. “I’m really proud of her, and the whole staff. This is quite an honor; I hope it’s a sign of good things to come.”
The Fonteses and The Grapevine will be honored at the Chamber’s annual awards dinner on Jan. 26. For more details, visit www.brentwoodchamber.com.