eXtraordinary Person of the Month – 2021

One local person was highlighted each month by nomination from members of the community. This promotion has now ended.

See the 2022 eXtraordinary person’s here.

See the 2020 eXtraordinary person’s here.


Dianne Martin

Local resident – “Tour of Trees and Lights and Beautiful Christmas Sights”

Diane Martin decorated her house with lights and held an open house for people to tour. She raised over $3,500 which was donated to the Cancer Care Fund patients at the Renzi Cancer Center. Listen to her interview here.


Nikki Davi

Chamber of Commerce & Little Tags Foundation

Nikki promotes local every opportunity she gets with the chamber. She’s also founding member of the Little Tags Foundation. This foundation started recently in honor of her late Brother, Nathan Bush. The foundation supports younger generation woodsmen- ages 0 to 18 years of age obtain the funds to get an annual or lifetime hunting or fishing license and more.


Kathy Little

McGraw, NY Community member

When the fire department in McGraw needs help with a fundraiser, her and her husband are the first ones to donate big ticket items and rally people around the area to donate. She is an advocate for supporting local businesses because her and her husband both own their own businesses. Kathy often lets local crafters sell items in her shop to help generate a little cash and always orders from those businesses herself to spread the good spirit around. Even when COVID hit her house hard, as she couldn’t have clients come visit, she was still the happy, caring hairdresser she always is and kept her spirits up through it. Kathy does so much for the McGraw community and a lot of it goes unseen by the general public. Even fighting her own health battles, she’s always thinking of others and putting everyone else first.


April Beatty

Community Matters Fair


Jesse Abbott

Retired, City of Cortland Police officer


Linda and Brian Foote

Local residents

Steve and Linda excel in volunteerism. They also own their own businesses, selling crop seed and hay.

On top of that, Steve works full time for Dryden ambulance. He is the person people call for medical advice 24/7/365.

He and Linda have been known to go the hospital to sit with the person in need.

They both donate countless hours to the McLean community groups, McLean Community Church, McLean Fire Department, and countless other groups.

Additionally, they recently started medical equipment borrowing program; walkers, wheel chairs, shower chairs, needs, and more can be borrowed (and they deliver).


Ann Homer

Cortland County Legislator

Ann Homer expends so much time & effort (largely unrecognized) to make our community better.

She is a County Legislator & serves on several committees. But aside from that she is active with the Girl Scouts, SNAP, & is a trustee of the Cortland County Historical Society.

With all of these endeavors she is doing more than going through the motions; she throws herself into the work and devotes enormous amounts of time & energy.

Aside from community involvement, she helps individuals one on one- going out of her way to solve problems and “be there” for people.

During the pandemic, she has made frequent contact with isolated individuals asking what they need & how they are doing and showing up with things to make their life better.

In the words of her nominator: “She is the definition of an extraordinary person. I hope she can be recognized.”


James Hopkins

Financial Advisor

Jim Hopkins is a longtime board member of the Center for the Arts of Homer.

Over the years, he has dedicated countless volunteering hours and played a crucial role in organizing various community events.

One of the more prominent events he helps manage is the annual Ride for Rotary.

Hopkins has previously served as president of the Cortland Breakfast Rotary Club, vice president of the DeRuyter Ruritan, an officer in the local Toastmasters Club and president of the Homer Business Association.

“If there is one thing I have taken away from those experiences, it is that there is no single approach or universal philosophy that ensures success for any organization,” Hopkins said. “You have to take into account the mission, temperament and capacity of each group to help it the best way possible.”

More information on Hopkins in his financial advisor role at Edward Jones can be found here.


Mahlon Irish Jr.

Retired Homer fire chief

Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. has devoted his life to the fire service, primarily training firefighters to do their job safely.

He recently retired as village of Homer fire chief. Over the years, he has worked with numerous departments within the county as a Deputy Fire Coordinator.

Those who nominated him say he is always available to help where needed, especially when it comes to his vast knowledge of fire trucks.

Irish Jr, still drives engines for the village — and even owns a couple antiques himself, which he is currently restoring.

His latest endeavor has been educating people on firefighter cancer with his Believe 31 Program.

As a cancer survivor himself, Mahlon tours the country teaching firefighters a new way to be safe against an enemy that hides in their gear, trucks, and station.


Tom Whitney

President of the Cortland Shrine Club

Tom had it pretty tough growing up, spending much of his childhood taking care of his grandfather and disabled parents.

Still, he always found a way to maintain several jobs while fulfilling a plethora of other commitments in the community.

An active Rotary Club member, Tom has cooked in local soup kitchens including over the holidays.

He brought back the Cortland Shrine Club after it was idle for over a decade. Tom serves as club president and also sits on the Board of Governors for The Shriners Hospital for Children in Massachusetts.

Mr. Whitney now finds himself recovering from a crazy incident that led to partial amputation of his leg, while continuing to help area children in need through a variety of programs and initiatives.

In March, he published a book — entitled Handicap This — relating his own life experiences to the common struggles we all endure as humankind.


Bob Messenger

Driver coordinator for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Cortland/Tompkins Counties.

Bob’s responsibilities include monitoring the requests from disabled veterans for rides to and from doctors’ appointments at the VA clinic in Freeville and the VA hospital in Syracuse.

After confirming appointments each week, he requests drivers in both Cortland and Tompkins Counties who volunteer to escort the Vets.

Bob provides each driver with necessary information for contacting the veteran and arranging pick up times.

He also works to ensure the two government vans used for transportation are kept in working order — cleaned, sanitized to provide a safe working environment.

Working with the Syracuse coordinator, Bob keeps the local drivers up to date on program changes and requirements, making sure his drivers have all the necessary required documentation, physicals, and training.


Deacon Joseph During

Chaplain, Veteran, Community servant

“Deacon Joe” — as he became commonly recognized — passed away suddenly on Friday (January 22) at the age of 73. He was known for much more than his vocation with the Catholic church.

During served two years in the Army (1967-69) and spent the entire time as Chaplain Assistant at his South Carolina base. He was later honorably discharged with a National Defense medal and expert rifleman recognition.

In 1968, while still in the service, he married his high school sweetheart, Joyce Hull.

Upon leaving the Army, he returned to work for Dermody, Burke & Brown Certified Public Accountants in Syracuse. The firm had gotten him a brief start to an Accounting career before he was drafted into the Army.

His time with DB&B helped During achieve a Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. Later on, he moved his family to Cortland in 1984 to open a branch of the company and finally managed his own accounting practice in 2001.

Over the years, Joe volunteered his time and extensive accounting knowledge with various local charities and non-profit organizations. He was an active member of the Mattydale Fire Department from 1971 to 1981 and became an Honorary Member in May of 1981.

In 1989, During joined the Cortlandville Fire District where he served as District Treasurer for 7 years, then became a District Commissioner for 6 years. He also served as Department Chaplin for both departments up until his death.

In 2006, he completed his seven-year journey to become an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church for the Diocese of Syracuse.

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