The queen of Westerly can add another jewel to her dazzling crown.
Angela Smith of Westerly, the first female president of the local Lions club and the longtime administrator for the Westerly Medical Center, a bon vivant known for her colorful wardrobe full of sequins, feathers and furs and her fun-loving volunteer spirit, was named the 17th recipient of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Athena Award Wednesday night at a ceremony held at the Lake of Isles in Nort Stonington.
Sounds of jubilation and thunderous applause filled the ballroom as soon as the announcement was made by an emotional Geraldine B. Cunningham, president and CEO of Geraldine B. Cunningham Associates LLC, one of the sponsors of the event.
"I'm unprepared and overwhelmed," said Smith. "I can't believe I'm being honored ... given the list of nominees."
Smith, who before this year had served on 16 of the 17 Athena nominating committees, was one of five women nominated for the award, which is given each year to a local person who helps women realize their full potential and improves the quality of life for others — particularly women — in the community.
The other nominees were Beth D’Amato of Westerly, a vice president for commercial lending at Dime Bank; Amanda Nall of Westerly, owner of Bogue’s Alley in Pawcatuck; Beth-Ann Stewart of Groton, executive director of the Stonington Community Center, and Rebecca Woodward of Westerly, a dentist, artist and coach.
Lisa Konicki, president of the chamber, who often calls Smith "The Queen of Westerly," called attention to Smith's "forty years of consistent volunteerism" during the dinner portion of the ceremony, when she described the candidates while slide shows featuring each woman played on a giant screen.
Describing her as a woman with "star power," Konicki told the capacity crowd that Smith has so much magnetism and charm that a man she once met in the elevator at Foxwoods Resort Casino turned to her and asked, "What time do you go on stage?"
Smith is a member of Westerly's 350th anniversary committee, the Light Parade Committee, and chaired the two-night 350 Gala Event held last spring. She has chaired a number of chamber efforts, including the Virtu Art Festival and the Great Escape Auction; and has volunteered at most other chamber events such as the Pawcatuck River Duck race, Blues & Brews, the Holiday Stroll, the winter festival and the Easter Egg Hunt. She has served on the chamber's finance committee, building expansion committee, annual dinner committee and "40 Under 40" committee. In 2005, she was awarded the Partner in Philanthropy Award by the Rhode Island Association of Fundraising Professionals, and in 2004, she earned the chamber's Key Award. Most recently, she was recognized as a “Living Legend of Westerly."
Konicki said that Smith "has built a life around community engagement and volunteerism."
Smith was seated at a table Wednesday night with her husband, Arthur, and several family members, including her daughter and son-in law; Kelly and Mitchel Levcowich; her daughter-in-law, Barbara Smith, and three of her granddaughters.
In her remarks after the awards presentation, Smith said, "I'd like to thank the committee, my family and my wonderful husband of nearly 59 years."
"Volunteerism is my passion," she continued. "I love this community and everything I do is for the betterment of this community."
"Whether it's standing on the corner dressed as a duck or shoveling sand, all I ever wanted to do is to help," she continued.
On Thursday, Jen Brinton, chairman of the board of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said, "I'm very pleased Angie was selected. What made it so nice is the longevity factor. Angie has never faltered in her volunteer commitment."
"When we first joined the chamber, Angie was a great encourager," added Brinton, who, along with her husband, Alan, owns Grey Sail Brewing Company. "She was always asking, 'What can I do to help?'"
"It was an amazing, amazing night," Brinton said. "To sit and listen to the accomplishments of all five of the women last night made for a great, great night."
"But last night was all about Angie," she added.
Reached by telephone at her Westerly home Thursday afternoon, Smith, who was in the midst of a joint birthday-Athena celebration, spoke again about her gratitude to the committee, her commitment to volunteerism and her love of Westerly.
"I love this town," said Smith, "and I love the people of this town."
"When I go away on vacation, I can't wait to get back home," she added. "We have it all here ... we have theater, and art, and restaurants and beaches ... we have it all. It's quite a town."
Smith also paid tribute to her fellow nominees and to the students who were awarded scholarships during the ceremony.
"It was a great, great evening," she said.
The annual Athena Scholarship, sponsored by First Physical Therapy, was presented to Westerly High School students Maya Champ and Tyler Joseph Travis. The annual Falguni B. Hauser Memorial Scholarship and the Sandy Bliven Scholarship were presented to Westerly High School senior Georgina Lau. The Konicki Family Scholarship was presented to Stonington High School seniors Una Schaffer and Taylor Starr.
The Mary Lou Serra Memorial Scholarship was presented to Westerly High School senior Rocco Cillino. The Maddie Potts Memorial Leadership Scholarship was presented to Abigail Turano of Westerly High School.
Athena Leadership Awards have been presented in more than 500 communities and eight countries since 1982, when the program was created by Martha Mertz, the only female on the board of directors of the Lansing, Mich., Regional Chamber of Commerce. She created the award to recognize outstanding local business and professional women.
Locally, the program began in 2003 when Misquamicut businesswoman Barbara Stillman was named the region's first Athena recipient.
"I have a saying," Smith concluded Wednesday night before the evening came to a close. "Life is fun. Without fun, there is no life."