Bobby O'Gurek is Shamrock winner
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Robert "Bobby" O'Gurek of Summit Hill, who has cerebral palsy, speaks during the 67th annual banquet of the Irish-American Association of the Panther Valley, held at Kelly's Irish Pub in Lansford. O'Gurek was presented with the club's prestigious Shamrock Award.
Robert "Bobby" O'Gurek of Summit Hill is handicapped. But don't tell him that.
O'Gurek, who has cerebral palsy, he rides around his town in a motorized wheelchair and talks with a speech output device.
But despite this, the Lehigh Carbon Community College graduate runs his own computer website business, he is an active member of the Diligence Fire Company in Summit Hill, he actively works election polls, and he has given speeches in New York City, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
Monday night, O'Gurek received the 2014 "Shamrock Award" from the Irish-American Association of the Panther Valley during a banquet at Kelly's Irish Pub in Lansford.
He also received several other plaques and certificates from others who recognized the incredible accomplishments he's achieved despite his health problem.
• Summit Hill Mayor Paul McArdle proclaimed Monday as "Bobby O'Gurek Day in Summit Hill."
• A proclamation was presented jointly by state Representatives Doyle Heffley and Jerry Knowles on behalf of the House.
• A Senate proclamation was presented by Bill Richards, on behalf of state Sen. John Yudichak who couldn't attend because he attended the visit by Vice President Joe Biden in Wilkes-Barre.
• A special award from the Diligence Fire Company. Fire Chief Shawn Hoben presented the plaque which contained a green helmet bearing O'Gurek's name.
• A proclamation was presented on behalf of the Carbon County Board of Commissioners by Commissioner Tom Gerhard.
• Tickets from the owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team (He is an Orioles fan) to attend a game as his guest at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
The main speaker at the dinner was his uncle, Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek, who at times got choked up when he mentioned all that Bobby has accomplished.
The speaker told the honoree, "I've addressed many different gatherings through my 28-year career in public office. Bobby, I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart nothing ever gave me more joy, nor will any other appearance in the future give me more joy than this moment."
William read a poem to Bobby:
"Somehow it seems that each challenge you've faced,
Every mountain you've climbed,
Every path you've embraced,
Has just made you stronger,
And helped you to grow,
Into the beautiful person that we all know."
"You've proven you have
Everything that you need
The power, the courage
The will to succeed."
Bobby was both serious and comical in his remarks, telling the audience how humbled he was to receive the awards, but joking with relatives such as one who considered himself Irish but was a Penn State fan and not a Notre Dame fan.
He also paid tribute to an uncle, John "Toot" O'Gurek, who died almost exactly a year ago.
The honoree said, "I know this night is supposed to be my night, and it is. But a year ago we lost John "Toot" O'Gurek. He is looking down from Heaven tonight."
He played a stanza from the Notre Dame fight song in memory of his uncle.
Bobby remarked, "I never expected I would be nominated for this honor. There are so many great Irish people in the Valley who should be up here."
About a dozen members of the Diligence Fire Company attended the event.
Hoben commented, "In this day when its hard to find dedicated members, Bobby is a trustee, an auditor, he shows up for drill night, he helps at fundraisers." He said he does all this besides running his own business.
"He is one of us," Hoben told the large crowd in attendance. "He's part of the brotherhood in the fire department."
Heffley told Bobby, "You are truly an inspiration to me, to everybody in this room."