Editor’s note: A week ago tomorrow, Essex Media Group honored its Persons of the Year 2017 with a reception at the Lynn Museum. Certainly, those who attended would attest to the fact that the highlight of the evening was the speech given by a courageous 16-year-old from Saugus, Zach Cummings, whose battle against cancer galvanized his community and whose remarks sparked reactions that alternated between laughter and tears.
For those who weren’t there, the following letter written by Sander van Otterloo and read to the crowd perfectly captured the tenor of the event. His parents, philanthropists Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, are EMG’s Marblehead Persons of the Year and were unable to attend.
Good evening, and on behalf of my parents, thank you very much for this award. If my parents were here tonight, they would probably want to heap praise on everyone else being awarded tonight for everything they are doing to make the local community a better place.
I would like to recognize the fact that my parents were immigrants to this country and that after many years living and working in our local community, they are proud to be American citizens. Like many others before and after them, they came for the opportunities. My parents feel strongly that America, and particularly this little North Shore enclave of Massachusetts, gave them opportunities that they may not have found in their home countries.
Though some of these opportunities eventually were found in the world of business for my father, these opportunities started with the welcoming reception of neighbors on a little street called Bennett Road off of West Shore Drive in Marblehead. My parents had very little at the time, but they were very much welcomed into this little neighborhood (welcomed even despite the fact that my father often looked like an extra from the movie, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates with his knickers and Dutch wood clogs that he used to wear around town).
I grew up in this neighborhood on Bennett Road, and I can say it was the type of neighborhood where people looked out for one another… where you asked the person next door for milk or the teenager across the street if they would be willing to babysit. The answer was always, “Yes, of course.”
I think if my parents were here tonight they would be humbled by this award and appreciative that the award suggests that they have been good neighbors in the town they love. After all, my parents are being honored for the same reason their first neighbors in Marblehead were so great: When someone asks my parents for help doing something big or small, the answer is usually the same as the neighbors on Bennett Road gave: “Yes, of course.”
Thank you again for this very special honor.