Stallworth is ’09 Citizen of the Year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Billy Joe Stallworth was named the 2009 Citizen of the Year at the Kiwanis Club of Andalusia’s spouse appreciation night Monday evening.

“This award recognizes those contributions someone has made over the years, outside of their normal work day,” said club president Casey Thompson. “This person has given back to their community in abundance to anything received.”

Stallworth, a member of the Andalusia Lions Club, is a U.S. Army veteran with tours in Vietnam and Germany. He is a founding member and serves on the board of Andalusia Community Christmas, and received the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s “President’s Award” in 2006.

Thompson said that Stallworth “has roasted more Boston butts and ribs than most barbecue restaurants in Andalusia.” He added that Stallworth has cooked his signature Boston butts for hundreds of charitable causes, including even one for a project in Tenwek, Kenya.

An anonymous committee selected Stallworth for the honor, based in part on letters of nomination written by local citizens. Thompson said that one such letter read, “For years he has reached our hearts through our palates, feeding us and making us better people because we support the projects he champions.”

Stallworth, who is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Whatley Street and also drives the church bus, thanked the club for the honor.

“This is a great feeling and I thank you,” he said. “But I’m not going to stop doing what I’ve been doing. The kids need me, and they need us, and let’s all try to do what we can for our kids.”

Novelist Sonny Brewer of Fairhope was the night’s speaker, and read an excerpt from his newest novel, The Widow and the Tree.

The novel, which is based on a true story, tells the tale of a widow in southern Alabama who lives on land that contains a 500-year-old live oak. The tree’s beauty and size attracts visitors from far and wide, and they do not take care of it, leaving behind litter and ruining the pristine beauty of the tree and the surrounding area. When she is told she must give up the tree because of the government’s eminent domain laws, she enlists a local man to use a chainsaw to cut into the nutrition-providing layer of the tree’s bark, so that it will slowly die away.

“People asked how she could do that, how she could kill something she loves simply for the sake of some ‘greater ideal,’” Brewer said. “Well, I’d think that story sounds awfully familiar, especially around this time of year.”

Brewer also answered questions from the audience, including one about whether he knows how a book will end, before he starts to write it.

“You have to be willing to let the ending change,” he said. “Sometimes you say, ‘It’s going to end this way,’ but then it doesn’t turn out that way at all. I like to write things out of sequence — write a little bit here and a little bit there. When I wrote parts of (The Widow and the Tree) on an Amtrak train trip to New York, I didn’t even know that it was going to eventually be a book.”

Also during the banquet, Harry Hinson was recognized as the Kiwanian of the Year.