Former mayor Susan Whelchel, the architect who helped design the Boca look and the founder of a national nonprofit were just added to the city’s star power.
Whelchel, architect Derek Vander Ploeg and Connie Siskowski now have a star and their names engraved in a granite square on the plaza under the statue of Addison Mizner in Royal Palm Place.
The three were inducted at the 18th annual “Walk of Recognition, Saluting Your Community’s’ Legends” on Nov. 20. Some 150 people also attended the first reception honoring all the inductees after the ceremony, according to Mary Csar, executive director of the Boca Raton Historical Society & Museum, which presents the event.
The society headquarters in old Town Hall at 71 N. Federal Highway will serve as the official welcome center for the city, emcee and former board president Jim Ballerano Jr. announced at the event.
“We do have pioneers in Boca Raton, people who have built this community but don’t go back generations,” said the keynote speaker, Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a former Boca Raton mayor. “They were thrown together when their company transferred them here or they heard about Boca Raton’s reputation.”
The city gradually came together “bringing dissimilar people from entirely separate backgrounds, and it was not always a pretty picture,” he said. “Sometimes the fabric frayed. That’s why we have to keep cultivating community leaders. This next generation was born here. They would like to stay…”
Creating a city that offers quality education, health care and jobs was precisely her aim when Whelchel, an educator, turned to politics, she said, joking that her hidden motive was wanting her four children to stay.
“It can give you a chill how many people it takes to build the village and a true sense of place,” she said.
Whelchel was nominated by the historical society and now sits on the board, and the Junior League of Boca Raton. She was introduced by League president Andrea Garcia.
“Our goal is no child in our country should have to drop out of school because of family responsibilities,” said Siskowski, a registered nurse with a Ph.D. who founded and runs the American Association of Caregiving Youth, which is based in Boca Raton.
Her agency identifies, serves and supports middle and high school students who take care of ill, injured, elderly or disabled family members and works through the School District of Palm Beach County. Siskowski was a CNN Hero in 2012. She was introduced and nominated by Lorry Herdeen.
“Thirty-five years ago a young, cool, hip architect came to town and saw a blank canvas,” said Lisa Vander Ploeg, who nominated her husband Derek. “Many of us work or play in iconic buildings he has created.”
“Our town was built by citizens who were never satisfied with the status quo,” Csar said.
She recognized the people among the 77 Walk of Fame inductees between 1997 and 2013 who attended the event. They were Jan McArt, Helen Babione, Joan Wargo, Pat Thomas, Madelyn Savarick, Al Travasos, Alyce Erickson, Gordon Gilbert, Lois Martin, Rabbi Merle Singer, Holli Rockwell, Mike Arts, Barbara and Irving Gutin, Jamie Snyder and Joanne Weppner.
Marta Batmasian and Investments Limited started the event, pays for the plaques and maintains the walk. Board member Dawn Zook was chairwoman of the event, and Mary Eiland, a singer and guitarist, entertained.
PHOTO: At the reception following the Walk of Recognition were, from left, John Whelchel, Junior League president Andrea Garcia, walk inductee Susan Whelchel and son Jay Whelchel. (Photo/Marci Shatzman, FPG)