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Tri-Town community honors Norval Bennett during tree lighting ceremony

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BRASHER FALLS - Santa was on hand Thursday night to hear the wish lists of the young boys and girls during the seventh annual Tri-Town Community Christmas Tree Lighting and Dedication.

So was Daily the Clown, better known as Kimberly Russell, who was painting festive decorations on faces.

But the night was reserved for another well-known man in the community, 89-year-old Norval Bennett, who was the subject of this year’s tree dedication.

As a crowd gathered for the lighting of the community Christmas tree, Nancy Smith-Weller and Carrie Seguin introduced Mr. Bennett, who they described as an avid hunter and fisherman, and thanked him for his many years of service to the community in many roles.

“He was in the chamber for 35 years. He has dedicated a lot of fun to this community,” Ms. Smith-Weller said.

Mr. Bennett also served as a town councilman for 30 years, according to Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce President Allen W. Fukes.

Ms. Seguin said Mr. Bennett was always working for the community. In fact, he brought a celebrity to town in 1962 for the annual Winter Carnival festivities.

“In 1962 he brought Carmen Basilio here for the Winter Carnival. (Mr. Basilio) was the king that year,” she said.

Mr. Basilio, who died in 2012, was a professional boxer who had been a two weight class world boxing champion. In September 1957 he challenged world middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson and won in 15 rounds.

Mr. Bennett, who was also involved in the creation of the Brasher Park, lit the Christmas tree and, in the warmer weather, planted plenty of flowers to beautify the site.

“The park is the big thing,” he said.

When he wasn’t helping out in the community, “he used to spend a lot of time at John Ward’s place, Ward’s Hotel,” Ms. Seguin said.

Now, Mr. Bennett said, he’s slowed down a little bit.

“I’m pretty near 90, so I don’t do too much,” he said.

As the accolades for Mr. Bennett wrapped up, the lights were turned on for the community Christmas tree, and choral students from St. Lawrence Central School invited those gathered around the tree to join them in traditional Christmas carols.

Nearby, the Quad Town Lions Club members were offering free hot beverages in exchange for a non-perishable item or monetary donation for the local food pantry.

In a warmer environment in nearby Crapser Hall, Wendy Crump was spinning the holiday tunes, Daisy the Clown was busy painting festive decorations on faces and Santa’s lap was busy with child after child grabbing a seat to talk with St. Nicholas with less than two weeks before he began his journey around the world.

Also on hand was the St. Lawrence Central Spanish Club, who invited visitors to take part in their annual cookie bake-off fundraiser and select the best cookie.

Visitors were also able to meet and visit with the staff at the Canton-Potsdam Community Health Center and Physical Therapy, which held extended hours Thursday night.

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