Larry Bustle, a former Manatee County Commissioner, mayor of Palmetto and F-4 pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam, received the Manatee County Distinguished Citizen Award on Thursday.
Bustle, 82, accepted the award with emotion and humor.
“Many of you know that it’s dangerous to sneak up behind a former fighter pilot. My normal reaction is to break hard to the right or left, pull about 4 Gs and change places with the person who snuck up on me. You got me. I have to tell you I didn’t know,” Bustle said.
Dan West, fair manager, announced the award at the start of the 102nd Manatee County Fair. The award has been presented annually since 1956 and is always a closely guarded secret until announced at the fair.
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When West began reading the biography of this year’s honoree – graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force pilot shot down on Sept. 11, 1968, on his 68th mission over North Vietnam, and former mayor of Palmetto – almost every head in the tent swiveled toward Bustle.
“I guess I suspected something when I saw daughter Lou and son Bill in the back. Thank you for coming. Thank all of you and thank you for the great honor you’ve given me today,” Bustle said, visibly moved.
I guess I suspected something when I saw daughter Lou and son Bill in the back. Thank you for coming. Thank all of you and thank you for the great honor you’ve given me today.
Larry Bustle, 2018 Manatee County Distinguished Citizen Award recipient
“I would like to think there are many of you in the audience who deserve it equally or better than me. But I appreciate it. I hope the fair continues to do well, to grow and to be a shining light in our community,” Bustle said.
As Bustle stepped away from the microphone, Edie, his wife of more than 60 years, stepped up and added: “He’s also a great husband and we have had fun.”
Bustle was nominated for the award by County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.
Whitmore said she was pleased to see Bustle get the award for his life of sacrifice and service, including in the arena of rough-and-tumble local politics.
Bustle served as mayor of Palmetto from 2001-08 and was elected to the Manatee County Commission, serving from 2008-16.
A native of Samoset, he retired from the Air Force after 27 years of service in 1984. For his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, nine Air Medals and the Purple Heart, West said.