PALMETTO -- Pat Glass thought she was just going to another luncheon with the girls.
That it was a VIP affair on opening day of the Manatee County Fair didn’t raise the curiosity of this selfless woman whose sage instincts served her well through 28 years of rough-and-tumble politics on the Manatee County Commission.
“When Mary, my daughter, came to pick me up, she said, ‘You can’t wear that jacket.’ It’s the one I walk the dog in,” said Glass, 83. “Then she said. ‘Put on some comfortable shoes you can walk in.
“I had no idea it was for climbing stairs.”
Or floating up the steps to the dais.
When emcee Vernon DeSear announced Glass as the 2011 Manatee County Distinguished Citizen, the widely admired matriarch rode the waves of a sustained standing ovation that filled the Bright House Networks tent.
“It takes my breath away,” said Glass, who was surrounded by children Dianne, Mary, Marty and Michael on stage. “It’s the culmination of a lot of things, but this is not about me. It really isn’t.”
Yes it was.
“That’s Pat Glass,” said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston. “She does so much for so many people and never expects anything to come back to her. And all of a sudden this did. It was fabulous.”
A resident for 54 years, Glass chaired nine different county and regional organizations, served on the board of directors for 22 more -- “The list boggles my mind,” said Commissioner Larry Bustle -- and received countless awards and honors over five decades of service.
‘She is probably the most worthy person I know of in Manatee County to have gotten this award,” said the Rev. W.A. “Bud” Gillett, the 2007 Distinguished Citizen. “She’s touched so many lives. People haven’t seen her behind the scenes. Her graciousness, her brilliance, her spirit, her love for people, her love for God. She’s remarkable.”
“I can’t think of a more deserving person,” said Gwen Brown, Glass’s colleague on the commission for 16 years. “You choose her to chair it and run it, that’s making things happen. No matter how controversial, she has such a positive attitude about getting things done.”
Said Sheriff Brad Steube: “Pat Glass has been such a big part of our community for so many years.”
Five years removed from the county commission, Glass is still deeply involved.
“I looked at my calendar the other day and said I’ve got to stop this, but about six organizations won’t let go,” she said. “I’ll stay for a little bit and then there’ll be one more thing. It’s the lifeblood of a community. I’ll always have that. I never lose it. I’m never bored. There’s always a new idea when you hop out of bed in the morning.”
Her children know how much Thursday’s recognition meant to Glass, especially after caring for their father, Hank, who died last June.
“It’s deserving, it’s timely,” said Dianne Glass, a physical therapist.
“I was so happy for her,” said Mary Glass, director of the Manatee Education Foundation. “Given recent things that have happened, she was very uplifted today. It’s such an honor that people in the community feel that way about my mother.”