2019 Ted Crumb Big Cheese Award Recipient

  • Tom Lozier, left, presented the 2019 Ted Crumb Big Cheese Award to Lyle Smith of Winter Haven, Florida recently. Smith, former 21-year-member of the Athol River Rat Race Committee and long-time Athol Lions Club member. Submitted photo

Published: 4/12/2019 11:01:25 PM

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — He may be away from the River Rat Race action these days, but certainly not forgotten. When River Rat Race Committee member and Northfield Dive Team liaison Tom Lozier learned that his good friend Lyle Smith was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Ted Crumb Big Cheese Award, he couldn’t contain his excitement. Said Lozier, “When Dave (Flint, Rat Race Director) told me, I said ‘I’ve got to deliver this in person!’”

Smith and his wife Cheryl, formerly of Athol, reside in Winter Haven, Florida. Lyle is a long-time member of the Athol Lions Club and a 21-year member of the River Rat Race Committee.

Lozier and his wife Shari spend the winters in Port St. Lucie, Fla, a two-hour drive away from the Smiths, and “head north” for the River Rat weekend. As they have for many years, Tom assisted with the drawing of the post position numbers at the Athol Town Hall Friday night, and Shari was on stage logging the official starting positions. Tom will also be out and about with Flint preparing for the race today.

Lozier happily made the two-hour trip to deliver the award and had a nice visit.

“I was very surprised,” said Smith by telephone Friday, “Pleasantly surprised. Tommy used the pretense that he was going to see a relative close by on the west coast. Turns out he doesn’t have any relatives down here.”

Smith said when Flint was negotiating with original founder Ted Crumb to take over the race from the original committee who could no longer do it, he told him he’d help him. “Tommy and I told Dave we would do whatever it takes to keep it going.” And the three amigos did just that. They put a new committee together and the 56th running of the Athol to Orange splash is set to shove off at 1 p.m. today. Over the years, while not a Lion Cheryl (considered a Partner-in-service by Lions International) worked side by side with her husband on club endeavors, and he appreciated her support.

He said while the award is very special to him, “A lot of people have put in years and years keeping it going. It’s an honor to be listed among them.”

Smith, then an active member of the Athol Lions Club, said he told the Rat Race Committee when they hit the 50th year, after 21 years, he was done. And that’s exactly what happened.

The Smiths sold their home and moved to Florida, but make the occasional trip to Massachusetts. This year, they plan to arrive in May for their granddaughter’s college graduation. They will also attend the Athol Lions Club River Rat Appreciation dinner May 4, and attend a baby shower for their great-grandbaby (expected arrival in July) the following day before heading back to the Sunshine State. “I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” he said.

“I’m 73,” said Smith, “it was time to move on to something else. So we came to Florida where it’s warm and I have leisure time.” Smith enjoys a part time job at a nearby golf course and has the entire “Chain of Lakes” to play in.

He has placed the Ted Crumb plaque in a curio cabinet — next to the rest of his Lions Club awards and memorabilia.

“The Lions got the best of me,” said Smith, a 30-year member, “We all just did whatever it took to get the job done.”

The award was established by present race director David Flint to honor former River Rat Race Commissioner Ted Crumb, who served from 1964 to 1991, when the Athol Lions Club took over operation of the race. The award is bestowed on an individual, group or business in recognition of their outstanding support for the annual Rat race. Recipients include:

2018-Frank Fortin

2017-Mass. State Police Underwater Rescue Team

2016-Jeff Mangum, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

2015-Athol Savings Bank

2014-Buddy Girardi

2013-Bill Ellsworth

2012-Athol Highway Department

2011-Orange Highway Department

2010-John Bartus

2009-Starr Cummings

2008-Kevin Lecy and Dave “Red” Caldwell

2007-Athol & Orange Police Departments

2006-Ellsworth Family

2005- Lester Legrand

2004-Al Lyman

2003-Tom Lozier

2002-Mohawk AM Radio

2001-Anthony Brighenti

2000-Dave Dugas

1999- Nick Lyesiuk

1998-Pete Strong

1997-Orange, Royalston, New Salem & Petersham fire departments

1996-Northfield Dive Team

1995- Athol Fire Department

1994- Athol Daily News

1993- Girardi Distributors.

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