It all came full circle for Vern Magee during the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting held Sept. 11 at the Grand Geneva Resort.
Vern was there to accept the Outstanding Citizen award for her late husband, Larry Magee. Vern and Larry shared a connection with the other two award recipients, Lake Lawn Resort and John Halverson/ he Lake Geneva Regional News.
When Vern was 15 and Larry was 17 the young couple went tobogganing at Lake Lawn Resort for their first date. When Larry died, Halverson contacted Vern to do a story on Larry’s life.
Larry even had a connection to the Grand Geneva. When it was the Playboy Club, Larry installed the telephone wiring.
Larry Magee served as a Lake Geneva alderman, was on the city’s utility commission and volunteered his time at the Lake Geneva Museum. His life as a public official has been well documented, and his charitable work is well known.
However, during the acceptance speech, Vern Magee shed a different light on the man she married.
“Larry was a quiet man, but a good thinker and he listened to people,” Vern Magee said.
She described him as a good son, who visited his elderly mother daily.
She also said Larry had hobbies including hunting, bowling and tinkering with old clocks. About five years ago he bought an old Ford Model T, which is now sitting in the Lake Geneva Museum.
He also cared deeply for his wife, and often told her, “You are the best thing that every happened to me.”
Lake Lawn Resort
Lake Lawn Resort, which closed about 2 1/2 years ago, won the 2013 Lake Geneva Convention & Visitors Bureau Hospitality Award.
Since reopening, Lake Lawn has undergone more than $7 million in renovations, which includes the Calladora Spa, Isle of Capri Café, and Lakewood complex featuring 48 rooms and suites along with a new outdoor pool and lakeside fire pit.
The resort also updated its lobby and main entrance, expanded the golf proshop, added new pontoons and speedboats to their marina’s fleet and relocated their fitness center to provide sweeping lake views.
Lake Geneva Regional News/John Halverson
The Lake Geneva Regional News and Halverson, the general manager and editor of the paper, won the 2013 Community Betterment Award.
Halverson joined the Lake Geneva Regional News in 2009 as general manager. Editor was added to his title in 2012.
The Regional News has won several state and national awards, including the general excellence award recognizing it as the best paper of its size in the state when judged against other papers for editorial quality.
Besides the general excellence award, it also won first place in its circulation class for “Web Excellence” In addition, the paper’s ReelLifeTV product won two firsts.
Halverson was introduced by Refined Rustic owner Philip Sassano, who hosts Reel Life TV’s Underground Lake Geneva web series.
“At one time or another I’m certain everyone in this room has disagreed with this evening’s Community Betterment Award recipient,” Sassano said.
Sassano credited the paper with not only writing the stories people want to read about, but also for asking questions that “at times we are afraid to ask ourselves.”
What else happened at the event
There were more than 200 people at that Chamber’s annual meeting, which was held in the pavilion at the Grand Geneva Resort.
John Stensland, president of the chamber’s board, said this year’s event broke an attendance record.
Stensland recognized dignitaries that attended the event, which included State Sen. Neal Kedzie, County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell, Fontana Village President Arvid “Pete” Petersen, Lake Geneva Mayor Jim Connors, Lake Geneva Aldermen Strug Taggart, Alan Kupsik and Jeff Wall and Alderwoman Sarah Hill who all attended the event.
Kedzie spoke briefly about business owners, not the government, being responsible for job creation.
He said it was the responsibility of the state government to provide an atmosphere for businesses to grow.
Dave Fantle, the deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, spoke about what the state is doing to increase tourism revenue.
He said the tourism industry in Walworth County has grown 11 percent since last year.
During the event, Fantle showed some of the recent tourism ads that the Department of Tourism created. This includes a new ad with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
Fantle is best known for his work on the bronze Fonz on Milwaukee’s RiverWalk.
“It’s going to be on my gravestone,” Fantle joked.
While working for VISIT Milwaukee, he was “the guy who raised $90,000 to make the bronze Fonz happen.”
“I can’t tell you how many hate emails I received,” he said.
Milwaukee, in the views of those who sent the hate mails, is too hip for the Fonz.
“You market to your strengths,” Fantle said. “What is wrong with beer, brats, Happy Days and thumbs up?”
Fantle’s one-liners continued when he talked about the departments efforts to market to Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“We may not like their sport teams, but we like their money,” he joked.