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Diazes to receive Studs Terkel Award

This story originally appeared in the Pontiac Daily Leader.

Pontiac has its very own “Humanitarian Heroes” in the William Diaz Family.

In a surprise announcement Tuesday at the Diaz Sign Art offices in Pontiac, Mayor Robert Russell, City Administrator Robert Karls and Pontiac Tourism Director Ellie Alexander met with the members of the Diaz family to tell them that they are the 2009 recipients of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award.

“We would like to notify you and congratulate you that you have been chosen to receive the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award,” Russell told them. The mayor added that the Diaz Family is one of 40 recipients statewide to receive the award.

“We’re all very humbled by everything,” Ben Diaz said, and they are proud to call Pontiac their home.

Russell, who nominated the Diazes, told them a little about Studs Terkel, who died on Oct. 31, 2008. Terkel was a “colorful and controversial” Chicago radio personality and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer recipient. The Diazes are expected to receive notification from the Illinois Humanities Council by the end of the week.

A press release stated that Jane and Bill Diaz and their sons, Joe and Ben, are leaders among Pontiac artists. They are honored for devoting their collective energies to public art projects such as “Art of Mainstreet” and the Walldogs Festival, which promote and appreciate Pontiac art, history and culture. They have also been honored for their involvement in other aspects of the community.

“Bill has served as a volunteer coach with the city’s youth football program and has worked with our local theater group, painting sets for many of their productions. Jane is a valued member of the Pontiac Public Library board of trustees, and currently serves as its board vice president, volunteered as a children’s story time leader, advocate of childhood literacy and life-long adult learning programs,” according to the release.

Ben Diaz serves as a co-president of the non-profit organization for the 4-H Park Henry Street Horrors. Joe Diaz is also a member of Henry Street Horrors, participates in the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce Young Professional and downtown redevelopment design.

The family is expected to receive an engraved medal of recognition struck by the Medallic Art Co., the country’s oldest and largest private mint, according to for the Illinois Humanitarian Council.

This is the third honor for the Diaz family this year. In August, the family was honored as Pontiac Rotary Club’s Citizens of the Year and served as grand marshals for the Threshermen’s Reunion Parade.