Because John Mays isn't one to blow his own horn, the Hereford Community Association did it for him by naming Mays, 77, Person of the Year at a community meeting April 9.
"Oh, my gosh. I'm not sure I deserve that," he said when the association's president, Paul Cummins, announced this year's winner. "This is totally unexpected."
The award has been given annually since 2005.
The Parkton resident, who owns Kingsdene Nurseries and Garden Center in Monkton, was honored for his contributions to community activities, such as the Hereford Fall Festival, Hereford Independence Parade and Hereford Junior Farm Fair.
He and Jane, his wife of 53 years, spend countless hours each fall gathering items for a silent auction and for gift baskets that are raffled off at the Fall Festival.
This year's auction and raffle, sponsored by the Hereford Zone Business Association, raised $11,600. All of the money went back into the community – to the Hereford Volunteer Fire Company, Hereford Volunteer Ambulance Association, Hereford Food Bank and North Cluster Food Bank.
Mays also hauls in truckloads of chrysanthemums, cornstalks and hay bales to decorate the auction tent.
"John is so involved with the community and is an all-around good guy," said Ken Stevenson, who chaired the Person of the Year nominating committee. "When everybody thought Hurricane Sandy was going to hit, he filled up huge water containers at Kingsdene in case people were without water. He's always thinking of others."
Kingsdene has sponsored floats at the annual Hereford parade, giving new meaning to green transportation.
Before each Hereford parade, Mays takes several nursery delivery trucks out of service, washes and waxes them and then decorates them with live plants, bushes, small trees, flowers in window boxes and red, white and blue bunting.
The nursery sponsors the White Hall 4-H Club, Hereford High School Pep Band and the Hereford Zone Business Association floats. Each group adds its own touches, such as a goat in a fenced-in area one year on the 4-H float.
Mays was raised on a farm just up the road from Kingsdene where his family raised cows, chickens and turkeys. He graduated from Hereford High School in 1954 and then from the University of Maryland.
He spent five years in Black & Decker's personnel department before becoming personnel director at Baltimore Paint and Chemical Corp. for 13 years.
He also worked part time at Kingsdene Nurseries in Howard County. When the owner wanted to retire, Mays bought him out.
In 1977, Mays bought the closed Chenoweth's Bar on 5 acres on York Road in Monkton for a site to which Kingsdene relocated. He slowly emptied the Howard County location while simultaneously building up the Monkton enterprise's inventory.
He and his wife are now semiretired, but he still spends 40 hours or more a week at the nursery, and she continues to help with the financial end of things.
The Hereford award wasn't the first Mays has won. In 2010, the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association named him Person of the Year. The following year, the Sparks-Hereford Alumni Association named him Alumni of the Year.
"I really like to be behind-the-scenes and don't need all this attention," Mays said. "It's an honor to live in this community, and I love to do what I can to support it and see the community grow."
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