It was standard holiday fare Thursday night when local leaders past and present gathered for the Greater Towson Council of Community Association's holiday party at Towson's Aigburth Vale, save for one desert:
An ice cream cake that read "One Last Scoop for Loni."
The council's annual celebration turned into a touching tribute for Loni Ingraham, a Towson mainstay who is retiring at the week's end after more than 24 years of service as a reporter for the Towson Times and Patuxent Publishing Company.
"I'm so very thankful (for what Loni has done)," said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce.
"We've got a lot of events that have helped bring Towson to life," she said, "but if she didn't share those stories, they wouldn't have developed as they did."
After learning of Ingraham's impending retirement, Hafford called David Kosak, president of the GTCCA, and the area's elected officials, to drum up support for an occasion to honor Ingraham for all she's done for the Towson community.
"They jumped on board immediately," Hafford said. "Every single one of them was so thrilled."
And for Ingraham, they all came through.
On top of a citation and flower arrangement from the GTCCA and the Towson Chamber of Commerce, Ingraham received citations from State Senator Jim Brochin, Delegates Bill Frank and Steve Lafferty, and County Councilman David Marks, which he presented on behalf of the entire County Council.
Ingraham, who said she didn't expect the tribute, searched hard for the words to sum up the evening, but seemed at home among the people she spent the last two decades with.
"Most of the people here, I've work with for years, and I appreciate them," Ingraham said. "I appreciate them talking to me and trusting me.
"And when they're funny," she joked, "I appreciate them even more."
While there were a few jokes Thursday, everyone in attendance was sincere in their praise and thanks for Ingraham.
"Loni is a local treasure," said Frank, who presented Ingraham with a citation from Towson's three delegates. "She always has a smile on her face and is very easy to deal with. She's one of my favorite people."
Lafferty, who said during his presentation that he knew Ingraham long before he was elected to the House, honored his longtime friend for "not only her outstanding service as a journalist, but also because you've helped us to better understand the communities and the people of Towson."
"One thing about Loni that all of us understand is that she's very straight, very honest, and she reports accurately," Lafferty said. "You can't say that about all the media, but that's true about Loni."
Such dedication not only drew Ingraham plaudits for her reporting skills, but also for her commitment to the Towson community that she called home.
Ingraham began working for the Towson Times in 1987 under its ownership by Patuxent Publishing, which is now part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. But even before that, she had served stints at other Baltimore County papers, including the Northeast Booster and the Arbutus Times.
Over the years she has earned countless accolades and awards, some regional, some national, from organizations such as the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Suburban Newspapers of America.
Kosak said that it's people like Ingraham, who call Towson home and have an investment in the community, that "make Towson Towson."
"We definitely wanted to make sure we showed our support for all she's done for Towson," Kosak said.
And Marks, the relative newcomer of the elected bunch, said he has learned first-hand how important Ingraham was to the community — though he was no stranger to her work.
The councilman remembers seeing her byline in the newspaper when he was in high school.
"Loni Ingraham is exceedingly fair and professional," Marks said, "but in every article she writes, her love for the Towson community comes through."