Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

The 2012 Woman of Distinction and the Family of the Year were named at the National Business Women's Luncheon held last week at Fortuna's River Lodge, the Fortuna Kiwanis Club.

Johanna Rodoni was completely surprised and moved to tears when she was announced as the Woman of Distinction. Rodoni has recently taken the helm at the Buckeye (formerly Buckeye Conservancy), an organization which helps protect open spaces and ranch land values on the North Coast of California. Rodoni was one of the co-founders of the Buckeye, now serves as the group's executive director.

Rodoni has served on numerous boards and committees during her years of public service, including the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Humboldt County Fair Board, Humboldt County Cattlewomen (she was president from 1991-1993), the Humboldt County Farm Bureau, Humboldt County Fish & Game Advisory Committee, College of the redwoods Oversight Committee, AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project Advisory Committee, and Fortuna Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (2004-2007).

She and her family currently own and manage a cattle ranch in Humboldt County. When announcing Rodoni's award, Fortuna Kiwanis representative Becky Giacomini said, “It's obvious our honoree cares and appreciates our unique Eel River Valley, as a business woman/rancher. She has done so much to enhance our community in so many important areas,” Giacomini continued, “and has added her expertise to make this area a wonderful place to live and work.”

Ferndale residents Chris and Lea Cahill and their four children Ava, Nolan, Katrina, and Zach were honored as the 2012 Family of the Year. The Cahill family owns and operates Cahill Jersey's, an organic dairy in Ferndale.

Chris has served on the California Milk Advisory Board for the last several years, and was acknowledged for giving many school-age children their first look at a dairy farm. He has also coached his children's baseball, football, and soccer teams, and currently announces Fortuna High School football at Husky Field.

Lea provided Daycare services, worked at Karen's Kangaroo Preschool, is currently the Vice President of the Fortuna High School Football Booster Club, and is very involved in the High School Safe & Sober Program and other school fundraisers.

The couple's four children are:

-- Ava, an eighth-grade student at Fortuna Middle School and active in sports included basketball, track, and volleyball, as well as 4-H, and the St. Joseph Catholic Church Youth Group.

-- Nolan, a sophomore at Fortuna High School, plays Varsity football, basketball, and baseball, as well as actively involved in 4-H and Fortuna Future Farmers of America.

-- Katrina is a senior at Fortuna High School, ASB Treasurer and Co-President of the Interact. She is involved in basketball, track, and for the last four years as a goalie on the high school soccer team. She is also the reigning Humboldt County Distinguished Young Woman, and this year's Homecoming Queen.

-- Zach is the oldest and currently is in his first year at Shasta College, majoring in Business. He played baseball while attending Fortuna High School, and was selected Humboldt-Del Norte All League six times. He and his parents were also very involved in the Every 15 Minutes video project.

Keynote Speaker at the event was Jennifer Budwig, Redwood Capital Bank Regional Manager, Eel River Valley. Her topic was effective leadership in business. She has worked in the banking business in Humboldt County for more than 20 years. Budwig was the 2009 recipient of the Fortuna Kiwanis Woman of Distinction award.

The National Business Women's Luncheon began in 1997 and is an annual event to honor working women and families making contributions to this community. “We celebrate all they do in our community,” said Master of Ceremonies Don Brown.

Attendees enjoyed a lunch catered by C.C. Market, and listened to music provided by the Fortuna High School Band under the direction of Sarah McClimon.

Photo captions

Photos by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Johanna Rodoni was selected as the 2012 Woman of Distinction by the Fortuna Kiwanis Club

2. The Chris and Lea Cahill family was selected as the 2012 Family of the Year. Pictured, left to right, are Lea, Ava, Nolan, Katrina, Zach and Chris Cahill.