By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
As Hollywood has their Walk of Fame, Boca Raton has its Walk of Recognition, a monument of black granite stars under the gaze of Addison Mizner at Royal Palm Place in downtown Boca Raton.
These stars honor individuals who have demonstrated significant long-term commitment to serving the interest of the city and enriching the lives of its residents.
Over the past 22 years, more than 94 recipients have been awarded their stars and inducted into the elite club, sponsored by the Boca Raton Historical Society.
“The Walk of Recognition is my favorite event because we have the opportunity to honor the outstanding individuals and institutions who have built our community,” said BRHS executive director Mary Csar.
“We are proud to recognize people from all walks of life, along with a wide range of institutions, who have made a positive impact on the quality of life here.”
Presenting sponsors of the night were Marta (who founded the event in 1997) and Jim Batmasian; committee co-chairs included Marta Batmasian and Joyce DeVita; and the committee members were Denise Alman and Ann Schauer.
The Historical Society is currently undergoing a campaign entitled “History Alive!” to create new, immersive, interactive exhibits and to upgrade Town Hall.
The new exhibits, due to be completed by spring 2020, will document the growth and development of Boca Raton from 18 people in 1903, and its origins as a small farming town to its current status as an international city of almost 100,000 residents.
The Society is also working on an oral history project documenting the origins and growth of the Jewish community of Boca Raton and plan to follow up with a book and documentary.
The ceremony at the Addison honored this year’s recipients, Arthur Adler, Kerry B. Koen, the late George E. Barbar, the late Dr. Merrilee R. Middleton and Florida Atlantic University.
Adler was honored for his work with the Boca West Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded, which serves 5,000 children in need in Palm Beach County. The agency has distributed more than $8M to child service agencies since 2010.
Adler was introduced by Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth who said, “Arthur is making a better life for the most vulnerable members of our community – our children.”
“It’s amazing to have 94 stars and more people to recognize,” he said. “This is a community full of stars and we should recognize that.”
Koen was honored for his 38-year-career as a Boca Raton firefighter and former fire chief for the city. He pioneered the installation of fire sprinklers in Boca’s high-rises and developed the city’s patient transport program.
One of the few people to ever live at the Addison, Koen “bleeds Boca Raton,” said deputy city manager, George Brown.
“I’m honored and grateful to be recognized,” said Koen.
Dr. John Kelly, president of FAU accepted the award in honor of the university, which he noted President Lyndon Johnson created in 1964 from an old army base.
He thanked the Historical Society and gave a brief overview of the university’s history and future goals and said, “Impregnate in every single kid the chance to learn where they came from.”
Rita Thrasher, CEO of Boca Raton’s Promise, a mental health advocacy organization, paid tribute to Middleton, a psychologist and pioneer in mental health advocacy who helped found the Faulk Center for Group Counseling.
John Barbar spoke about his father, George Barbar and the Barbar Group’s contributions to the city’s development with commercial and residential real estate projects in the late 1970s, such as Woodfield Country Club, Woodfield Hunt Club and Regency Court.
He praised his late father’s vision and courage and said Barbar left a lasting legacy on the city.
“He gave his heart and soul to this city,” said Barbar, who was accompanied by his brother, Anthony.
All inductees received a swag bag with a medal, certificate and coffee mug filled with Lindt chocolate, courtesy of the Fire Bay Gift Shop of the Boca Raton Historical Society.