Wednesday, 08 May 2013 14:22


Joe Cristy, Citizen of the Year.  

The Optimist Club of Dundalk will honor Citizen of the Year Joe Cristy and Humanitarian of the Year Danielle Alderson on May 21, at the UAW hall, 1010 Oldham St. For more information, call 410-285-3899 or 410-288-6795.

Dundalk volunteer is content to serve outside the spotlight

by Bill Gates

    Joe Cristy is an odd choice for The Optimist Club of Dundalk to select as their Dundalk Citizen of the Year.
    This is a man who repeatedly denies having much to do with anything.
    Ask Cristy about a community project in which he’s involved, and the answer is usually: “I didn’t really do much. Talk to ....”
    Really, he is the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy, the one who helps make things happen but dodges the spotlight.
    Well, there is one place where Cristy is right up front. And it’s going to cause a problem during this year’s Dundalk Heritage July 4 parade when he’s taking the Citizen of the Year’s customary spot at the head of the parade.
    Cristy leads the “Bucket Brigade” during the parade, the people who solicit donations from parade-watchers to help finance the parade and the Heritage Fair.
    “They told me I have to ride in the car,” Cristy said. “But as soon as I’m past the reviewing stand, I’m grabbing a bucket. I can’t let those people down.”
    Cristy said he’ll have a bucket in the car with him, although he acknowledges it might be tough reaching spectators from inside the convertible.
    “If there was a way of getting out of riding in that car, I would,” he said. “I’ll get out as soon as I’m able.”
    Being honored as Citizen of the Year is humbling for Cristy, when he considers who has gone before him.
    “This means more to me, since two of my best friends were Dick McJilton and Bruce Mills,” he said. “To follow in their footsteps ... they showed me how important it is to be involved in your community.”
    The late McJilton and Mills were both past Dundalk Citizens of the Year.
    One of Mills’ projects was the annual Scoop Oelke Open Golf Tournament at Rocky Point.
    The tournament is the sole fundraiser for the Greater Dundalk Sports Hall of Fame.
    After Mills’ passing in 2008, Cristy took over the bulk of the work in organizing the Oelke Open.
    “I was always involved with Bruce and Dick, saw the commitment they had, all the stuff they did for the community,” Cristy said.
    “Those guys, and Kimbel Oelke [founder of The Dundalk Eagle and namesake of the Oelke Open, who died in 1998], they showed me the way. I was fortunate to know them.”
    Cristy, who graduated from Archbishop Curley in 1966 and received a degree in business management from Johns Hopkins University, spent his summers working for Bethlehem Steel in their student program under which the company would pay for his tuition as long as he kept up his grades.
    Over the years, he has worked with the Heritage Fair, been president of the Greater Dundalk Sports Hall of Fame, been on the Board of Directors of the Falbo Foundation, been in charge of the Junior Achievement program at Bethlehem Steel, helped with the Chamber of Commerce golf tournament, coached rec council and club baseball and the American Legion Post 38 baseball team, and helped out considerably with the athletics program at CCBC Dundalk.
    “It’s not about me,” Cristy said. “Part of this award should go to everyone I’ve ever worked with, anyone I’ve ever served on a committee with.”
    When Cristy was growing up, he would go to Dundalk Middle School and throw a rubber baseball against a wall to work on moving to his left and right to field a ball.
    He attracted the attention of a physical education teacher, Fred Hikel, who worked with Cristy to help him become a better baseball player.
    Hikel went on to become an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball ref.
    “He was another reason I wanted to work with kids, and help them out,” Cristy said. “If you want to be a valued part of anything, you get involved.
    “It’s not all about one person. If everyone doesn’t do their job, it doesn’t get done. You never do any of this stuff to be recognized. You just want to feel good about what you do.”