Pat Birmingham to take the driver’s seat of Meals on Wheels.

Pat Birmingham to take the driver’s seat of Meals on Wheels.Pat Birmingham is a true believer in Meals on Wheels – Bluffton and Hilton Head Inc., and the valuable service it provides to its clients throughout southern Beaufort County.

“Meals on Wheels is a great organization,” Birmingham said. “We’re not flashy, and we provide a valuable service to people who can’t prepare their own meals. You don’t get much more basic than food.”

Founded locally in 1979, the organization will soon enter its 30th year of service providing meals to clients regardless of their ability to pay. “We have never missed a day of serving meals, even when the occasional bad storm passes through,” he said.

Originally from Hoag Corners, N.Y., Birmingham started college but quit after two years to enter the Air Force Aviation Cadet program. He spent 20 years in the Air Force, for a short time as a navigator and the rest as a fighter pilot.

Lung cancer survivor achieves her North Pole dreams.

“Having lung cancer does not have to be as debilitating as it’s made out to be,” says Barbara Hillary.Barbara Hillary walks with a slight limp and reluctantly carries a cane – a stress fracture from training for her latest, top-secret adventure.

“Let’s just say I’ll be setting another world record,” the 76-year-old lung cancer survivor said with a smile, adding that her next “vacation” will take place in a dangerous, remote area.

It’s difficult to imagine anything can top Hillary’s last expedition – a three-week trek to the North Pole that required months of preparation. Hillary had to be in prime physical condition to endure the arctic elements – including 40-below temperatures and the constantly shifting ice – while skiing a majority of the way and carrying heavy supplies. The retired nurse also had to raise more than $22,000 for the trip by soliciting companies and appealing to the public.

Missy SantorumLowcountry dynamo generates energy for Palmetto Electric.

Most of us start our day with a cup of coffee to rev things up.   However, some of us come “naturally caffeinated”…our own little latte of energy.

There’s energetic, and then there’s Missy Santorum. This Lowcountry dynamo has been channeling all that get-up and go into our community since 1985 and without a coffee cup in sight. The moment you meet her, all that energy comes through and you realize that her to-do list seems to be in a whole different league than most.

When asked what she wishes she had a little more of, she’s quick to note, “I wish I could do it all.” But she’s a great example of today’s well-rounded woman who manages to balance her career, her family, which includes husband Dan and three children, and a volunteer workload and dedication to her community that might seem remarkable to most, but just part of a day in the life for Santorum.

A Concours d’Elegance icon.

October’s MVP: Rosemary Kimball - A Concours d’Elegance icon

If you attended the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival in 2007, you’ll certainly remember Rosemary Kimball. She was wearing a 30s-era dress, hat and fascinating vintage fox stole. Although it will be difficult to top that outfit, Kimball will definitely wear something fabulous from one of the historic automotive eras celebrated at the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, November 2, when more than 150 vintage vehicles compete for Best of Show. But Kimball is more than a fashionable addition to the Concours – arguably an integral centerpiece of the weekend; she’s responsible for why the event’s coveted awards are as artistic as they are prestigious.

Newsweek legend & Hall of Famer captured history through his lens.

Intriguing icon: Wally McNamee Hall of Fame photographerWally McNamee’s career as a photojour-nalist for Newsweek took him around the world - from the Olympics to the White House - covering the movers and shakers of the 20th century.

“It’s very, very hard work,” McNamee said of covering the Olympics. “It’s very frustrating work. It’s as much a bureaucracy as the federal government, and after the terrorist attack there [Munich in 1972] the security was very stringent.” But at the same time, “It’s very exciting,” he said. “I always liked sports and there you are with the best athletes in the world. It’s hard to get really good pictures - you have to use big, long lenses - but it’s worth it.”

His dad was a part-time sportswriter who covered the minor league Harrisonburg Turks in Harrisonburg, VA, where McNamee was born in 1932. “I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter,” McNamee said. But during a stint as a copy boy at the Washington Post he had a shot at covering sports as a photographer and got hooked.

The story of town founder Ben Racusin, Hilton Head Island’s First Mayor

Ben Racusin, Hilton Head Island’s First Mayor “I met her in Shanghai on a Wednesday,” said Ben Racusin of his unforgettable first encounter with the love of his life, Helen. “I don’t recall that either of us were too impressed.”

But then he felt a little different after another rendezvous. They married three months later, and they’ve been together for 61 years. It’s a love story that has made its way to Hilton Head Island. Following a world-wide career with the CIA, Racusin and his wife decided to spend their well-earned retirement years on Hilton Head Island.

Racusin holds the distinction of being Hilton Head Island’s first mayor – and while Charles Fraser may have had the original vision for what Hilton Head Island could be from a tourism standpoint, Racusin led the way to make it “home” for the residents. Friends first told the couple about “the most wonderful place” they had found, and convinced them to visit the island. They saw the charm and glimmer of Hilton Head back when a spring bridge was the only connection to the mainland. That was 41 years ago, and Racusin said he is just as impressed with Hilton Head Island today as he was when its thriving population consisted of about 3,000 people.

September’s MVP: Carol SchembraThere are great women, and then there are amazing women – those who make you stand taller, set the bar higher and pave the way for others a little each day. Yes…she’s amazing all right. She’s also compassionate, smart, loyal, business savvy and a giver, by anyone’s standard. Carol Schembra, president of the WatersEdge Board and secretary of Hilton Head Prep’s Board of Trustees, is an MVP and it only takes five minutes into an interview to discover why. The day Monthly spoke with Schembra was a momentous one – her 30th anniversary with husband Phil.

Hilton Head Humane Association’s HERO.

August’s MVP: BOBBI HELTONRaven-haired Bobbi Helton sweeps into a room with the stealth of a tigress, attacking the day’s tasks with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Whether she is taking inventory, assisting customers, moving furniture or wielding a mop, she gets the job done, collecting innumerable joys along the way.

Starting as a volunteer in 2000, a beacon of light to the Hilton Head Humane Association, Helton was asked to join the board the same year. She served as vice president in 2002 and was elected president in 2003. After working seven days a week for two years at The Litter Box thrift store (a funding mechanism for the organization), in 2006, she took the position as manager and continues to work tirelessly.

A former school teacher, devoted wife and lifelong animal activist, she brings passion and compassion to her role, her service and dedication surpassed only by her love of life itself.

Taking Care of BUSINESS

August’s MVP: Toni LyttonAfter 25 years with the sheriff ’s office, Toni Lytton now sits in the director’s chair for Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control. Lytton, a native of California who lived in Hawaii after her father retired from the Marine Corps, came to the Lowcountry as a Marine wife in 1977. “Before I came here I worked for a veterinarian, but none of the vets were hiring,” she said of her career path. “I knew somebody who worked here and applied for the job and got it.”

When she started with the department, animal control officers didn’t carry guns even though they were certified deputies. “That came later,” Lytton said. “The incident reports haven’t changed, we just get more of them now. A lot, lot more compared to the ’80s and ’90s.”

The shelter serves all of Beaufort County, including Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Pritchardville and everything north of the Broad to the borders, she said. And population growth and development have increased the pressure of the job. “The people coming into Beaufort County are more demanding,” she explained.

Saving lives and beautifying beaches through Shore Beach Service.

July’s MVP: RALPH WAGNEREverything about his office has the usual corporate feel to it: an oversized wooden desk, family photos sprinkled throughout, however, visitors don’t receive the standard guest chair. It seems only appropriate that the “president’s office” would have beach chairs for visitors. When you’re the longtime owner of Shore Beach Service, green beach chairs for your guests make sense.

Ralph Wagner has been at the helm of Shore Beach Service since 1992. The beautiful island beaches we all know and love are kept that way in large part by Wagner and his staff. Shore Beach Service (shorebeach.com) is in charge of keeping the beaches beautiful as well as the ultra-important task of keeping beachgoers safe and out of harms way.

Wagner originally hails from the Midwest but came to Hilton Head Island in the early ,90s from snowy Chicago where he worked in corporate America as a controller for a Fortune 100 company. When the opportunity arose to purchase Shore Beach Service, the move was made.