LUMBERTON — Lee Hester, who recently retired as the manager of the Lumberton Regional Airport, was rewarded for his years of work for the city and for his community service with the state’s highest civilian award.
Fifteen relatives and friends surprised Hester during a weekly meeting on Monday evening at the Lumberton Rescue Squad to present him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Hester spends his retired days volunteering as the special operations lieutenant for the Lumberton Rescue and Emergency Services. He also worked as the director of Lumberton Police Communications for nine years before becoming the manager of the airport.
The award was presented by Robert Ivey, commander of the rescue unit, for Hester’s work in public safety and for his work as the airport manager.
Hester joins the ranks of Maya Angelou, Michael Jordan, Richard Petty — and his own mother, Patsy.
Patsy Hester, his sister Lynn, and his son, Ryan were among those who filed in to interrupt the weekly meeting at the Lumberton Rescue Squad for the surprise presentation.
During his brief acceptance speech, Hester appeared visibly moved.
“I just want to thank everyone, especially my family for showing up.”
The award, which was signed by Gov. Bev Perdue, is given to those with a lifetime of service to the state.
Hester said that it is “a pat on the back for all the work I’ve done over the years through working with the city and airport.”
Patsy, who received the award in 2003 for her work in literacy at Robeson Community College, said, “I was very pleased. I thought that it was an honor for him to receive it. I’m thrilled to death.”