CLEARWATER — Attorney and educator Susan Demers was honored with the Clearwater Bar Association's highest award Friday.
Along with recognizing Demers during its 47th annual Law Day luncheon and annual meeting, the bar honored:
• Pinellas County sheriff's Cpl. Denise Nestor with the Allen L. Moore Gold Badge Award for outstanding work in law enforcement.
• Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley with the John U. Bird Distinguished Jurist Award.
• Investment company vice president Joseph Huenke with the Liberty Bell Award, the association's highest award to a nonlawyer.
In addition, Jeffrey A. Albinson was installed as the 900-member association's president for 2008-09, replacing Gregory K. Showers.
Demers, 58, has been the program director for paralegal studies at St. Petersburg College since 2000.
In presenting Demers with the Ralph Richards Award, presenter Wally Pope said she was a "very easy choice" because of her involvement in the legal profession and the community at large.
A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Law, Demers is a past president of the Clearwater Bar, a member of the bar foundation's board of trustees, a guest lecturer and communications skills consultant for the Stetson University's Trial Practice Program and Trial Team, and has been an adjunct instructor for business law, business, government and society for Nova Southeastern University.
And she does community theater.
"She is a unique combination of lawyer, educator and thespian from which the Clearwater Bar Association has greatly benefited," Pope said.
Demers, who lives in St. Petersburg but has worked throughout her career in Clearwater, said she was touched to be honored with the award named for Richards, a man she said showed generosity toward everyone.
"It's a huge honor," she said after the luncheon. "I'm stunned."
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Cpl. Denise Nestor was recognized for establishing the "Live Safe" program to teach parents and other adults to watch for signs that sexual offenders are targeting their children.
Nestor, a Sheriff's Office employee since 1995, said the program started after the abduction and murder of Carlie Brucia in Sarasota.
When a reporter asked her what classes parents could take to protect their children, Nestor said officials found there weren't any, so she created one.
"Everybody's teaching the kids," she said, "but nobody's teaching the parents."
Since 2005, the Live Safe program has reached more than 10,000 adults in community organizations, including parent-teacher associations, libraries, hospitals and foster parent groups.
Because abductions are rare compared to sexual abuse by adults who know and are entrusted with children, the program teaches adults to recognize "red flag" behaviors that indicate a sexual offender is trying to manipulate a child.
"We're trying to get it before it happens," Nestor said."
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Judge Nancy Moate Ley was an assistant public defender, a division director who tried many first-degree murders and other serious felony cases, and a private attorney practicing family law before her appointment to the bench in 1998.
A graduate of Notre Dame Law School, Ley has been recognized by the Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court for her extensive pro bono work on behalf of the Operation PAR drug treatment program.
Ley often speaks at the Clearwater Bar's People's Law School and in public schools, chaired the association's Pro Bono Committee for three years, has been involved in community outreach and was instrumental in creating the Mount Carmel Legal Workshop.
She was not, however, present to receive the award. Instead, she and her husband, Paul, were at Duke University attending the graduation of their daughter.
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Joseph Huenke, who won the Liberty Bell Award, is first vice president for investments of the Huenke, Karoll, Quinn Group of Wachovia Securities of Clearwater.
Huenke has served on the Clearwater Bar Foundation Board for four years, is a member of the association's Bar Center Task Force, and is treasurer of the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Program.
He also serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board for Upper Pinellas County and for the past three years has been responsible for organizing the bar to ring bells for the Salvation Army.