The inside joke is that it's the worst kept secret in Long Beach.
This year was no different. Those who didn't know the name of the Rick Rackers 2012 Woman of the Year before Friday's luncheon got a sneak peek just before Judy McNulty Black was to be announced.
McNulty Black was supposed to be hidden from view, while characters from "The Wizard of Oz" paraded around the room in a kind of musical intro from McNulty Black's favorite play.
Instead, she and an escort stood at an open doorway, visible to the entire room of about 200 guests, as she waited to be presented.
"It's the worst kept secret in Long Beach," event chairwoman Katy Wade said as the doors were closed, "and this just proves it."
The amusing presentational hiccup did little to detract from the announcement of McNulty Black as the nonprofit's Woman of the Year.
Rick Rackers, an auxiliary of the Assistance League of Long Beach, feted McNulty Black at its 58th Woman of the Year for her years of dedication to volunteer efforts that help those in need and improve the quality of life in Long Beach.
"There are many great organizations that give out fabulous awards every year, but to me this is the pinnacle," McNulty Black said.
A former member of Rick Rackers, McNulty Black was recognized for a long skein of volunteerism through the years.
McNulty Black may be best known as a supporter of Musical Theater West, which she helped rescue from the brink of bankruptcy, as well as being a founder of the Footlighters, an auxiliary to the theater company that provides scholarships. She is also coming off a tenure last year as president of the Steel Magnolias, a Long Beach nonprofit that raised more than $200,000 last year to support the Stramski Children's Developmental Center at Miller's Children's Hospital.
That's just the short list.
The Rick Rackers charity provides free school uniforms to disadvantaged students throughout Long Beach, offers orthodontic care, provides scholarships and supports about a dozen area nonprofits.
Before McNulty Black was announced, she was preceded by a procession of former Women of the Year, including such luminaries as former Mayor Beverly O'Neill and Gloria Deukmejian, wife of former Gov. George Deukmejian.
As part of her acceptance speech, McNulty Black walked among the former winners and shared anecdotes.
"This has been a very special day," McNulty Black said. "I've kind of come full circle, and I'm so glad. You know what they say, once a Rick Racker, always a Rick Racker."
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