Senator Nozzolio Honors Local "women Of Distinction" At Annual Senate Program

Michael F. Nozzolio

June 14, 2005

Albany – Chosen by State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Fayette) for their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions as New Yorkers, Phyllis Connelly of Webster, Jolene Bender of Marion, and Elizabeth Cree of Ithaca were all honored as outstanding women across New York State at the 2005 "Women of Distinction" ceremony held today in Albany. The program is sponsored by the New York State Senate.

"It is an honor to recognize and pay tribute to Phyllis Connelly, Jolene 'Jody' Bender, and Elizabeth Cree," said Senator Nozzolio.

“Phyllis has dedicated her life to the fight against breast cancer. Her hard work and dedication is deserving of this recognition and I am honored to nominate her as a 2005 ‘Woman of Distinction’," added Senator Nozzolio.

“Jody has been a true leader as Supervisor of Marion. I have had the honor to work with Jody on numerous projects that have benefited the residents of Marion and have seen first-hand the passion and commitment she exhibits in service to the people. I am pleased to nominate Jody for this distinction in recognition of her years of service," added Nozzolio.

“Elizabeth's service to the community is a clear example of her dedication and commitment to helping others. I couldn’t be more proud to be able to nominate her for this honor," continued Senator Nozzolio.

A breast cancer survivor, Phyllis Connelly has contributed her time and held several positions with the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester (BCCR), where she has been a member since 1999. She has also held pivotal positions in the New York State Breast Cancer Network (NYSBCN) and the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). Phyllis is also a team leader for the National Breast Cancer Advocacy Day held each year in Washington D.C.

In addition to her dedication to fighting breast cancer, Phyllis was an Elementary school teacher in the Buffalo and Irondequoit School Districts and has volunteered her time to tutor children at the DeWitt Road School in Webster, New York.

Phyllis attended Buffalo State Teachers College where she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Phyllis resides in Webster with her husband and is the mother of three and grandmother to a grandson.

Jody Bender began her public service career in 1978 when she was appointed in a dual role as Deputy Town Clerk and Justice Court Clerk for Marion. She spent six years as a Deputy Town Clerk and eighteen years as Elected Town Clerk; where she served as the tax receiver, records management officer, and clerk to the Town Board. She is currently serving her second two-year term as Town Supervisor.

While Jody has served as Supervisor, Marion has completed two water projects and constructed 9.6 miles of new waterline, allowing approximately 130 rural homes to hook-up to municipal water. The Town has also worked to rehabilitate the hamlet of Marion, constructed a handicapped accessible municipal meeting room, renovated the basement of the library, and purchased a downtown residence that will be used as museum. Jody is also a sitting member of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors and is a member of various committees; including the Finance and Public Safety committees.

In addition, Jody is a member of the Wayne County Fire Advisory Committee, the EMS Committee and the Jail Advisory Board. She is a member of the American Red Cross Advisory Board and the Citizens Corps Council and has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Wayne County Home Meal Service.

Jody has been a resident of Marion since 1971 and is married to Paul F. Bender. She has raised four children and has three grandchildren. 

Elizabeth Cree is involved with various organizations that make a positive contribution to the community. From 1999 to 2003, Elizabeth was a member of the Ithaca Rotary Club and served as the Chair of Community Services from 2002 to 2003. In that position, she was responsible for providing grants to schools, churches and other community organizations. Elizabeth was also instrumental in the organization of events for the Salvation Army and blood drives.

In addition, Elizabeth has been a very active communicant of All Saints Parish/Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church since 1989 and has been involved in fundraising for the church.

Since 1997, Elizabeth has been employed as the Commissioner of Elections for Tompkins County. She has held numerous offices with the New York State Election Commissioners Association, from Bylaws Committee Member to President.

Elizabeth attended Tompkins County Community College and Empire State College, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources. Elizabeth resides in Ithaca, New York with her husband Robert and her two children, Michael and Elizabeth.

All of the honorees received their "Woman of Distinction" awards today at a special ceremony in Albany, where other recipients from across the State were also honored. Launched in 1998, the “Women of Distinction” program was created to celebrate the rich heritage of notable women from New York's past as well as to honor outstanding women today who have followed their example.