Note: The event which is the subject of this blog took place on April 8th but I’ve been waiting for a photo of Ms. Vivian Dietemann before posting it. Vivian accompanied my wife and I as our guest. She is a single mother who is smoke-sensitive and who battled the authorities for years in the 1980s and 1990s to obtain smoke-free air for both herself and her son, Christopher, who suffered from asthma and was also affected by secondhand smoke.
The occasion was NCADA’s Spring Awards Luncheon, held at the Algonquin Country Club, Glendale. My wife and I were treated to lunch and I also received a mounted engraved glass plaque.
I’m grateful to the NCADA for this recognition. I’ve worked with them for several years now and found them to be a reliable ally in local efforts to expand smoke-free air protections. Like MoGASP, they pushed for comprehensive local smoke-free air laws in St. Louis City and County, and testified in favor at public hearings. Those efforts led to the biggest local gains in secondhand smoke legislation we have yet seen in metro St. Louis, and have changed the landscape on this issue.
Below are photos taken by NCADA during the event. The remarks by Howard Weissman preceding my receipt of the Community Service Award are pasted below following my notes about Ms. Vivian Dietemann.
I hadn’t met Vivian yet in 1984 when GASP first got started, but obviously there were numerous others involved. The vice-president back then was Mary Jo Blackwood, who did much of the work necessary to obtain not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status for the group.
Paul Smith provided the original inspiration for the group. He worked as an Engineering Associate in Western Electric, and was seeking donations for an appeal in a civil suit he had brought against his employer for a smoke-free work area. Instead, he was forced to wear the noisy helmet-style respirator shown in the photo. at left.
Back in those days, hospitals and doctors waiting rooms still permitted smoking, and Vivian worked hard to persuade the places she needed to go with Christopher to institute smoke-free policies.
MoGASP turned to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1993 to try and obtain smoke-free indoor air for smoke-sensitive asthmatics like Vivian, and Vivian also took the initiative in filing an ADA complaint against the Missouri state Capitol which led several years later to many public areas in the building being signed no-smoking.
(I should also mention that over the years MoGASP has received enormous help with its ADA complaints from Billy Williams, now Executive Director of GASP of Texas.)
MoGASP recognized Vivian for her efforts with a smoke-free air award at a dinner in Ferguson in 1997, attended by then State Sen. John Schneider.
Below are the prepared remarks preceding the award presented to me by Howard Weissman:
Community Service Award
“I have the pleasure today to present NCADA’s Community Service Award, presented each year to an individual or entity who has provided dedicated service to the community in terms of addressing alcohol, tobacco or other drug issues. The recipient of this year’s award is Martin Pion.
Martin Pion is a scientist who grew up in England and received a degree in Physics and Math from London University. In the U.K., Martin worked for ITT’s Telecommunications Lab doing research in the then new field of fiber optic communications. In 1977, a job transfer brought him, his lovely wife, Joyce, and 6-year-old son, Jerome, to the U.S. In 1980 he moved to St. Louis to work for McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. to help set up a semiconductor laser diode lab.
Being subjected to a work environment that allowed smoking, in 1984 Martin decided to take this issue on as co-founder of a not- for-profit called Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution).
Arguably ahead of his time, Martin Pion has fought for smoke-free legislation for 27 years! During these years, Martin and GASP has championed and shown up for any effort that would help create healthy, smoke-free environments. He has worked tirelessly and without compensation to make the St. Louis area a healthier place to work and live.
One of his earliest efforts involved advocating for a smoke-free Lambert Airport. Despite years of setbacks and frustrations, Martin kept at it… and finally, due to his and other’s efforts, St. Louis finally has a smoke-free airport and, as of Jan. 1st of this year, St. Louis County and City are finally smoke-free!
These kind of achievements don’t happen unless advocates like Martin Pion refuse to give up. Thus, it is my pleasure to present the 2010 NCADA Community Service Award to Martin Pion. Please join me in congratulating him.”