Photos: Chris Guillen

From Top: Angel Meléndez and Mona Purdy; Hallie Amey’s daughters (from left) Frankie and Ethel, with Carrie Wicks; Mary Ann Childers and Rev. Dr. Walter Johnson Jr., a 1998 honoree; James Grossman and Ann Durkin Keating; Billy and Gloria Pierce with Minnie Minoso

The Honorees at Chicago magazine’s annual Chicagoans of the Year celebration were gathering for photographs when Mona Purdy arrived, talking a mile a minute and trying not to cry. The founder of Share Your Soles, a nonprofit that donates shoes to needy people worldwide, Purdy had learned that morning that the U.S. State Department had granted her group permission to enter Pakistan, where an estimated 3.5 million people were left homeless by last October’s earthquake. “I’m going to ship them everything I have-all the boots in the warehouse,” she declared. “Some of the kids there have already had their toes removed because of frostbite.”

Such dogged pursuit of an ideal typifies the six individuals and one world champion baseball team that were feted in January by more than 250 guests with a luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Hallie Amey won recognition for her work as president of the Wentworth Gardens Resident Management Corporation, where she has spent more than a decade overseeing the rehabilitation of the West Side housing complex. James R. Grossman and Ann Durkin Keating edited The Encyclopedia of Chicago, an illuminating reference work that has already sold roughly 45,000 copies. Grossman said, “Now people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re the encyclopedia guy!'” Carrie Wicks, of the University of Chicago Hospitals, raised money to set up medical projects in Botswana and Ghana and organized Nurses in the Forefront for Africa (NIFFA) to continue her work. Angel Meléndez, leader of the Grammy-nominated 911 Mambo Orchestra, which has drawn a spotlight to Chicago’s Latin music scene, called his award “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever received.” The legendary lefty Billy Pierce, who anchored the White Sox pitching staff from 1949 to 1961, accepted the award on the team’s behalf.

As usual, the program was emceed by CBS 2 Chicago’s Mary Ann Childers, who summed up its continual appeal: “Every time I look at the list of the Chicagoans of the Year, it’s never the usual suspects.”