PITTSFIELD -- Richard Stockwell expressed surprise when he learned he was named the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association's Limousine and Sedan Chauffeur of the Year.
Apparently, many of his clients wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.
The city resident said he was called into the office at Transport The People Inc., where he has worked for the past 18 months, not knowing his company had nominated him for the international honor.
"I said, why me?" Stockwell said. "I told them we have a lot of good drivers. They said it was because of the feedback they'd received from people."
In fact, the company reported receiving letters of appreciation about Stockwell on a regular basis. One recent client wrote, "I hope your company realizes what a valuable asset you have to your organization."
Alfred LaGasse, chief executive officer of the association, said in a press release that Stockwell "stood out in this year's field of applicants because of the noticeable and loyal following he creates with nearly every one of his clients."
Stockwell, 70, is a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and a former Massachusetts state trooper. After developing health complications from exposure to Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam, he said he left the state police and worked for nine years with the American Red Cross's former medical transportation service in Berkshire County.
After a brief retirement, "I couldn't just do nothing," he said, which led to his accepting a job with Transport The People in Pittsfield.
"I truly enjoy providing a service that makes passengers feel like I am just an old friend giving them a ride," Stockwell said.
He said his job includes a wide variety of clients, some from the business world, many headed to and from airports, others being transported for medical reasons, and others to social events like weddings.
"The best part is meeting all kinds of different people," he said, from celebrities to newlyweds to the seriously ill. "It is up to me to make sure the transportation side goes right."
Some ask for Stockwell whenever they need transportation, including one man being treated for cancer who became ill during a ride to have treatment and was comforted by his driver.
There are quite a few regular clients, Stockwell said, adding, "It makes me feel good when people ask for me."
Among his recent clients, he said, were an international banker based in New York City coming to the Berkshires for a vacation, and "a girls' night out that turned out to be very interesting.
Stockwell said he makes a point of asking if there is anything he should pick up for someone or if they need to make a stop, and he tries to determine whether they like to talk or not.
"Some like to talk, some don't like to talk," he said. "You have to pick up on that."
He also tries to remember if a repeat client likes to find a Wall Street Journal in the vehicle or some other amenity for the ride.
While he primarily drives stretch limousines and Lincoln Town Cars, Stockton also has driven his share of vans. Within its fleet, Transport The People has four limos, five Town Cars and numerous 14-passenger vans and a fleet of smaller vans.
When Stockwell isn't behind the wheel, he enjoys spending time with family members, watching sports and traveling. He's also a member of the Pittsfield Licensing Commission and volunteers with the Civitan Club, the Salvation Army and the Christian Center.
As the 2013 award recipient, Stockwell will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Boston next weekend for the association's 95th annual conference and trade show.
According to its website (www.tlpa.org), the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association spans the globe and its membership includes 1,100 taxi, executive sedan and limousine companies.
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