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Abigail Johnson is the number-two executive at Fidelity.
Abigail Johnson is the number-two executive at Fidelity.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Fidelity Investments executive Abigail P. Johnson talked about bears — but not the kind you might think — at a dinner Thursday honoring her and three other notable New Englanders for their contributions to the region.

Johnson, talking about her love of New England, noted that visitors to Fidelity's Merrimack, N.H., bond-trading office include not just Wall Street titans but bear families from the nearby woods.

"I was in fact raised to believe that New England is the best place in the world," she said.

Johnson, the number two executive at the Boston-based investment giant, was one of four honorees named New Englander of the Year at the annual dinner of the New England Council, a Boston-based group that lobbies at the federal level on behalf of the region's businesses.


Also honored were Robert K. Sheridan, chief executive of Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. in Woburn; US Representative John Larson, Democrat of Connecticut; and the writer and historian David McCullough.

The awards are presented annually to people in the region for contributions to their fields of work and impact on the region's quality of life and economy.

Johnson, 50, in August was elevated to president of Fidelity Financial Services, the clearest sign yet that she will one day run the company her famous father built into a mutual fund giant with $1.6 trillion under management.

Edward C. "Ned" Johnson 3d, at 81 years of age, remains chairman of the firm his father founded in 1946.

Johnson's husband and mother attended Thursday's event with her, but not her father.

The Johnson family was honored in April by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce with a Distinguished Bostonians award. This second highly public appearance in Boston in a matter of months is a departure for the Johnsons, who keep a low profile despite their status as billionaire business leaders and philanthropists.


Past awards by the council have gone to politicians, including the late senator Edward M. Kennedy and US Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton. Business leaders who have been honored include General Electric's former chief executive, Jack Welch, and Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.