Medina, NY – Now in its fourth year, the Orleans County Heritage Heroes Awards were created in 2014 as a way to recognize the efforts of those who give their time, hard work and resources to preserve and protect local heritage. Often unnoticed, the efforts of those honored help to ensure that the history of Orleans County will be passed to the next generation.
The 2017 class of Heritage Heroes will be recognized in a ceremony at Genesee Community College’s Medina Campus Center in Medina, NY, on Friday, May 5th at 7 p.m. According to Derek Maxfield, associate professor of history at GCC and a member of the executive committee that chooses the winners, “It is vitally important that we take the time to honor these deserving folks. Not only does it shine a spotlight on their efforts, but it reminds us that it is up to us – the living generation – to take the steps necessary to preserve our heritage for future generations.”
This year’s Orleans County Heritage Heroes are:
Jim Hancock has always been preservation minded and is a very high profile advocate for Orleans County history and culture. As president of the Medina Sandstone Society, Jim has had some pretty big shoes to fill with the passing of Bob Waters. One of the originators of the society, Jim has been instrumental in the creation of the Sandstone Hall of Fame. Jim has also been a major force in the creation of the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence at Medina Central School. As the former chairman of the Erie Canal Task Force and the present leader of the Christmas Parade of Lights and leadership in the Medina Tourism Committee, one has to wonder if this man ever sleeps.
Ken McPherson personifies what it means to be a Heritage Hero as gregarious keeper of the flame. A graduate and advocate for the Charles Howard Santa School, “No one has done more to keep Charlie Howard’s legacy alive in his hometown,” according to Phil Wenz when he presented Ken with the Charles W. Howard Award in 2015. A thirty year veteran Santa Claus, Ken has amassed an impressive collection of Howard memorabilia and is on the committee to erect a memorial to Howard in downtown Albion.
Richard and Shirley Nellist work as a team, and they have painstakingly prepared detailed records for the eleven cemeteries in the Town of Ridgeway – over 11,000 burials all told, which are now loaded into the Orleans County Genweb system online and available for anyone doing genealogical research. Active members of the Medina Historical Society, Richard and Shirley have both served on the Board of Trustees.
Gretchen Sepik brings history to life with her engaging and inspirational portrayals of Erie Canal Sal, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Jemison and Beatrix Potter. In 2009, the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council awarded Gretchen a grant to adapt her character Erie Canal Sal into a children’s book. As it is the 200th anniversary of the building of the Erie Canal, it only seems appropriate to honor Gretchen for her work educating young people about “Clinton’s Ditch.”
The C.W. “Bill” Lattin Award for Excellence in Municipal History will be awarded to Alice Zacher. As historian for the Town of Shelby from 1981 to 1995 and 2006 to the present, Alice is a true inspiration and a tireless advocate of local heritage. In 2012, Alice published “Slate Boards and Hot Soup: A History of One-Room Schoolhouses in the Town of Shelby.” Through this she not only did her part to preserve the history and culture of the one room schoolhouses, but she donated all of the proceeds to the Millville Cemetery. Clearly, another of her passions, Alice has worked to raise funds to preserve the chapel at the cemetery, secured a historic marker from the Pomeroy Foundation, and took the lead in getting the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. An active member of the Medina Historical Society, Alice is presently cataloging artifacts donated to the society.
Those selected as Heritage Heroes could be of any age but had to be living residents of Orleans County. No posthumous nominations were accepted. History professionals and GCC employees were also not eligible for the award, nor were those serving on the award selection committees. The selection committees were made up of staff and students of Genesee Community College, community members and history professionals.
The award ceremony on Friday, May 5, 7 p.m. is at GCC’s Medina Campus Center located at 11470 Maple Ridge Road, Medina, NY 14103. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. A reception will follow the ceremony featuring light refreshments.