Good Life

A different kind of awards season highlights history

A collaborative effort that resulted in the preservation and relocation of Bellefonte’s Freight Warehouse in April will be recognized Sunday during the John H. Ziegler Historic Preservation Awards.
A collaborative effort that resulted in the preservation and relocation of Bellefonte’s Freight Warehouse in April will be recognized Sunday during the John H. Ziegler Historic Preservation Awards. Centre Daily Times, file

It’s a never a good idea to live in the past — but the notion of preserving it seems to be enjoying a slightly better reception.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, the Centre County Historical Society will host its 28th annual John H. Ziegler Historic Preservation Awards at the Penn State Visitor Center.

The awards recognize individuals and organizations throughout the county that have helped to preserve pieces of local history. Big picture-wise, this covers a lot of ground — everything from volunteerism to restoration to education and advocacy.

Mary Sorensen, executive director of the CCHS, said all of these efforts really come down to the preservation of stories.

“We’re hoping that people are inspired to take a look around and notice those efforts and maybe take part in them,” Sorensen said.

We’re hoping that people are inspired to take a look around and notice those efforts and maybe take part in them. Mary Sorensen, executive director of the

Centre County Historical Society

While Centre County has yet to ascend to “Back to the Future Part II” levels of mechanized madness, getting people to mind the past in a society with eyes that are perpetually pointed forward isn’t always easy.

Think of the list of award winners as a cheat sheet of role models, folks who are a good reminder of what can happen when you put down the cellphone.

“I think it’s important to step back from that and look around,” Sorensen said.

Greg and Mary Kay Williams will receive an award in the Education and Advocacy category for their work with the Muddy Paws Marsh Wetlands Education Center.

They bought a parcel of land — about 40 acres — in the Penns Creek watershed in 1991, intent on restoring the house and outbuildings. The previous owners had drained the marsh and cut the surrounding growth way down.

After the Williams took over, they brought it all back.

“We didn’t know the value of wetlands and what the environmental benefits of wetlands are,” Mary Kay Williams said.

They learned quickly, though.

We didn’t know the value of wetlands and what the environmental benefits of wetlands are.

Mary Kay Williams

The Williams receive all kinds of visitors — migratory birds like sandhill cranes and people who enjoy watching migratory birds like sandhill cranes.

Other frequent fliers include fifth-graders from the Penns Valley Area School District, who come to the marsh to commune with nature — or more likely earn an “A” in science.

“We’re kind of excited because the first fifth-graders are now in college,” Williams said.

She and her husband believe that the land and all of the adjoining natural splendor are there to be shared. It’s something that they are happy to do — but a little recognition also goes a long way.

“We’ve kind of been at it for a while and it’s nice to get a little kudos every now and again,” Williams said.

The awards presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.centrehistory.org.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

Award recipients

Education and Advocacy: Muddy Paws Marsh Wetland Education Center

Preservation and Restoration: Joe Meyer, Meyer Dairy Farm; Friends of the Blacksmith Shop in Boalsburg; The Bellefonte Freight Warehouse

History and Heritage: Philipsburg Heritage Days

The Jacqueline J. Melander Award: The Ladies of Battery B — 3rd PA Volunteers

CCHS President’s Award: To be announced

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