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5 ‘Heritage Heroes’ in Orleans County will be recognized

Photos by Tom Rivers: Tom Taber is pictured at the Civil War section of Mount Albion Cemetery. He has written two books highlighting the community’s ties to the Civil War.

Posted 3 April 2019 at 11:11 am

Awards ceremony will be April 26 at GCC’s Medina Campus Center

Press Release, Genesee Community College

MEDINA – The Orleans County Heritage Heroes Awards recognize the work and dedication of those who give their time and resources to preserve and protect the history of Orleans County for future generations.

The Heritage Heroes Awards will be bestowed upon the 2019 winners at a special ceremony on Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m. at Genesee Community College’s Medina Campus Center in Medina. The awards are co-sponsored by SUNY GCC and the Orleans Hub. The entire community is invited to come and help honor these important individuals.

The 2019 Orleans County Heritage Heroes are:

• Tom Taber – Taber, an Albion resident, has devoted many years to chronicling local connections to the Civil War.

In 2003 he completed his first book, “Hard Breathing Days-The Civil War Letters of Cora Beach Benton.” Taber transcribed, edited and researched 160 Civil War period letters of historical and genealogical interest from the Orleans County wife of a soldier. He followed that effort in 2012 with a 320-page book, “Orleans Battery – A History of the 17th New York Light Artillery in the War of Rebellion.” The book details the service of 240 men from Orleans County who served in the war. Taber worked dutifully for 15 years to track down stories about Orleans County men who fought in the war. He feels like he has adopted the soldiers from the 17th, many of whom returned from the war and led distinguished lives.

Harriette Greaser is pictured in July 2015 with the staircase made of golden oak at her historic home across from the Orleans County Courthouse. She and her late husband Phil lovingly brought the house back to its original grandeur.

Harriette Greaser – Harriette Greaser and her late husband Philip restored two grand homes in Orleans County, including a prominent house in Albion’s historic Courthouse Square, earning them the Landmark Society of Western New York Historic Home award in 2002. That house was built in 1893 at the corner of East State and Platt streets as the manse for the First Presbyterian Church in Albion. It had been the church manse, the home for the pastor, since the house was built in 1893. The house was designed by acclaimed Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner, and was constructed in the Queen Anne style. The house was in rough shape when the Greasers bought it, and they completely transformed it, scraping away old paint, bringing back original woodwork, planting trees, hedges and a big garden of flowers and vegetables. In addition to her restoration efforts, Mrs. Greaser has been the organist for Holy Family Parish/St. Joseph’s Catholic Church since 1987.

Lynne Menz receives a special recognition award during the Orleans County Heritage Festival on Sept. 8, 2017. Derek Maxfield, one of the festival coordinators, presents Menz, one of the festival coordinators, with the award for her efforts in promoting the county’s historic assets.

• Lynne Menz – Lynne Menz is a strong supporter of making historical artifacts and local heritage preservation an attractive destination for young and old in Orleans County. Her direct assistance with GCC’s Civil War Initiative (2013 – 2015) and her leadership on the event committee for the Orleans County Heritage Festival (2017-2018) were instrumental in highlighting the noteworthy history of Orleans county people, places and things. In 2018, Lynne orchestrated the screening of “Pieced Together” – the first film documentary about the American quilt square trail movement – at Kendall High School which featured filmmaker Julianne Donofrio and Orleans County Barn Quilt Trail organizer Lora Partyka. Her recent efforts are culminating in a labor of love started by her father, Bill Menz, to honor Orleans veterans who mustered to go to war through the Medina Armory (now the YMCA) with the installation and dedication of a seven-foot bronze World War I soldier on the grounds of the YMCA this fall.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Todd Bensley, Village of Medina historian and member of the Boxwood Cemetery Commission, stands in the veterans’ section of Boxwood Cemetery. Bensley last year published a 314-page book about the cemetery.

• Todd Bensley (Receiving the Bill Lattin Municipal Historian Award) – Bensley has worked as the Medina village historian since 2004. Prior to that he was president of the Medina Historical Society. He has led numerous historical tours of Medina, engaged students in local history and written a book about the community’s historic cemetery. Through his role as a teacher at Medina High School, Todd leads student and new teacher tours of Medina and assists his students with a local history project each year. He teamed up with the Medina Sandstone Society to establish the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence in 2015. In 2014, he worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to designate Boxwood Cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. That effort led to more research on the cemetery, which culminated with his book, “Boxwood Cemetery: Where the Past is Present.” Proceeds from the book are donated to Friends of Boxwood Cemetery.

Neil Johnson signs a copy of a booklet he put together about the history of the fair. He is pictured on July 24, 2017 at the fair in Knowlesville. For about a half century he also has helped lead a 4-H club for rabbit raisers.

• Neil Johnson (Receiving the Bob Waters Lifetime Achievement Award) – Johnson has been the Albion village historian since 1980. He wrote a weekly column, “Albion, Oh Albion,” in the Albion Advertiser for 26 years, compiling more than 1,300 columns about village history, often highlighting regular folks in the community. He has written books about the history of Swan Library and the Orleans County 4-H Fair. He teamed with historian Bill Lattin to do an inventory of all the historical markers in the county. They are included in a book in 2001. Johnson was critical to the effort in 2000 for the establishment of a monument at Mount Albion Cemetery for at least 50 pioneer black residents in the county. Neil also has been honored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension with the Legacy Award for serving as a 4-H leader for a rabbit club for more than 40 years. Johnson worked as an archeologist and taught anthropology at The SUNY College at Brockport. He continues to do monthly lectures – “Take a Bite Out Of History” – about local history.

The keynote speaker for the awards ceremony will be Dr. Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer. Dr. Bailleul-LeSuer is currently the historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society, whose headquarters are at the Morgan-Manning House in Brockport. However, she is first and foremost an Egyptologist and she continues her research on birds in ancient Egypt. To get a better understanding of the various ways that birds were incorporated into the daily life of ancient Egyptians, she especially studies the bird mummies now held in museum collections. In 2012-13, she was guest curator of the Oriental Institute Museum special exhibit entitled “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt.” She is now working on the publication of a monograph entitled “From Marshes to Farmyard: Aviculture and Poultry Husbandry in Pharaonic Egypt.”

The award ceremony on April 26 will be held in GCC’s Medina Campus Center, located at 11470 Maple Ridge Rd. The event is free to attend and open to the public, but seating is limited. A reception will follow the ceremony featuring light refreshments.

For more information on the awards or the ceremony, contact Jim Simon at simon@genesee.edu or Prof. Derek Maxfield at ddmaxfield@genesee.edu or by calling the Medina Campus Center at 585-798-1688.

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