Heritage Heroes praised for selfless efforts to keep local history alive
ALBION – When local residents write a book about growing up in Manning Corners in Clarendon, paint a watercolor of an aging barn, organize a fundraiser for the Cobblestone Museum or save a pipe organ for a church, they are doing work that few would undertake.
Big events of global interest, such as World War II or the sinking of Titanic, seem to have unending books, documentaries and historians devoted to telling those stories.
But the keynote speaker during last week’s Heritage Heroes celebration said only a few step forward to protect local historical sites or to preserve the cultural record in Orleans County.
That’s why these “Heritage Heroes” deserve recognition and appreciation from the community, said Adam Tabelski, a former Medina mayor. Tabelski has a deep interest in history. He earned a master’s in public history from the University of Albany and was Shelby town historian and past president of the Medina Historical Society. He now lives in Batavia and works as an account manager for Wendel, an architectural and engineering firm.
“How are we ever going to remember these unique things to our region?” he said during Friday’s awards program at Genesee Community College in Albion. “These things are so important because they happened right here in our backyards and they have meant so much to us and to our families and our communities over the years.”
Tabelski noted recent reports that show a majority of millennials, the new adults, are fuzzy with the facts about the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews were murdered. Two thirds of millennials don’t know about Auschwitz, a concentration camp where Nazis sent 1 million Jews to die.
Although there has been a shift to the latest 24-hour news cycle and the immediacy of social media, Tabelski said Orleans County is fortunate to have several people giving of their time and talent to preserve important local culture and history.
“You, heroes, are carrying a baton that few are carrying,” he said. “You are telling the stories that would otherwise fade into obscurity or oblivion, saving the buildings that would be lost, and inspiring others to learn and to appreciate.”
GCC hosted its fifth Heritage Heroes celebration on Friday. The following were recognized:
• Aaron Grabowski – Organist and director of Music at St. Mary’s Church in Medina, Aaron Grabowski has always had a passion for making music. However, Grabowski is more than a musician, he also builds organs. Prior to moving to Medina, he acquired a circa 1890s Barkhoff pipe organ, which was originally installed in Annunciation RC Church in Buffalo, built just a few years before St. Mary’s.
When he joined St. Mary’s Church, it was evident to him that the church’s ailing electronic organ needed to be replaced. Although the original pipe organ was removed from the balcony many years ago, the organ facade (consisting of exposed pipes and oak millwork) remained intact. Upon inspection of the organ loft, Grabowski knew a proper pipe organ, befitting of the church’s history and space could be installed.
Grabowski and several other interested parishioners worked together and decided he would install his Barkhoff organ in at St. Mary’s, and do the work himself with some help from volunteers in lifting pieces that weighed several hundred pounds. The Barkhoff was a perfect fit, given its age (built within a decade of St. Mary’s), classical voicing and having been designed by the same architect, Albert A. Post. Grabowski’s dedication and hard work will fill the nave of St. Mary’s for generations to come.
Grabowski was living in Kenmore when he visited Medina about 15 years ago, and was given a tour by village resident Chris Busch. Grabwoksi and his wife were looking for a village setting where they could have a historic home. Medina fit the bill, he said.
• Diane Palmer has always been a historian at heart and has long lent her talents and dedicated her time serving the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Cobblestone Society & Museum. Currently a member of the Board of Trustees at the Cobblestone Society & Museum, Palmer has led the museum’s rebranding efforts and has been instrumental in several key fundraisers.
She also is one of the coordinators of the Eastman at Albion concert series. The series has included about 20 concerts, raising more than $20,000 with the proceeds going to scholarships for Albion students who pursue music and the performing arts in college. In many of the concerts, Albion high schoolers have performed with the professional musicians in town for the concert. The series features Rochester-area musicians, often affiliated with the Eastman Community Music School, paired with Albion’s architectural treasures – the historic churches at the Courthouse Square.
• Arthur Barnes is a noted local artist for over 30 years and constant advocate for the community. He uses his artwork to celebrate Orleans County and its rich history. Barnes created a series of four large-scale murals depicting the Erie Canal which can be enjoyed in Medina, Knowlesville, Albion and Holley. Both a photographer and artist, Barnes highlights local tourism landmarks, such as the County Courthouse, the Culvert in Ridgeway and Mount Albion Tower. However, most of his work pays homage to the houses, barns and beautiful rural landscape of the area. These pieces serve to document Orleans County history as several of the houses and barns in his paintings are no longer standing. In 2000, Barnes bought a cobblestone building in Millville originally built as a Quaker meeting house in 1841. Barnes has repaired the roof and spent countless hours on additional improvements to spare what would have been an inevitable collapse of the building.
Barnes is active on social media as “The Artist Monk” posting photos and artwork about local sites. He was out of town on Friday. His mother and sisters accepted the award on his behalf. Barnes left a note with them where he praises the county’s rich history and vibrant landscapes, including the wildlife refuge, much, apple orchards, canal, historic downtowns and even the barns that often appear to be on their last legs.
“As a man who loves history and appreciates scenic views I feel very fortunate to live here,” Barnes said in his message. “In my travels I will continue to be a good ambassador and sing the praises of my beloved Orleans County.”
• Roy Bubb, a teacher and historian, added author to his resume when he penned Memories of Manning Corners: History of the Bubb Family and its Neighborhood 1931-1942, which is a retrospective on growing up in Orleans County. In 1986, Bubb retired from The SUNY College of Brockport after 25 years of service providing the best possible learning environment to future educators. In the late ’60s, Bubb co-created a simulation program that received recognition from the National College Association. Since then, Bubb has published nearly a half dozen books including his 2017 work, The Family Scrapbook, An Era in Clarendon and Holley-Murray’s History. Proceeds from Bubb’s many works benefit both the Madison Historical Society in Madison, NH, and the Clarendon Historical Society in Clarendon, NY.
Bubb said he grew up always asking questions to his family members and neighbors. He didn’t want to have those stories die, so he wrote the books.
The Heritage Heroes Committee also honored two local municipal historians with awards.
• Lysbeth “Betsy” Hoffman received the C.W. “Bill” Latin Municipal Historian Award for her nearly 40 years of service as the Carlton town historian.
Since 1980, Hoffman has served her community researching information, collecting names and dates, archiving and cataloging, and writing as the Town of Carlton Historian. For many years Hoffman was a regular columnist for The Journal-Register in Medina reporting the “goings on” in Lakeside. She developed special displays in the Carlton Town Hall and was an avid collector of archival material that continues to aid and educate future generations.
Lattin, the retired county historian, said Hoffman pushed to have historical markers in each town and then have a local book that compiled all of the markers. She also was the driving force to have a stream named Proctor Brook. Lattin said Hoffman has an amazing ability to know the news in Carlton.
“For someone who doesn’t drive or do email, Betsy knows more about what’s going on in Carlton than anyone,” Lattin said.
• Marsha DeFilipps, the Holley-Murray historian for more than 40 years, received the Bob Waters Lifetime Achievement Award.
DeFilipps has been very active in the Holley-Murray Historical Society. She was influential in establishing the Murray-Holley Historical Society Museum in the old train depot and has led multiple talks and workshops and helped many residents trace their own familial roots.
Recently DeFilipps teamed with Melissa Ierlan to present “Digging up your ancestors online” which is a public workshop designed to encourage and guide individuals down their own genealogy path. One of the signature accomplishments during her term as town historian has been her creation of an Index of personal names in Landmarks of Orleans County. To do this, DeFilipps spent many months combing through and extracting every name mentioned in Isaac Signor’s 1894 publication, developing a permanent record of history.
Matt Ballard, the current county historian, said DeFilipps and the other municipal historians don’t get the credit them deserve for the countless hours spent doing research and cataloging records.
“Much of what we do lacks the glory and pizzazz,” Ballard said. “But the municipal historians are cataloging, collecting, making sure there is something for the future of what’s happening now.”