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Heritage Heroes set example in preserving past, community identity

Posted 25 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – The following were recognized as Heritage Heroes on Friday at GCC during the Civil War Encampment, from left: Bill Lattin, Matthew Ballard, Chris Busch, Robert Waters (also accepting for Craig Lacey),  and Clarendon Town Historian Melissa Ierlan (accepting on behalf of Erin Anheier).

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

MEDINA – Five Orleans County residents were honored in the inaugural class of Heritage Heroes on Friday night. The ‘Heroes’ included a lifetime achievement award for Bill Lattin, the county historian who has been active in many preservation projects at the Cobblestone Society Museum, Mount Albion Cemetery and many other local efforts.

“Not only are they deserving, they are worth of emulation,” said Derek Maxfield, a GCC history professor who served on the Heritage Heroes Committee. “The concentration of people here that are worried about history and heritage is remarkable.”

Maxfield pushed to recognize local residents who have saved buildings, cared for cemeteries, and fought to change a culture that often prefers demolition over restoration.

The Heritage Heroes were presented framed certificates, and citations from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Sen. George Maziarz. County Legislator Bill Eick presented the award winners with citations from the County Legislature.

Robert Waters received an award for being active in the Medina community with the repurposing of the Medina Armory and the founding of the Medina Sandstone Society. He has committed to many efforts to bring history into the present.

“They say you can’t live in the past,” Waters said. “That’s a lot of baloney.”

Waters wants the community to look to the past for inspiration about boldness and courage. This should be a push for people to reflect and want to make the present even better.

Waters also accepted an award on Craig Lacy’s behalf, as Lacy was unable to attend. Lacy has been an active participant in Medina as well, including his term as former president and current vice president of the Medina Historical Society. He also compiled a book of articles written by former Medina Village Historian Russell J. Waldo entitled “Medina’s Hitching Post Days.”

“I don’t think anybody can appreciate the hundreds and maybe thousands of hours it took him to produce the thick volumes of columns Mr. Waldo did many years ago. Craig pulled this out of nowhere and brought it to life,” Waters said.

Matthew Ballard of Albion accepted his award for his genealogical support of the Polish community. A noteworthy achievement is his creation of a Polish genealogy website – Albionpolonia.com. Ballard wanted to highlight the contributions of the Polish community.

Ballard said he never expected to be recognized for his work. “For me it’s always been a labor of love.”

Erin Anheier was also unable to attend the evening’s event. In her place, Clarendon Town Historian Melissa Ierlan accepted the award. She explained that Anheier found her love of history through her family, especially her mother.

Anheier has helped Clarendon to see the importance of its history through its buildings and was able to get a few listed on the National Register, including her cobblestone home, the Old Stone Store and Hillside Cemetery.

Chris Busch is also an advocate of historic preservation. He has been a part of the Bent Opera House restoration, as well as St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. He has worked to keep Medina’s historical character.

He serves as chairman of Medina’s Planning Board, which has set policy for preserving the character of the historic downtown business district.

Chris Busch, left, is recognized by GCC Dean Jim Simon.

Busch recalled that he was fascinated in school learning about World War II and when his father found out, he told Busch “I was there.” That real connection to history was driven home to Busch/ He said he appreciated what he learned even more and knows that it is a part of his own personal history.

“This is truly humbling to be honored for something that is simply me,” he said.

Lastly, Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin was surprised with an award for his services. Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers explained Lattin’s ability to find the extraordinary ordinary in front of all of us.

Lattin commits to spreading history wherever he goes and encourages the community, including students, to get involved in the preservation, whether it is buildings, photographs or stories.

“Those who forget the past have no future,” Lattin said, quoting his father, a former county historian.

The Heritage Heroes have given the community something to strive for in their own lives. Whether it is simply cleaning up a neighborhood or preserving old photographs, Orleans County has role models for improving our lives through the remembrance of our past.