Heritage Heroes will be recognized this evening at Medina GCC

Staff Reports Posted 26 April 2019 at 12:36 pm

MEDINA – Five people committed to preservation and historical projects in Orleans County will be recognized this evening with Heritage Hero Awards.

Genesee Community College and the Orleans Hub have teamed up for the annual recognitions since 2014. The community is welcome to the awards program at 7 p.m. today at GCC’s Medina campus center on Maple Ridge Road.

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 – She 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.

The house 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 – She 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.

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 of a 7-foot bronze World War I soldier on the grounds of the YMCA.

• 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 (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.”

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