GCC Anounces 2015 Orleans County Heritage Heroes

Batavia, NY – The renaissance mayor of Medina, a benevolent author who’s chronicled veterans’ oral histories, a tireless educator who restored a cemetery and a founding member of the Medina Sandstone Society have been selected for recognition with the second annual Orleans County Heritage Heroes Awards. These awards honor the time and investment of individuals who are tireless advocates in preserving Orleans County history.

The awards will be presented on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 7 p.m. under the central tent at the Civil War Encampment hosted by Genesee Community College’s Medina Campus Center. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. “It’s a true pleasure to shine a spotlight on these individuals who rarely receive recognition for all they do to preserve local history,” said Derek Maxfield, GCC assistant professor of history and coordinator of the College’s Civil War Initiative.

The recipients of the second Heritage Heroes Awards include:

Holly Ricci-Canham – One of the founders of the Orleans County Genealogical Society, Holly has served as the president of the organization and spearheaded the effort to educate the public about the Orphan Train Movement. This led to a reenactment at the Medina Railroad Museum and the discovery of several area residents who were brought to Orleans County by an Orphan Train. For many years now Holly has also spent many hours recording and transcribing oral histories of veterans for permanent preservation by the Library of Congress.

Somehow in the midst of these many efforts, Holly has published a number of books including “Legendary Locals of Orleans County,” and a book about the history of Carlton and Point Breeze for the “Images of America Series.” Holly has donated the proceeds of these works to the Orleans County Genealogical Society.

Susan Starkweather Miller – A longtime leader of student learning projects, Susan has taken on heritage initiatives time and again. The most ambitious of these was the effort to clean up and restore a cemetery at the former county Alms House on West Countyhouse Road. Working with 175 seventh-graders, their teachers and local historians, she researched the people buried in the cemetery for the county’s poor residents, reset headstones and erected a historical marker at the site. Later Susan would work with students on a booklet highlighting the cemetery and the efforts to restore it.

Susan also serves as one of the coordinators of the popular annual ghost walk at Mount Albion Cemetery and also works with students on projects that connect them with local senior citizens.

Andrew W. Meier – Currently mayor of Medina, Andrew has long been an advocate for the preservation of historic buildings. Beginning with his effort to preserve the Newell Building, he has been a leader of the movement to save the Bent’s Opera Hall and other buildings in historic downtown Medina.

Opened in 1875, the Newell building was purchased by Andrew about six years ago. Since that time he has created the T-Shirt Factory Café and is renovating the building for apartments and a boutique hotel. The Bent’s Hall opened in February 1865 and was dedicated near the end of the Civil War. The Orleans Renaissance Group was formed to salvage and restore the building. Andrew has served on the board of directors and served as treasurer and counsel. He also takes his message beyond the limits of Medina, speaking about preservation and revitalization wherever he can find an audience.

Andrew’s interest in preservation extends beyond buildings to include pipe organs as well. At one time Medina could boast seven such instruments. Today there are efforts to restore two organs. Andrew is leading the charge to install a rescued Holtcamp organ at Trinity Lutheran Church.

In 2012, Andrew’s preservation efforts were recognized by Business First in an extensive article that spotlighted the renaissance of downtown Medina.

William A. Menz – Dating back to 1977 and earlier, William Menz demonstrated his passion for historic preservation and celebration of local heritage. Beginning with the formation of the Armory Action Committee, William led efforts to find a civic purpose for the sandstone armory building and its maintenance. Eventually, the Medina Sandstone Society was born from these efforts with William a founding member.

More recently William formed the Company F Monument Committee to find a way to commemorate the armory’s military past and to honor the many war veterans from the area. This effort was very personal for William and he immersed himself in the planning, research, fundraising and even the construction of the monument itself! Many days were spent choosing the stone, grinding and milling it to perfection. And he did not stop there. Working with the scouts and others, he planned a little memorial park around the monument with flag poles and plants and shrubbery. A monumental effort indeed!

Those selected as Heritage Heroes could be of any age but had to be living residents of Orleans County. No posthumous nominations were accepted. History professionals and GCC employees were also not eligible for the award, nor were those serving on the awards selection committees. The selection committees were made up of staff and students of Genesee Community College, community members and history professionals.

The Civil War Encampment at the Medina Campus Center includes a wide range of activities on Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26, 2015. Saturday’s planned activities include Prof. Maxfield narrating the retreat of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army and subsequent surrender at Appomattox Court House. The event begins with a lively skirmish at State Street Park. Troops will then advance into downtown Medina where Generals Lee and Grant will meet, and a sandstone plaque will be dedicated at Bent’s Opera Hall followed by a flag-raising and the playing of “Taps.”

For the latest information about the Encampment, check out the website ddmaxfield. GCC’s Medina Campus Center is located at 11470 Maple Ridge Rd. in Medina, NY 14103.

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About Derek Maxfield

Associate Professor of History Genesee Community College
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