HN’s Heritage Hero Awards for 2019

Bruce V. Richman arrived at Buffalo Rill Ranch in North Platte wearing his Buffalo Bill gear, thinking he would be doing a presentation for a school group as he has regularly for the past 20 years. But on this pleasant fall day, a rider on a black horse galloped to the house firing his six shooter and yelling at Buffalo Bill to get on the porch for an award. Huh?

Above: Bruce Richman with HN board member Kim Elder.

 

By Eileen Wirth, History Nebraska Board of Trustees

Bruce V. Richman arrived at Buffalo Rill Ranch in North Platte wearing his Buffalo Bill gear, thinking he would be doing a presentation for a school group as he has regularly for the past 20 years.

But on this pleasant fall day, a rider on a black horse galloped to the house firing his six shooter and yelling at Buffalo Bill to get on the porch for an award. Huh?

History Nebraska Board Member Kim Elder of Paxton, leader of the “school group,” surprised Richman by presenting him with a Heritage Hero pin and certificate recognizing his many years of volunteer work for the ranch.

Richman is one of 53 recipients of History Nebraska’s new award honoring the contributions of grassroots volunteers who work for local historical groups and promote the state’s history. Recipients, who are nominated by their local groups, come from 44 organizations across the state. They include a number of couples and members of the Franklin County History Society Board.

A look at some typical recipients illustrates the contributions they have made.

Some are museum docents like Jean Johnson, a retired teacher who has developed programs for Omaha’s Durham Museum and Ken Tracy who plays “Wagon Master Broken Hand Fitzpatrick” at Kearney’s Archway. Others run major events like Jan Schliefert of Wahoo who annually organizes Wahoo’s Christmas on the Prairie celebration.

The Robert Henri Museum and Art Gallery of Cozad recognized Tammy and Larry Paulsen for their work to build the museum’s collection of this important artist’s paintings and sketches. Omaha’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral surprised Mary Dana Loring (who is well over 90) on a snowy Sunday before Christmas by celebrating her founding of the cathedral’s historical society.

One of the most moving awards went to Rosalie McKnight of the Custer County Historical Society in Broken Bow who gives tours of her museum five days a week, six during the summer, and answers questions from the public at a research center in her basement. She even kept the museum running when her daughter was undergoing chemotherapy.

History Nebraska Board President Lance Bristol of Ansley, who presented McKnight’s award, called the program “extremely successful.”

“It takes History Nebraska to places throughout greater Nebraska where we have never been and gives local history organizations a vehicle to recognize their very dedicated volunteers,” said Bristol. “This is a chance for History Nebraska to say congratulations to grassroots volunteers. We tell them that the state thanks you.”

Bristol said History Nebraska will again invite all Nebraska local history and museum groups to nominate their winners. Letters explaining what to do, how to do it and deadlines for submissions will be mailed in mid-summer.

“This is not a competition. Everyone nominated by a local museum or historical society wins,” he said. History Nebraska representatives present the awards at events that the local groups organize and publicize.

Here are the winners of the 2019 Heritage Hero awards.

 

Award recipient Ken Tracy with HN board member Vickie Schaepler at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney.

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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