In a building full of Norfolk’s history, members of the Norfolk community were recognized for their efforts in preserving Norfolk’s culture.
The 2019 Dogwood Awards, named after Norfolk’s official flower, were held at the Delhi Tobacco Museum on May 29. The event was led by Melissa Collver, director of heritage and culture for Norfolk County.
“Norfolk’s lively heritage and culture community has been built on the tireless efforts of countless dedicated individuals and groups, and it is a privilege to work with them,” said Collver. “What a wonderful way tonight is to end May is Museum Month.”
Awards were handed out for youth, individual, group and lifetime achievement.
Abi Boatright, a Grade 10 student at Waterford District High School, was the recipient of the youth award.
Boatright began her interest in Norfolk as a young camper at the Waterford Heritage & Agricultural Museum (WHAM) program. Boatright now is involved in WHAM, Waterford Old Town Hall, her school’s student council, along with multiple sports teams, music, and drama clubs. With her involvement in all of these activities she is still able to maintain a 95 per cent average in her classes.
“I feel really honoured to be accepting this award. I really appreciate being recognized,” said Boatright. “I really enjoy all of the different experiences, and all of the different people I get to meet.”
Boatright said her drive to participate in the community so extensively is the opportunity to share experiences.
“It’s just to get to enjoy and experience as many different things as I can in this county, and in the process be able to meet others and share the experience with others within the community.”
Two individual awards were delivered, one to Mary Caughill, and the other to Mary Jane Kekes.
Caughill is involved in the Norfolk Heritage Committee (NHC), serving as chair for the committee, the Vittoria and District Foundation, and volunteers with multiple different organizations, including the Norfolk County Archives at the museum.
Caughhill is active in the NHC, creating requests to be reviewed by council regarding historic significance of buildings, participating in site visits, and presentations at community events.
Caughill sits on many committees involving Vittoria, and has conducted walking tours of Simcoe.
“She is thoughtful, yet passionate in her approach,” said Collver.
Kekes is active in the Delhi community, as a member of the Hungarian Hall, acting as president for a few years, and is now president of the Multicultural Heritage Association.
“It’s wonderful, it means the world to me. It came as a real surprise,” said Kekes. “I’ve made so many wonderful friends through all of the organizations I belong to. I’m so proud of my heritage.”
Kekes took a moment to consider the biggest highlight of her volunteering career.
“Being part of the Multicultural Heritage Association is very special because it began with Reverend (Laszlo) Pandy many years ago, and I was so close to the Pandy family. To carry on his legacy means a lot to me,” said Kekes.
The group award was given to Norfolk Remembers Committee, which has published a series of books about the soldiers from Norfolk that have risked or given their lives for the freedom of everyone in Norfolk. Art Hayward accepted the award on behalf of the committee.
Members of the committee in attendance were Hayward, Heather King, David Stelptra, Beverley Slater, Jim Nicholls, and Trevor Delvaux.
King said she had only been the CEO of the library for two weeks when she was approached by members of the committee with the idea of writing and publishing the first book of their series.
“I am overwhelmed that our committee has been honoured with the 2019 Norfolk County Heritage and Culture Dogwood Group Award,” Grant Smith, Norfolk Remembers Committee member, said in an earlier press release. “I can remember sitting in a Grade 1 class in Delhi in 1946 and learning that the trillium was our provincial flower and that the dogwood was our county flower, and now we can place a dogwood pin beside the poppy and the lapel pin of the 133rd Norfolk Battalion.”
Smith was unable to attend the event.
The lifetime achievement award was presented to John B. Lee, a retired educator and a poet laureate for Norfolk County.
Many of Lee’s poems are inspired by living in Norfolk County. He has written poems about sunbathers along Lake Erie, and special finds from Norfolk.
Lee inspired and established the Poet’s Garden at the Port Dover branch of the library, and the annual tree planting on the grounds to honour writers.
“What an honour to be here amongst my fellow Norfolkians,” said Lee. “It means a great deal to me to be honoured. They say a prophet is never honoured in his home, and I can hear my wife saying ‘who said you were a prophet?’”
“If I can make a prophecy of Norfolk, it will flourish as long as it has people like yourselves in its midst,” Lee said to the crowd.