The Monroe Historical Society moved into high gear Saturday with the election of new officers, recognition of four members, and a visual presentation of local historic barns followed by a chocolaty garden reception.
The meeting’s entertainment provided a window into the town's yesteryear. Lee Hossler of Monroe spent some six months surveying and photographing 70 barn-like structures in town.
"I love barns," said Hossler and because of it, he volunteered his time and expertise to The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. His survey is part of a statewide effort and one of the first in the nation, to inventory and preserve a state's historic barns.
The result was his visual presentation of diverse buildings ranging from large classic country barns and carriage houses to barns for chickens.
To many, historic barns are no more than old buildings, remnants of times long gone. But to historians and those who look deeper than the weathered wood, a barn is a tribute and testament to who we are as a people.
Built long before Monroe's current residents were born, Monroe’s historic barns remain a symbol of the values that helped early settlers survive — self-reliance, diligence, hard work and family. When barns were built in the 1700 and 1800s they were the glue that held families to the land.
"The ingenuity and engineering in many of them is remarkable," said Hossler.
"I know there must be barns I missed that can't be seen from the road," he said at the close of his slide show. "I hope those people will contact me." His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He intends to find and photograph every one of them with the owner's permission.
Following his presentation, members and guests spilled out onto the lawn surrounding their East Village "Meeting House" for a garden reception.
A new slate of officers is taking the reins from their predecessors just after the very successful, sell-out tour of Monroe Mines & Mills, and in anticipation of next month's extremely popular, annual night with Hannah Cranna, Monroe's own historical witch.
New President Karen Cardi has already expanded the Oct. 22 activities to three haunting sessions geared to different age groups.
"There will be programs at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.," she said indicating that the latest session will be the spooky one. Reservations are required.
Supporting Cardi in her new two-year term will be First Vice President Paul Liscio, Second Vice President Julie Tobin, Treasurer Deb Heim and Secretary Sue Wilgan.
Rounding out the Board of Directors will be members Chris Ehlers, Lorraine Riedel, Louise Wishneski and Madeline Marshall.
Past President Nancy Zorena will remain Collections Manager and Monroe native Ed Coffey remains the Society’s official Historian.
Sue Selk will concentrate on bringing in new members. Judy Standerford will handle the organization’s public relations. A volunteer attorney or local law firm is currently being sought to give occasional legal counsel to the Society on legal and land matters.
Four volunteers honored
Two founders of the Society, and its supporters for the past 52 years, were honored with recognition, bouquets and the title Board of Director Emeritus for Life.
Honoree Elma Jean Beardsley Wiacek was thanked for her many contributions including curatorial work on collections, the donation of collection items, her "untiring work" on various fundraisers and the sharing of her memories of local life in past times.
She was among the first graduates from Monroe Public School in 1936 and will celebrate her 90th birthday soon. She remembers it all.
"They've even got my wedding dress on display," she said smiling at her flowers.
Fellow honoree Philip Jones also served decades on the board. He tended to whatever the society needed over the years — wood from his own saw mill for a new porch on the historic Beardsley House, stairs for the Society's barn, Christmas trees for decoration and raffle season after season, and time, labor and money — all donated.
To celebrate his past 90th birthday, he presented a program for the Society on "How to identify historic tools and objects." He was unable to attend the meeting.
Two other volunteers were given recognition, flowers and a big "Thank-you."
Angie Valentino stepped forward to help the Society after it opened its Monroe History Room at the Edith Memorial Library. Using her executive secretarial skills she organized, and orchestrated the use of the new town resource working at least once a week keeping it open to the public.
Most recently she co-chaired the society's textile sale and has been instrumental in bringing in new society members.
Marion Lindsley brought her "green thumb" to the society. After researching perennials that Thomas Jefferson had in his gardens, she tracked down the plants and developed arrangements for their planting and care at Beardsley House. The plants and flowers now compose the Society’s Memorial Garden.
She also assisted Valentino in archiving the Society's 52 years of minutes, as well as, many historical documents such as letters from the Burr sisters.
For more information on the Monroe Historical Society, upcoming programs and membership, visit www.monroehistoricsociety.org.