LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Not long ago I had reason to contact a family in an adjoining state because I had questions about information found in the historical society’s archives and needed to clarify something. I did not know these people but I had an address, so I took a chance and wrote to them.
In a few days I was contacted by a soft-spoken 90-year-old gentleman who, rather than being rude at my presumption or suspicious of my motives, talked to me about his late wife and her love of historical preservation.
In the course of the conversation I learned that she had left a large collection of materials pertaining to this region. He told me of the hours his wife had spent gathering her collection, of the trips they had made together as she assembled these records on the lives of her progenitors, and how important the search had been to her. I could sense his love and respect for the hard work she had done.
I asked him if he had made arrangements for preserving her collection. He said it would be up to his children to decide after he was gone, but I could tell he was concerned that her work would ultimately go unread and unappreciated. I took the opportunity to tell him about the Laurel County Historical Society, our long history of preservation, our great library and our dedicated staff.
I told him that we would be honored to house his wife’s collection if he and his family decided to find another receptacle for it. And I volunteered to drive to his home and pick it up.
Weeks passed and then I got an email from his daughter saying that the family had met and decided to donate the collection to our historical society. This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting the old gentleman and his daughter and picking up those historical documents, pictures and other old records. They filled the trunk and the back seat of my car and represent the life’s work of a special woman. The man and his daughter were gracious and more than hospitable. My visit with them was warm and friendly and it was obvious that finding a home for the collection had lifted a great burden from their shoulders. It was a wonderful experience.