PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society looked back on 2011, lauded the efforts of local students helping the organization through senior projects and saluted four recipients of its Awards of Commendation during its annual banquet Saturday at the Lattimer House.
This year’s event took on a different turn than previous ones, as PAHS senior Anna Monyak served as the guest speaker, displaying a PowerPoint presentation of her project, which was a film called “But … Is That It?”
In the film — which she created with videography assistance from Ryan Maines — Monyak covered the history and legend of Groundhog Day but also noted that Punxsy’s allure doesn’t start and stop with Groundhog Day.
The rest of the video gave an overview of Punxsy’s history in the economy, industry and culture that extends beyond its Feb. 2 fame.
Also, Saturday’s banquet was a culmination of sorts for 2011 PAHS graduate Heather Heitzenrater, who was formally presented with her Gold Award – the highest award bestowed in Girl Scouting — by Alverta States and Society board member Shirley Sharp.
For her Gold Award project, Heitzenrater visited and photographed what few remaining houses exist in former coal towns such as Adrian, Eleanora, Stump Creek and elsewhere. The photos which have been compiled into a brochure the Society will use as a resource for those interested in how those mining communities looked.
Society President Marty Armstrong said the distribution of the brochures could span well beyond local borders.
Heitzenrater also drew original prints of the houses that the Society will use for later projects.
Heitzenrater is now studying art at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
Also, the Society saluted these individuals for their projects:
• Society Assistant Treasurer Greta Murray presented Devon Young, a cyber-school student who indexed the genealogy of the Corbett family and performed various landscaping and improvement projects at the Bennis and Lattimer Houses.
• Sharp cited Elder Nielsen, of Las Vegas, and Elder Collier, of Vancouver, Wash., representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for continuing an ongoing project, begun by other church elders before them, of photographing and digitizing articles and photos from the former Punxsutawney News, dating back to 1885. They will continue the project until they are called to another assignment, and two more volunteers from the church will pick up where they left off.
• Anne Lyons saluted IUP intern Katie Cappello, who assisted with the Society’s Native American series and outdoor cooking activities over the past summer, as well as accessed and indexed information.
• Society board member S. Thomas Curry honored Tasha Story, a PAHS senior whose project entails improvements and refurbishment at the Clayville Cemetery along McHugh Avenue.
• He said like the cemetery on North Findley Street, the Clayville Cemetery had gone largely ignored for a number of years. But fortunately for the Clayville location, a proximity of good neighbors — students at IUP-Punxsutawney and West End Elementary — different groups at different times have also performed various work-bees to preserve the gravestones and the site.
• “Someone has always made sure that someone takes care of that place for the people buried there,” Curry said.
• Story also plans to write a family history as part of her senior project.
• Sharp also introduced PAHS senior Shainia Reddinger, who used white gloves and implemented other special methods so as not to damage the aged and delicate documents from the Adrian Mine. Reddinger also showed a Power Point presentation about the intricacies of the project.
• Seth Gray restored windows and undertook other tasks at the Snyder Hill Schoolhouse, Young Township.
• “I’m interested in things that remind me of the past, so I wanted to do something with history,” he said. “It also gave me a chance to work with my grandparents,” Jim and Ginny Gray.
The Rev. Timothy Spence, of the Smicksburg Historical Society, also gave an overview of ongoing work at Grace Place, at the corner of Pine and Gilpin streets, and its proximity to the former Adrian Hospital. He also noted that a special Civil War reenactment will be presented Friday through Sunday in Smicksburg.
The Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society has cited four different groups and individuals as recipients of its 2011 Awards of Commendation:
• The congregation of Ss. Comas & Damian Roman Catholic Church, for the celebration of its 125th anniversary, which included he placement and dedication of namesake statues, as well as compiling an extensive history of the church.
• Attorney Nicholas F. Lorenzo for his period-appropriate exterior improvements to his office, the former J. Reese Pantall home, and bringing to life the spirit of famed attorney Charles J. Margiotti.
• Dr. Michael A. Vancheri, for his work in restoring the exterior of his office, the former Theodore M. Kurtz home.
• The Punxsutawney Rotary Club — represented by Thomas Chelgren — for displaying an intricate model of the former Punxsutawney Free Library, designed by the late Jeff Marshall.
• Look for more on these honorees in editions of this week’s Punxsutawney Spirit.