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May 17, 2018.
The City of Salem, through its Historic Landmarks Commission, bestows two awards annually to recognize exemplary efforts in the field of local historic preservation. The Virginia P. Green award, is named in honor of a former history teacher who retired to Salem and fell in love with Salem's rich history and still tirelessly shares that love throughout her new hometown. The Benjamin I. Maxwell Award, named for a longtime Salem Capital Journal newspaper photographer-reporter who documented Salem's life and character over many years, recognizes outstanding contributions to the preservation of Salem’s historic resources.
The recipient of the 2018 Virginia P. Green Award was none other than Salem History Matter's own Deb Meaghers. In bestowing this award, the HLC remarked that "Deb is passionate about history, which is reflected in her life’s work! Deb worked for the City of Salem for many years,
staffing the Historic Landmarks Commission from it infancy. After retirement, her work with the KMUZ radio show, “Salem History Matters”, and her Program Blog have built a bridge between our rich historic legacy and our contemp-orary lives. Deb has co-authored several local history books, including one about West Salem. Salem is very lucky to have Deb within our community. Her work ensures that both residents of Salem and visitors to Oregon’s capital city have an opportunity to connect with our history for many years to come."
The recipient of the Benjamin I. Maxwell Award was Dr. Rick Neahring. The HLC recognized Dr. Nearing "for the nomination and rehabilitation of the Ed
and Marie Viesko House. The Viesko House, constructed in 1924, was nominated in 2016 and is a significant
example of a typical Salem English Cottage. This house is also significant for its association with Ed Viesko. Viesko was a Salem builder who constructed many of Salem’s buildings, including the Meier & Frank Building, the Marion County Courthouse, and Smith Auditorium at
Willamette University. Without property owners like Dr. Neahring, working individually to ensure their homes and their history are recognized and preserved, our Salem Historic Preservation program would not be possible."
Those of you familiar with our radio program and our Blog, will recognize Rick Neahring from the three episodes we produced chronicling, first, his plans for rehabilitating this local treasure, then through the process to nominate the house as a Local Resource, and ultimately through the process undertaken to pursue a National Register nomination. You may also recall that our co-host, Christy Van Heukelem was actively working with Rick throughout this process, researching Ed Viesko, his family and business, and the many contributions he made in the Salem community, and then documenting that research in the various formats required for the nomination process.
Although successful in achieving Local Resource status, Rick and Christy were not able to fully satisfy the arduously stringent requirements for National Register nomination. However, they were both extremely successful in documenting the many facets of Viesko's rich legacy in our hometown, and highlighting those impacts on the community character that we now enjoy. Well worth the effort--and well done!
Awards are soon forgotten; after all, a new one is announced every year. But the work to preserve our rich historic legacy is never forgotten, never without its own rewards. It is the responsibility of one generation to remind and regale the next of their shared history. A bright, promising future can only be ensured by building upon a well-respected and well-grounded past.
Cemeteries are typically the silent repositories of the history of local communities, and historic cemeteries often prove to be the gatekeepers to the treasures of our rich heritage! While strolling through the peaceful grounds, you can discern major components of local history just by reading the headstones: wars, epidemics, notable families, working families, times of plenty, times of trouble. Our guest today, Rick Hilts of family-owned City View Cemetery & Funeral Home, accepts this responsibility willingly.
The Hilts Family, first father and mother William and Fern, and later brothers Rick and Dave, have been operating this long-time Salem business since 1966 when they purchased the business from Fern's uncle and aunt, Herman and Leta Johnston. William Hilts, originally from Kansas, was introduced by friends to Fern Ingram of Albany who was teaching in Coos Bay after graduating from Willamette University. Fern's grandfather, Burl ingram, was a Linn County Commissioner from 1959-1974. They were married in the Congregational Church in Salem, and the rest, as they say, is history. Rick, whose background was originally in forestry, took over leadership of the business in 1983 due to the ill health and subsequent death of his father.
The cemetery was founded in 1893 by Jason Porter (J.P.) Frizzell. Mr. Frizzell and his parents had emigrated to Oregon over the Oregon trail and settled in Polk County. J.P. acquired this acreage from the Baskett and Headrick families. Herman Johnston, who previously worked with Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, was hired by the Frizzell family to manage City View in 1940, and then purchased the business in 1949. It's not known what lead Mr. Frizzell, a farmer from Perrydale, to purchase this acreage in south Salem nor what prompted him to begin a cemetery, but wouldn't it be fun to find this out? But that's best left for another day.
Several notable individuals are interred in the Mausoleum, including Mary "Indian Mary" Peters (1853-1921), ferry operator and park namesake; Henry Schauer (1918-1997), U.S. Army soldier and recipient of the Medal of Honor; and Larry Norman (1947-2008), Christian musician, singer/songwriter. Also resting in Mt. Crest Abby are the remains of at least eight former Oregon governors. Their photos are displayed below.
The Hilts family have long been helping local citizens discover their history. Rick was integral to the recent public archaeology project to uncover the Chinese Shrine in Salem Pioneer Cemetery. Their staff are always willing to assist folks trying to trace their geneology, and they welcome those with FindAGrave.com to locate and photograph headstones. As Rick stated so emphatically, "History is a big part of who we are, and the cemetery is where history resides."
We encourage you to make a discovery or two about your own heritage by strolling through your local cemeteries, wherever they may be. You won't be disappointed--and you'll get to add to your exercise credits, too.
~~Posted by Deb Meaghers
Deb Meaghers and Christy Van Heukelem, historians and authors, are passionate about the history of Salem and the entire mid-Willamette Valley. We love sharing our enthusiasm for our rich historic legacy with others.