About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The sudden death of longtime Blue Earth County Historical Society volunteer Orv Jensen was truly unexpected. When I worked at BECHS in the early 1990s, Orv and his colleague Win Grundmeier were already veteran volunteers, and they did much to educate me about this field. Thanks, Orv, for all you did for me. You will be missed.

Earlier today I spoke with current BECHS executive director Jessica Potter, who both lamented Orv’s death and those of other longtime volunteers. For the moment, each retains their mailboxes at BECHS. Jessica is thinking about ways to substantially honor people who spend abundant time as volunteers without permanent memorials affixed to the building that would have to be left behind should the museum ever move and would not be something future staff would have to find room to house (like a bronzed desk), but would be something that staff and loved ones could visit and remember the volunteer and the volunteer’s contributions and passions.

How do you honor extraordinary volunteers posthumously? In what ways might volunteer memorialization be sustainable?

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3 Responses to Memorials for Volunteers

  1. Mary Warner says:

    We had a volunteer, Rod, who actually used his volunteer work with us as a way to keep his mind occupied while undergoing treatment for cancer. He indexed obits and had the most beautiful handwriting. Every time I see one of the index cards he filled out, I remember him. Actually, it’s through handwriting that I remember all of our previous staff and volunteers. A strange sort of memorial, but it is one nonetheless.

    When Rod passed away, his wife asked if she could plant a tree on museum property as a memorial to him. We thought this was a fabulous idea and accommodated her request.


  2. jon wendorff says:

    when long time curator Mary Lou Ludeman was diagnoised with cancer, we honored her with a small party for museum volunteers, we chose her honor with a flower garden which we dedicated after her passing with memebers of her family present. we do take memeorials of trees an shrubs also on museum property


  3. Our longtime member and volunteer Bob Reiss was instrumental in starting our “Save the Beehive” Campaign. When he passed away we used memorial money given in his name as the basis for the fianacial campaign which culminated in the St. Louis Park Historical Society contributing $10,000 to the project and the Beehive being moved and restored and the new Lilac Park opening in summer 2009.
    Another longtime member and volunteer Don Swenson who was the editor of our book “Something In The Water” passed away last year. Memorials given in his name have been used to put plaques on historic buildings in the Park. The first was the Walker Building a century old commercial building still in use. Don’s parents had a grocery store in this building early in the century.
    Memorials have been a great way to boost projects we want to presue and to honor people who have made significant contributions to the St. Louis Park Historical Society.


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