News: Jackson Co. - Women in History Award (Recipients - 2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Sonheim, Bohac, Staffon, Murray, Woods, Patterson, Johnson, Van Gorden, Speltz, Anderson

----Source: Banner Journal (Black River Falls, Jackson Co., WI) 3/23/2016

Meet This Year’s Women in History Award (Recipients - 2016)

Meet This Year’s Women in History Award Recipients

The Jackson County (JC) Women in History (WIH) Program was held Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at 2 p.m. at the Skyline Golf Course Clubhouse in Black River Falls (BRF). This is the 21st year for this program, which is held during Women’s History Month and recognizes Women in Jackson County who have made significant contributions to their communities and the county.

To qualify, a woman must be a resident of Jackson County, 60 years of age and have made a difference in the community. Since the program began, 87 women have been honored.

(At one time, then living in BRF Caroline Sonheim Bohac formerly of Town of Dewhurst, Clark County won. One of this year’s winners was Joan Staffon a former Neillsville High School graduate and Clark County resident, now living in Hatfield for many years, is one of the winners and Mary Murray Woods, at one time lived in Clark County, also is a winner. And back in 2014, Connie Patterson, a former Neillsville High School graduate now living in Alma Center, was one of the winners. Dmk)

Joan Staffon (Nominated by Lori Johnson)

Joan Staffon - Although she is best known by her life science students from almost 35 years of teaching BRF Middle School as the “20 bugs lady” and who volunteered her time during her vacation to take over 25 school groups to Washington, D.C.-New York, Joan Staffon has also been making a difference in a lot more activities that have benefited her community and beyond.

Joan joined the HCE Harmony Club in 1997. She has served as president of the JC HCE for a number of years. She chaired the eight-year Baby Sling project, which involved sewing and supplying some 400-plus baby slings to new moms at Black River Memorial Hospital. She also headed the volunteer group of ladies that would sew at her house when sewing the pillow case dresses. Because of their efforts, JC HCE was able to send over 800 dresses and 100 pairs of boys’ shorts to Nicaragua, Mexico and Haiti. Presently, Joan is involved with the hospital’s OB department. She has taken on the project of sewing breastfeeding covers for new moms, donating all the fabric and items needed. JC HCE was asked to sew goody bags for the state conference to be held in Eau Claire. Joan donated 80 yards of material needed and did the sewing during this past winter to complete the project.

In addition to these worthwhile activities, Joan has worked to develop new projects, hosted meetings and training sessions for Home & Community Education (HCE), such as garden workshop and Stone Soup Day at the UW-Extension Office for both members and the community. She received the Ardith Murphy Volunteer Award by the Wisconsin Extension Association of Family and Community Sciences at its conference in Milwaukee for outstanding volunteer work in JC. She received the JC Outstanding Volunteer award and has received the Outstanding Member Award on two occasions. Joan’s passion and enthusiasm for HCE has given her the opportunity to serve the HCE District level holding several offices, helping to develop several programs and having to present workshops at the state conference. She also has served at the state level as the Cultural Arts chair, vice president of Program, president-elect and presently as the president of the 54 county Wisconsin home & Community Education. She will be attending a conference in Warwick, England as the Wisconsin HCE delegate from Wisconsin.

The HCE organization is not the only thing that has benefited from Joan’s enthusiasm and drive. After moving to their home in Hatfield in the late 60’, she along with her husband of 56 years became very active in the Hatfield area with activities in the Sportsman Club and Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband helped to establish the Hatfield Fire Department and still continue to help in the various fundraisers for the fire department. Joan is also an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in BRF. Combining with being involved in the activities of her two sons, three grandchildren and two step-grandchildren including concerts, basketball games, wrestling, football, track and cross country that both sons participated in, Joan is one busy lady. She still volunteers her time to work at track and cross country meets, which she has continued to do for the past 35 years. Her love of sewing and quilting has produced works of art, which have received many county and state awards. Her family members have been the recipients of most of her beautiful quilts.

Because of all these activities, Joan would be an excellent addition to the long list of amazing ladies already named Women in History.

Mary Murray Woods (nominated by Mary Van Gorden)

Mary Murray Woods - JC has a long and unique history, dating back to the Native Americans, who came first … then the loggers, who came as early as 1817. Permanent settlements were started by loggers and farmers at Melrose and BRF in 1939. We became JC in 1853 - 163 years ago.

Records of what happened during those 163 years are plentiful, and they are absorbing. They tell the story of a growing society and its people. They are not only fascinating to research, but they help us understand where we are today.

The records of our county and its people are precious, and they must be preserved. Nobody has devoted as much time to that undertaking than the subject of this nomination.

Mary Murray Woods became the historian in the JC History Room in the BRF Public Library in April of 1995. She began with an empty room and during the ensuing 21 years, has managed to assemble and organize a collection of archival materials that is the envy of counties throughout our state. As early as 1996, the History Room was awarded the Wisconsin State Historical Society’s Organization Award of Merit during the society’s annual meeting in Madison.

Because of Mary’s tireless work, the History Room has available thousands of record: JC history books; family histories; genealogy “how to” books; church, school and business records; census records; land records; maps and atlases and one of the most-used resources, microfilmed versions of most all newspapers ever printed in our county.

A recent addition to the History Room, one which is due totally to Mary’s efforts, is the acquisition of over 43,000 negatives of pictures taken in our county during a 33-year period by Jim and Betty Speltz and Jack Anderson. Through Mary’s unrelenting determination, those negatives were saved from destruction in Oregon, were brought back to JC and are currently being scanned by volunteers in the History Room. They contain an unequaled look at past events and people in JC.

But collecting and organizing historical material is not enough. It must be made available to researchers of numerous kinds - family historians, students, teachers, writers and government officials. For nearly 21 years, Mary has assisted researchers, both local and non-local; she has spoken to groups throughout the community; and she has presented education seminars at the library to help promote interest in local history and genealogy.

Mary’s dedication to preserving our area’s history can also be seen in her actions to save St. Malachy Church from the bulldozer. Thanks to Mary and others she inspired, masses are still held in the nearly 150-year-old church twice a year. As part of the project, Mary undertook the job of compiling obituaries for everyone buried in the Church’s Cemetery.

A debt of gratitude is owed to Mary for the role she has played in preserving and disseminating the history of our area and its people. It is most appropriate she be named a 2016 Woman in History for JC.




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