Stories of Perry reawakened in Hometown Heritage series

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June 16 brought Perry native Pam Jenkins, standing left, professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans and a member of the Hometown Heritage Board of Directors, up from the Southern climes and to the Carnegie Library Museum in order to lead a discussion of loss and of hope. Jenkins was introduced by Perry Public Library Director Mary Murphy, standing right.

The personal stories that reawakened Perry history turned heavenward Tuesday night at the Hotel Pattee, with about 40 townsfolk helping to wrap up the series began with family and ended with faith, with stories of school and work and death in between.

The program, Reawakening History by Telling Our Own Stories, started out in March “to study, celebrate and communicate the contributions that small towns make to American life through the prism of the immigrant experience,” in the words of Bill Clark, president of Hometown Heritage, one of the program’s sponsors.

“Perry is a very special small town,” Clark said, “but you could go anywhere in the country to a small town in any of those states, and guess what? Those five themes would resonate with them: family, faith, work, loss.”

Along with Hometown Heritage, sponsors included the city of Perry and Perry Public Library, Hispanics United for Perry, Art on the Prairie, the Iowa Arts Council and the State Historical Society Inc.

Each meeting was moderated by a member of the Hometown Heritage Board of Directors, starting March 29 with family stories and family trees facilitated by the Rev. Andrea Brownlee and Marcus Carris and shared by community members in the Carnegie Library Museum.

Education stories were told at the April 26 meeting, moderated by Perry Chamber of Commerce Director Lynsi Pasutti and held in the Dr. Eugene Brady Library at Perry High School. The panel discussion included panelists Daisy Diaz, Dan Marburger, Dr. Randy McCaulley, Pat Mundy, Kandice Pattillo, Don Stracke and Clark Wicks.

Tales of working life, with special attention given to the Paley Arches at Soumas Court, were the theme of the May 24 meeting at the Towncraft Building, moderated by Perry Public Library Director Mary Murphy. Panelists were Bill Clark, Brian Eiteman, John Palmer, Bob Renzee, Rich Saemisch, Larry Vodenik and Jim Von Behren.

June 16 brought Perry native Pam Jenkins, professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans, up from the Southern climes and to the Carnegie Library Museum in order to lead a discussion of loss and of hope. Panelists included the Rev. Mabel Nieto, Gene Peel, Don Stracke and Mavis Struyk.

The July 26 meeting turned to faith, with Clark facilitating the discussion by panelists the Rev. Andrea Brownlee of the First Christian Church, the Rev. Charles Compton of the Perry Bible Church, Tyson Chaplain Gus Henrici and the Rev. David Polich, formerly of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

“Our community is made up of so many individual stories, and each one is important,” said Murphy. “Each one needs to be told and recorded so that it may be shared with future generations

Along with the monthly meetings, interviews of community members were conducted to capture new stories in order to enhance the existing collection of 700 audio and video interviews of Perry residents and nearly 15,000 photographs archived in the Hometown Heritage collection.

A sixth program will serve as a capstone of the series and give the community a chance to watch the recorded interviews. Details on the final program will be forthcoming. For more information, contact Mary Murphy at the Perry Public Library at 515-465-3569 or mmurphy@perry.lib.ia.us.

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