Saturday, April 19, 2008

Long Time Volunteer, Rebecca Smith, Recognized as Trailblazer

We were pleased to learn this week that a longtime supporter of the Society and former trustee, Rebecca Smith was selected to receive the 2008 Trailblazer Award. Sponsored by the Cecil Whig, the award is given to a woman who has blazed a trail in serving the community.

The Society was pleased to join others in nominating her for this recognition. Miss Smith touched the lives of two generations of Cecil’s young people as a teacher and guidance counselor during a career spanning five decades. In the midst of the Great Depression she completed her bachelor’s degree at Western Maryland College and started teaching history at Perryville High in 1935. After World War II, the practice of school counseling emerged and Miss Smith became one of the first practitioners here. The devoted educator sought out new professional development opportunities and broadened her knowledge as she helped guide teenagers. After serving the county for 41-years the popular and respected educator retired in 1979.

Glance at the handwritten notes scribbled in yearbooks during these years and you will see the admiration so many young people had for a caring professional that dedicated a great portion of her life to teaching them important lessons and helping them with the challenges of maturing. The Elkton High Class of 1976, which dedicated its yearbook to Miss Smith, illustrates this point: “As we worked our way through high school there was always one person to whom we turned in times of joy and sadness. The patience and devotion she gave each of us is deeply felt as we remember those times when her gentle nudge and her words of encouragement were all we needed. . . . With these things in mind, the class of 1976 voted unanimously to dedicate the 1976 Antler to their guidance counselor, Miss Rebeca Smith.” After that she served as the Chief Judge of the Orphans Court, finally retiring a few days before turning 88-years-old.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the lifelong Cecilton resident volunteered as a trustee at the Historical Society. During that time, she worked tirelessly to advance the organization and to assure that the County’s heritage was preserved. While helping better the organization in many ways, she was directly responsible for developing two valuable resources. The A. Rebecca Smith Yearbook Collection began when she donated her cherished volumes with so many fond memories of her students to the Society. The initial gift of 33-editions inspired others to donate so there are now nearly 300-books, which reveal the high school years of generations of teenagers and invoke priceless memories. Researchers putting together their family history or studying Cecil’s past treasure this valuable source containing once in a lifetime memories. Many other county societies have remarked to us that they wished they had such a valuable holding for one rarely sees such a large body of these works in special collections libraries.

She also created the Cecil County writers’ collection. This special holding is composed of books that were written by local authors and she always sought out additions to those titles. When she retired from the Society in the late-1990s, the tireless supporter and volunteer had improved the organization in many concrete ways.

We frequently hear that our organization is in the very top tier of societies in Maryland. During 16-years as a trustee and a much longer period as a member, the dedicated volunteer greatly contributed to the services and facilities we, as Cecil’s heritage keepers, bring to the public. We were pleased to nominate her for this honor and pleased that she is being recognized for a lifetime of community service.

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