Village of Florida Historian retires

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:34

Gary Randall’s efforts led to the preservation of the birthplace of Florida native and Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State - William Henry Seward Florida — Gary Randall has retired after 21 years as Village of Florida historian. He devoted much of his time to preserving and promoting the heritage of the community - a great deal of which would have been lost if not for his efforts. Beginning in 1990, the catalog of Randall’s contributions and projects is impressive - most especially because this position carries with it no salary and little in the way of recompense for expenses incurred, noted Sue Gardner, deputy historian for the Town of Warwick. Early on Randall felt that to preserve local history, it was essential to form a core group of associates to work with cooperatively. So the Florida Historical Society was born, chartered in 1991 by the New York State Board of Regents. “Gary’s record in this time period is truly mind boggling.” Gardner said in a press release announcing Randall’s retirement. “He has worked with great tenacity, giving unstintingly of his time, expertise and personal funds. “Over the years I have referred many, many questions to Gary and his wife Kathy,” Gardner added, “and they have always done the very best they can to connect those seeking information with the material they are looking for, often at personal expense.” Of all of his accomplishments, perhaps the most significant on a national level has been Randall’s devotion to the cause of preservation of the birthplace of William Henry Seward - recently realized through its purchase using the Town of Warwick’s Community Preservation Fund, in large part because of his efforts and those of his associates at the Florida Historical Society. Seward was governor of New York, a United State Senator, an outspoken opponent of slavery, Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and the engineer of the purchase of Alaska from Russia that at the time was ridiculed as “Seward’s Folly.” “The issues Seward struggled with during his long career helped shape us as a nation and are emblematic of our country’s character,” Gardner said. “The William Henry Seward Birthplace is one of those projects that if done patiently and properly, will earn national recognition. It will take everyone pulling together - but that is one of the things our community is noted for-rolling up its sleeves and getting the job done.” Randall will continue supporting local history as president of the Florida Historical Society and as a board member of the Historical Society of the Town of Warwick. William Pillmeier was recently appointed as the village’s new historian. A historian’s CV: Projects of the Florida Historical Society under Gary Randall’s tenure as village historian have included: Recording oral histories from prominent local residents and videoing important events. The establishment of Seward Day to celebrate Florida’s most famous son. Erection of historical markers and plaques. Placing significant structures on the National Register of Historic Places. Restoration of the William Henry Seward Monument and park. Establishment of the Florida Museum. Lectures and class visits. Historic walking tours. Sponsorship of a historical research High School Graduation Award. Production of a book on Florida history, which won an award from the Lower Hudson Conference of Museums. Co-authoring a photographic history of the Town of Warwick. The establishment of a local law giving 30 days’ notice to the historian before the destruction of older buildings so they could be documented and some of their architectural elements preserved. All of this was accomplished in between receiving and responding to hundreds of questions about local history and genealogy from near and far. In an e-mail exchange, Randall described his efforts this way: “My philosophy is working as a team (together each accomplishes much) to achieve a desired outcome. Much of what was done over my 20 years was a group effort.” “People just don’t realize what a gift to the community it is to have someone this dedicated. We are very fortunate.” Sue Gardner, deputy historian for the Town of Warwick, speaking about Gary Randall who is retiring after 21 years as Village of Florida historian