Awards 2011

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by

Oconto County Historical Society Awards

Annual Meeting of the Society

Recipient Information

November 10, 2011



The George E. Hall Award – for documentation of Oconto County history

Oconto Promise is a group formed a few years ago to involve young people in the community.  Amber Van Den Heuvel thought a bike tour of Oconto would be a good project.   I don’t know if she even thought of what the scope of this endeavor would end up being.  As she progressed she did research on sites around town that would be of interest, and found she wanted more routes to highlight different sites.  By the end she had 6 routes and 46 sites.  Along the way she read numerous articles, talked to many people, and did countless revisions.  She overcame her reluctance to present to groups in order to promote her project.  Amber has certainly earned the George Hall award for her contribution to documenting and showcasing Oconto’s history.

Not very long ago Dave Retzlaff bought a building in town, a brick garage with an apartment above it.  Little did he know how it would impact his life.  The garage is what was left from a building that was originally built in 1872 as a music hall.  It went through several other uses until Chester Schwedler rented it in 1946 and started making cast iron toys.  The Stanley Toy Company flourished, becoming a national competitor of cast toys.  However, in December 1949 a mysterious and devastating fire destroyed the building.  The garage that Dave bought was all that was left.  Since then Dave has restored the building to highlight aspects of the Stanley Toy company.  Even more important, though, is that Dave began acquiring the very collectible toys, and the history related to them.  After starting in June 2010 with one he now has a vast collection.  He also has started a website that relates the history of the company as well as many photos.  He welcomes any information about the toys that people want to share.  Dave was drawn into it but we’re glad he pursued his passion to document a part of Oconto’s history.  We are pleased to present the George Hall award to Dave Retzlaff.

The Kay Stewart Award – for lifetime achievement in family history

This last summer I was at a gathering that Vic and Agnes Bast attended.  I noticed that Agnes was carrying a book, ‘Life’s Memories’.  I’m always on the lookout for people who have written down stories of their lives inOcontoCounty, so I immediately thought of Agnes for a Kay Stewart Award.  Then I found out Agnes had also written a book documenting her Konitzer family tree, and then an updated list of descendants.  Gathering the information to build a family tree is time-consuming but rewarding.  Agnes has helped preserve the history of another family ofOcontoCounty.  Agnes and Vic were unable to attend this meeting, but her son Russ Bridger and brother-in-law, Clyde Bridger, are here to accept the Kay Stewart Award on her behalf.

Last winter I was told that Lorraine Konkel was interested in attending a meeting of the Oconto County Genealogical Society that I am involved with.  I called her and offered her a ride.  So on a very snowy evening I picked up another woman and then Lorraine.  She had shoveled out an area so she could get in the car.  As we all talked we found that Lorraine was 98, had 16 children, still lived by herself, and was involved in many activities.  As she talked about her family she told us that one daughter, Joanne, had put together a book of the family tree.  I tucked that name away as someone who deserved a Kay Stewart Award.  I recently talked with Joanne to tell her the Historical Society wanted to present this award to her.  She was rather taken aback but wanted us to know that it was all about her mother.  Her venture started in 1986 when she asked her siblings to write the condensed version of their lives.  Since then Joanne has written a genealogy of her mother’s family, put together an hour-and-a-half dvd of family photos, and another genealogy that includes her father’s line back to Poland and living cousins.  In 2009 Joanne was again asking her mother about her life when she entered an essay contest that asked writers about the most amazing woman.  Her entry about her mother, Lorraine, won a trip for two to Las Vegas.  She put together a book about her mother and the trip.  Joanne has created a wealth of documentation about her family.  We are happy to present Joanne Konkel Talbot with the Kay Stewart Award.