Each year the South Bend Area Genealogical Society awards a sterling silver medallion to a Society member deemed worthy of it for their meritorious service toward our Society and its mission of furthering family history. Many members have not seen the medallion or know its history, so this article is an attempt to explain how the award came to be.
First what is it? It is a medallion about the size of a quarter, with bail for hanging attached. It has been cast in sterling silver for us for many years by custom jeweler John Mroczek. The obverse (front) has engraved the name of the recipient, “outstanding service” and the date awarded or the date for which the service is rec-ognized. Some discrepancies have occurred with those dates in past awards. i.e., between service year and year presented. The reverse or back face has our Society initials diagonally across the medallion.
The idea of an oak tree medallion relates to the early icon our Society chose in its letterheads, Quarterly Newsletter cover and other documents. The origin of this icon is lost in our Society history, but probably relates to the ancient Celtic symbolism of an oak tree as: life, strength, wisdom, nobility, family, loyalty, power, longevity, heritage, and honor. The oak tree symbol is common in most western civilizations. Our founding ladies chose this as a symbol for our Society and its future.
We believe the idea of presenting a medallion originated in 1978 a year prior to the first presentation. Who had the idea…..we don’t know. My suspicion is that it might well have been the very remarkable Jeanne Denham, our first President. It required imagination and some work with a jeweler to cast the medallion.
The first award was given to Fay Lies, in 1979 by then President Jeanne Denham. It was known as the “Working Member Award” its intent being to recognize outstanding service by a Society member and only Society members. The first use of the term “Oak Tree Award” appears to have been in the January 1982 Members Meeting agenda when member and founding lady Prudence Michael was awarded the medallion.
Since then we have presented the Oak Tree Award almost annually, occasionally missing a year. While we had a list of many recent recipients, much early award history was not known. So with Eric Craig’s help, he having easy access to all Society newsletters on his computer, we began investigating those early newsletters to identify, if we could, how it all began and who were all the recipients. The following list is our result and while still some gaps, it is the best history we have of the award. We found occasions where the date of the engraving, and the date when the Board recognized the service to be a year different. That usually occurred when the award was engraved and presented later in the year after the service recognized year.
We are proud of this unique award, its history, and the many members some now long gone, who gave so generously to our Society and we were able to recognize them with our Oak Tree Award.
Jeanne Denham, our first President, was the second Oak Tree recipient
Fay Lies was first recipient, Lauren Bostedt was third and Prudence Michael, fourth
SBAGS OAK TREE AWARDS
As of November 2022
|1978||Not Issued||Probable origin year|
|1979||Fay Lies||Spring 1981 newsletter|
|1980||Jeanne Denham||Spring 1981
|1981||Laureen Bostedt||Spring 1982
|1982||Prudence Michael||Spring 1983
|1983||Marie Hums||Spring 1984
|1987||John Yuhasz||July 1987 newsletter|
|1988||Francis Lies||October 1996 newsletter|
|1990||Ruth Price||June 1990 newsletter|
|1991||Irv Morse||October 1996
|1992||Toni Cook||Actual madallion|
|1993||Carol Collins||Actual madallion|
|1994||Gene & Mary Kempner – (2) awards||October 1996
|1995||Jeanne Everett||October 1996
|1996||Irene Forbes||April 1997 newsletter|
|2000||John Palmer||per SBAGS Board minutes|
|2012||Barbara Weiler & Eric Craig||Two awards (for 2011)|
|2013||Ken Reising||per SBAGS Board minutes|
|2015||Dave Eisen||Special recognition to Dave|
|2016||Audrey Johnson||April 2017 St. Joseph County Archives recognition|
|2017||James Piechorowski||April 2018 Polish genealogy and family history databases recognition|
|2018||Vicky Rydzynski||April 2019 St. Joseph County Archives & Records Center recognition|
|2019||Gary Gabrich||March 2021 Special Recognition|
|2020||Alice Clark||March 2022 Special Recognition|
|2021||Lisa Ellam||March 2022 Special Recognition|
|2022||Lacey King||March 2022 Special Recognition|