Laurel Historical Society dedicates part of Cook House to long-time volunteers, supporters

By Lynn R. Parks

The Laurel Historical Society has named part of its Cook House after two long-time supporters of the organization. The Edward L. and Norma Jean L. Fowler Center for Research and Education was dedicated at a ceremony last Friday afternoon.

We are both very honored, and humbled, Edward Ned Fowler said, speaking by phone a week before the ceremony. We are very conscious of the fact that there are many others whose names should be on this. We are standing on the shoulders of 40 years worth of people who have been involved in the Laurel Historical Society.

If all of the people who came before us hadnt done what they did, we wouldnt have been able to do what we have done, added Norma Jean.

That may be. But, said society president George Denney, the Fowlers are the linchpin of the organization.

Ned and Norma Jean have been instrumental in developing and sustaining the Laurel Historical Society over the past 40 years, Denney said. Ned, well-known as an authority on local vernacular architecture, antique furniture and fine arts, is an original charter member of the societys executive board. Norma Jean is an accomplished professional librarian who brought her considerable talents to create the accession system. Their combined knowledge of local genealogy is formidable.

The newly designated center is a suite of two upstairs rooms in the Cook House. There, the historical society keeps many of the thousands of items in its collection. Norma Jean also works in that room, cataloging items, entering information about them on the societys computer and, when appropriate, scanning them into the computer.

Norma Jean has devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours organizing, photographing and cataloging, making sure that items are preserved for the future and that they are easily accessible, either electronically or for real, Ned said. People are increasingly turning to the historical society, searching out information about their families or about the towns past, he added.

All of the items that the historical society has Ñ toenail clippers that bear the name of a long-gone store, for example, or artwork done by elementary school children in the 1930s and 1940s Ñ is of value when it comes to telling Laurels story, Ned said.

All of this information really can tell us where Laurel has come from, he added. And hopefully, give a glimpse of the future that it has in store for it.

Honor is well-deserved, others in historical society say

In preparation for Fridays dedication of the Laurel Historical Societys Edward L. and Norma Jean L. Fowler Center for Research and Education, society president George Denney collected comments from society members about the couple. Below are some of the things that people had to say.

Cathy Parker Because of Ned and Norma Jean Fowlers passion for preserving Laurels stories past, future generations will have an amazing blueprint to continue the story.

Emily Abbott The Laurel Historical society is the Fowlers third child. Their passion for building and painting the history of Laurel is evident in the meticulous care Ned takes with the displays and exhibits in the Heritage Museum.

Norma Jean displays her attention to details with the thousands of photographs that she has logged. Her face lights up when she shares a photograph that represents the Laurel of bygone days.

Doug Marvil Ned and Norma Jean have been steadfast supporters of the Laurel Historical Society since its formation in 1977. I have observed first-hand their unflagging commitment of time, energy and expertise to the success of the society. They have provided the glue that has held the society together over many years.

Gareth Deitzel Since joining the historical society, I have been amazed at the [wealth] of knowledge that both Norma Jean and Ned have. They are willing to pass on this priceless knowledge to the next generation.

Brad Spicer Ned and Norma Jean have continuously demonstrated a sincere dedication to and a genuine passion for their work. Their devoted diligence has been of paramount importance in preserving Laurels history for future generations.

Scott Phillips I first met Norma Jean some years ago after she recruited me to help her with cataloging artifacts of our historical society. I remember being so impressed at the long hours and dedication she put into the task and how committed she was to preserving the history of Laurel. What I found to be totally amazing was the fact that Norma Jean was a native, not of Laurel, but of my Bulldogs arch rival Ñ Seaford. Our town certainly won the game when Ned brought her to Laurel!

Deborah Mitchell Working with Norma Jean has been a wonderful opportunity to learn about Laurels history, but it has been especially interesting learning the technique and process she uses to professionally catalog Laurel Historical Society items. Future generations will benefit from her hard work.

Jean Edwards I was a newbie to Laurel and knew none of its history, and yet I offered to do the societys newsletter in 2013Ñwhat was I thinking? Well, I soon came to realize that I could not have done even a single page of that newsletter had it not been for Norma Jean and Ned. I needed topics, pictures, contacts, a proofer extraordinaire; all of those needs and many more were met by these two individuals, who love their town.

Don Phillips Ned and Norma Jean, more than any other couple I know, have devoted themselves to saving and protecting the memories and heritage of our community. But they havent done this as an end in itself. Rather, they have used these memories to build up a sense of pride in community, in the accomplishments of our people, in the good work we have completed. By highlighting what we have accomplished in the past, Ned and Norma Jean have shown what can be achieved in the future.

They have made it one of their key goals to bring together the races in celebrating one heritage, not by glossing over the scars of racism, but by bringing together people of good will in all races to share their pasts. In so doing, people change their hearts as they learn to share and trust on a one-to-one basis.

To the Fowlers, history is not a dustbin, not a filing cabinet, but a springboard to the future. In featuring Laurels great leaders and their accomplishments in the past, they invite new leaders to stand up to take the reins of future progress.

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