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December Jefferson Awards: Piecing Together the History in Olmsted County

Winston Churchill once said: "History is written by the victors."

In this case, the rich 164-year history of Olmsted County is kept at its history center by some brilliant women, working behind the scenes.

"When I came to Rochester in 1970, it was a whole lot smaller. I feel like I've grown with it, and also working with the city, you saw the growth happening," said volunteer archivist Linda Willihnganz. So that's a lot of investment in time and effort to turn around and appreciate."

After working for the city of Rochester for 36 years, Linda Willihnganz knew that her journey of service couldn't end there.

"When you live in a community that you really love and enjoy, you want to give back," said Willihnganz. "And this is a great place to give back because every day, we learn something new and we share it among the volunteers and that's what makes it so much fun."

She has volunteered at the History Center of Olmsted County for 11 years — and you can say she knows it all.

"She's been here longer than any of the staff, so she knows quite a bit about what we do here," explained Krista Lewis, archivist at the History Center of Olmsted County. "She spends about 15-20 hours a week just in the archives."

Hundreds of thousands of memories, pictures and documents line these walls, readily available for any curious visitor.

And that's what led Linda to finding her passion.

"I wanted to do my genealogy, so I hung out at the History Center several days a week and after about a year and a half of doing research, I pretty well come to an end of what I needed here. And the archivist at that time asked, since I spend so much time here, would I volunteer and I thought, yeah I could do that."

11 years later, she's still making a resounding impact in Rochester.

"She has a lot of personality characteristics that are the type of things people should strive to have: y'know kind and thoughtful and patient and helpful and she's one of our greatest assets here, I would say," said Lewis.

"I found my fit here now they probably can't get rid of me, but it's just a place I love to come to, I look forward to coming here," said Willihnganz. That's the place you want to volunteer at - and give back to the community that has given you your style of life."

"It is a better place to be because of people like Linda and volunteers like Linda," Lewis added.

"And hopefully I can fulfill the shoes of the future," Willihnganz laughed.

Maddy Wierus

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