No one more deserving: Museum’s research library is named for LaPorte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

Fern stands in front of the newly dedicated Fern Eddy Schultz Research Library.

Susie Richter (left) and Joanne Gorecki (center) unveil the plaque as Fern watches.

Attendees applaud the county historian in the museum’s lower level.

The library sign is revealed by (from left) Susie Richter, Joanne Gorecki and Bruce Johnson, while Fern (middle) watches.

Museum Curator Susie Richter gives the honoree a hug.

Visitors peruse an old yearbook in the library.

Just a few examples of Fern’s research and preservation work were displayed during the evening.

Story by Beth Boardman; photos by Bob Wellinski (click photos to enlarge)

It’s not the “sexiest” part of the museum; no rare firearms or shiny vintage autos or delightfully gruesome photos of a certain mass murderess. But the research library — now the newly renamed Fern Eddy Schultz Research Library — is the most informative part and the one that represents the hard work, heart and soul of the lady for whom it is named.

LaPorte County’s official historian beamed and humbly accepted the applause and praise of some 75 attendees Tuesday evening, March 21, 2017, as the research library on the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum’s main floor was named in her honor. Historical society board President Bruce Johnson and Curator Susie Richter revealed a plaque and sign at the entrance to the library, the contents of which Fern has painstakingly assembled, arranged and preserved over the last several decades.

This meticulously organized room is where you can go to find birth, marriage, military and death records of generations of LaPorte County residents. Look up old businesses in directories. Find your classmates or those of your parents or grandparents in vintage yearbooks. Learn where your ancestors owned property in old county atlases and plat books. And much, much more.

Here are a few tidbits about Fern’s own life and work that board member Joanne Gorecki revealed in her tribute speech:

— When working on the Pine Lake Cemetery Eason Chapel restoration project, Fern sent the pews to Westville Correctional Facility for the inmates to refinish.

— Fern’s meticulous preservation measures even included putting special filters on the museum lights at the old county complex site, and applying special film to the glass cabinets at the present site, to protect vintage documents and other items.

— She grew up on what was known as the Chestnut Grove Farm on Johnson Road, where her family harvested and sold chestnuts to customers worldwide. She still lives in that same farmhouse with her daughter.

— One of her two brothers, Charles Jr., was killed in the Invasion of Normandy during World War II.

— While a senior in high school, she was awarded a four-year academic scholarship to Ball State University. But her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she chose to stay home and care for her.

— Those handsome historic markers you see in front of the library, the Rumely factories site on the hospital grounds, Pine Lake Cemetery, the Civil War campsite in Michigan City, the LaPorte County Home, the courthouse, and the original Indiana-Michigan boundary line are all the result of Fern’s work.

— She is not paid to be LaPorte County Historian. It is a state-appointed, volunteer role and she works more than 20 hours per week. Gorecki read a letter from the retired Indiana Historical Society director who appointed Fern, Thomas Krasean. In it he said, “Fern Eddy Schultz was the one individual in LaPorte County who deserves this designation.”

The evening’s honors also included a proclamation from Mayor Blair Milo naming March 21 at Fern Eddy Schultz Day, presentation of a letter of congratulations and thanks from Tim Stabosz, representing the City of LaPorte and People Engaged in Preservation; and many other notes of praise from people who have benefited from Fern’s help and research over the years.

Gorecki said during her speech: “Our families document us by photos, sharing stories and saving personal documents. If a photograph has no name attached, or if a document is not preserved properly, then it becomes unknown to the person looking at it in the future. Archival preservation that is performed professionally such as Fern does will preserve the people in our community from birth to death. To be truly extinct is not to be a thought in someone’s mind. Fern has not only kept them alive but has recorded and preserved them for posterity.”

Fern admitted to being “kind of overwhelmed” by the evening, but admitted her pride in the library, adding with a touch of wryness that she considers it “a very important part of LaPorte County history … aside from Belle Gunness.”

WNLP encourages all to visit the research library and greet Fern if she is available. Take your kids there to learn about the importance of historic preservation. Print and label your family photos and interview your older family members to record their histories for future generations. These are just a few ways we can all thank Fern Eddy Schultz and follow her lead in preserving priceless history.

11 Responses to “No one more deserving: Museum’s research library is named for LaPorte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz”

  1. Ron Richie

    Mar 09. 2017

    I met Fern Schultz several years ago, when I worked as a part-time janitor for the Laporte County maintenance department. She seemed to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, pleasant to talk to and a walking encyclopedia of information. If not for people like her, doing the research, and recording it, much of our local history would be lost to us. If you have time and opportunity, I recommend that you attend this dedication.

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  2. Doug Snyder

    Mar 09. 2017

    What a great way to honor Fern. She has been invaluable for so many years. I have learned so much about La Porte from her stories. Congrats to a great lady!!!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Julie Smith

    Mar 09. 2017

    Congratulations, Fern, on such a fitting and well deserved tribute. Thank you for generously sharing your time, knowledge and passion for our community’s history. You are a rare, true gem.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Mike Kellems

    Mar 09. 2017

    What a perfect way to honor this wonderful treasure! We have a real gem in Fern and our community is so fortunate to have her.

    Congratulations Fern!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Dr. Alva R. Miller

    Mar 09. 2017

    Dear Ms Eddy, It is only fitting that this library should be named in your honor. You have devoted your entire life to collecting, researching, and cataloguing most of the history of LaPorte. If it weren’t for you, most of the current residents would have no idea as to what has transpired in our town for the past fifty years. You richly deserve this honor, and I congratulate you for attaining it.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Pam Ruminski

    Mar 10. 2017

    Fern, you have been a great help with my photo searching. Always enjoy seeing you. Congratulations!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Dean Heise

    Mar 21. 2017

    Fern, What a wonderful tribute to You and your world of La Porte history and events. I have enjoyed every visit with you over the years.Thankyou for your special services to our community with La Porter’s past. Dean and Sharon Heise

    Reply to this comment
  8. Lois reinke Meyer

    Mar 22. 2017

    Congratulations, Fern! May you have many more happy years doing
    what you love.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jan Boardman

    Mar 23. 2017

    Fern, your hard work and dedication are nothing short of admirable. I am so happy to see you recognized and rewarded. Keep up your good work. I am sorry I couldn’t be there to toast your success.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Rose and Syd Philbrook

    Mar 26. 2017

    This should have been earlier but it is a busy world and we forget how much effort goes into your work. Thanks to you. you make history interesting.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Michele Barber

    Nov 05. 2017

    You deserve this honor and so much more for what you’ve done in promoting history and historic preservation in La Porte County. No one can match the depth and breadth of your knowledge of La Porte County, or your level of commitment to La Porte County history. Thank you for all you’ve done. I am your biggest fan!

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