Rochester woman recognized by Indiana Historical Society

A Rochester woman has received the award of a lifetime.

Shirley Willard is the recipient of the Indiana Historical Society’s 2017 Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award. She will be recognized during the annual Founders Day dinner in Indianapolis on November 6 for her contributions to the field of history.

Willard is a popular columnist and Fulton County historian who the Indiana Historical Society says has educated and preserved history with a high level of engagement with the community.

“I have observed Shirley give of her life to our community,” writes Amy Roe, president of the Fulton County Tourism Commission. “She has sacrificed in ways that many do not know and for a cause that many do not always appreciate, yet this does not keep her from her work. She has created events that have become family traditions.”

Those traditions include a commemorative caravan along the Trail of Death, which has taken place every five years from 1988 through 2013. Willard was a driving force behind the dedication of more than 80 historical markers along the trail, which memorializes the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from Indiana to Kansas in 1838.

Willard has written four books and many brochures. She has also written and edited FCHS and genealogy newsletters, as well as a weekly history column for the Rochester Sentinel.

The newspaper’s managing editor, Christina Seiler, commented on Willard’s nomination, “No single person in Fulton County’s history has been more diligent in preserving that history as Shirley Willard.”