Perry’s Historic Preservation Commission honored four recipients at the Spring Valley Retirement Community on Saturday, April 29 for their annual Historic Awards ceremony. These four individuals were hand-picked by Historic Preservation members for their volunteerism, strive for business growth in Perry, and overall activism within the community.
This year, Clarence Powell, Karen Liston, Ellie Wojan, and Don Strassburg were elected by Preservation members to receive the award.
Historic Preservation Chairman, Jeanette Peddicord decided to add a twist to this year’s award ceremony by presenting two awards to Preservation members, John W. Palmer and Gary D. Martin.
“They have worked with the Historic Preservation and did more than their call of duty,” Peddicord said.
The first recipient of the banquet was Clarence Powell, presented by Historic Preservation member, Gary Martin. Powell was a long-time farmer in the community, later recognized for his efforts as the President of the Perry School Board. During his time, he encouraged members of the community and the board to buy additional land due for Perry’s growth. The land is now being utilized for Perry’s softball and baseball fields.
“Clarence Powell will be long remembered for his love of family and church,” Martin said. “His support for the youth and his lasting impact on the town of Perry.”
Powell’s award was received by family members who flew up from California to accept the award on behalf of their father.
“My Dad would have been so pleased at this honor,” Anne Siglin, daughter of Powell told the crowd upon accepting the honor.
Siglin flew out from California to accept the award on her Father’s behalf, making the trip a mini-family reunion with those who reside in the Perry area.
Historic Preservation member Gene Peel took the podium, naming Karen Liston as the next recipient of the evening.
“If there ever was a person who exemplifies their profession, it is Registered Nurse, Karen Liston,” Peel said.
Liston was once an award winner recognizing “100 Great Iowa Nurses.”
“The main purpose of the program is to recognize nurses in all ninety-nine counties of Iowa; to honor nurses who exemplify the highest concern for humanity and education to the nursing profession to honor the best role model to others,” Peel said. “All of you who know Karen Liston knows that she exemplifies these qualities are more.
Liston thanked the crowd upon accepting her award.
“I’ve been honored and humbled and proud to be accepting this award today,” Liston said. “I was also fortunate to like what I did - nursing always excited me; I always told everybody that it it got my adrenaline pumping every morning to go to work.”
Ellie Wojan was recognized for her community efforts by Historic Preservation Member, Ronda Onken.
Wojan was the first non-catholic teacher at St. Pat’s school, later becoming a Special Education teacher in the PCSD. Throughout the community, Wojan is famously known for her Halloween performances during trick-or-treat; Wojan would write stories, telling them to kids with her witches hat on and her “cauldron,” built by her husband.
“We are very proud to have these stories repeated; she has so much history that she spreads throughout the community and entertains children and residents with,” Onken said.
With over fifty-five years in the community, Wojan feels safe and content in Perry.
“Perry is a wonderful town and I’ve enjoyed knowing so many of you and seeing so many of you,” Wojan said. “I think back to how it was when I came to Perry and how comfortable I feel as a resident of Perry - thank you all for making it that way.”
Historic Preservation member, Chris Hinds, presented the historic award to recipient Don Strassburg.
A long-time businessman in the Perry community, Strassburg became a manager of a shoe store in 1959 before becoming the owner of now “Don’s Shoes” in 1960. Strassburg ran the store twenty-eight years.
Alongside his work at the shoe store, Strassburg co-created Perry’s High School program “DECA,” alongside co-founder John Arthaud. The program connected students with businesses in the community, allowing students to work and learn, resembling an overall paid internship.
“Don believed the DECA program could be a big part of business education because DECA would allow students to take their learning experience beyond the classroom and into the real world of business,” Strassburg. “The students were not only ones benefiting from the DECA program, the businesses were benefiting as well.”
Strassburg accepted the award, paying gratitude to his family and the community.
“It’s kind of overwhelming to be included with it, but I sure appreciate it,” Strassburg said about the honor. “We’ve enjoyed all of our time in Perry; it was a great place to raise two boys.”
The last two recipients were kept in the dark about their award and received their honors by fellow members.
Joe McCarty presented Historic Preservation member, John W. Palmer with the fifth award of the ceremony.
With original roots in Perry, Palmer has been an advocate for town, informing those old and new of both the historical and present pieces that make up the Perry community.
“With his personal knowledge gained through growing up in Perry, combined with a knowledge that he learned in trading from hometown Perry, Iowa, John has been a must sought-after tour guide for many class reunions,” McCarty said. “He boards a Perry school bus and takes reunion members to areas of defined memories of their youth.”
Palmer, shocked, accepted the award with gratitude.
“I owe Perry a lot and I try to give back,” Palmer said. “I’ve enjoyed this group here - we’ve had a fun time.”
The final award of the evening was presented by Peddicord to recipient Gary D. Martin.
Martin co-authored the book, “Perry’s Memory Lane,” restricted to only photographs that took months to put together, Peddicord said.
“Gary Dean Martin is the kind of person who works overtime to promote the better things in Perry; he can always be counted on to do good work while working hard right alongside the people he is working with,” Peddicord said.
Martin was speechless.
“I want to thank you,” Martin said.
Following the awards ceremony, guests met for a short reception which served cookies and lemonade.