Virginia T. Davis,
Stamford Historical Society
Distinguished Service Award to
Richard J. Roberts
by Jane Flounders for Ron Marcus, Librarian
Good evening. As you know, Ron Marcus normally would be here to present this award. While I’m sure he would prefer to be doing this instead of recuperating from very recent surgery, the honor has fallen to me to present this year's Virginia
T. Davis Distinguished Service Award to one of our most outstanding volunteers. What follows is Ron Marcus’ presentation of this year's award written by him but not given by him at the Stamford Historical Society Annual Meeting on June 8, 2009.
"This tribute is given in memory of a remarkable person, whose devotion to the City of Stamford through this organization was summarized in a 23 March 1983 Advocate Editorial. “[Virginia] believed that community’s sense of its own history gave it a solidity and depth that it otherwise would not have. She was right in thinking so.”
"In bestowing this honor upon this year’s recipient we continue a tradition which began in 1988, to recognize outstanding individuals who truly exemplify the spirit of volunteerism. This organization as well as numerous others could not continue to exist
without such selfless commitment.
"This year's recipient showed a proclivity towards natural history and art at an early age. He studied for four years under DeLos Palmer, the well known portrait painter. Graduating from Stamford High School in 1948, he then attended Yale University where he studied both fine arts and zoology. Upon graduating from Yale in 1952, he then began a long career as Curator of Exhibits at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center.
"In retirement he began researching his forbearers who have resided in Southwestern Fairfield County for many generations. His quest led to a particular small family cemetery, whereupon he decided to sketch a plot plan indication location of all extant monuments therein.
"Encouraged by Historical Society Library volunteers, he has continued this endeavor on a citywide basis, now completing over forty-five cemeteries. These survey maps, drawn on an overview, include location of all known monuments, names, dates and other data from each one, i.e. if the deceased was a war veteran and what war. If there is a stone wall surrounding the cemetery, its configuration is given in minute detail. He has been aided in his quest by examining reference works at the Society's Library pertaining to participants in the Colonial Wars through WWI, as well as the notable work of the Hale Headstone Inscription volume for Stamford compiled by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Veteran's Graves map book of Samuel W. Morrell. In addition, he photographs many of the gravestones, sketching their full inscription on the reverse of these images.
"Due to the combined factors of pollution, soft stone [marble, sandstone, etc.] vandalism and neglect, nany of the inscriptions transcribed during the early to mid 1930's are unfortunately barely discernible today. To assert that he has created a reference tool of incomparable value would be an understatement. This remarkable voluntary project has been the subject of two feature newspaper articles and a television interview.
"Having had the honor of working in the Library with our recipient, it now gives me great privilege in presenting this year's Virginia T. Davis, Stamford Historical Society Distinguished Service Award to Richard J. Roberts."
Richard Roberts tracks Stamford's lost graveyards (Stamford Times)
Uncovering mysteries (The Advocate)
Mapping Lost Graveyards in Stamford (Blog)
Uncovering Mysteries – Dick Roberts and Stamford Cemeteries (Blog)