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Keeping Local History Alive

Les Green is often asked what makes him interested in local history.

“And I always say, when you’re 85 years old, you are history,” quips the Portage la Prairie resident.

Green writes a weekly newspaper column and booklets on local history, and has an extensive personal archives on Portage’s history, so he’s the man everyone calls about the city’s past.

Last week, he and four other Manitobans were honoured for their work as local museum volunteers, gatherers of local historical records, and custodians of community memory.

They’re recipients of the inaugural LieutenantGovernor’s Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion, presented last week on Manitoba Day at Government House. The award was created in consultation with the Manitoba Historical Society to recognize individuals’ outstanding efforts in historical preservation and promotion.

“When I heard about this award I said, ‘This is something Mom should have,’” said Birtle resident Nancy Evans who travelled to Government House May 16 to see her mother, Margaret Ashcroft, receive her award.


Ashcroft is Birtle’s go-to person for all historical matters and is known for numerous projects, ranging from making clothing for mannequins at the Birdtail Country Museum, to helping compile two local history books and producing story boards for a historical town walking tour.

Bir tle residents better understand the place they call home because of Ashcroft, said Shonda Ashcroft, Birtle’s economic development officer.

“We all know where we came from and the importance and significance of places in our town,” she said.

Other recipients were Rudy Friesen of St. Francois Xavier, Mary McCallum of Boissevain, and Len Van Roon of Winnipeg.

Among his many projects, Friesen prepared time capsules and displays and compiled booklets listing historic sites in the municipality, many now marked by cairns.


McCallum helped write two history books, plus descriptive pamphlets about the Beckoning Hills Museum and recruited museum volunteers while serving as president of the museum board for nearly 20 years.

Van Roon was recognized for his work collecting artifacts for the Charleswood Museum, and for service with the Charleswood Historical Society, which includes among its achievements the preservation of Caron House, one of the last remaining buildings from when Charleswood was a farming community.

The lieutenant-governor said recognizing local historians is another way to encourage people to learn about Manitoba’s past.

“So many of the threads in the tapestry of Canada’s history were woven in our province,” said Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee said. “But without the continued effort to preserve the resources where these stories are preserved and to tell those stories in ways that will bring them to life, that tapestry will become unravelled.”

Nominations for the award can be submitted to the Manitoba Historical Society ( Up to five awards will be handed out in 2012, and the deadline for those nominations is March 31, 2012.

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About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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