Honoring Her Mother’s Life and History

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Standing on the right - Jean Iris Vandewark Olson – mother, standing on the left – Vivian Iris Luce Vandewark, grandmother, seated – Effie Orvilla Woll Luce – great grandmother holding infant Karen Olson.

Article Contributed by
Fenton History Center

Early in 2020, the Hall House Research Library at the Fenton History Center received a wonderful gift from one of its patrons, Karen Olson, in the form of a Research & Education Fund in her mother ‘s memory. The reason for this donation goes back several years, and starts with a shared interest in history, mysteries, and puzzles held by Karen and her mother, Jean Vandewark Olson Stowell. It turned out to be the perfect combination for several rewarding years of genealogical ancestor sleuthing. Along the way, they also learned more about Jamestown—their mutual birthplace—and the surrounding area, while uncovering information about their relatives, both known and unknown before the research. Karen’s trips continued even after her mother’s passing in 2009.

After the passing, Karen shared with us that memories of the time they spent looking for clues and mulling over discoveries in their family tree continued to be incredibly special to her. So, when the time came for her to begin making required withdrawals from her IRAs a few years ago, Karen decided it was the perfect opportunity to use her first annual withdrawal for a donation honoring her mother. She knew the perfect recipient for that donation would be the Fenton History Center Library and, specifically the Hall House Research Library, where she had discovered so many genealogy resources and received dedicated help and expertise from the Fenton staff and volunteers who so willingly helped them.

Karen met with the Executive Director of the Fenton, Noah Goodling, to create the Fund to honor her mother in October 2019. During her meeting with Noah, she told him that she was looking for a way to encourage others to think about supporting the Fenton, and the Hall House in particular. By the end of the meeting, Karen knew that the Fund would meet her goal of honoring her mother while benefitting others in their genealogy endeavors, “a pursuit my mother and I enjoyed together for several years before her death.”

Karen said, “I have found creating a fund to honor my mother to be a most rewarding decision and am grateful to the wonderful genealogy team at Fenton’s Hall House who continue to help me uncover new clues to my ever-expanding family tree! “

To date, two computers have been purchased with money from the fund. They are proving to be priceless in assisting the staff and volunteers at the Hall House. In addition, the fund allowed the Fenton to purchase several resource books on New England and Sweden and has also allowed us to reimburse speakers at our monthly Genealogy Support Group meetings.

The attached photo shows Karen holding 4 generation photo of her family and some of the items purchased with money from the fund.