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Margaret Hepola receives first Heritage Award - 2006

October 22, 2006

Margaret Hepola receives first Heritage Award

Article courtesy of The Reflector.

Community activist and historian Margaret Colf Hepola of Woodland received the first-ever Heritage Award given by the Clark County Historical Society during a ceremony held Oct. 22 at the Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland.

Museum director Susan Tissot said the new award was approved by the Historical Society Board of Directors to honor those who make significant contributions to the preservation of history.

Tissot said Hepola was selected because of her work with several historical organizations and the tenure of her commitment.

Hepola served as a trustee with the Clark County Historical Society for 16 years when it was known as the Fort Vancouver Historical Society. She chairs the sites and markers committee of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington. She devoted 12 years to reconstructing the Cedar Creek Grist Mill. She is active with the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland, the Cowlitz County Museum, the North Clark Historical Museum, the La Center Museum Association and the a cemetery district. She has also worked on a scholarship program for Green Mountain students. "It was a no-brainer," said Tissot of the Hepola selection. "She has worked so hard to help so many organizations. And she has been at it for 46 years."

Tissot said award criteria include making significant contributions to history and doing things that will have a lasting impact.

At the Sunday ceremony, Clark County commissioner Steve Stuart said he was in awe when he first met Hepola. "I felt like I was meeting the Godfather," quipped Stuart. "She is so warm and so endearing, so right to the point. We've all benefitted from her work."

"You've helped us know more about ourselves and our history," added Stuart in a salute to Hepola, 89. "We very much appreciate your work."

In a letter, Vancouver mayor Royce Pollard described Hepola as a "heroine." Hepola is under five feet tall, wrote Pollard, but "stands mighty tall."

"You are what legends are made of," wrote Pollard of Hepola.

"Margaret has made communities in two counties better places to live for generations to come," said Tissot. "We must learn from our past to move forward. Without the effort by people like Margaret, our history would be lost."

Tissot listed Hepola's accomplishments, including 44 years on a cemetery district board, 16 years as a trustee with the Clark County Historical Society, 12 years rebuilding the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, and 10 years with the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, as well as service to the Cowlitz County museum, and other museums.

Heppola also spearheaded the preservation of an historic La Center building, and the relocation of that building and conversion to a new La Center library facility. Hepola said the award made her feel "inadequate," and that others were deserving as well. She said volunteers get back more than they give.

Hepola said that 10-12 dedicated volunteers can accomplished just about any project they undertake. "Dedicated people can move the world," she said.

Hepola named two projects that are on agenda for the future: expansion and completion of a pioneer cemetery, and talking to young people about history. "I want to talk to teens about life during the Great Depression," said Hepola, who received two standing ovations from the 150 people assembled for the event.

Ron Hart, president of the Clark County Historical Society and master of ceremonies at the Oct. 22 ceremony, said he would need two to three more lifetimes to accomplish all the Hepola has done.

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