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A memorial bench for local historian Audrey Underwood was unveiled inside the Port Elgin Cemetery June 15. Pictured are some of Underwood’s youngest decedents with Municipal Heritage Committee Chair, Vice-Deputy Mayor Diane Huber.

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Community members and representatives from a variety of heritage committees came to the Port Elgin Cemetery June 15 to witness the unveiling of a municipal memorial bench dedicated to community historian Audrey Underwood.

Master of Ceremonies was Saugeen Shores Heritage Committee (SSHC) Chair and longtime friend of Underwood’s, Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber. The ceremony saw speakers from the Underwood family, Saugeen Shores Council, and the many committees that Underwood was a part of including the SSHC, the Bruce County Historical Society, the Bruce County Genealogical Society, and the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre (BCM&CC).

Prior to the unveiling Huber noted many anecdotal stories of Underwood, while SSHC Past-Chair and longtime friend Joyce Johnston said it was truly an honour to speak at the ceremony. “Audrey was a true friend to me and a great mentor,” remarked Johnston, who said Underwood had encouraged her to continue looking into her family tree. “She knew so much, it was just wonderful talking to her,” she said.

Beyond being a research volunteer at the BCM&CC and having a library named after her, Underwood also established the Bruce Branch of the Genealogy Society, was a member of the Fall Fair Board and Women’s Institute, and was an integral force behind the Bluewater District School Board’s heritage fairs. Johnston noted that Underwood was a “busy girl that always remembered things,” and later added that she was the SSHC’s “number one heritage resource” and someone who will be truly missed.

“It is truly with high regard from us that we are here today to participate in the dedication of this bench in memory of Audrey Underwood and I would ask may we all pick up the bar that she has left and continue to keep heritage in the forefront for our future generations,” said Johnston.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau said it was a privilege to honour “one of our community’s most remarkable citizens.” Charbonneau told a story of when, at the age of 25, he was new to Saugeen Shores Council and joined the SSHC where he worked on an Historic Driving Tour of Saugeen Township.

Charbonneau was instructed to seek the help of Underwood who “had so much knowledge,” he recalled.

“It made me aware of the fact that there’s so much here you take for granted, you take for granted that history, the heritage; and Audrey never took it for granted. She always had it at the top of her mind and she would put it on the top of anybody’s mind whoever talked to her, and certainly mine,” he said. The Deputy Mayor noted that the cemetery was a perfect place for Underwood’s memorial bench for when the mourning phase passes, it becomes a place of remembrance.

“In that way it’s really a monument, a monument to the history of our community, to our people, it’s really a monument to our genealogy and for that reason I can’t think of a better place, frankly, for a memorial to one of our community’s most outstanding geologists,” said Charbonneau.

Irene Howe of the Bruce County Historical Society said that Underwood is a lifetime member, a former president, researcher, and educator. Howe remarked on how Underwood authored books on early settlers to the area and most recently researched the families of Dunblane off Bruce County Road 3, and had begun a project on the history of barns in Bruce County.

Howe said the “barn project” was put on hold upon her death as committee members put their focus into assisting with the TVO documentary “The Bruce” which, Howe said, Underwood initiated the Historical Society’s involvement. The documentary’s companion book, created by Robin Hilborn is dedicated to Underwood.

The dedication reads: To Audrey Underwood who inspired us all with her devotion to history. Audrey was truly an inspiring and dedicated person to the history of Bruce County.

Speakers from the Bruce County Genealogical Society informed the crowd that Underwood was a former President of the Society and originated the first Bruce County branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society in her home in 1971. By 1989 Underwood founded the Bruce County Genealogical Society.

“She was an inspiration to many of us,” said Anne Goeden of the Society, adding that Underwood was “always ready to share her knowledge with others.”

Mary MacKay of the Society said Underwood’s passing “left a huge void in my life and in the life our of Geneology Society.”

Regards from the BCM&CC came from Sue Schlorff who said that Underwood became a dear friend and upon her passing became nominated for the Ontario Historical Society 2017 Cardigan Award. Schorff in tribute then read excerpts from many testimonials from many of the above mentioned committees.

family

Many of Audrey Underwood’s family members were in attendance at the memorial bench unveiling June 15.

joyce johnston

Longtime friend of Audrey Underwood, Saugeen Shores Heritage Committee’s Joyce Johnston spoke of Audrey at the memorial bench unveiling for the dedicated historian.

luke charbonneau

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau reminisced about working on projects with Underwood when he was new to Council.

irene howe

Irene Howe of the Bruce County Historical Society spoke of the impact left by Underwood.

Anne Goeden

Anne Goeden (left) and Mary MacKay of the Bruce County Geological Society.

sue schlorff

Sue Schlorff of the Bruce County Museum spoke at the bench unveiling.

bench

The bench for Audrey Underwood is the first of its kind inside the Port Elgin Cemetery.

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