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When longtime Georgetown resident and preservationist Cindy Neely was notified that she’d be picking up an award from History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society, she assumed it was for …
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When longtime Georgetown resident and preservationist Cindy Neely was notified that she’d be picking up an award from History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society, she assumed it was for the restoration of the Georgetown schoolhouse.
She spent time writing and memorizing a speech to thank everyone involved in the long process. When the day came for the awards ceremony, someone let it slip that the award was actually for her and her lifetime commitment to preservation.
“At which point I went and found the lovely people at the doorway who were handing out programs and I said, ‘Could I have a program, please?’ “ Neely said. “And that’s when I found out I was being given the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. My first reaction was, ‘My little speech is no good.’ “
Neely was given the prestigious Stephen H. Hart Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation on Feb. 2. It was the first time the award was presented to a person rather than a project, and it recognizes her lifetime achievements working in historic preservation in Georgetown and Clear Creek County.
The award honors Neely’s 40 years of work, including helping to create the Georgetown Historical Society Inc., the predecessor of Historic Georgetown Inc. She is a founding member and now is the executive director of the Georgetown Trust.
The award also recognized Neely’s supervision of the construction and fund-raising for the Gateway Visitor Center and a multitude of other projects. But what was emphasized as the crown jewel in Neely’s legacy was her effort to save the Georgetown School, a project that led to the schoolhouse’s full restoration.
History Colorado began presenting the Stephen H. Hart Award 25 years ago to recognize projects, individuals and achievements in archaeology and preservation in the state. The award was named after the state’s first historic preservation officer.
“Cindy Neely was chosen to receive the Governor’s Award for Preservation because of her passion and lifetime accomplishments as a champion for historic preservation in Georgetown and in Colorado,” Ed Nichols, president and CEO of History Colorado said in a statement. “Given the tremendous economic and cultural value of historic preservation across the state, it is fitting that a person this year — not a project — is honored, and just goes to show that a single person can make a difference.”
Nichols added that, as a historic preservation leader and educator to Georgetown students and the public, Neely has helped the history of Georgetown come alive for new generations.
“Her dedication certainly deserves this level of recognition,” Nichols said.
Sharon Rossino, director of Historic Georgetown, was among several who were interviewed about Neely by History Colorado before it presented the award.
Rossino said she and others in Georgetown were grateful to have had someone like Neely taking part in preservation for as long as she has.
“(Neely) is … an asset to Georgetown as a whole, not just the Historical Society and the Georgetown Trust,” Rossino said. “There are a lot of folks in town who have been here since the ‘60s, and they’ve done a lot as well. (Neely), though, is a fund-raiser, and I think that is part of the difference. She knows how to raise the money to get the projects done.
“... She really is the one who goes out and writes the grants and gets the funding — whether its half a million dollars or $1.6 million,” Rossino said.
Neely, who has spent 30 years as a local teacher, said the preservation work was the dream of her husband, Ron Neely, who died in 2006 at age 66 from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“When Ron Neely started spinning dreams for Georgetown, none of us thought we would be there 40 years later,” Neely said. “You never intended it to be 40 years. You just never intended that to happen to you — never even thought about it.”
Neely said that when she moved to Georgetown, it was only going to be for a year.
“It’s the people (that) help you; it is the people who care about a place, and they care so much about a place it’s hard not to want to make things happen that they’d like to see … and one thing just sort of builds into the next … and the next thing you know it is 40 years later,” Neely said.
Contact Ian Neligh at courant
firstname.lastname@example.org, and check www.clearcreekcourant.com for updates and breaking news.
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