SBAGS Oak Tree Award
South Bend Area Genealogical Society
"Serving South Bend, Mishawaka and Surrounding Areas"
P.O. Box 11
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Oak Tree Award

History of SBAGS Oak Tree Award
By Bill Minish

Each year the South Bend Area Genealogical Society awards a sterling silver medallion to a Society member deemed worthy of it for their meritorious service toward our Society and its mission of furthering family history. Many members have not seen the medallion or know its history, so this article is an attempt to explain how the award came to be.

First what is it? It is a medallion about the size of a quarter, with bail for hanging attached. It has been cast in sterling silver for us for many years by custom jeweler John Mroczek. The obverse (front) has engraved the name of the recipient, "outstanding service" and the date awarded or the date for which the service is rec-ognized. Some discrepancies have occurred with those dates in past awards. i.e., between service year and year presented. The reverse or back face has our Society initials diagonally across the medallion.

The idea of an oak tree medallion relates to the early icon our Society chose in its letterheads, Quarterly Newsletter cover and other documents. The origin of this icon is lost in our Society history, but probably relates to the ancient Celtic symbolism of an oak tree as: life, strength, wisdom, nobility, family, loyalty, power, longevity, heritage, and honor. The oak tree symbol is common in most western civilizations. Our founding ladies chose this as a symbol for our Society and its future.

We believe the idea of presenting a medallion originated in 1978 a year prior to the first presentation. Who had the idea.....we don't know. My suspicion is that it might well have been the very remarkable Jeanne Denham, our first President. It required imagination and some work with a jeweler to cast the medallion.

The first award was given to Fay Lies, in 1979 by then President Jeanne Denham. It was known as the "Working Member Award" its intent being to recognize outstanding service by a Society member and only Society members. The first use of the term "Oak Tree Award" appears to have been in the January 1982 Members Meeting agenda when member and founding lady Prudence Michael was awarded the medallion.

Since then we have presented the Oak Tree Award almost annually, occasionally missing a year. While we had a list of many recent recipients, much early award history was not known. So with Eric Craig's help, he having easy access to all Society newsletters on his computer, we began investigating those early newsletters to identify, if we could, how it all began and who were all the recipients. The following list is our result and while still some gaps, it is the best history we have of the award. We found occasions where the date of the engraving, and the date when the Board recognized the service to be a year different. That usually occurred when the award was engraved and presented later in the year after the service recognized year.

We are proud of this unique award, its history, and the many members some now long gone, who gave so generously to our Society and we were able to recognize them with our Oak Tree Award.

Jeanne Denham, our first President, was the second Oak Tree recipient

Fay Lies was first recipient, Lauren Bostedt was third and Prudence Michael, fourth

As of November 2022

1978   Not Issued Probable origin year
1979   Fay Lies Spring 1981 newsletter
1980   Jeanne Denham Spring 1981 newsletter
1981   Laureen Bostedt Spring 1982 newsletter
1982   Prudence Michael Spring 1983 newsletter
1983   Marie Hums Spring 1984 newsletter
1984   Unknown  
1985   Unknown  
1986   Unknown  
1987   John Yuhasz July 1987 newsletter
1988   Francis Lies October 1996 newsletter
1989   Unknown  
1990   Ruth Price June 1990 newsletter
1991   Irv Morse October 1996 newsletter
1992   Toni Cook Actual madallion
1993   Carol Collins Actual madallion
1994   Gene & Mary Kempner - (2) awards October 1996 newsletter
1995   Jeanne Everett October 1996 newsletter
1996   Irene Forbes April 1997 newsletter
1997   Unknown  
1998   Not Issued  
1999   Not Issued  
2000   John Palmer per SBAGS Board minutes
2001   Mark Davis "
2002   Mary Waterson "
2003   Not Issued  
2004   Arlene Martin "
2005   Not Issued  
2006   Richard Ross "
2007   Nancy Myers "
2008   Bill Minish "
2009   Mary Thornsen "
2010   Jan Miller "
2011   Not Issued  
2012   Barbara Weiler & Eric Craig Two awards (for 2011)
2013   Ken Reising per SBAGS Board minutes
2014   Jim Curtis "
2015   Dave Eisen Special recognition to Dave
2016 Audrey Johnson April 2017 St. Joseph County Archives recognition
2017 James Piechorowski April 2018 Polish genealogy and family history databases recognition
2018 Vicky Rydzynski April 2019 St. Joseph County Archives & Records Center recognition
2019 Gary Gabrich March 2021 Special Recognition
2020 Alice Clark March 2022 Special Recognition
2021 Lisa Ellam March 2022 Special Recognition
2022 Lacey King March 2022 Special Recognition

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