Cary honored for commitment to Fayette history

Tue, 05/02/2006 - 3:49pm
By: John Munford

Honoring History’s Lady

Carolyn Cary, who has been Fayette County’s official historian for 25 years, was feted at a dinner party Saturday evening thrown by the Friends of the Fayette County Library.

County Librarian Chris Snell said Cary was being recognized for her “perpetuation and preservation of history for future generations.” After all, this was the woman who fought tooth-and-nail with the county commission after arsonists burned the county’s historic courthouse down in 1982.

The courthouse was restored thanks to a Cary-led fund-raising drive and today it remains on the downtown Fayetteville square, home to the Fayette County Development Authority and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber’s first home? That would have been in Cary’s living room back in 1967 when she became its first executive secretary.

Cary may be a Yankee by her Ohio birth, but she is widely recognized among friends as an honorary native of Fayette County. It might have something to do with her activity within the community, participating in numerous local civic clubs and organizing community efforts such as the county’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1971 and later creation of the historical markers at the county’s fountain in Heritage Park.

Cary also served as a volunteer EMT for several years, all the while raising her son, David and daughter, Julie, who were both in attendance Saturday night.

Several speakers at the event said they were glad Cary chose to set roots in Fayette.

“We’re sure glad you came here,” said Jimmy Booth, who hired Cary to her first newspaper job as a writer for the Fayette County News. She still works in newspapering today for The Citizen, writing obituaries and news stories with the occasional column.

“Fayette County is a much better place today because she came our way,” said former Fayette Fire Chief Huie Bray. “I will always remember Carolyn as a volunteer EMT. She can drive an ambulance ... and she can care for a patient.”

Citizen Publisher Cal Beverly announced that in Cary’s honor, the newspaper was donating $10,000 in seed money to kick-start a living history project for Fayette County. The program will involve professionally-produced video memoirs of persons who made Fayette’s early history, Beverly explained, noting that many such people were in attendance at the event.

“There are so many people in this room, for whom the word pioneer doesn’t quite do justice,” Beverly said.

The videos will be kept on file at the library and hopefully, made available online in the future, Beverly said. The hope is to get local high school students on board to help with the production and get them involved in the county’s history program, he added.

Beverly said he was depending on Cary to help steer the project. Though she was largely responsible for the county’s only history book, that only covered up to 1971, and Beverly said Cary “has a lot of catching up to do.”

“There wouldn’t be a history of Fayette County if it wasn’t for her,” said County Commission Chairman Greg Dunn, who unveiled a proclamation from the commission declaring Cary the county historian “for life.” The county and the city of Fayetteville also declared Saturday as “Carolyn Cary Day.”

“She loves this county,” Dunn said. “Nobody loves it more.”

Also, Cary received recognitions from the office of Governor Sonny Perdue and Secretary of State Cathy Cox, both of which were presented by state Senator Ronnie Chance of Tyrone. Chamber President Virginia Gibbs presented Cary with a lighthouse representing the beacon she has been to Fayette County over the years, and the Friends of the Library presented her with a gift basket of goodies.

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