The citizens of Custer County havelong been aware of the tireless effort Mary Landkamer has put in to preserving our area’s history - and now the rest of the state of Nebraska knows it too.
This week, Mary was presented with the 2010 Nebraska Genealogist of the Year award by Nebraska State Geneological Society president Floyd Smith. The presentation took place at the Historical Museum, where Mary served as curator for 26 years.
Mary was instrumental in helping Nebraska Educational Television with their documentary, “Solomon Butcher: Frontier Photographer”, and she has helped to build and maintain several indices which are now offered online, including the Custer County Homesteads.
“The NSGS Board of Directors are extremely pleased to offer this award to Mrs. Landkamer. We are certain she will continue to be an inspiration to others and a leader in the geneology community,” said Smith.
Mary began working at the Custer County Historical Museum in 1983, when the museum was located in the Carnegie Building. Prior to that the museum had been housed on the second floor of the Broken Bow State Bank, until the bank was razed. She fell in love with the job immediately, and dedicated herself to the museum and the people it serves.
Mary grew up on a farm in
Greeley County, near the small community of Wolbach. In 1969, her husband. Jack, took a job at the Custer County Chief, and in 1970 the family moved with him to Broken Bow. For the next few years Mary was very content as a wife and stay-at-home mom.
Going to work at the museum gave her an opportunity to connect with the people of Custer County in a unique way. Through the years she became absorbed in learning the history of the area, and in sharing it with those who showed interest.
Mary is a very humble woman and becomes uncomforatble when people heap praise on her. That was evident at Tuesday’s presentation, when Mary began crying when given her award.
“My mom has been the most unassuming woman in Custer County for years,” said her son, Eric, as he comforted his mother. “She gets very emotional over things like this because she can’t understand why people would make such a fuss and honor her like this.”
In 2009, Mary was named Citizen of the Year by the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce. In September 2010, she retired as curator and director of research at the Custer County Museum.
A number of guests were on hand Tuesday to congratulate Mary and to share stories about how she inspired them to become interested in geneology. In her nomination letter to the state society, current director/curator Carol Christen wrote about Mary:
“Even after her retirement we still prevail upon her expertise from time to time as she will never be truly replaced. Mary has been an institution here and knows where to look for all the inquiries we receive. We still hear comments such as, ‘Mary has an unbelievable memory! She seems to know some history about anyone you ask about!’
“Mary helped to build our genealogy library over the years, so that today it houses a wealth of information available to genealogists who visit the museum or who request records by mail, phone or e-mail. She has conducted numerous genealogy workshops over the years and instilled the ‘genealogy fever’ in many. Google Mary Landkamer and you’ll find dozens of other people’s websites with statements like, ‘researched by Mary Landkamer.”
The Nebraska Genealogist of the Year award is presented annually at the society’s conference in Nebraska City in May. However, due to health reasons, Mary was unable to attend the meeting. Smith said he was delighted to come to Broken Bow to personally present Mary with her award.
"The mission of the historical museum is to preserve our history and make it available to the world," said historical society member Don Davis. "Mary has played a huge part in doing that."
Cards of congratulations can be sent to Mary at Custer Care II in Broken Bow.