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Williams turns new page for historical society

POULSBO — Muriel Williams remembers watching a blacksmith work hot embers where Tequila’s Bar and Grill is now.

She remembers when the local newspaper used to be right downtown where Gifts of Promise is now. And she remembers when she and four others decided these historical memories were so important that they needed to found an historical society.

“Records are so important,” she commented. “I don’t think hardly a month goes by that we don’t get a letter talking about, ‘my mother used to live there,’ or ‘my grandmother went to school there.’ It’s just queries, constant queries.”

Williams, a founding member of the Poulsbo/North Kitsap Historical Society, recently announced her retirement from the society’s board of directors. Her work will be honored at a public reception from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Sons of Norway.

Historical Society members said they hope many people will come share stories and memories of William’s work for Poulsbo’s history. Williams said she is flattered by the attention but sheepishly said she didn’t think she’d made any extraordinary contribution.

“I don’t really feel I’ve done anything outstanding enough to warrant that recognition,” she commented. “Lots of other people are working just as hard behind the scenes and not getting noticed.”

Society members beg to differ.

Secretary Kathy Hogan explained the organization was officially founded in 1991 by Rangvald Kvelstad, Mabel Raab, Sharon Lofgren, Vince Prouty, Jeff Tolman and Williams. Hogan added she was pretty sure that Williams’ unofficial involvement in the society spans much longer than that.

“I remember my Mom going to visit Muriel long before 1991, my Mom passed away in 1988, and coming back all excited because there was going to be a museum,” Hogan said. “Muriel herself said the other day that she has been at this for 20 years, so I’m pretty sure there were other group meetings before 1991.”

Williams, the granddaughter of North Kitsap Herald founder Peter Iverson, said the main thrust of the organization at the time of incorporation was simply to save local records.

“They were good, community-minded people and Mr. K began to worry that all of our artifacts were going off to the Kitsap County museum and he felt we needed something local,” Williams recalled.

From those original supporters, the society has grown to more than 140 members as of this year. It is also owns property across Jensen from City Hall, on which it hopes to eventually have the funds to build a museum.

Through it all, Williams has been a regular fixture of the group. She served as the secretary for the society from 1991 to 2001 and still acts as social secretary to this day. Historical society president Barbara Mitchusson said as social secretary, Williams has provided hand-written, personal notes of condolences from the society in the event of local deaths.

Mitchusson said Williams is also an invaluable source for the membership.

“I think her major contribution is just her major sense and knowledge of this area, especially Poulsbo,” Mitchusson said. “She’s always known all the players.”

Williams said she had long planned to retire from the historical society board just as soon as a few new faces were willing to take up the torch. She saw that opportunity recently when community members Craig Gresham and Bob Hakanson joined the society’s board.

“I could see the need for new blood,” Williams commented. “I have a lot of history to give but I don’t have the energy. I’m not the little battery bunny that keeps going and going.”

But while she won’t be on the board, Williams said she’ll still be a strong supporter of the historical society. She said she especially hopes that new leadership on the board of directors will mean more people of her children’s and grandchildren’s generation will become involved in helping save the community’s heritage.

“I won’t quit. I’ll give it all the support I can,” Williams said. “No, I couldn’t leave because I am interested in it that it keeps going and stays viable.”

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