StaffLink Founder and President, Gretchen Curry, has lived in Kirkwood, Missouri most of her life. Her family moved to Kirkwood shortly after her father began teaching and coaching for the Kirkwood School District.
Outside of her years away at college, she has remained in Kirkwood. One of several ways that she chooses to “give back” to the community is through her volunteering with the Kirkwood Historical Society (KHS). The organization is celebrating sixty (60) years, as it was first established in 1961. It has operated as an all-volunteer organization since its inception.
She enthusiastically says, “The board is made up of a really incredible group of focused, intelligent, hard-working individuals and I am proud to serve with them.”
Gretchen loves history and believes it is very important. She says, “If we neglect our history as a nation, as a community, we handicap our future.”
She is entering her third year of serving on the Board of Directors for the Society and as the Chairperson for the Friends Speaker Series. As Chairperson she procures speakers for the Friends Speaker Series and the series hosts seven programs per year.
The last in-person presentation was in February 2020 at the organization’s headquarters, Mudd’s Grove. Mudd’s Grove is a Greek revival home built in 1859 and is located in Kirkwood.
That guest speaker, Molly Kodner, the author of the book, “My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love” is in the above picture with Gretchen and a former board member. Molly’s talk was enthusiastically received by the attendees.
Prior to the pandemic, programs were held at either Mudd’s Grove or the Kirkwood Library.
Gretchen says, “When Molly presented in February, we had no idea that the world would shutdown and that would be last time that we saw our speakers, members and attendees for over a year!”
All of their programs have been via Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic and the shutdown. Since StaffLink had a Zoom account Gretchen suggested that the Society start offering the Speakers Series on Zoom and offered to host the presentations on StaffLink’s Zoom account. She thought it was important for the Society to continue offer educational programming.
Since beginning to serve on the board and as the Friends Speakers Series Chairperson, Gretchen has enjoyed learning about the different sources for finding speakers on various historical topics. She has enjoyed meeting the speakers and finding out how they became “experts” on their topics. And she has most enjoyed learning more about this regions’ history. She says, “It has given me a totally new perspective on how St. Louis became the St. Louis we live in today. I have gained more from this volunteer experience than I have given”.
List of Programs for the Kirkwood Historical Society during the Pandemic
Here is a list of some of the speakers she has procured since the beginning of the pandemic:
April 2020- Their speaker was Joe DeGregorio. Joe is a life-long resident of “The Hill” in St. Louis and currently gives history tours on the Hill. His topic was “The Hidden History of the Hill.” https://terrain-mag.com/st-louis-running-tour-adds-route-in-the-hill/ and https://explorestlouis.com/things-to-do/neighborhoods/the-hill/
May 2020- Their speakers were the authors, Molly Butterworth & Tom Eyssell. Their topic was the same title of their book, “They Will Run: The Golden Age of the Automobile in St. Louis.” https://www.amazon.com/They-Will-Run-Golden-Automobile/dp/1681062348
August 2020- Legendary retired St. Louis radio personality, Ron Elz (Johnny Rabbit) was their speaker. His topic was “A Picture Postcard History of St. Louis.” https://www.laduenews.com/business/features/a-walk-down-memory-lane-with-ron-elz/article_94eef656-0aea-5514-b3e9-e47540764360.html
October 2020- Prolific St. Louis author, Jim Merkel was their speaker. His topic was “Growing Up St. Louis.” Jim interviewed 100 different persons, from various neighborhoods and backgrounds, about their experience growing up in St. Louis. Jim Merkel the Writer – News About “Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades.”
November 2020- Their speaker was Daniel Fuller, a staff person at Bellefontaine Cemetery & Arboretum, discussed “Noteworthy and Notorious Women.” buried at the cemetery. Historical Stories – Bellefontaine Cemetery
May 2021-Mike Venso, a curator at the Missouri Historical Museum, was the speaker and the topic was “Pandemics of the Past-St. Louis Responds”. Missouri History Museum | Find Yourself Here. (mohistory.org)
Their last three (3) programs of the 2021 will take place in August, October, and November. No determination has been made if those will take place on Zoom or at Mudd’s Grove.
Kirkwood Historical Society’s Biggest Challenge
One of the biggest challenges and expenses facing the board is to raise money for repairing the front porch for Mudd’s Grove. In a modern twist, they are raising money through a Go Fund Me campaign for the porch.
On June 12th Mudd’s Grove will participate in the House & Garden Tour sponsored by Historic Saint Louis. Home (historicsaintlouis.org) Mudd’s Grove will be one of approximately two dozen historic houses participating in the Open House on that day. There will be live music, food trucks, and vendors offering various products. All are welcome.
To learn more about the KHS, their projects and events, please visit any of the links below to connect to several different pages on the KHS website.