Women honored for contributions to County

Before Sunday, four women had seemingly nothing in common except their commitment to their families and the area they call home. They come from different generations, and each went about her respective life in her own way.

But Sunday afternoon at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center in Gardnerville, they were forever joined as the seventh class to be included in the Douglas County Historical Society's Women's History Remembering project titled "Douglas County Women: Footprints in History."

"This is designed to honor women of the area who have contributed to the quality of life in Douglas County," Marlena Hellwinkel, project chairwoman, said. "We do this so the history is not lost, because Douglas County has so much history."

The inductees in the class of 2006 were Carol Lee Biaggi Aldax, Anna Norgaard Harris Behrman, Lura Ida Jones and Cherie Owen. The four women joined the ranks, bringing the total to 81 Douglas County women who have been honored since the project began. Biographies of each of the women are kept in archives of the VanSickle Research Library at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center and also in the Jean Ford Nevada Women's History Project in the Nevada Women's Archives, at the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno, library.

To be included in the project, the women, either living or dead, must be nominated by a friend or family member, have lived some part of their life in Douglas County and contributed to their community.

The ceremony honoring new inductees is held every March, during National Women's History Month. As many as 23 were honored in 2000, the project's first year, but the historical society generally looks for about six nominees, according to Hellwinkel. Even though there were just four nominations this year, the museum was filled with about 70 family members, friends and those interested in the women.

"Sometimes there are six honorees," said Hellwinkel. "This year there were four and we still had a full house. It was very rewarding to see the crowd of people."

Each honoree receives a certificate of merit which reads, "For the paths you've paved and the inspiration you have provided to others."

Lura Jones was nominated by her daughter, Lura Lee Jones, for her dedication to family and community.

"Most of mother's time and energy was devoted to her husband and children," Jones said. "Since her death, we have marveled at what she quietly accomplished."

At the time of her death in 1995, Jones had spent 55 years in Douglas County. She was active in many religious and secular organizations devoted to helping with the growth and learning of children. In 1979, Jones participated in a church mission to North Carolina for 18 months.

Cherie Owen's passion was homeless animals. She moved to Gardnerville in 1992, and became a volunteer at the Douglas County Animal Shelter. Knowing there was a better solution than euthanizing homeless pets, she formed Douglas Animal Welfare Group, or DAWG, in 2000.

"Cherie has been trying to save animals for 36 years," DAWG member James Joseph said. "Because of Cherie Owen, her organization and its volunteers, Douglas County is a kindlier, gentler place to live."

Yet Joseph said the biggest accomplishment of Owen and her organization of 60 volunteers is that since its formation, no adoptable animals have been put to death. Owen said the group's success is due only in small part to her.

"It's a great honor, but, like everything else, you can't do it alone," Owen said.

Anna Norgaard Harris Behrman, who died in 1938, was honored by someone with seemingly no connection to her, but who was just fascinated by her life.

"She was a remarkable woman for her time or any time," Laurie Hickey said. "Her many acts of kindness for those in need may never be known."

Behrman started her own real estate business in 1900, and was the first person to open a bank in Douglas County, located in Genoa.

The final nominee was Carol Lee Biaggi Aldax, who was nominated by her son Gary and good friend Barbara Byington.

Among Aldax's accomplishments were helping to form the Nevada Dairy Council, initiating the Ag in the Classroom Program, and being a devoted wife and mother.

"Carol has a strong will and firm passion for the causes she believes in. In the minds of her friends and family, she is the most deserving of this award," Byington said.

Aldax said she was honored, but still felt there were more deserving women than herself who needed to be honored.

"It's an honor because I would never have considered myself for this. There are so many more deserving people," Aldax said.

The inductees were escorted by members of the Red Hat Society, who said they showed up to provide a little more color to a very nice event.

n The Record-Courier People editor Jo Rafferty contributed to this story.


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