Heritage Heroes 2018

Jenny Lillge

Jenny Lillge has been a fan of history since grade school. A Woodland native, she attended Gibson Elementary, Douglass Junior High, and Woodland High School. She loved to read, and books about people living in different times and places fascinated her. She read “Gone With The Wind” in sixth grade, a real accomplishment for someone who hadn’t started junior high.

Books were not Jenny’s only window into the past. A family trip to Europe when she was seven showed her the importance of being able to see places she had only read and heard about. Walking along the beaches of Normandy made stories about D-Day seem more real. Visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, and walking through the bookcase into the “secret annex” was an experience she will never forget.

“To actually be in Anne Frank’s hiding place, and see the concentration camp of Dachau, really made an otherwise unimaginable part of history seem like something that really happened. It’s not enough to read about the past, although that’s a good start. Whether it’s an enormous historic tragedy, or the everyday lives of people 100 years ago, we can learn much more by being able to walk where these people walked!”

After high school, Jenny attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and later lived in Chicago for two years, a city rich with art, history and architecture. As a newlywed, Jenny moved to Salem, Oregon to attend Willamette Law School and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, but she and her husband Nate quickly realized they wanted to make Woodland their home. They moved back to Woodland and Jenny was shortly thereafter appointed to the Gibson House Museum Board in 2010. As a board member, Jenny worked hard to keep the Gibson House the home of the Yolo County Historical Museum.

She also became active in city politics, and started a Change.org petition to keep Woodland’s general plan from approving an addition to the east of town that would have added 10,000 new homes.

“Woodland has a really unique downtown, and the residential areas represent a living history of different building styles. As Woodland grows, it’s important to keep the core area the true town center. Smart growth is important and we need to maintain the vision of a real town and plan carefully.”

Today, Jenny works in an 1892 Victorian building in downtown Woodland. Her office walls are lined with Van Gogh and Klimt prints, photos and paintings of Bernard Maybeck’s architecture, a copy of the ship’s manifest for her great-grandfather’s crossing from Liverpool to New York and even the United States Post Office’s recent reproduction of the Inverted Jenny stamps. “I love art, architecture and history. It’s a treat that I get to work surrounded by all three.”

Looking forward, Jenny sees the need for coordination between Yolo County’s many different historic organizations.

“We are so lucky to have so many people who volunteer their time and energy promoting Yolo County’s history. We have the Archives, the Yolo County Historical Society, the Friends of the Woodland Library, and many other groups. Winters will soon have its own Winters Historical Society. It would be great to coordinate all these different organizations, and really use this energy for promoting history throughout the county. I hope to be a part of that going forward.”


Richard Bellows Heritage Hero

Richard and his wife Marilyn moved to Woodland in 2005 after his career in NJ and CT. That first year, they heard about the Stroll Through History. Both were charmed by the grass roots nature and all-volunteer ethics of the Stroll. They especially loved the walking tours. They have not missed a Stroll since.

In 2008, Richard started the Stroll Bike Tours. In 2009, he published an article about the Bike Tours in Cycle California. In 2011, when the Stroll was facing organizational and financial problems. Richard, along with David Wilkinson and BJ Ford, stepped up to save the Stroll. Richard took over the printing of the ticket booklet. National Town and Valley Properties, Kathy & David Aukes, volunteered their color copier, saving the Stroll several thousand dollars in printing charges. Richard then assumed responsibility as Chair of the Stroll in 2012 and led it for four years until 2015. During his tenure as Chair, Richard helped organize the volunteers to insure that each Board member could excel, but that they were working as a team. At the end of his tenure, the Stroll was again organizationally and financially sound. Dick still plays an important part of the Stroll Board: editing the ticket book, conducting home interviews, keeping the new Chair on track, and generally filling in whenever needed.

Richard is a chemical engineer by training. As he wound down his consulting business, he became active and assumed leadership role in several other community organizations, including Woodland Kiwanis, Epicurean Esprit, NAMI Yolo, the Yolo Local Mental Health Board and the Fly Fishers of Davis. Woodland has turned out to be a wonderful place for a newcomer to make contributions to a new community.

Marianne Ryan by Margaret Kronenberg

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.16.06 AMMarianne Ryan was born and raised in the Midwest, then moved to California in 1960. She began the study of art at the University of California, Davis with Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud and Robert Arnsen. Marianne is one of the early founders of The Stroll Through History who planned and organized the poster contest. She is also the original incorporating president of the Yolo Arts Council that started in 1981.

Marianne took four visits to Carrara Italy, the location of the Michelango white marble quarry. Manuel Neri served as her guide and advisor. On her 4th visit she shipped back 1.2 metric tons of hand selected white marble to Woodland. She then gave an art exhibit and talk at Sacramento State University titled: The Last Wedding Part One, where she utilized the Italian marble.

Marianne also gave a talk and exhibition at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, featuring work from CERN (the European Union for Nuclear Research).

Two subsequent visits to Geneva followed where she was able to observe the CERN experiment. She was invited to respond to the project with art. Upon doing so, she presented examples of her paintings and the physicists asked her permission to install her work permanently on their own website. She, of course, said “yes”. They did.
Regionally: Solo exhibition at the Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, Nelson Gallery UCD, Yolo Arts Gallery 625, Woodland Carnegie Library, Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, County Fair and numerous group shows.

“In most of mankind, within a life span, there occurs a facet of time when the inner strengths , often unspoken, often unrecognized , are thrust unexpectedly into action causing a person to unwittingly accelerate physical and mental properties. The individual capacity to exceed the ordinary limitations of human endeavor is startling, stunning and without explanation: extra-ordinary. Within the spirit of some, there resides a force, an unyielding task master, compelling and relentless, beckoning, pushing, pulling at once, propelling to go beyond mediocrity, to extend capability, to reach farther and farther without regard. In recognition and love of this phenomena, I address my efforts and the use of my materials.” – Marianne Ryan

Heritage Heroes David Wilkinson by Al Smith

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.15.58 AMDavid Wilkinson has been an integral part of the Stroll since the first formal event in 1989. After graduate studies at UC Davis in 1985, David and his wife Diane Adams moved from Davis to Woodland. Within a year they purchased their ‘beloved’ Victorian house on First Street which “needed a lot of work.” But through their dedicated passion and renovation, the fixer-upper house became a home for raising twin daughters Rose and Emily, while solidifying David’s enthusiasm for the community.

During his eight years on the Historic Preservation Commission David seriously studied and wrote about Woodland’s history and exceptional architecture, which he finds “endlessly fascinating and rewarding.” He helped with the research and update of the Woodland Walking Tour booklet in 1989, and then served on the 1989 organizing committee for the freshly named event, Stroll Through History. Active in every Stroll since, he has organized walking tours, trained docents, and led both walking and bus tours. He and friend Roger Klemm are popular tour guides engaging guests with their expert knowledge with occasional injections of their own fun repartee.

David helped establish the Heritage Home Awards, which honors homeowners who have done exceptional jobs renovating and maintaining historic houses thus preserving Woodland’s architectural jewels. The Stroll is an annual showcase of such beauty. A man quick to give credit to others, David acknowledges learning much from the late Ron Pinegar, long time Woodland city planner, who was an outstanding contributor to preserving the city’s history and enthusiastic worker with the Stroll.

His wonderful 2003 book Crafting a Valley Jewel: Architects and Builders of Woodland grew from information gained from earlier research for the Walking Tour guides. David’s writing continues with How Woodland Became the City of Trees, to be published in 2017, an apt subject because David co-founded the Woodland Tree Foundation.

David Wilkinson sums up his dedication: “As we learn more about Woodland’s history, it deepens our appreciation for what we have and connects us more deeply in the community. It inspires us all to do our part to beautify the town and make the best of this place we call Woodland.”