A Rebecca Smith from the Elkton High Yearbook in 1976.
The Historical Society of Cecil County’s annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 14, will recognize retired Cecil County Educator, A. Rebecca Smith by presenting her with the Ernest A. Howard Award. Named after a man who was instrumental in building the strong Society that serves the county, this prestigious award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation of the county’s heritage.
Miss Smith touched the lives of two generations of Cecil’s young people as a teacher and guidance counselor during a career spanning five decades. In the midst of the Great Depression she completed her bachelor’s degree at Western Maryland College and started teaching history at Perryville High in 1935. After World War II, the practice of school counseling emerged and Miss Smith became one of the first practitioners here. The devoted educator sought out new professional development opportunities and broadened her knowledge as she helped guide teenagers. After serving the county for 41-years the popular and respected teacher retired in 1979.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the lifelong Cecilton resident volunteered as a trustee at the Historical Society. During that time, she worked tirelessly to advance the organization and to assure that the County’s heritage was preserved. While helping better the organization in many ways, she was directly responsible for developing two valuable resources.
The A. Rebecca Smith Yearbook Collection began when she donated her cherished volumes with so many fond memories of her students to the Society. The initial gift of 33-editions inspired others to donate so there are now about 320 volumes, which reveal the high school years of generations of teenagers and invoke priceless memories. Researchers putting together their family history or studying Cecil’s past treasure this valuable source containing once in a lifetime memories. Many other county societies have remarked that they wished they had such a valuable holding for one rarely sees such a large body of these works in special collections libraries.
Glance at the handwritten notes scribbled in yearbooks during these years and you will see the admiration so many young people had for a caring professional that dedicated a great portion of her life to teaching them important lessons and helping them with the challenges of maturing. The Elkton High Class of 1976, which dedicated its yearbook to Miss Smith, illustrates this point: “As we worked our way through high school there was always one person to whom we turned in times of joy and sadness. The patience and devotion she gave each of us is deeply felt as we remember those times when her gentle nudge and her words of encouragement were all we needed. . . . With these things in mind, the class of 1976 voted unanimously to dedicate the 1976 Antler to their guidance counselor, Miss Rebeca Smith.” After that she served as the Chief Judge of the Orphans Court, finally retiring a few days before turning 88-years-old.
She also created the Cecil County writers’ collection. This special group holding is composed of books, including novels and other creative works, which were written by local authors. When she retired from the Society in the late-1990s, the tireless supporter and volunteer had improved the organization in many concrete ways.
The Society notes that it frequently hears that the organization is in the top tier of heritage groups in Maryland. During 16-years as a trustee and a much longer period as a member, the dedicated volunteer greatly contributed to the services Cecil’s heritage keepers bring to the public. The Society is pleased to present this honor and recognize Miss Smith for a lifetime of community service.
Past recipients are: Lucia Demond, Dr. Davy McCall, George Reynolds, Ed Belote, and Earl Simmers.
Ernest Howard, was born in Childs, MD. in 1885. This benefactor of the organization was deeply involved in the successful revival of the nonprofit in the 1950s. He worked tirelessly to preserve local heritage and was active in the restoration of several churches and others buildings. A large donation he made to the county to help fund a headquarters for the County’s public library directly resulted in the establishment of a home for the Society at 135 E. Main St. in Elkton, which is where Cecil County’s local history and genealogy library is now located. This local historian passed away in 1973.
This year’s annual meeting, which includes an engaging program on sports history, takes place on Nov. 14 starting at 6 p.m. at 135 E. Main St. in Elkton. Join us for the history, the award presentation and a wine-and-cheese reception prior to Krimmel’s presentation. Admission is $10 for members and $15 for non-members payable at the door.
Miss Smith and other faculty members in the Elkton High School Yearbook for 1958