3 Oxford citizens honored for years of work that supported community

Bruce Murray, Valerie Elliott and Ann Whelpton are the Citizens of the Years in Oxford, recognized for the long years of service in their jobs that supported the community.

Credit: Submitted photo

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Bruce Murray, Valerie Elliott and Ann Whelpton are the Citizens of the Years in Oxford, recognized for the long years of service in their jobs that supported the community.

Credit: Submitted photo

OXFORD — Many who give of themselves for the good of the community or those in it, do so year in and year out, mostly quietly and behind the scenes. You might be hard-pressed to find any one thing that stands out as a major contribution in a given year, but taken together, those efforts add up to years, even decades, of doing good.

It is people like that who are considered for recognition as a Citizen of the Years. The long-term contributions to the community help others in myriad ways.

Three people were chosen for the Citizen of the Years award in 2021 for such long, dedicated service to others. This year honored trio are Valerie Elliott, Bruce Murray and Ann Whelpton.

Valerie Elliott

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Valerie Elliott

Credit: Submitted photo

Valerie Elliott

Credit: Submitted photo

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Valerie Elliott

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Recognition as Citizen of the Year, or Years, precludes honoring people for work they do in their employment. Valerie Elliott, however, took her job as manager of the Smith Library of Regional History to such heights the committee felt justified in honoring her for the community service she provided both in the scope of her job and many efforts outside the library walls.

Elliott retired from the Lane Library position November 2020.

She was recognized for contributions for decades to the community with her expert skills in retrieving the history of the Oxford region and has provided expert resources to local individuals, city staff, HAPC and Community Development Departments on property history and lineage. She has been described as invaluable to all city commissions and City Council for decades, providing background information on properties, ownerships, making architectural and landmark information even better with candid historical anecdotes.

She has spearheaded and authored multiple texts on walking tours of Oxford and various historic districts and continues to serve as a walking docent on the four seasonal spring HAPC walking tours.

It was also noted by members of the selection committee she has been involved with the local NAACP branch for many years as well as the Oxford Museum Association, assisting in maintaining some historic artifacts. She was also a founding member of the Three Valley Conservation Trust.

A nomination letter by Kathleen Zien offered a tribute to Elliott’s above-and-beyond approach to her job with the Smith History Library describing a request for information about a business in Oxford in the early 1900s.

“She promised results within a day. Not only did she provide general information about the ‘named’ business, she offered multiple photographs of the restaurant in an attachment and ALL owners’ names and businesses in the 100 block of East High Street with footnotes, along with an unexpected vintage copy of that century-old year’s census with owners listed with age, address, spouses and occupation,” Zien wrote. “More than I could have ever imagined asking for. She is amazing.”

That nomination included a similar example of Elliott’s efforts in providing historical background to assist city boards such as Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals when she has been requested to appear.

“Besides having prepared notes for a particular address, she often spoke extemporaneously, candidly and ‘off the cuff.’ She provided much additional information once the panel followed up with questions to her. Nothing had to be referenced; it was ALL in her brilliant head,” Zien wrote.

Elliott’s interest in the history of Oxford carried into work on published walking tours of the community people can take on their own and read the history of the building they are seeing as well as the annual spring in-person walking tours of various neighborhoods in the city conducted on Saturdays in May. Those tours are conducted by the HAPC with volunteers leading the tours on different days.

Bruce Murray

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Bruce Murray

Credit: Submitted photo

Bruce Murray

Credit: Submitted photo

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Bruce Murray

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Bruce Murray’s most recent gift of music to the community came in a year-long weekly series of “Musical Snacks” posted every Wednesday on YouTube through this past October.

The series of mini-recitals was designed to provide a variety of short pieces to entertain the community during the time of pandemic when in-person performances were not possible. They were prepared in advance and posted at mid-day each Wednesday for all to enjoy.

He is being recognized for 2021 as a Citizen of the Years because he was not eligible for the Year category having already received that recognition in 2017. That came on the heels of his “Mostly Beethoven” Monday evening concert series at the Oxford Community Arts Center which was a sequel to a highly-popular “Mozart Mondays” series he offered in 2015.

Murray has shared his great talent with the Oxford community during his 10 years in Oxford performing piano concerts at the Oxford Community Arts Center and with the Miami University Performing Arts Series.

His Musical Snacks of this past year offered everyone a brief piano piece from a wide range of composers.

“The Musical Snacks have been consistently interesting artistically, not to mention exquisitely performed in the gorgeous ballroom of the Arts Center. In addition to presenting the solo piano music, Murray himself took on the task of creating the video and audio for the live YouTube series, which is still available to enjoy (on YouTube),” a nomination by Sarah and Jim Michael noted. “The short pieces selected and performed by Bruce Murray could serve as a trailer, or teaser, for a comprehensive review of western classical music. The composers represented during the year of Musical Snacks ranged from Bach to Joplin, from Rameau to Coleridge-Taylor, and from W.A. Mozart to Maria Szymanowska.”

Another nomination for Murray as Citizen of the Years came from Hardy and Barbara Eshbaugh, who wrote the weekly Musical Snacks provided an “escape through the joy and solace of music” from concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

That nomination letter praised Murray for his musical contributions to the community over the ten years he has been in Oxford.

Before coming to Oxford, he was a faculty member and Director of the School of Music at the University of Alabama, Dean and Artistic Administrator of the Brevard Music Center. Once at Miami, he served as the music department chair from 2012 until 2017.

He was described as an “active recitalist” known for his performances of Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and new music.

“He is a Steinway artist,” the nominators proclaimed.

“Treating the community to great music well-played is nothing new for Bruce Murray. During almost ten years in Oxford, he has presented numerous free public concerts, both on the Miami campus and at the Arts Center. His generosity in sharing his great talent is exemplary,” the Michaels wrote. “During the past twelve months, the Musical Snacks have been a very special treat indeed.”

Ann Whelpton

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Ann Whelpton

Credit: Submitted photo

Ann Whelpton

Credit: Submitted photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Ann Whelpton

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Ann Whelpton was recognized as a Citizen of the Year in 2014 for her efforts in laying the groundwork for the Oxford VillAGE Network which has continued and grown since that start as Age Friendly Oxford.

The relationship of the Age Friendly Oxford and AARP has provided a great deal of assistance and support in skills training for those involved in the effort, under Whelpton’s leadership.

The selection of Whelpton as a Citizen of the Years in 2021 is a tribute to the work she has put in encouraging others to be involved with making the city more hospitable to the aging population and looking at various ways to accomplish that.

“Through her efforts of over four to five years in developing Age Friendly Oxford, she has demonstrated a steadiness of purpose and singular focus on the needs of elderly persons in greater Oxford. Her understanding of the multiple dimensions of the needs of the elderly has taken the form of the study of multiple ‘domains’ of living,” explained Steve Dana in his nomination of her to receive the recognition. “Examples of the domains are transportation, housing, communications, social inclusion and civic engagement.”

The nomination cited the “strength of her vision” to explain Whelpton’s ability to gather talented professionals together in carrying out the work. Dana cited cooperating efforts from the Miami University’s Scripps Institute as well as citizen volunteers with their study of aging issues have brought about the growth of Age Friendly Oxford.

“Ann’s leadership has shown itself in the close relationship that Age Friendly Oxford has formed with AARP, which provides support and skills training,” he wrote. “Ann, with the city, has headed up the effort to persuade developers of affordable housing to bid on development here. Episcopal Retirement Homes is working with a developer whose efforts, if funded, will give Oxford exactly what many have urged for a considerable number of years. Here is an effort where Ann supports the efforts of the City of Oxford to meet basic needs of its citizens.”

That work has also included recruiting national experts on senior housing to assist with floorplan and space design.

The VillAGE Network was formed in 2014 following a day-long community meeting in which residents considered those domains and brainstormed ways conditions could be improved to better the lives of older residents.

The story about her 2014 recognition stated, “Local work in that area has been underway in various degrees in recent years, but a forum in late 2013 brought those questions more into the open and led to the formation of the Oxford VillAGE Network in early 2014. Moving that effort was the work of many people, but Ann Whelpton has contributed much to the effort and that is being recognized by her selection as one of the Citizens of the Year.”

That led to the 2017 development of Age Friendly Oxford.

It was also noted that Whelpton has previously served on the board of Oxford United Way and including time as president.

CUTLINES:

Valerie Elliott

Brue Murray

Ann Whelpton

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