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Local News

December 20, 2013

Delhi mourns passing of longtime village historian Houck

Delhi village historian Shirley Houck, who died Wednesday at age 87, was remembered Thursday by Mayor Richard Maxey as “a petite lady (who) did big things.”

“About 20 years ago, Shirley fulfilled all the requirements to receive a combined grant. The funds were used to establish a controlled atmospheric archival room in Village Hall where village and town government records are stored,” Maxey recalled.

Jeannette DeWitt said she got to know Houck through one of the historian’s numerous research projects. 

“That gravestone was my husband’s grandfather,” DeWitt said. “We also told Shirley about another Civil War gravestone in our family cemetery on our Delhi home property. That was my husband’s mother’s brother-in-law.”

“Shirley worked hard, getting all the details and copying our family papers to record at the village and county level,” DeWitt said. “She was a wonderful person and will be missed. “ 

In addition to her work preparing an archive of village history, Houck contributed to the county’s records, working part-time as the county’s records clerk. 

“She came in to work right up until she got sick,” Delaware County Clerk Sharon O’Dell remembered. 

O’Dell called Houck “dedicated and very helpful, adding that “Her grasp on the Anti-Rent War history was amazing. 

When space opened up in the basement of the Delhi Courthouse, Houck helped move the county archives into the new space. 

Delaware County Records Management Specialist Deb Lambrecht remembered the day Houck wore sandals to work and a mole who had found its way into the basement nibbled her toe. 

“Shirley dubbed us the ‘Basement Moles’ after that,” Lambrecht said.

Houck’s legacy includes a genealogical archive that had drawn praise from near and far. 

“Shirley’s forte was genealogy,” Lambrecht explained. “Genealogists visit the county archives to do research, and rave about the excellence of the system.”

The archive, which includes records from the American Revolution and Civil War, war discharges, divorce records, civil records, maps for the reservoirs, naturalization records, cemetery information, and more, was carefully compiled, organized and indexed by Houck. 

“It was her index system that makes the research easier,” Lambrecht said. “I wish I could have hooked Shirley up to a computer and downloaded her.” 

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