COVID-19 CONCERNS: Historical Society cancels ‘Heroes and Legends’ dinner

Robert Smith

The Osage County Historical Society has announced it has decided to cancel its plans to have an in-person version of its annual “Heroes and Legends” program in 2020.

“Heroes and Legends,” which is in its fifth year, honors five Osage County residents each year for their contributions to their communities. The event allows the Historical Society to raise consciousness about the heritage of Osage County, to encourage a spirit of public service, and to remind the citizenry of people who have made distinctive contributions.

The 2020 Heroes and Legends dinner, originally scheduled for May 7 at the Ag Building at the county fairgrounds, was canceled in early April due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. At that point, the number of COVID-19 cases in the county was growing and deaths were still being reported. As of July 13, no COVID-19 deaths had been confirmed for Osage County since April 14, but the number of confirmed infections is growing again.

The Historical Society was in the process of rescheduling the event and getting word to the public that the dinner would be held July 30 at the Ag Building, but society president Jerry Butterbaugh said that a board meeting last week resulted in a serious discussion of potential risks involved in trying to go ahead with the dinner at the end of this month.

“We wanted to go ahead and honor these people,” Butterbaugh said, referring to the Heroes and Legends Class of 2020, but the honor will now be bestowed at a distance, through public communications by the Osage County Historical Society, rather than through a public event such as the annual dinner. Honorees of the program are frequently older people, who would generally be more at-risk for severe cases of COVID-19.

Persons chosen as 2020 Heroes and Legends honorees include the Rev. Kenneth Woodhams of Pawhuska; Osage artist Wendy Ponca of Fairfax; veterinarian Jan Johnston-Tharp of Pawhuska’s Johnston Veterinary Clinic; John David Israel of Wynona, a Western-goods craftsman known for his high quality spurs and bits; and the late Kenneth M. Taylor of Hominy, a decorated World War II veteran who is known for having helped to defend Pearl Harbor from aircraft launched by the Japanese fleet on Dec. 7, 1941.