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By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
MIDDLETOWN -- Mildred Brumback has breathed Frederick County air her whole life.
She was born 87 years ago in the county where she resides. She met her soon-to-be high school sweetheart a few short decades later, and moved into his house on Belle Grove Plantation for the entirety of their 63-year marriage. That's where she can be found now, occasionally giving guided tours to guests of the plantation. And that's where she was recognized Sunday afternoon with the Gene Dicks Award, which was created four years ago to honor citizens who work to support Middletown's heritage.
The award was created by the Middletown Heritage Society in honor of former Mayor Gene Dicks, who helped to found the society and constantly tried to improve the town. There have been only two previous award recipients -- John Hoffman and Leo Bernstein. Brumback noted that she was the first female recipient, but she was quick to announce her delight upon hearing the news.
"I was quite surprised," Brumback said. "It's quite an honor to have the award, and I just didn't think that I qualified for it."
But the society did, especially lifetime member and ex-president Helen Lee Fletcher, who nominated Brumback.
"She just is the embodiment of what [the award] says," Fletcher said. "She just has always been a part of the community and ... the person who has done an outstanding job on all fronts."
Besides her help with the Heritage Society and Belle Grove Plantation, Brumback also helped to restore St. Thomas Chapel, which scored the building its place on the National Register of Historic Places and had it named an official Virginia Landmark. She has also helped with the garden club's Christmas house tours and with any reunion that has taken place at the old Middletown School, where she received her education.
She is also known as being one of the most knowledgeable people on the town's history. Many people who are researching their genealogy are told to call her, current Heritage Society President Joe Hickman said. She has been instrumental in identifying a variety of people's early links to Middletown.
"Living here at Belle Grove, you can't help but be involved in history, because it's history every day," Brumback said.
Hickman said that while she uses the library and courthouse resources, she also researches heavily online.
"She gets really excited and just loves to do this kind of family research," Hickman said. "I think it helps sustain her."
"In order to keep the body active, you have to keep the mind active too," Brumback said. "I read a lot of history, and I'm interested in a lot of history."
More importantly, she doesn't keep her interests to herself.
"She's always happy, always excited, always wants to learn more and always wants to share what she knows," Hickman said.