Monmouth County Library Commission Chairman Renee Swartz, left and COunty Clerk CHristine Hanlon congratulate Freehold Lillian Burry on receiving the M. Claire French Award for excellence in leadership.
PHOTO: Monmouth County Library Commission Chairman Renee Swartz, left and COunty Clerk CHristine Hanlon congratulate Freehold Lillian Burry on receiving the M. Claire French Award for excellence in leadership.

MANALAPAN, NJ – Freeholder Lillian Burry became the first person to receive the M Claire French Award during a day of activities and honors for both the freeholder and other award recipients at Archives Day at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters Saturday.

   The M Claire French award, named in honor of the longest serving clerk for Monmouth County who retired this year after 18 years in the position, honors Mrs. Burry’s commitment to leadership in preservation and education of American history. Mrs. French was among the first to congratulate the award winner.

   Freeholder Director Gary Rich, present on the stage with Freeholders Serena DeMasi and Tom Arnone, declared it officially Lillian Burry Day in recognition of the honors the freeholder received and her achievements in the fields of history and preservation of open space to continue the state’s equine and farming industries.

   In accepting the award, Mrs. Burry repeated her often said adage, “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been,” as a way to describe her dedication to historic preservation in Monmouth County. As a former Mayor of Matawan and Colts Neck before she was a freeholder, Mrs. Burry has championed historic causes, sites, and preservation of memorials to historic figures.
   “I’m not talking about a dry and dusty history filed away and soon forgotten,” the freeholder said. “I’m talking about a history that informs, enlightens and inspires our present and future lives. History is a touchstone for our aspirations and a foundation on which we build…it gives form, color and texture to our lives, and in doing so, remains alive within us.”

   Mrs. Burry said the people within the communities where she has lived value their history and share her commitment, and now, as a freeholder, “I am once again fortunate to have a broader community of volunteers and dedicated professionals who work to preserve the centuries of history that enrich all of Monmouth County.”

   The award had added meaning, she said, since not only is she the first recipient, but because it is named for her “great friend and fellow champion of historic preservation….and I am pleased to be a part of this event in order to call more attention to the need to preserve our heritage.”

   Freeholder John Curley, who came to Archives Day late, declined to come forward to add his congratulations to those of the other freeholders and more than 100 persons in attendance at the ceremony honoring Mrs. Burry.

     Joseph W. Hammond, former Director of the Monmouth County Historical Association and now curator of the Association, received the prestigious Jane Clayton award for his contributions to history. Hammond was cited for numerous historical contributions over several decades, but specifically cited for his recent work in compiling the Hartshorne Family Papers for the Association, an in depth collection of personal papers from a prominent Monmouth County family dating back more than 400 years. Hammond also wrote a comprehensive index for the collection, which is available for interested residents at the Association headquarters in Freehold.

   Ronald L. Becker, Director of the Archives at Rutgers University, received the Roger McDonough Award for outstanding leadership in library sciences and archives. Ed Raser, who has received the Jane Clayton award in the past, received the Barbara Carver Smith award for scholarship in genealogy, and the Ocean Township Historical Museum received the award for Innovative Archives.