Judy Abrell is no stranger to the world of community museums.
Before moving to the mountains from Miami, Florida, she served on the Miami-Dade County Historic Board and was active in historic restorations and art projects throughout that area. So, once she arrived here it was only a matter of time before she began putting her experience to work for the Henderson County Heritage Museum, where she is currently the Board Chair.
The Museum, located in the Old Courthouse on Hendersonville’s Main Street, has arguably the most comprehensive collections of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia in North Carolina. The exhibit — displayed in the Museum’s Perry Rudnick Foundation Room — offers a rare look at weapons, clothing, literature, and stories from that devastating period in American history.
Judy arrived here around Christmas of 1999, met her very civic-minded neighbors and was soon indulging her penchant for community service, working closely with local charities and becoming more and more interested in the past glories of her adopted hometown.
“It’s great to be immersed in the history of a place,” she says. “The Museum celebrates the cultural heritage. It just enriches your life. There are things in the Museum, she points out, that even the locals don’t know about. “I think any knowledge like that is a plus.”
Her contributions, according to the Museum’s Executive Director Bette Carter, have been crucial in making the Museum become reality. “Judy was the big reason we were able to raise the money we needed. She was dogged in going out to talk to people about how important the Museum is to the community.”
Judy and her fellow board members raised $350,000. “It would not have happened without here,” says Carter. “We have fundraisers in this town, but I don’t know anyone who could have done what she did.”
More than anything else, Ms. Abrell sees her participation as an expression of her affection for this part of the country. That’s why she spends so much of her time and energy helping to preserve the past in her new community. It’s obviously a labor of love. “I get far more from it,” she says, “than I could ever give.”