Janesville18.2°

Historical society career gave retiring Dodge appreciation of history

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Shelly Birkelo
September 18, 2013

JANESVILLE—Joyce Dodge is creating a list of her duties as administrative assistant at the Rock County Historical Society.

So far, it's six pages long.

"There's so many things I do," said Dodge, who is retiring Sept. 30 after 23 years of service to the historical society.

Dodge was responsible for the society's accounting when she was hired Oct. 22, 1990. Through the years, her responsibilities changed and so did her title.

The biggest change has been technology, she said.

"They're bringing in all new computers, and I didn't want to start learning all of that," she said.

Dodge, 79, Janesville, explained other reasons behind her decision to retire.

"I'm tired, and all of my friends are retired," she said.

Executive Director Michael Reuter said an organization the size of the historical society could never fully replace someone such as Dodge.

“Her knowledge of the organization's history and of the people that have come and gone is an invaluable resource to any new director starting out. She has made these last 14 months an easy transition for me as I have gotten to know the organization, its constituents and the community,” he said.

Dodge provided continuity, Reuter said.

“What makes Joyce so special is her willingness to do anything that was asked of her, and her offer to be available if we have questions speaks to her generous personality," he said.

The historical society won't have an administrative assistant position after the staff is restructured, Reuter said.

“An operations manager position will be created that handles more of the day-to-day operations of the RCHS. A small percentage of what Joyce did will be performed by this position, while other duties will be delegated to the rest of the staff, including myself. I have hopes to have someone in that position by mid-October,” he said.

Over the years, Dodge worked for at least seven executive directors, but always enjoyed the variety of tasks at the front desk, in the gift shop, in the archives and counting the money for the Tallman Arts Festival.

"I like working with numbers," she said.

She attended business college in Minneapolis and majored in office work.

She'll miss the people and the routine.

"I've met so many people. This is almost like family," she said.

She loved showing visitors historical society exhibits, particularly the Pickard China.

"They're so surprised to learn what we have here," Dodge said.

Among her most memorable moments was the historical society's move from The Armory on South High Street to the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center, 426 N. Jackson St.

"It was such a good change. This way we're all together instead of down the road. This building is much more convenient and modern," she said.

After retirement, Dodge plans to resume quilting, attend quilting retreats, spend more time with family and volunteer for the historical society.

Dodge never imagined she'd stay employed as long as she did at the historical society.

“It's the history and learning how they protect all of the artifacts. You don't know that until you work in a place like this that gives one an appreciation when you learn the history of things."



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