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Sue Iverson has been an active volunteer with the North Haven Historical Society & Museums for more than 20 years. (Photo courtesy of Sue Iverson )
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More than 20 years ago, Sue Iverson and her husband, Robert, were looking to purchase a home. When a historic home in North Haven piqued their interest, they decided to do some research into the home’s history and what owning a historic home would entail. The couple visited the North Haven Historical Society and Museums (NHHS).
“They were really useful in the research we did on the house before we bought it,” says Sue. “We learned it was on the National and State Register of Historic Places for its age, the classic Georgian Colonial architecture with kitty-corner fireplaces, and the fact that the dominant owners of the house were very early residents of North Haven who were involved in a lot of the town’s history.”
While the idea of the owning a historic home seemed “daunting” at first, Sue and her family soon learned there were no obligations to fulfill, though at the same time, there is also no help in restoring or maintaining historic homes. Over the years, the family has had to make repairs to the home and Sue noted that they have tried to maintain the historical look and feel.
“We had to redo the roof and you have to put on cedar and there’s also a lot more exterior painting involved—the maintenance is more expensive as you clean, paint, and repair as needed, but to me, historic homes seems cozier than modern homes,” says Sue. “There’s a comfort to them with the warm wood and interesting characteristics. You can look at the fireplace that’s burned for almost 300 years that still works today and it’s just fascinating.”
After spending so much time at the NHHS in researching the purchase of their home, Sue decided to return to volunteer, which she and her husband have now been doing for the more than two decades. When she first joined, Sue was in her 40s and still working full-time as a teacher. Despite a busy schedule, after six months of volunteering, Sue was convinced to join the board as vice president.
“A few months after that, the president quit, making an absolute newcomer the president of an organization with a lot of old-timers who knew everything already so I had to learn real quick,” says Sue. “They let me know what my duties were and I couldn’t shirk them, but they were all very nice.”
As Sue learned about her duties, she formed friendships with her older fellow volunteers. She noted that she recently attended the memorial service of one of her friends, who was 103 years old when she passed away.
Both she and her husband are active volunteers on both the museum side and the historical society side.
Sue’s husband works on the museum side where the physical artifacts are displayed. The museum is currently closed as it is being renovated with fresh paint and new flooring before the artifacts are returned to their exhibits. They are hoping to reopen the museum by the spring.
Sue is more involved in the historical society side. She manages the archives, which involves cataloging all of the information that comes into the NHHS, entering it into a database, and filing it in the correct place. Items to be archived include documents such as journals, diaries, deeds, and maps.
“My husband and I handle most of the stuff that comes into the historical society, but we’re not the only ones—everyone down there has a role to play,” says Sue. “I take an item in, place it where it should be, and enter a description so we can find it like a library. It’s huge job to enter every item, but we’re getting there.”
There are about a dozen regularly involved volunteers, but Sue notes that more volunteers are always welcome and there are many roles to be filled. People can volunteer in many capacities, including working on exhibits, helping enter information into the database, working on special events, and greeting those visiting the archives and meeting room, which is still open while the museum is being renovated.
“We’re always looking for volunteers, especially folks who can be active and contribute time or skills,” says Sue. “It’s good to have financial contributors, but if folks can give a couple hours of their time, that’s the most beneficial to us, plus it makes it more fun because you meet more people. Even if someone can do a half-hour a week, that’d be a help. Come in, get to know us, and if you like us, come in once in a while and give a hand.”
Those curious about the NHHS can visit the archives and meeting room on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m. There is always an exhibit in the meeting room. For information, visit northhavenhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com. The NHHS can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.
“If you have research questions, you can come in and ask,” says Sue. “We always have some kind of exhibit in our meeting room to look at—there’s always something to do as a visitor.”
Sue has learned a lot through the years of being involved with NHHS. She has had an interest in history since she was a young girl. Her father was in the Navy and every time her family moved, Sue would research her new town.
“Learning the history of the place we were gave me roots because we didn’t really have roots anywhere,” says Sue, who was a high school science teacher in North Haven for 28 years. “Knowing the local history gave me that connection I wanted anywhere we lived.”
Though Sue was working full-time when she joined the NHHS, she retired from full-time work eight years ago. For five years after that, she had several part-time teaching jobs before fully retiring three years ago.
In her retirement, she has had time to focus on her hobbies of sewing, quilting, gardening, and traveling. Sue and Robert also enjoy spending time with their family, including their two grandchildren. Their son Andrew works for the University of Connecticut and their daughter Marie and son-in-law Craig live with them, with their daughter. Marie is now on the board of NHHS, and both Marie and Craig enjoy helping maintain the family home.
“After we’re gone, I think they’ll continue to love this house,” says Sue, who has been enjoying having more time for the NHHS. “I like the people I work with [at NHHS] and that I can still work with school kids occasionally. I also enjoy looking at the information in the archives. You come across some funny and unusual things.”
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