2022 Henry Welles Award

The Henry C. Welles award honors those individuals who “embody the character and commitment of the founder of Memorial Day toward the betterment of our community.”

For the first time in three years, the Waterloo community will celebrate and commemorate Memorial Day, and the Waterloo Library & Historical Society will recognize the recipient of the Henry C. Welles Award.

Phyllis Dunlap is this year’s recipient of the Welles Award, which honors members of the Waterloo community who embody the character and commitment of the founder of Memorial Day toward the betterment of our community. Dunlap was originally given the award in 2020, but WLHS has not been able to give her the ceremony she deserves until now because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Welles was the Waterloo druggist who – along with General John B. Murray, the Seneca County Clerk at the time – came up with the idea of setting aside a day to honor those who died in the Civil War. The Waterloo community held its first Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, observance on May 5, 1866, and the village later became known as the Birthplace of Memorial Day and federally recognized as such by President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress in 1966.

Dunlap is a longtime volunteer for WLHS who has often dressed in period clothing to present the history of Memorial Day, assisted with book sales and other events to support the mission and operations of the library and history society, and worked with the collections of the library and historical society’s museums.

A retired primary school teacher from the Waterloo Central School District, Dunlap is part of numerous state and local retired teachers’ associations. She also volunteers with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Real Christmas in Waterloo.

Like many other previous award winners and those who have contributed to our community without an expectation of recognition, Dunlap said she is honored and humbled to receive this award.

The Welles Award ceremony serves as the first event to bring Celebrate Commemorate weekend back from its pandemic-induced hiatus, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27 in WLHS’s Fatzinger Hall.

Welles and Murray are the two men in Waterloo history most associated with the creation of Memorial Day. It was Welles who mentioned at a social gathering in Waterloo in the summer of 1865 – just after the Civil War ended – that people should remember those who died in the war by placing flowers on their graves.

Welles told his idea to Murray in the spring of 1866, and Murray took the thought and turned it into an event. Though similar observances had already taken place in the South, there is no indication that the men knew of them when they came up with their idea for Memorial Day.

Now, WLHS honors Welles’ contribution and legacy by honoring those who have worked over the years to make the Waterloo community a better place for all

May 26-28, 2023

157th Consecutive
Memorial Day Observance
May 30, 2023

Celebrate Commemorate Volunteer Form




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