Museum president steps aside

Norma Reheis

The long-standing president of the Monroe County History Museum is stepping down after nearly 20 years of dedicated work with the organization.

Having served as president since 2010, Norma Reheis will now serve as program coordinator for the museum.

Reheis has always been a Monroe County local, graduating from Waterloo High School with her boyfriend and husband Bill.

The couple got married at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Waterloo, had three children and wound up moving to Valmeyer as Reheis decided she wanted to attend college and pursue a teaching career.

She started teaching in Waterloo in 1971. As she fondly recalled, Reheis began her work as a fifth grade teacher in the same room she attended first grade.

In 1974, Reheis earned a master’s degree in counseling and adjusted her career slightly to start working as a counselor at WHS.

She later stepped up as director of guidance for several years before leaving Waterloo to work at Belleville Area College.

Reheis closed out this part of her career working as a counselor at Columbia Middle School. She also moved to Columbia for a time – though she ultimately made her way back home to Waterloo in 1993.

With her history of bouncing between schools and communities, Reheis said she was quite satisfied with her career.

“I have enjoyed everything that I have done,” Reheis said. “I loved going to college. I met so many people. I loved teaching. I loved being with the kids.”

Her work with the Monroe County History Museum began in 2006 as she became the corresponding secretary and grant writer for the museum board amid its bid to find a building for the museum.

“The project was being discussed and they were trying to find a place to get a building,” Reheis said. “Just a lot of things were going on, and there were various people that I knew that were conducting small food fundraisers… They would sell raffle tickets on different items, and it was all very small. One of the things that I had a little experience with was writing for small-time grants when I was at Columbia, so I volunteered to help out.”

Ultimately, of course, the museum was able to find its current home at 724 Elaine Drive in Waterloo, and Reheis – along with husband Bill – stuck around.

In her first position with the board, Reheis earned two Governor’s Awards for the history museum.

Reheis continued to see success as she went on to serve as board president, with a great many programs and installations completed over the past few years.

Reheis pointed to a number of additions the museum has seen over the years, including the Kueker Gallery in 2009, William Zimmer Gallery in 2010 and Allscheid-Metzger Gallery in 2015.

Along with additional displays and programs, some of the museum’s largest features have been Smithsonian exhibits. These include “The Way We Worked” and the local companion exhibit “Lure of the Land” as well as “Hometown Teams” and its local companion exhibit “From Fields to Dreams.”

While Reheis had a major hand in the growth of the museum, she emphasized the work her husband and the plethora of other museum volunteers have put toward numerous projects.

Reheis spoke briefly about her appreciation for the history of Monroe County. While she said history was never her subject in school, that tune has changed as she’s worked with the museum.

“History was not one of my favorite things in school, nor in college, but getting involved with the museum and all of the hidden history that came to light during the time I was volunteering with all these different things going on – I was busy all the time with something – I just couldn’t believe how much occurred in our area historically. It just amazed me,” Reheis said.

She further said that, though she can’t recall who made the remark in the past, she agrees that “the history of Monroe County is one of the best kept secrets,” though she’s happy to see more of it coming to light.

Reheis also offered general reflections on her time with the museum.

“I enjoyed it,” Reheis said. “I enjoyed being with the people. I enjoyed watching things develop and be created. The people that were involved were easy to work with, and they all had the same goals. We got along, and it was fun. We had a lot of laughs. There were a lot of crazy things that occurred at different times, even during the construction time with the different vendors that came in… There was always a lot of camaraderie.”

Sue Watters, who serves as secretary for the museum board, offered additional reflections on Reheis’ contributions to the history museum.

She recalled how Reheis was the one to bring her on the board to begin with, adding how impressed she is with Reheis and her familiarity with the museum.

“She knows so much about all the articles in the museum, and she helped me learn how to be a docent myself,” Watters said. “She was there all the time, and now she’s still helping to plan all the programs.”

Watters further praised Reheis for her contributions to the museum’s success and all her efforts to make sure the museum remains a “viable institution.”

“That was her main purpose in life, to work at the museum and to help it succeed,” Watters said. “She and her husband both put their whole souls into helping make it a good place to preserve history.”

Also sharing his thoughts was Shelby Mathes, who now serves as board president now that Reheis has stepped down.

While he admitted to being somewhat hesitant about stepping into the role, Mathes added he hopes to keep things running smoothly.

“I’ve got big shoes to fill, that’s for sure,” Mathes said. “She’s been at it, and she’s very efficient, very on-spot on everything… I’m gonna do the best I can for the community and make it as good a place as she has put it in our hands to take care of.”

As previously mentioned, Reheis will continue working with the museum – focusing chiefly on programming – for the time being.

“I’m working with quite a few people this year for the programming, and I intend to stay on the board I guess as long as I’m able to be a constructive and knowledgable contributor,” Reheis said.

For more information on the museum, visit monroecountyhistorymuseum.org.

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Andrew Unverferth

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