Reiffers honored for 25 years with Family History Center

ESCANABA – Richard Reiffers, an Escanaba native, was recently honored at a luncheon at the Stonehouse by the Escanaba Family History Center Staff for completing 25 years of volunteer service.

Reiffers was first introduced to Genealogy in March of 1977 as a high school sophomore in his US History Class taught by Jim Hirn. He began researching Luxembourg and Belgium areas, his father’s ancestry, then his mother’s line brought him through French Canada and back to France. With the excitement of the publishing of Alex Haley’s book, “Roots,” and what he discovered about his roots, Reiffers was bitten by the Genealogy Bug.

He continued his research when he had time during his years of service in the US Air force in Alaska. Upon returning to Escanaba, the area was buzzing with genealogy enthusiasts such as Margaret Gilbert, Marguerite Larson, Camille Rabitoy, Pat Sundsrom and others.

In 1981, the Delta County Genealogical Society was organized with Ed Gillespie as its first president. The society soon grew to over 100 members. Margaret Gilbert then headed up a group to bring an LDS Genealogical Library to Escanaba through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was asked to establish two Libraries, one first in Marquette then in Escanaba. Howard Fontaine told Reiffers about the Library of Escanaba and finally, in May of 1987, Reiffers became one of the regular patrons of FHC set up in the basement of the old LDS Church on 19th and 15th Avenue North.

After having 12 years of research, Reiffers joined the FHC staff in September of 1988, serving with other enthusiasts such as Naida Standing, Sharon Ivory, Lois Mcintosh, Theresa Jenshak, Betty Zeni, Lorna Hiney, Terry Hampton and many others under its first director, Margaret Gilbert.

Reiffers got a scolding in December of 1989 for coming on duty with a broken leg. He had maneuvered down the stairs on his bottom to work his shift. When Gilbert heard about it, he was given a Scotch Blessing.

The Library moved when a new church was built in 1991 to its present location on 9th Avenue South and 13th Street. Pat Sundstrom became director of the new Escanaba Family History Center in 1998. Reiffers continued to serve with Camille Rabitoy, Terry Hampton, Lee Ziemba, Peggy Schmidt, many others and continued after Diana Berrigan, became the director in 2002.

Between searches, Reiffers has managed to work for the Daily Press, Bay College, and graduate from Bay College with an associate’s degree in business in May 2005 and then a bachelor degree in business administration from Lake Superior State University in April of 2010. Reiffers volunteers at the Family History Center on Thursdays, 5-8 p.m. and most Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stop in.

Reiffers stated, “It has been a journey tying my family into the world history timeline. For instance, two of my great grandfathers in the early 1600’s, from my Belanger side, Abraham Martin had the Plains of Abraham, now a Canadian National Park in Quebec City named after him, and Louis Hebert had a statue erected in his honor as the first doctor of Quebec. Bringing our past into our future through genealogy will be our legacy to future family generations.”