When asked about the future of the Prosper Historical Society after the death of former president Bill Hayes, member Ron Underwood said the society is secure.
“The society is going to just keep on going, safeguarding and displaying the town's history,” Underwood said. “Bill left some pretty big shoes to fill, but Donna Elliott is both ready and capable of leading the society into the future.
Taking over for Hayes is no small feat, something Elliott readily admitted.
“In a word, it's scary,” she said. “There is a lot to do, and there are a lot of moving parts. Bill started the transition last August when it was time to elect board members for the coming year. He felt it was time for someone else to take over as president so he could focus more of his time and energy on the veterans memorial.”
Hayes was correct in that regard, but Elliott said no one was anxious to have the former president step down or fill his shoes.
“I told him (Hayes) that I would do it next year if he would show me what he did, and teach me how,” Elliot said. “Bill was true to his word, as he always was, but we had done little more than scratch the surface when he was tragically taken from us. Every once in a while, when I think of all the things we have to figure out, and all the things the historical society is doing, I think to myself — what did I get myself into?”
Elliott said her job now as the new president is to keep the society on track, which includes balancing ongoing projects.
“My job … is to make sure everyone has what they need so we can finish the projects we have going, as well as being positioned to respond to future challenges and opportunities,” she said.
When asked about the legacy Hayes left, Elliott said it's apparent know just how much work he put into the society.
“Bill Hayes was a great man, and he did a lot for the community and the Historical Society,” she said. “Since his untimely passing, we are coming to realize perhaps we leaned on him too much; there are so many things that we are having to figure out for ourselves. One of my goals for this year is to get us more organized, making sure there are at least two people who know how to do any specific job.”
She emphasized that the job the society does is important and has value in the community.
“History isn't just facts, dates, and old relics — it's a record of people's lives and the things that were important to them,” she said. “It's funny how life works out.”
She added that the Historical Society partners with the school district, which has helped the society's cause.
“They have been a blessing in giving us display space in their board room,” Elliott said. “Dr. Michael Goddard (PISD Assistant Superintendent) is one of our board members and has worked hard for the society and is a good advocate for us.”
Up next for the society is the job of attaining a memorial for Prosper veterans.
“Getting the Veteran's Memorial on the ground and finished is a big task, and will be our main focus for the next year or so,” Julie Vest, board member, and secretary for the society, said. “We will continue with our normal monthly meetings, positioning the society to react to any challenges or opportunities as they present themselves.”
Vest said another major focus for the Historical Society is to find permanent home for the organization and the museum.
“We have enjoyed a close working relationship with the Prosper ISD and are grateful for the display space at the board offices,” she said. “We hope to continue displaying part of our collection at the board offices, but we need more space. Space to display, store and work on the collection.”
PISD Superintendent Drew Watkins said with these goals in mind, the school district will be ready to assist the Historical Society in any way it can.
“We love having the museum display in our building,” he said. “Even when the Historical Society moves into a space of their own, there will always be a place for them here. We are surrounded by growth, but we always want to protect and preserve the history of Prosper. Our motto here at Prosper ISD is we are soaring to new beginnings, grounded by proud traditions. History is not just something that happened in the past; it is the foundation on which we are building the future.”