Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 2003
Bee Schoch has written no books, but in her quiet way she has created a valuable legacy for all those persons interested in the preservation of our county’s history.
Bee has deep roots in the life of this county. She is descended from William Van Keuren who in the 19th century gave land for the Van Keuren Cemetery in the Town of Bethel. She was born in 1923 in Mongaup Valley. Her father was a carpenter and there were scores of friends and relatives to pass on the stories, handed down from generation to generation, to an impressionable young girl. However, before becoming involved in county history, Bee’s practical nature decided that she needed a profession with some security and she, therefore, took up the study of nursing at the Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn and eventually returned to the county and worked at the Monticello Hospital. After the Second World War she met and married Fred Schoch who had lost a leg in Italy. Their marriage was a close one and despite his disability, Fred lived until 1998, long enough for the two of them to celebrate their fiftieth Anniversary. Their family included two children, Wilhelmina (Mimi) and Robert, six grand-children and six great grand-children.
Because Bethel was Bee’s home, she began her historical career with a ten year stint as Historian for the Town of Bethel. During this period she developed programs to help the residents of Bethel to appreciate their history. One event which was particularly successful was a “Walk through Bethel History” day held two different years. Residents of Bethel were invited to bring family and town historic items and personal memories to the ambulance building to share them with their neighbors. These “Walks” were received with enthusiasm, were well attended and sparked further interest in the town’s history. In conjunction with the County Department of Public Works, she researched and took pictures of some 60 to 70 old buildings and historic sites such as mills, tanneries, Hurd Cave, Pintler Cemetery, etc.
Bee was also responsible for putting up several historical markers and developing a very interesting slide show program on Bethel history. Using photographs of the area and postcards that her friends lent her, she created a slide show which was shown at different locations in the county such as the Wurtsboro School, the Harris Hospital and to various senior citizen groups. At the same time she became Secretary for the Van Keuren Family Cemetery and became an informal resource for people in the area seeking genealogical information about their ancestors. When the 175th Anniversary of Bethel approached in 1984, Bee spoke to the Supervisor of the Town and was appointed to organize an appropriate celebration. The Anniversary celebration included a boat regatta on White Lake, dancing, a parade, and fireworks and was considered a great success. She also kept up with changing times and new technology and contributed to the Town of Bethel website.
As time passed, she developed close relationships with members of the Sullivan County Historical Society and eventually was asked to join the staff in the new Hurleyville Museum where she worked some twenty years as a part-time employee. For two years she was President of the Society and with Marge Smith organized the first Theme Tree celebration for the December holidays – a tradition which continues to this day. Whatever position she filled she was always conscientious and loyal to the Society.
Bee also became a lay speaker in the Methodist Church. At one of the World Day of Prayer Services, Bee was asked to present a meditation. She did so well and had such an air of sincerity that her friends encouraged her to pursue the studies necessary to be certified in the Methodist Church as a Lay Speaker. In that capacity she had led services in different Protestant churches in the county. She also combined her knowledge of the Methodist Church with her historical interest by putting in chronological order the membership of the three Methodist churches – White Lake, Mongaup Valley and the Hurd Settlement – in the White Lake Methodist Charge.
An era is now coming to an end for Bee. This year she is celebrating her eightieth birthday and is making arrangements to move to Illinois to live near her daughter. She leaves behind many friends and a reputation as a person who served the county well. In recognition of her decades of service to the preservation of the history of the county, the Society is pleased to present Beatrice Schoch with its 2003 History Preserver Award.