Longtime Churchill County Museum curator Bunny Corkill is July 4 grand marshal | NevadaAppeal.com

Longtime Churchill County Museum curator Bunny Corkill is July 4 grand marshal

Steve Ranson | LVN Editor Emeritus

For guests who have visited the Churchill County Museum and talked to Mary "Bunny" Corkill about the area's history, they quickly learned of her passion for archiving events and realize she's responsible for keeping generations of memories alive as the research curator.

Valerie Serpa, executive director of the Churchill Arts Council, has worked with Corkill on many projects over the years and is amazed with her recall.

"She is an encyclopedia of knowledge with the history of the valley," Serpa said. "She has an amazing collection (of historical information) at the museum and in her head."

Corkill, who grew up on the Cushman Ranch and has witnessed numerous events that shaped the county, retired this spring after spending the last 32 years with the museum. To show appreciation, Fallon's Fourth of July parade committee selected Corkill to be this year's grand marshal, another honor bestowed on her because of her love of people and events.

Serpa said the honor is fitting for Corkill.

"She loves the valley, and she loves the people of this valley," Serpa said, adding her family has known the Corkills for generations.

Recommended Stories For You

Churchill County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen said the county has a wonderful museum, and Corkill has been part of that for more than 30 years.

"She will be hard to replace, but she's been a great gift to the community," he said.

DECADES OF HISTORY

Realtor Bob Getto, president of the Churchill County Museum Association and the county's public administrator, said his family and the Cushmans and Corkills have decades of history among them.

"I was fortunate to be president when she was there," Getto said. "She's been invaluable over the years. She's going to be hard to replace. You have to have dedication to the families and their histories to do this job. She was dedicated to providing information to those who need to know."

Museum director Dan Ingram arrived in Fallon in late 2015 and soon became aware of Corkill's talents in compiling information on the county and its people.

"She was the font of all historical knowledge," he said.

Ingram said she was a walking resource book. If someone had a question, the staff would refer that person to Corkill, and then she would rattle off information like a human computer.

"She had an extraordinary command of the genealogical history of the community," Ingram remarked. "She had that sort of mind where she captured all that."

Ingram said Corkill's work entailed more about clipping articles and research compared to looking at only microfiche. He said she kept track of obituaries, for example, and indexed the names for quick reference.

Corkill's roots in the community made her invaluable. Ingram said her background on knowing of longtime families is remarkable, but he noted Corkill was a child when she knew of the area's pioneers. Although the museum plans to hire a research curator, Ingram knows it won't be the same.

"Those are hard shoes to fill," he said. "We won't find another Bunny."

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS

Bunny and her husband, Bill, married in 1960 and began to grow their family with a son, Bruce, and daughter, Mary Kathleen, by forging a life living the "All-American dream" in a small, white cottage with a fence around it in what she calls a "bucolic setting."

"In the cowgirl spirit, I also had the privilege of riding the range, an electric range, a minimum of three times a day, plus delivering a coffee break to the working folks," she reminisced in her memoir passed down to the LVN. "I was grateful and blessed to be able to spend each day loving and working with our little family in the lifestyle we had chosen."

For the first half of her life, the Corkills worked the land like many before them, depending on the weather and seasons to harvest good crops made possible by the county's fertile soil. She said no clock exists on a ranch because the rancher and his helpers don't leave the fields until the job is done.

Corkill soon learned that the ranching life would have some company. Her father's cousin, Doris Wightman Drumm, called, asking if Corkill could come to the new building for the museum, the old Safeway building on South Maine and Tolas streets, to help other involved residents create displays for the museum's opening, which was July 4, 1968.

The grand opening, though, occurred more than two weeks later on a July 20. Corkill said volunteers wanted everything perfect for the Fourth of July opening, a fitting coincidence because of Corkill's selection as this year's grand marshal.

Before the word became fashionable, Corkill developed her skills as a multi-tasker: wife, rancher, museum volunteer, mother and sports nut, especially during her son Bruce's high-school years and her grandchildren's own careers on both the playing field and in the arena.

Bruce possessed the versatility that became a hallmark with his parents by playing on a legendary Greenwave football team that won three consecutive state AA titles and qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in both North and South Dakota.

"To this day, we cherish the stories and memories they brought home from their experiences there," Bunny said.

The Corkill family grew. Bruce married Mitzi de Braga in 1985, while Mary and Mitch Selking tied the knot in 1991, and their career path in banking took them to Washington state, California and finally to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Corkill's involvement with the Churchill County Genealogical and Historical Association awoke her passion for history and research, especially with her involvement in writing and publishing "Trails to Churchill County" quarterly publications.

In 1986, a job announcement announced a position for museum hostess. The position went to Pam Nelson, but museum director Sharon Taylor received permission from the county commission to hire Corkill. She calls Aug. 29, 1986, her lucky day that would forever change her life.

FOCUS ON LOCAL HISTORY

Taylor convinced her bosses in 1990 that the museum needed both a photo and research curator to keep on top of compiling and separating information. Taylor resigned from her position in April 1991, and a nationwide search brought Jane Pieplow from the Midwest to Fallon the following year.

"Jane was one of the most artistic, creative and musically talented people I have ever known. Her list of accomplishments can fill volumes and the displays she designed still bear witness to her style," Corkill said.

Pieplow, though, died on Sept. 6, 2011, after a lengthy illness.

During her career, Corkill completed many projects but none as emotional as identifying veterans for a memorial.

"The most emotionally draining project that I ever completed was, on behalf of Rollan Melton (Fallon native and former newspaper executive for Speidel and Gannett newspapers) and finding the names and compiling biographies of all of Churchill County's Gold Star veterans for memorializing on the beautiful wall south of the City Hall," she wrote. "From a parent's point of view, my heart broke with each name added to the list. Incredibly, Mrs. Lillie Van Voorhis Pinger and Mrs. Lizzie Bobb each lost two sons in World War II."

Corkill contributed to the museum's annual journal, "In Focus" and is proud of the issue on the Fallon Centennial that required staff collaboration and hundreds of hours of research.

She said in 1995, Nevada state Sen. Jean Ford became the inspiration behind the Nevada Women's History project and asked her to research and created videos of pioneer Churchill women.

MILESTONES

Since 2004, Corkill nominated local ranches for the Nevada Centennial Ranch award, honoring ranches that have been in the same family for 100 years or more.

"My family qualified for the centennial ranch," Getto said. "She notified us and turned in the paperwork."

During the latter part of her career, Corkill served on local committees to recognize Fallon's centennial in 2008 and Nevada's sesquicentennial celebration in 2014 that honored the state and city.

Serpa said Corkill knows how to transmit the knowledge because she has lived it and knows it. Serpa and Mackedon wrote a book on Fallon/Churchill County for the sesquicentennial, and Corkill and photo researcher Barbara Hodges helped them from behind the scenes.

"We had various historical events, and Bunny accurately coordinated them for us. "She provided information for the book and spent hours at the museum. If we wanted a photo, she would show us the choices."

Getto said he assisted the committee with several projects including the compilation of material for the time capsule. He also praised her for her hours of work in helping gather information for the community-wide reunion.

"She gave us guidance," Getto said. "She gave us the starting point with our questions. We could count on her to get information. She touched a lot of people."

In 2017, Corkill rekindled her memory with Greenwave sports, realizing her dream of having a CCHS Greenwave Athletic Hall of Fame became a reality in October 2017.

"Nancy Sanders Stewart, Yvonne Arciniega Sutherland, Dave Lumos and I spent many, many hours going through Lahontan yearbooks, newspapers and files to record every athlete who ever wore a green and white uniform from 1916 through 1981 . . . from the Melon Pickers to the mighty Greenwave," Corkill said.

Ingram said Corkill was proud of her last major task of helping the Hall of Fame committee.

"They collected invaluable information as the Hall of Fame will continue to grow and develop over time," Ingram said. "She had a lot of fun with that project and had the opportunity so many people don't have. Her advocation was her vocation. She really enjoyed what she did here and helping people learn more about the history of the community."

If you go

Hosted by the Fallon Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants’ Association, the 4th of July parade theme this year is “Making History Come Alive: Celebrating 50 years with the Churchill County Museum.”

The Parade Begins at 10 a.m. and starts and ends at Churchill County Middle School, with 100 entrants. Grand Marshall is Bunny Corkill, with awards given in the following categories: Best Use of Theme, Most Creative, Best Youth Group, Best Civic/Non Profit Group, Best Business Entry, Best Mounted Individual, Best Mounted Group, Best Farm Equipment, Best Automobile, Best Military, People’s Choice.

Fireworks will be provided by the Rattlesnake Raceway after sunset located at the Rattlesnake Raceway track, 9:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. depending on weather conditions. Parade entries are still available; call Kathy Openshaw (775) 426-1196 or Kim Klenakis (775) 426-8371.