Douglas County history loses one of its biggest advocates |

Douglas County history loses one of its biggest advocates

Ellen Caywood
For the Nevada Appeal
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal News Service file photo Debbie Byers talks about playing the part of her grandmother, Auguste Hellwinkel, at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

Saturday night, the Douglas County Historical Society lost one of the pioneers associated with its historical society and the museum in Gardnerville.

Debbie Byers, former acting director of the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, died.

Byers was actively involved with the formation of the historical society and the transforming of the old Douglas County High School building into the museum in Gardnerville. She was the representative for her high school class to the committee responsible for the grand opening of the museum. She also served as a trustee.

Although Byers acted in the melodrama last year and in other plays the historical society sponsored, she is probably best remembered as Grandma Auguste Hellwinkel, who she portrayed at the Gardnerville Cemetery Tours and as recently as Student Day on Sept. 1.

Byers painted scenery for exhibits and, with her sister Irene, was instrumental in making the farm boards representing all the original farms in Carson Valley. She was in the process of designing invitations, posters and menus for the upcoming holiday tea.

Former historical society President Marlena Hellwinkel said, “Whenever there was a job to be done, Debbie would do it and she always did everything cheerfully. She will be sorely missed.”

Current society President Grace Bower said, “When Debbie was acting museum director, she always made you feel very welcome. She was always there to do whatever needed to be done. We will miss her.”

Laurie Hickey, another society pioneer, remembered Byers as “one of the best directors this museum has ever had.”

Always an advocate, Byers wouldn’t forget the museum, and there are a lot of events this time of year.

“The Curse of the Hanging Tree” is just a week away. There are still tickets available at both museums.

The Genoa Candy Dance is Sept. 29-30 and the Court House Museum closes for the season Oct. 7.

There is the September photo contest. The historical society will start accepting photos Monday and will close the contest on Sept. 28.

Coming up in October will be another photo contest. This one will be for what most typifies October in Douglas County. The photos will be used to compile the society’s 2009 calendar. Winners of each month’s contest, will represent that month in the calendar.

Also coming up is your opportunity to sign up to decorate one of the Christmas trees for the museum in Gardnerville. Anyone or any group in the community can enter a decorated tree. The society will be taking applications next month.

Applications will be available at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395 South in Gardnerville.

• Contact Ellen Caywood at or 790-1565.