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Bedford Township: Ex-teacher hopes 'labor of love' will spur interest in township's past
By VANESSA WINANS   - 02/16/2006


LAMBERTVILLE, Mich. - Talk about historical houses. Old photographs, genealogies, and other records fill much of Trudy Urbani's home - and that's fine with her.

Mrs. Urbani, a retired teacher and Bedford Township's historian, has thousands of documents and photographs, all boxed, labeled, and even color coded. The fruits of a decade's worth of labor dominate her basement and workroom, even as copies of her latest book, Bedford Township (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99) compete for space in her living room.

The 128-page book contains some 200 images, including old advertisements and photographs Mrs. Urbani collected from residents, and brief blocks of text to put the images into context. The art of writing short, well-researched captions proved "a labor of love," she said. But the format seems to have captivated readers.

"That's what everybody says: 'Oh! Look at the pictures!'" Mrs. Urbani said with a wry smile. "They don't even look at the captions most of the time. They just love the pictures."

So far the book has sold out its initial printing of 1,200 copies, she said, and is into its second printing of 600 copies. She has yet to see any profit, which would go back into research anyway, but she didn't write it for the money in the first place.

"I wrote it for the advertising - so I could get more histories," she said. She depends on word of mouth to procure photos and documents, which she copies or scans into her computer and returns to the owners.

She also has collected a couple of other artifacts. In her basement sits a wooden ballot box, old wax still on its lid and side marking where officials sealed it so nobody could tam-per with it. The desk and the chair from the store of Elijah Weeks, the first store owner in the area known as Weeksville, stand nearby. People have tried to give her other items, such as old hay rakes, but she declines them because of lack of space to keep them.

Along with other local history buffs, she'd like to see the items become the basis for a township museum. "We'd like to build a museum around these pieces," she said, folding back the cover she keeps over the well-preserved desk and the chair. "Someone is trying to find a storefront where we could start. That's my dream - that someday we'll have a museum."

In the meantime, her copious research notes, including local genealogies, are making their ways to the Bedford Branch Library, which has expanded its local history room.

"Some have already reached us," said Nancy Bellair, assistant director of Monroe County Library System. "I understand it's upwards of 70 boxes total. There's quite a lot."

And once all the information is out of her home, she probably will collect more. After all, she does have four more local history books in the works: on Lambertville, Temperance, Samaria, and Liberty Corners.

"It's so fun to do this stuff," she said, sitting in her workroom beneath copies of historical photographs. "I have met so many fascinating people. It's a hobby that has turned into an obsession."

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