‘Unsung hero’ wins German Heritage Award


Rosie Stewart

JASPER — Digging into old documents and scouring through the past, Rosie Stewart does most of her work behind the scenes. Recently, however, the unsung genealogy hero was honored in a big way.

Stewart was awarded the 2019 German Heritage Award at the German-American Day Celebration held at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant earlier this month. That honor is given annually to a person or group who has given time and talent to preserve German heritage in Dubois County.

“I was surprised,” said Stewart, who lives near Celestine. “I couldn’t believe they chose me, so it was a surprise.”

An active member of the Dubois County Genealogy Society, she has connected many area residents to their roots. A press release explained that she is a member of the cemetery board at Celestine and is a volunteer at the Dubois County Museum, where she tells the story of the county’s German ancestors.

She is employed in the records room of the Dubois County courthouse and has put together many books of data collected from local documents, cemeteries and other resources to provide a collection that never existed before her efforts.

Stewart was the driving force behind microfilming documents for the county, and she is also a source of information for local stone carvers in their efforts to ensure that tombstone restoration information is accurate.

“She is a quiet steward of preserving and promoting our German Heritage in Dubois County,” the press release reads.

The German Heritage Award is sponsored by the Jasper German Club, the Sister Cities of Jasper group and the Jasper Partnership Commission. Van Ziegler, president of the German Club, said that Stewart was selected this year because of the great impact she’s had on so many.

“The best way to describe it would be, she would be the unsung hero to a lot of people,” Ziegler said. “She’s not in the headlines at all. She’s very humble.”

Stewart has been employed by the records library since 1994. She dug through local history for decades before that and continues to today.

Ziegler said her years of contributions factored in to her claiming the honor.

“She’s quite humble about it behind the scenes,” Ziegler said. “But she has been doing it for an extremely long time. Some people have done really great things for a couple years, but we’ve looked at longevity.”

Stewart got into genealogy when her kids were in nursery school. She had time to kill, and with the help of her cousin, she developed a passion for unearthing and sharing local history.

“It was like an addiction,” Stewart said with a laugh. “You just want to keep looking more and more, and trying to find more and more all the time.”

She encouraged anyone interested in learning about their family’s past to start digging sooner rather than later. Passing our heritage along keeps our roots alive, she said.

“It just kind of helps others to realize how people came over here, and how they got started,” she said.

Recent German Heritage Award winners include Father John Boeglin, Mike and Ann Ackerman and Stan Jochum.

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