A woman who led the effort to bring the Lovell-Kane Area Museum to life was honored Friday as the 2019 Citizen of the Year.
Karen Spragg was honored at the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce Spring Awards and Scholarship Banquet at the Community Center.
Karen Ellis grew up in Kane and after marrying Wayne Spragg became involved in her community. She and Wayne helped organize the first search and rescue organization in the area, which was formed Dec. 5, 1972.
“I was the only woman on the crew for awhile, and after I became an EMT I was the only woman on the ambulance crew,” she said.
Spragg was also the civil defense coordinator for Big Horn County for many years.
In 1984 the family moved to Ashton, Idaho, and after they returned in 2004, Karen began thinking about preserving history in her home community. Efforts to start the Lovell-Kane Museum began in 2011, with committee members first meeting in Spragg’s living room, then the Lovell Fire Hall.
Above five years ago part of the growing museum collection was moved into the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce downtown visitor center, then in early 2017 Loretta Bischoff donated a house on Oregon Avenue just north of the chamber building that was to become the museum’s home. After extensive interior remodeling, the new museum facility was unveiled for Mustang Days 2017.
The museum will enter its third summer of regular hours this May.
Chamber banquet master of ceremonies Bruce Morrison read from the letters of nomination regarding Spragg.
“Our 2019 Citizen of the Year Award is going to
a community member who has made it her mission to preserve and celebrate the Lovell area’s history and culture,” Morrison read from information provided by the museum board. “On any given day you can
find this lady staying beyond busy delivering meals
to the homebound, volunteering at the senior center
or visiting residents of the care center.
“She truly takes community engagement above and beyond as a longstanding member of both the Red Hats and the Lovell Woman’s Club, as well as teaching a card class. Her tenacity, focus and enduring work ethic have been the spark that spurred dreams of a local museum into the realms of reality.”
A nominating letter penned by Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Chief of Interpretation Christy Fleming also spoke of Spragg’s dedication to her community and to preserving history.
“I am not writing as a Park Service employee but as someone who has been involved with the Lovell community and has seen the heart, sweat and tears Karen has put in,” Fleming wrote. “I would like to nominate Karen Spragg for Citizen of the Year.
She gives her time unselfishly to the senior center, Meals on Wheels, Woman’s Club and the Lovell-Kane Area Museum.
“Without her drive and dedication the Lovell-Kane museum would never have come to pass. It would have died shortly after inception. Her infectious passion for preserving the history of this area has created a place people can go and learn about the past. She is currently working with the Park Service on a project at the Kane town site that would again preserve the history. She has been giving her time to the community for a long time and I would love to see her recognized for it.”
After receiving the surprise award, Spragg thanked her husband and family for putting up with the “blood, sweat and tears” of her involvement, and she also thanked for museum board members for the many hours they have dedicated.
“This is better than any Oscar a person could receive,” she said.
By David Peck