Rutl Levin (center, seated) is surpised to be announced as Shaftsbury’s first ‘Ordinary Hero,’ a title borrowed from her own book of town
Rutl Levin (center, seated) is surpised to be announced as Shaftsbury’s first ‘Ordinary Hero,’ a title borrowed from her own book of town history. “I think you’re talking about the wrong person!” Levin reacted to the honor. (Derek Carson / Bennington Banner)

SHAFTSBURY -- The Shaftsbury Historical Society named its first ever "Ordinary Hero" on Sunday, honoring longtime Shaftsbury resident, writer, and historical society founding member Ruth Levin.

The event was the first of the season at the Governor Jonas Galusha Homestead, and Historical Society President Mitch Race has said that he hopes to make it an annual event.

The announcement came as a complete surprise to Levin, who was presented by Sen. Dick Sears and Shaftsbury Rep. Alice Miller a resolution, signed by the Vermont General Assembly, which listed her many accomplishments, and read, "Therefore be it resolved: That today, April 13, 2014, is declared Ordinary Heroes Day in Shaftsbury and is devoted to honoring Ruth Levin, whose public recognition is long overdue."

After Sears and Miller finished presenting the resolution, which had been framed, Levin exclaimed, "I think you're talking about the wrong person!"

Levin, now in her late 80's, moved to Shaftsbury in the 1950's. In 1977, she wrote "Ordinary Heroes: The Story of Shaftsbury," the book for which the event was named, which to date is the only published history of the town. She was a founding member of the Shaftsbury Historical Society, and remains active in the organization despite retiring from its board of trustees, and as its secretary, almost a year ago, after serving for 45 years. "She retired last spring, but she still shows up to every meeting," said Race.

The resolution praises the role Levin has played in the community, describing her as "a dedicated citizen of Shaftsbury and the greater Bennington community [who] has dedicated countless hours to various community organizations, including the former Bennington League of Women Voters, and she has always, in a non-didactic manner, spoken of the importance of citizenship, voting, and equality," and as a person who, "has always been generous in her concern for others with no expectation of anything in return."

"It's been a pleasure to know you over the years, and I'm so proud to be here today to celebratet this," said Sears to Levin.

Tyler Resch, historian and former editor of the Bennington Banner, who worked with Levin on "Ordinary Heroes," praised the hard work she had put into the book. "This is a wonderful occassion," he said, "and I can't think of anyone more deserving than Ruth."

The Shaftsbury Elementary School chorus, led by Sue Green, was on hand to open the ceremonies with a performance of Vermont's state song, "These Green Mountains." Shaftsbury Elementary School student River Scoggins then recited Calvin Coolidge's "Brave Little State of Vermont."

Race asked anyone with ideas for nominees for next year's Ordinary Hero to send them to the historical society. The nomination period will close in September.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB