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Genealogy room named in honor of late president

Richard Milligan, who died in a car crash last November, would be “pleased but embarrassed” by the Linn Genealogical Society Board’s dedicating its research room at the Albany Public Library to his memory, said president Betty Thorn.

Milligan, who was 91 when he died, is the first member to be honored by the society, Thorn said during a board meeting at the library on Thursday.

A plaque recognizing Milligan’s accomplishments has been mounted in the genealogy room on the second floor of the library at 2450 14th Ave. S.E. The plaque reads: “This room is dedicated in the memory of Richard Milligan: Feb. 21, 1920 — Nov. 20, 2011.”

Board members recognized Milligan for being president of the genealogical society for 20 years and for his being known by genealogical researchers nationally for his efforts to document the history of families who traveled the Oregon Trail and took donation land claims in Linn County.

Milligan, who came to Oregon from Nebraska, and John Miles of Lebanon documented 1,245 families, Thorn said. “I know that because I did the typing that ended up filling 40 volumes.”

Thorn recalled that Milligan was a charter member of the society and held all of the group’s executive positions. In 1987, he started The Heritage Newsletter and was the editor for many years.

“Richard was a dedicated member of our society, was always a champion for our causes, and he held the society together when times were tough,” Thorn said. “We owe him a great vote of thanks and gratitude.”

Thorn and Mary Grace, who lived in Milligan’s neighborhood, recalled the times when Albany police arrested people in their homes and found grave markers that had been stolen from cemeteries. Officers gave the stones to Milligan, asking him to find out where they belonged and then return them, which he did.

Grace said Milligan became a father figure to her after her own father died.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten through his burial and the health issues in my family without him,” she said. “On the lighter side, there were times I’d tell him I couldn’t figure out how to vote. He always said in cases like that, ‘Vote Republican.’”

Thorn recalled that Milligan “made a great cup of coffee and grew great vegetables that he shared.”

The society’s media researcher, Linda Ellsworth, said Milligan “was very friendly and made me feel welcome. I’d always call him when I needed answers about Linn County’s history.”

The Richard Milligan Research Room is open to the public every day but Thursday. The hours vary depending on when volunteers are available.

For more information, call 541-791-1618. The society’s website is www.lgsoregon.org.

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