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Keepers of Cambria history
Town historian furthers family tradition enkindled by grandmother

The Town of Cambria's new historian is someone steeped in the history of the community.

Brooke A. Genter, 30, is the granddaughter of the late Vernette A. Genter, the town's first historian, and for nearly 40 years known as the history expert on Cambria.

"Her grandmother would have been so proud," said Heather R. Genter, Brooke's mother.

Brooke Genter's love for history started much like her grandmother's -- walking with her grandmother and aunt Rayann Genter in the outdoors of a town filled with history.

"We called ourselves the three witches," Genter said. "I played video games like other kids, but I had a grandmother who was a town historian. I hung out with her a lot.

"We were always really close. She would take me to cemeteries, and we'd do the grave rubbings, take pictures of historic homes, and I would go to lectures with her and historical events. Every drive was a historical tour, so you pick up tidbits of information and now they are ingrained in my head. I feel I have to share them with everybody, too."

Heather Genter said she and Brooke's father, Thomas A. "Tag" Genter, witnessed that love of history in their daughter at age 7 or 8, when, during a family vacation in the Adirondacks, an inquisitive Brooke stopped at the President Theodore Roosevelt memorial to read the plaque. That love of history grew into a career.

Brooke Genter has an undergraduate degree in museum studies and art history from Buffalo State College and became involved in museums as she continued on for her master's degree in library science from the University at Buffalo.

Currently, she works for the Buffalo Museum of Science as a database coordinator for the anthropology collection, and for the Charles Rand Penney Collection in research as a curatorial assistant, processing and cataloging the collection.

"I really love museums," Genter said.

Currently, she is seeking volunteers and grant funding to reopen and update the Cambria Historical Museum. She also looks to recruit new members to reinvigorate the Cambria Historical Society, which is dormant.

She encourages volunteers or anyone who would like to share their historic photos, memorabilia and documents to contact Cambria Town Hall at 433-7664.

"I'd like it to be more relevant," Genter said of the museum displays. "They don't really tell a story. It's kind of the old-fashioned way of doing it. There's a case with booklets and objects, but no narrative and no way to access the information."

Genter said she also would like to focus on the town's reputation for grape growing and on the Niagara Wine Trail, documenting some of the area wineries.

She said she moved back to Cambria about three years ago and is excited about her new role as historian.

Following in the footsteps of her grandmother could be considered daunting.

"It's nearly impossible to fill her shoes," Genter said. "She did so much and did it over a long expanse of time. I just started two weeks ago. I wanted to get involved here so that we could have a place that the community is proud of."

Interviewed about her role as historian in 2004, the grandmother, who died in 2006 at age 87, said she considered her role "a way of life."

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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