Town historian isn't a position that gets a lot of attention. The unglamorous post comes with — maybe — a small stipend for expenses and a lot of digging through archives. But when officials have a question about something that happened in the town's distant past, the historian is their first call.
John Percy held that role in the Town of Tonawanda from 1973 until stepping down at the end of last year. And Monday night he was honored for his 41 years of service.
"It's been an honor all these years to serve the town, which is so forward-looking," Percy said. "One time it was known as the keystone of the Niagara Frontier."
Percy revived the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society and compiled a historical PowerPoint presentation, which he presented to schools and service clubs around Western New York, according to a proclamation presented by Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana on Monday night.
From 1974 to 1984, Percy wrote three books on the history of Ken-Ton: "Pioneer Suburb," about Kenmore’s beginning; "Tonawanda: The Way it Was," a history of the Town from 1805 – 1903; and a compilation of Ken-Ton’s past entitled "Growing Pains: Ken-Ton Comes of Age."
While teaching at Canisius College, Percy published a book in 2007 called Buffalo Niagara Connections, which explains how the geography of the area has influenced history.
In 2008, Percy received the prestigious Julia Boyer Reinstein award for outstanding service as a public historian; and as Town Historian he completed the Survey of Arts and Cultural Destinations in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
In 2009, he received a prestigious award from Kenmore West High School, where he was given a spot in the Corridor of Honor.
Ed Adamczyk has taken over for Percy.
"The people who appointed me 42 years ago are almost all gone now," Percy said Monday night. "People like Walter Kenney, for instance, who I spent some time interviewing and taping. It's been a great ride and I'm also pleased that I have a very capable successor."