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Leaving a legacy: Betty Comfort bequeaths $209K to historical society
Funds set aside for future capital projects

The house on Hill Street was destroyed by the fire; all that remains today is the foundation. (Tribune file photo)

The house on Hill Street was destroyed by the fire; all that remains today is the foundation. (Tribune file photo)

The late Betty Jean Comfort, longtime Dewey-Humboldt resident and community volunteer, bequeathed a substantial gift to the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society (DHHS), donating $209,827 as part of her estate.

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Betty Comfort inspects boxes of books salvaged from an Oct. 31, 2005, fire at the Hill Street property where she was storing 8,000 books for a future Dewey-Humboldt Library. (Tribune file photo)

Comfort, a former Mayer Elementary School teacher, died from cancer this past year at age 76.

David Nystrom, DHHS president, announced the receipt of the funds, and also of Comfort’s property on south Hill Street in Dewey-Humboldt, at the organization’s monthly meeting Jan. 9. The historical society has no immediate plans for the Hill Street property or the funds, Nystrom said.

However, members agreed that a donation of this size would not be used to pay routine bills or cover expenses related to further fundraising. Rather, the funds would be reserved for a capital expenditure such as a future museum building and/or exhibits that honor Betty Comfort’s memory and generosity to the community, Nystrom said in a Jan. 10 press release.

Comfort was instrumental in establishing a town library in 2006. At one time, she had 8,000 books stored at the unoccupied Hill Street home awaiting the creation of a bona fide town library. On Oct. 31, 2005, a fire in the structure destroyed about 4,000 of the books. News of the fire brought in donations of hundreds of books from all over the state.

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The family of the late Kevin Leonard, past president of the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society, donated the water tank, advertising Leonard’s business, to DHHS. (Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society/Courtesy)

The house was not rebuilt after the fire, and all that remains is the foundation, Nystrom said. While the property, which sits on top a hill, can be clearly seen from both directions along Highway 69, it is difficult to reach and most likely would not accommodate an accessible public building with required fire sprinkler system for the museum and space for large outdoor exhibits and parking.

Comfort also volunteered with the Kate Garber Memorial Community Activity Center, as well as the local food bank and other groups. She was named one of the 2014 Dewey-Humboldt Volunteers of the Year.

In September 2016, the Town of Dewey-Humboldt approved the purchase of the 1918 Old Bank Building on Main Street, Humboldt, which the historical society had been renting. In March 2017, voters decided by referendum not to use taxpayers’ money for the purchase, and in July of that year, the museum closed its doors and the property was sold to another buyer.

The historical society recently has been working with Mortimer Farms on displaying its mining equipment on the property.

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The front page from the 2005 PV Tribune when Betty lost 4,000 books in a fire for a future D-H Library. (Tribune file)

Nystrom said the family of past DHHS president Kevin Leonard, who passed away in September, recently donated the Iron King water tower to the historical society in his memory.

“We hope to relocate the water tower from its current location on Main Street to our exhibits at Mortimer Farms and eventually to the site of a future museum,” he said.

Speaking for the DHHS, Nystrom said its members are immensely grateful for all donations, which indicate a continuing interest and commitment to preserving the community’s history.

“Betty was so wonderful, and it shows, museum or no museum, people in our community are truly interested in supporting our mission and preserving our history,” he said.

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