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Gifford Historical Museum offering 'history and hope' to next generation

'Growing up in Gifford, it was a different landscape and that landscape is not here anymore,' Jonnie Mae Perry says
Posted at 2:50 PM, May 20, 2024

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — History they hope will illuminate a better future is the story I heard at WPTV's recent "Let's Hear It" event in Indian River County.

One of the keepers of that history, Jonnie Mae Perry, showed me what she and others meant with a visit to the Gifford Historical Museum.

Perry is the director and beamed with pride as we toured a tiny, inviting old church turned museum. It is personal for Perry. She was born and raised in Gifford. She reflected on the 1950s and 1960s.

"It was a thriving business community," she said. "My father had the only full-service gas station at that time."

Jonnie Mae Perry director Gifford Historical Museum May 2024.png
Gifford Historical Museum Director Jonnie Mae Perry says Gifford's landscape has changed over the years.

Much of the promise in those times, Perry noted, centered around the old Gifford High School. Pictures of students and teachers speak to that era, and old timers reflect with a note of wistfulness about the school's closure in the late 1960s. It was a time of integration, challenges, and opportunities elsewhere. Tiny Gifford withered as so many sought new horizons.

"Growing up in Gifford, it was a different landscape and that landscape is not here anymore," Perry told me.

Perry was among those who left Gifford, in her case, for nearly 40 years pursuing her life's ambitions. She came back to that changed landscape and then became determined to tell a story too often forgotten. The museum was a perfect fit for her passion when it opened in 2018.

Freddie Woolfork lifelong Gifford resident May 2024
Lifelong Gifford resident Freddie Woolfork explains the importance of knowing one's history.

On the day I visited the museum, one of Perry's dear friends showed up. Freddie Woolfork, 72, is a lifelong Gifford resident.

"A man who knows little of his past does little in his future. So, we want to make sure they do a lot in the future," Woolfork said of the museum.

There is a plan and promise of a museum expansion in the next few years. All the better, supporters hope to offer hope to the next generation.