In 1960, David Bettwy, then a government engineer, moved to Great Falls to settle into a home off Springvale Road, with acres of dairy farms, horse pastures and rolling meadows surrounding his home. When the Great Falls Historical Society was formed in 1977, Dave was an early member and leader. Over the last decade, Dave applied his technology skills to creating a website that shares the vast research of local historians—oral histories, photos, stories, historic research, etc.—with the world, scoring visits from history buffs from far-away places such as Iran and Australia. The Library of Congress, recognizing the value of the site, proactively sought to establish a link.
For Dave's tireless, passionate and enduring stewardship of the history of Great Falls and surrounding communities, creating, developing and maintaining the website, www.gfhs.org, the Great Falls Historical Society recently honored Dave with the 2013 Jean Tibbetts History Award, presented at its Tibbetts Award Banquet and Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, at The Old Brogue Restaurant in Great Falls.
Kathleen Murphy, GFHS president, said that through the art of technology, Dave captures and broadly shares something very important: the story of earlier residents who have lived here before us, their joys and triumphs, their struggles and longings, cultivating a “rootedness” in a shared past for all who come to live here, whatever their origin, nurturing a sincere "affection" for our hometown, Great Falls, Virginia.
THE AWARD is named for Jean Tibbetts, a former president of the Great Falls Historical Society and a historical researcher who died in 2004. Jean, wife of Rolland Tibbetts, wrote the book, “This Land at Cornwell Farm,” about the history of a local family farm, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. GFHS established this award to honor outstanding contributors to the research, articulation, dissemination and preservation of the history of life along the Potomac River corridor from McLean, west through Dranesville, and south through Herndon. The award carries a stipend of $200 and the awardee's name is engraved on the society's Great Falls Historian's Plaque, displayed in the Great Falls Library.
Since the first award in 2006, the Great Falls Historical Society has honored local historians Milburn Sanders, Karen Washburn, Tanya Edwards Beauchamp, Naomi Whetzel, Bill Garrett, Connie and Mayo Stuntz, and Marjorie Lundegard.
In a moving tribute at the awards dinner, historical society members testified to the important work Dave has done. For years, the society's members had tucked their research into file cabinets, desk drawers and garages, sharing them whenever they could at public events and in published research. As a result, access to the rare documents, photographs and research was quite limited, and researchers often duplicated their efforts, unaware of work already done. In 2003, Dave, who formerly worked at the Army Material Command and the National Bureau of Standards, started using technology to compile the society's important work onto a website, breathing new life into oral testimonials, photos and other markers of history.
In nominating Dave, members called him a real "gift," whose "perseverance, dedication and community contributions" inspired recognition. They noted that the society's website "ensures the preservation and accessibility of this historical information for both current and future generations." Local area schools have linked to the site from their school websites. The staff at Forestville Elementary School referred to the society's website as an important educational tool.
As an active member of the Washington, D.C, and East Coast Regional Chapters of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Dave developed a website for the East Coast regional group and for the area chapter. He also assisted several chapters around the country with their sites. While working on these projects, Dave decided that it was best to write his own code for his website work using HTML instead of using the expensive IT programs available.
In addition to his important role as the society's webmaster, Dave has served as a board member of the Great Falls Historical Society, editor of the society's Chronicler newsletter, a board member of the Historical Society of Fairfax County, chairman of the Technology Advisory Committee for the Annandale branch of the Northern Virginia Community College, a member of the Technology Education Advisory Board for the Fairfax County Public School System and a member of the Fairfax Museum and the Optimist Club of Great Falls. He streamlined the society's system for printing and distributing its Chronicler newsletter and made the production less expensive.
THE GREAT FALLS HISTORICAL SOCIETY was organized to promote community spirit by bringing the past into the present through monthly programs on local history and people, preservation efforts, publication of historical essays, collection of artifacts and photographs, oral history interviews, genealogical research, and tours and dinners at historic sites. Please visit www.gfhs.org for more information.
Asra Q. Nomani is a Great Falls Historical Society Board member and chairperson of the Selection Committee.