Sari Bitticks named 2020 Riley Award Winner

by | Nov 24, 2020

Sari Bitticks at the Auburn Historical Museum [Jeff LaBonte Photo]

Sari Bitticks has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 John E. & Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award.

A nearly 30 year resident of Auburn, Bitticks grew up “all over”, but largely in Connecticut before landing in Auburn. She worked as a database designer for Digital Equipment and Easter Seals prior to her retirement in 2007.

Since then, Bitticks has pursued her deep love for local history, having guided the Auburn Historical Society for most of the past 13 years. As part of her role as president of the Historical Society, bitticks also oversees the Auburn Historical Museum at 41 South St. in Auburn.

Bitticks is also the Chair of the Auburn Historical Commission and sits on the Cemetery Commission.

Sari Bitticks at the Auburn Historical Museum [Jeff LaBonte Photo]

Her work with the Auburn Historical Society has focused on working with a team of dedicated volunteers – many of whom have lived in Auburn their entire lives – to preserve and share the rich history of our town. Bitticks has led efforts to identify and display as many of the museum artifacts as possible within the space available. She has been instrumental in acquiring a number of collections including te upcoming Winfried P. Sommerfeld photo exhibit expected to open in June 2021 (Covid-19 pandemic depending).

Bitticks is a member of the Speakers’ Bureau and is a well regarded and sought after speaker throughout the area. One only need spend a few minutes with Bitticks to understand why. She recounts Auburn history with the ease that most people recall what they had for dinner. Her wit and dry humor immediately engage her listeners and draws them back to times that Bitticks loves to recall.

While the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, Bitticks has take the opportunity to work on the museum and its collection. She is especially excited about the upcoming Winfried Sommerfeld photo exhibit.  Sommerfeld ran a photo studio in Auburn, and in the 1950s he set out to document post – war New England. The Photographic Presentation Center in Cambridge, MA acquired the Sommerfeld collection and has loaned many of the restored photos to the Auburn Historical Museum for the premiere. If all goes well, the exhibit will open in June 2021.

The John E. & Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award was created in 1976 to honor the Riley’s for their contribution to serving and making life for Auburn Citizens better. John Riley served as the Town Clerk from 1922 to 1952 and his wife, Ethel, served as an Assistant Clerk for many years. The money collected from Auburn residents is now held by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The interest earned is given to the recipient chosen each year.

The selection committee consists of the Town Clerk, Selectboard Chairperson, a Town Meeting Member chosen by the Moderator, an educator named by the School Committee, High School Senior class officers, the President of the Auburn Ecumenical Cluster, a news media person covering news in Auburn, and a citizen of Auburn named by the Selectmen, Master of the Masonic Lodge, Grand Knight of the Auburn K of C, Auburn/Webster Lodge of Elks and Commander of Chester P. Tuttle Post American Legion.

Previous winners of the Riley Award:

1977 Hugo Ullman
1978 Janet Macmillan
1979 Hubert K. Barry & Mary Adamsky
1980 John J. Boudreau
1981 Alfreda Warren
1982 Not Given
1983 Lorraine Nordgren & Paul Noack
1984 Not Given
1985 Anna & Dick Fleming
1986 Not Given
1987 Albert & Ronald Prouty
1988 Frank & Joan Cassidy
1989 Edmund Lemansky
1990 Kevin & Nancy Beach
1991 Bob Lund & Bill Bylund
1992 Suzanne Billings & Lil Green
1993 Doris Hill
1994 George S. Jewell & Ellie Oleson
1995 Lorraine Scheffler & Henry Utter
1996 Matt & Adele Smith
1997 Ray Twarowski & Paul Sturgis
1998 Anne & Jack Nugent
1999 Dan Young
2000 Lynn & Tim Cummins
2001 Mary W. Robinson
2002 Phyllis D. Gallant
2003 Robert & Carole Murray
2004 Francis M. Provost
2005 George J. Fournier
2006 Elizabeth & William Gribbons
2007 Hilda Healy
2008 Patricia Bukoski
2009 Richard Ringgard
2010 Victoria & David Mclaughlin
2011 Rev. Robert F. & Leona F. Fenby
2012 Rev. John Gee
2013 Robert R. Breault
2014 Kenneth Ethier
2015 Roger Belhumeur
2016 Rev. Dennis Knight
2017 Alice Rea
2018 Roberta and Chester Stencel
2019 Roberta Briggs