To the Editor: HSUMD remembers Armstrong

On behalf of the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert and its members, I’d like to express intense feelings of both gratitude and sorrow following the recent death of Kathy Armstrong, one of Ridgecrest’s greatest treasures.

Kathy’s loss affects community organizations too numerous to name, none more than HSUMD. In the late 1990s, as Ridgecrest City Council was debating the idea of closing the decrepit former county building (long used for storage by the city), Kathy was one of the first to step up and say that the centrally located building should be restored instead and used to restore the heart to our downtown area. The council agreed that HSUMD could restore the building and take over its ownership — but only if sufficient money could be raised to make restoration feasible. Even as a promising grant fell through, Kathy leapt into action. If we couldn’t get the money from outsiders, we’d do it ourselves, she vowed.

She gathered an enthusiastic fundraising committee who did everything they could to raise the necessary money — coin jars in local restaurants, dances and auctions, yard sales, sponsorships of windows in the building — no fundraising activity was too large or too small for Kathy and her committee. By September 2007 generous applications of elbow grease and community enthusiasm had netted the remarkable sum of $101,000, more than enough to convince the city council to transfer ownership of the historic building to the Historical Society.

Kathy’s generosity didn’t end there. She decided the restored building would need a suitable mural in its lobby, so she paid noted muralist Scott Sayre out of her own pocket to paint the historical work of art that now adorns the Historic USO Building’s lobby. And Kathy insisted that we honor our nation with representation in the building, not only with the mural but also with the purchase of the triple flag holders mounted in the building’s auditorium. We also honor her request we keep the flags unfurled. We think of Kathy every time we glance up toward the ceiling. And more recently Kathy rose to be an honored speaker at the 70th Anniversary of the dedication of our historic building as a USO Club and a center of community activity.

The above paragraphs don’t even begin to describe all Kathy Armstrong has done for our society — truly she is the Mother of the Historic USO Building! Our sympathies go out to her family, and indeed to the entire town, for the loss of an exemplary community volunteer.

Tex Hoppus, president

Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert

Story First Published: 2018-06-15