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3 recognized for contributions to York County culture

A Rock Hill playwright and photographer, a community volunteer and a former Brattonsville slave interpreter are recipients of this year's Keepers of the Culture award.

The purpose of the award is "to recognize individuals who in some way in their life have shown a deep commitment to what it is to keep our culture," said Laura Back, director of development for York County's Culture and Heritage Museums.

Recipients for the award, which the museums have awarded for 13 years, are nominated by community members across York County.

Recipients were honored Tuesday night at the McCelvey Center in York.

The Herald spoke with each:

Kitty Wilson-Evans

For more than a decade, Wilson-Evans brought the African-American plantation experience to life as a slave interpreter at Historic Brattonsville in McConnells. Now she travels the Southeast interpreting the lives of African Americans throughout American history.

What drove you to being a living history interpreter?

Wilson-Evans: Brattonsville really had a lot to do with it. I was able to talk and be friends with a lot of the descendants of that plantation, and the things they shared with me at that time made me think, "I want to tell this story."

It's just a part of me. I am that person in that time and place and I want you to look at me as that person at that time and place. I'm not going to act. I will actually become that person.

How has your work changed you?

Wilson-Evans: I have more love for the history, because a lot of people don't want to hear about it. But I want to share this history and make others know how important it is.

As a child I always wanted to be an actress. I used to go around saying Lena Horne was my mother, and my mother would just smile. I'm just bringing to life what I wanted to do as a child.

What does it mean to receive this award?

Wilson-Evans: I don't do what I do for that. I do what I do because I want our young people to realize how blessed they are. That's what it's all about.

Terry Roueche

A playwright and photographer in Rock Hill since 1976, Roueche has written more than 30 plays and brought live theater to Main Street decades ago. In addition to his commercial photography business, Roueche enjoys filmmaking, writing fiction and putting on performances in the black box theater in his studio.

Why did you start a venue for theater in Rock Hill?

Roueche: Rock Hill little theater had ceased to exist at that time. I had a dream - and the downtown was covered at that time - there was absolutely nothing in this town for me to do to express myself as an artist. So I said what I'm going to do is go to the city and see if they'll rent me a building downtown cheap, and they did. So I said I'm going to start a theater here, and that's what I did.

What kept you in Rock Hill so long?

Roueche: My wife's from Rock Hill, she was born here, and my father told me two or three things.

He said, you want to be an artist, where you're living you're not going to be able to that here (Salisbury, N.C.). So I left, and Rock Hill let me do it. I mean Rock Hill has let me do everything I want. You can't beat that. It supported me."

What advice would you give young artists who are trying to make a go of it?

Roueche: You can't listen to anyone. If you want to do it, do it. Because everyone will tell you that you can't. It's different people that tell you these things. They want to give you advice, tell you that that will be hard to do. And really, if you want to do something, you should just do it. It's simple. Talent and resources should have no basis because the alternative is to not do it.

So, even if you're not very good at painting, if you want to do it, you should still do it?

Roueche: Yeah, because maybe you are. You have to learn to believe in yourself.

Totty Wilkerson

Wilkerson has made a life out of volunteering across York County. She has served as a guardian ad litem, guiding children through the court system, and currently volunteers at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen, among other places.

How many organizations are you volunteering for right now?

Wilkerson: I couldn't tell you.

How did you decide to dedicate your life to volunteering?

Wilkerson: You know, I live in a wonderful place, and if you want it to be wonderful, you have to give back, too. I have a great life here, so whatever I can do to make somebody else's life better, I want to.

What influenced you to volunteer?

Wilkerson: My parents were big volunteers. My mother, she was on the hospital board, and my mother made me go make up beds at the hospital - a whole wing I had to make up beds. And I was 10. My father would say things like, "Giving back is the most important thing you can do."

What does it mean to receive this award?

These other people have all these talents and I have none. It's embarrassing. I can draw a stick figure - maybe.

It's embarrassing to me because I do this because I want to. I don't want to be recognized.