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Smith’s, Burk’s legacies live on

This week marked the passing of two people who played key roles in Boulder City’s history.

Laura Godbey Kelly Smith was one of the town’s original 31ers, those who came to help establish the city as Hoover Dam was being built. Her focus was clearly on the past and how the city’s legacy was shaped by those early pioneers.

She died Sept. 7.

When she was young, she and her family settled in Ragtown on the river. In a video recalling her childhood, she said their first shelter was built from blankets and eventually her father purchased a tent from a man whose wife had died from the heat.

She recalled her parents encouraging her to visit the dam when it was under construction so she could watch history in the making. They always knew how big a role the dam would play in the city’s future.

Her tales of those early days helped keep that link to the past strong and establish Boulder City as “the town that built Hoover Dam.”

Though she was too young then to actually help build the city’s foundation, she played an integral role in making sure the town didn’t disappear once the construction crews left and the dam was completed.

For more than 30 years she owned and operated a real estate brokerage, helping people and businesses settle in the community that she dearly loved.

She also served on the city’s planning commission and was active in local and state politics, fighting for issues such as equal rights.

We also marked the passing of longtime resident Vern Burk, who died Sept. 11.

While he recognized the importance of the town’s heritage, and was instrumental in helping preserve one of it’s largest assets, the Boulder Dam Hotel, he also had the vision to look forward and see what could be done to continue making Boulder City a place where people wanted to live and visit.

With his wife of 68 years, Darlene, he introduced art to the downtown landscape. Through the Boulder City Public Art Scape’s annual art walk and fundraiser, statues were installed on local sidewalks, many of which have since been donated to the city and attract attention daily.

Some of the statues depict the city’s origins and others strictly add to the area’s aesthetics.

When they stepped down from the Art Scape’s board and the group disbanded in 2014, the group had purchased or donated more than 30 sculptures worth more than $250,000. Among the last ones installed was “If It Isn’t One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” which depicts a trapper in a coon-skin cap protecting himself and his horse against a bear by fending it off with a frying pan.

One of his favorite sculptures, it was purchased for $30,000 by 24 individuals who made donations to honor their friend.

“We love Boulder City and this gathering exemplifies why we love Boulder City,” he said at the time.

He also served on the hospital’s board of trustees, working diligently to make sure the community had a place to turn to in times of illness and emergency.

This blending of the past and future are essential to telling Boulder City’s story and ensuring that the community remains a special place to be, whether you live or work here or just come to visit for a couple of hours.

The legacies of Laura and Vern are firmly woven into the city’s history and both will be missed greatly.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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