Nimon-Walker award honors Ping-DeGraw family
EAGLE – Photographs are often the best record of the history of a community.
That is why the Eagle Valley Library District and Eagle County Historical Society owe a debt of gratitude to the Ping and DeGraw families.
The late Leonard Ping operated a photography business from the time he graduated from Eagle High School in 1923 through the 1940s. His studio was located in the Ping family’s hotel in Eagle on the corner of Capital Street and Grand Avenue. Ping snapped hundreds of photos of people, scenery and events in Eagle County, and for many years he did all the photography for the school yearbook.
He kept copies of most of those black-and-white photos in the old hotel complex, where he lived his entire life along with his sister, Garnet.
The Ping siblings are gone, but that legacy of historical photographs lives on thanks to Leonard’s nephew, Claude DeGraw and his wife, Vieva. The DeGraws recovered hundreds of photographs from the old hotel (recently demolished).
Most of the photos were in good condition, packed into boxes and containers or scattered among newspapers that the Pings had saved over the years.
The DeGraws spent months sorting the images into scrapbooks, then began an effort to return many of the photos to the descendants of the people pictured in those long-ago snapshots. The DeGraws took the photo albums to the Senior Center in Eagle, and shared them with longtime local residents with the intent of identifying the people in the pictures.
“Many of the families are hard to find, but we did make every effort,” said Vieva.
The DeGraws also made the photos available to the Eagle County Historical Society archives. To date, 238 photos from the Ping/DeGraw collection have been scanned and added to the on-line data base on the Eagle Valley Library District’s website (EVLD.org). Another 400 Ping-DeGraw photos will be added as the images are identified. The on-line collection of historic photos now numbers 4,145 images.
“We consider these photographs to be a real treasure in that they reveal the lifestyle of the community 70 to 80 years ago. We appreciate the DeGraw family’s generosity,” said Kathy Heicher, president of the Eagle County Historical Society.
The Ping and DeGraw families will be honored with the Nimon-Walker award at a gathering on Sunday, April 29, at the Eagle Public library at 2 p.m.
The Nimon-Walker Award is a tradition dating back to 2001. The award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the preservation of history in Eagle County.