Former Museum Director Dies

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Sharesse von Strauss, who served for seven years as the Northern Gila County Historical Society's one and only director, died Thursday morning in Payson at the age of 50.

One of von Strauss' greatest accomplishments during her tenure was the creation of the Museum of Rim Country Archaeology, which opened in 2002 in the portion of the Payson Womans Club formerly occupied by the old Payson Public Library.

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Sharesse von Strauss

Von Strauss resigned her position with the historical society in 2003 because the organization could no longer afford a paid director.

"Small museums are just being ripped apart," von Strauss said at the time. "It is the economy, and we are in even a more exceptional situation (because) we have the forest.

"People (used to) come up to the cool pines in the summer. That is not a reality anymore. We have had two huge fires and we are in a drought situation."

Von Strauss, who was writing a novel, remained in the Rim Country and was often seen at various cultural events.

Local artist Jay Kemp, a close friend of von Strauss, said a service would probably not be held.

"She didn't want one," Kemp said.

Prior to moving to Payson from California, a little more than 10 years ago, von Strauss was an artists' representative and an art appraiser.

"She did very large, international estate appraisals," Kemp said.

When she stepped down as museum director von Strauss made a comment that she stood by the rest of her life.

"I hope residents of the Rim Country understand the importance of an educational institution such as the two museums operated by the historical society," she said. "We have after-school programs, we have a library that is open for research, we have accomplished a tremendous amount in seven years."

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