Blackwell's unsung hero: Melissa Hudson

by Jordan Green

Blackwell is a small town. All too often, out-of-towners think we all know one another. While we might know of people or hear about them, that doesn’t mean we “know” them: who they are and what they do. Sometimes, we can’t grasp just how much of a difference people in our community make.

Even though news typically spreads quickly here, there are still folks who deserve more credit for what they do for us. One of those people is Melissa Hudson, the director of the Top of Oklahoma Museum. Since 2015, Hudson and her family members have spent countless hours, day and night, working at the museum we know to be the Jewel of the Chikaskia. She has reorganized and revitalized exhibits in the museum, solicited new donations of artifacts and given the museum a much-needed online presence.

I’ve donated a number of newspaper-related items to the museum in recent years – mainly old archives rescued from our paper’s former office. The first time I dropped off a load of old papers at the museum in 2017, Melissa spent hours reading them. She said she was able to answer several questions she’d had for a long time, and she was able to help folks in search of the same answers.

Who else would take the time to do this? She cares diligently for the precious mementos which Blackwellites see the need to preserve for future generations, and she does a remarkable job. Thanks to her work, in my opinion, the museum is as inviting and neatly organized as it has ever been. This work has taken a great investment of time. More importantly, this work requires someone with a commitment to our community and a big heart for its people.

Melissa embodies those qualities. And so does her family. Her husband, J. Wayne, is the band director for the middle and high schools. Any job in education is tough, but being the band director – taking students to competitions, rehearsing marching routines for football games, preparing students for concerts – is perhaps one of the most demanding. A band director must not only teach a concept to students, but must also teach it well enough that students can confidently practice it for the world to see. I can only imagine that this job places an immense amount of pressure upon a person.

Melissa helps with the band, too. She instructs the color guard – a part of the ensemble no marching routine is complete without. Let’s remember, too, what a crucial role the museum plays in developing tourism in Blackwell. It’s one of our top travel destinations. People enjoy learning about history, and a museum in a town with as much historical significance and controversy as Blackwell is a valuable source of information to locals and visitors alike.

Melissa is, in essence, the dean of our town’s heritage. Throughout history, women have been denied credit for their achievements. For example, even though Albert Einstein was a genius mathematician, his wife perfected his concepts and translated them into language others could understand. (And in school, she had better grades, too.)

These people are sometimes called “unsung heroes.” I rarely use the term “hero” anymore because it has become cliché and demeans the sacrifices of people who lay down their lives for others and fight willingly and bravely for justice and freedom.

But Melissa is certainly unsung – all too unsung. I think our museum keeps getting better and better, and I think the credit for its improvement is due to be paid. So, the next time you visit our fine museum, give Melissa a thanks. She deserves it.