A Web-Site of "HomeTown Tributes" . . .

Paying Tribute to America's Towns and their People . . . throughout the Decades



An Open Letter

to each of

You throughout America

Who Happen to hear

about this

Unique Web-Site




Stephen Van Hecke

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World's oldest known surviving aerial Town Photo Boston - circa - 1860


America's First Known HomeTown Photo - Location unknown - circa 1848



Our 50

State Capital


. . . Today

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Juneau, AK
Montgomery, AL


( l- r ) Then, Lt. Governor ( now Governor ) Phil Bryant, myself & ( then) State FEMA Director J. K. Stringer - Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Jackson, MS - Sept. 4, 2008


Little Rock, AR
Hartford, CT
Dover, DE
Tallahassee, FL
Atlanta, GA
Honolulu, HI
DesMoines, IA
Boise, ID
Springfield, IL
Indianapolis, IN
Topeka, KS
Frankfort, KY
Augusta, ME
St. Paul, MN
Helena, MT
Raleigh, NC
Bismark, ND
Lincoln, NB
Concord, NH
Trenton, NJ
Santa Fe, NM
Carson City, NV
Albany, NY
Columbus, OH
Oklahoma City, OK
Salem, OR
Harrisburg, PA
Providence, RI
Columbia, SC
Pierre, SD
Nashville, TN
Austin, TX
Salt Lake City, UT
Richmond, VA
Montpelier, VT
Olympia, WA
Madison, WI
Charleston, WV
Cheyenne, WY






A Web-Site that Pays Tribute to, and Permanently Preserves the History and the Photographic Heritage of your HomeTown, as its Mayor . . . and for the HomeTowns, and, their People in your State, as Governor . . .

Showcasing and Preserving that History and Heritage

of Today, from throughout the Decades, and, for Tomorrow !

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

And, where every Resident in your State, and in your Town can actually participate in the creation of their Town’s own

"HomeTown Tribute"




Dear Governor, and Mayor;


Please let me introduce myself. My name is Stephen Van Hecke, and I'm the Author of this Web-Site. I am writing this Open Letter to You, as Governor, and to each of America's other 49 Governors, as well as, to you, as Town Mayor, and to each of the 36,000 + other Mayors to introduce You to this Web-Site. I want to, also, Thank You, for taking these few minutes of your day to read this Letter. As you read on, it may seem with one thought that I am addressing you as Governor, and then making a point to you as Mayor. I wanted this to be just one Open Letter for simplicity, so I do know that you understand. And, Thank You, again.

Just as it is with the uniqueness of your State, every Town in your State has its own unique History and Heritage. And, by creating individualized "HomeTown Tributes", this One-of-its-Kind Web-Site pays Tribute to that special and One-of-its-Kind History and Heritage for each one of those HomeTowns, and for their People which then, in turn, showcases the unique Heritage of your entire State . . . of Today, from throughout the Decades, and for Tomorrow.

This Web-Site with its individual"HomeTown Tributes" is FOR everyone who lives in your Town, and in your State. Every Town Mayor, as well as, every current and former Resident, local Chamber of Commerce, and Business Owner in each of your State's Towns can actually participate in the creation of a "HomeTown Tribute" for your own Town. Each "HomeTown Tribute", also, permanently preserves FROM all natural disasters - whether it be fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane . . . and FOR all future generations - the priceless Photographic Heritage of your Town, and for your State.

For 150 years, the photographic memories of America's Families have been pressed onto the pages of their Family Albums. And, for each of America's Towns, our Photographic Heritage has typically hung on the walls and in the display cases of our Town Hall, at our Fire Station, and Police Headquarters, in our Town Library, and in the file drawers of our local Historical Society. Each of those Photographs is, indeed, a cherished Memory for that Town and for their People.

And yet today, 150 years later, whether it be from fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane, the Photographic Heritage for Towns in each of America's 50 States is still vulnerable, as well as, very difficult for the average Town Resident to Access, and thus Enjoy !

Until NOW . . .

with this Web-Site, and its "HomeTown Tributes" for your Town, and for your State !


For Every Town in your State

As mentioned above, in addition to the physical distruction and human tragedy that occurs as a result of a natural disaster, a Town, also as a result, often losses much of its own Photographic Heritage. . . pictures of their previous Mayors that used to hang on the Town Hall wall . . . of other Town Officials . . . photos of the Town itself growing and changing through the years . . . of its Residents and their every-day lives in their HomeTown.

It was because of such a disaster - Hurricane Katrina - that motivated me in Jan., 2008 to move to Mississippi so I could in whatever way I could help the small Gulf Coast Town of Bay Saint Louis. I had seen a CNN Docmentary about Kathleen Koch, then the White House Correspondent for CNN. She had travelled back to Bay Saint Louis with a camera crew to show what had happened to her childhood HomeTown as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Although much of the national news had been focused on New Orleans, the eye of Katrina had passed through Bay Saint Lous, and its neighbor to the east, Pass Christian . . . which was, interestingly, the childhood HomeTown of Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America.

I ended up making that small Gulf Coast Town of Bay Saint Louis my Home for 2 1/2 years. And, while there I learned that, indeed, they had lost much of their Town's Photographic Heritage. Both the Town itself, as well as, so many of the family photo albums of that Town's Residents. The countless Photos of their family, and of their HomeTown throughout the years.

Fortunately, a fair amount of their Photographic Heritage had been stored in a walk-in vault. So, all of those Photos were saved. And, those Photos had been in that vault for many years.

Fortunately Safe ( in a vault ) . . . but certainly not accessable to the Current or Former Residents of Bay Saint Louis, MS.

Or, not very accessable to anyone else curious about that small, charming, friendly, fishing, and very artsy Mississippi Gulf Coast Town.

A Side Note. While living in Bay Saint Louis, I and many other residents without our own transportation were evacuated by school bus north to the State Coliseum in Jackson for 3 days while Hurricane Gustav blew through the southern part of Mississippi. Sleeping on a cot side by side with hundreds of others, and eating boxed meals 3 times a day was a unique experience. While there, Mississippi's Lt. Governor, Phil Bryant with his FEMA Director came to the Coliseum to see how everyone was doing. I decided to go over and introduce myself and mention why I had come to Bay Saint Louis from my home in Hew Jersey. Had a nice conversation with him, and then he asked if his aid could take a picture. That's it to the right. He is now Mississippi's Governor.

Phoenix, AZ
Sacramento, CA
Denver, CO


"HomeTown Tributes" are Special for each Town in your State

Each "HomeTown Tribute" is made up of 12 Individual 'Tribute Feature Sections'.

"Honoring Our HomeTown"

The first Four (4) of these 12 Feature Sections are each designed for the Town Mayor, and the Town Officials to be able to permanently Showcase and Pay Tribute to the Town itself that they Serve. These 4 Sections are:


The 10

'Feature Sections'

for Each Town's

"HomeTown Tribute"

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- "Our HomeTown . . . Today"

- Our Town's "Logging-On" Ceremony

- Our Town's Written History

- Our Town's Current and Former Mayors

- Our Town's Fire Department and Former Chiefs

- Our Town's Police Department and Former Chiefs

- Our Town's"Fallen Fire Heroes"

- Our Town's"Fallen Police Heroes"

- Our Town's"Fallen Military Heroes" listed by War

- Photos of My HomeTown throughout the Decades

- "Our HomeTown . . . Today"
- This Page showcases your Town - as it is Today with the current Mayor's Photo with a 'Mayor's Welcoming Message' to all those visiting your "HomeTown Tribute", Names of the Town Committee, Fire and Police Chiefs, a History of your Town, photos of your Town today, as well as, Links to your Town's own official web-site, other important links, and much more.

- "Our HomeTown's Logging-On Ceremony"
- This Page memorializes the Date with a photo Press Event when the Mayor officially logs their Town's "HomeTown Tribute" onto the Web-Site. The Page features a group photo of current Town Officials, and an individual photo of the current Mayor. This photo of that Mayor who has said 'Yes' to have a "HomeTown Tribute" for their Town will permanently remain on their Town's "Logging-On Ceremony" Page.

- "Those Who Serve, and Those Who Protect"
- A Page Honoring by Name and Photo all of your Town's Former Mayors, Police Chiefs, and Fire Chiefs . . . of Today, and from throughout the Decades.

- "Our HomeTown 'Fallen Heroes'"
- A special Page that solumnly Honors by Name all of those Military, Fire, and Police Heroes from your Town Who have 'Died in the Line of Duty' . . . from throughout the Decades.

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NOTE : The Introductory "Our HomeTown . . . Today" 'Feature Section' has already been completed for the Capital Cities in each of America's 50 States. To see it for your State - please Click below on "Visit your State's 'HomeTown Tributes',

NOTE : Also, to see what the 4 'Feature Sections' ( of the total 12 ) will be like for the Towns in your State - please Click below on "What your "HomeTown Tribute" will look like".


Baton Rouge, LA
Boston, MA
Annapolis, MD

And so , with Dayton as America's FIRST "HomeTown Tribute" . . .

Which American HomeTown will be . . .

NEXT ? ?

Imagine . . . hundreds of Towns throughout America in all of the 50 States within the first year ( just 1% of over 36,000 Cities and Towns in America is already 360 Towns ). Each Town with their own "HomeTown Tribute" and 10 distinctive 'Feature Sections' Showcasing and Paying Tribute to the History and Heritage of over 360 Towns, and their People ( It's Possible in just 12 Months ).

Imagine . . . a Web-Site where all you have to do is just Click to any State, and then, to a Town . . . from State to State, from Town to Town, browsing from "HomeTown Tribute" to "HomeTown Tribute" . A Web-Site so very Easy to navigate because the format is the very same for every 'Feature Section' that make up every "HomeTown Tribute", and, the same for every Town.

As you're browsing through the 10'Feature Sections' of Dayton's "HomeTow n Tribute". . . Just Imagine . . . that you're browsing through the '"Home Town Tribute" for your own HomeTown. One of the 36,000 American HomeTowns!


"Our HomeTown – by and about our People"

An additional six (6) 'Feature Sections' are designed so that current and former Residents, and Former Mayors have the opportunity to actually participate in the creation of their Town's "HomeTown Tribute". They will be able to add their own Memories ( even Former Mayors can add their own Memories from when they were Mayor ), and their own Photos of your Town and your Town People of Today, from throughout the Decades, and for Tomorrow. These 6 Sections are:

- Photo Album of Our HomeTown . . . throughout the Decades

- Photo Album of Our HomeTown People . . . throughout the Decades

- Great Old-Time Stories about Our HomeTown

- Your High School Senior Year Memories

- Your Favorite Teacher in School

- The HomeTown Memories by our Former Mayors

The 2 remaining ‘Feature Sections’ ( of the 12 ) are :

- The Mayor's annual "Thanks for the Memories" Ceremony honoring our High School's Academic Clubs for their "HomeTown Tribute" participation.      

- Our Town's "HomeTown Tribute" Sponsors

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NOTE : Each of these 12 'Feature Sections' are highlighted in greater detail by Clicking on "HomeTown Tributes are so Special" from below.


"HomeTown Tributes" compliment a Town's official Web-Site

One of the primary Goals for this Web-Site from the beginning has been to make sure that each "HomeTown Tribute" created for one of America's Towns would compliment and enhance the official web-site for each of those Towns that wished to participate. That meant that the "HomeTown Tribute" for each Town on this Web-Site must in NO way compete with, or replace the importance of each Town's own official Site. It must only 'add to' that of their own Web-Site.

During the early design stages while developing the layout and content for what each "HomeTown Tribute" should look like for a Town, it was important to know what the typical official web-site for a Town looked like, and what information it provided to those who were visiting that web-site. To find that out, the official web-sites for many, many Towns - large, medium and small - were visited and reviewed in every one of the 50 States.

From that review, I knew I wanted each Town's "HomeTown Tribute" to include the photo of the current Mayor ( which most official Town web-sites did have ), and then, add to that with photos of the current Fire and Police Chiefs ( which most did not have ). It would have a brief History of their Town, and, if available, would include images of their Town Flag and Seal.

There would be 15-20 Photos of what their Town actually looks like, today. I found that the official sites for lots of smaller Towns, and this is, I'm sure, due to the web expense that would be involved, did not have photos (past or present) of their Town. I wanted each "HomeTown Tribute" to, also, Pay Tribute ( with Photos and Names ) to their Town's Former Mayors, Fire Chiefs, and Police Chiefs - those Individuals Who have Served, and those Who have Protected their Town . . . over the years and from throughout the Decades.

And, very importantly, there should a Page that would Honor Those from their Town Who have 'Died in the Line of Duty' - whether in the Military, or in their Fire and/or Police Departments, and again . . . from throughout the Decades.

To show that each Town's "HomeTown Tribute" on this Web-Site does NOT, in fact, compete with, or intends to replace their own official web-site, a direct Link to their Town's Official Web-Site is included along with other Links ( their County's and local Chamber's W-S ), and can be found on the introductory "Our HomeTown . . . Today" 'Feature Section' on their's, and on every "HomeTown Tribute".

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NOTE: A Sample of this commitment can be seen by Clicking below on "Visit Your State's "HomeTown Tributes".


Your Ideas and Support for this Web-Site

Thank You, again, Governor . . .

for taking these few minutes to learn about this One-of-a-Kind Web-Site.

I ask that You visit the various Informational Pages below. Each one gives greater detail on how the "HomeTown Tributes" will pay tribute to the Towns and their People of your State, how those Towns can take advantage of the Special Introductory OFFER, and, how each "HomeTown Tributes" will permanently preserve the photographic Heritage for each of those Towns. You'll, also, be able to see what a "HomeTown Tribute" will actually look like for the Towns in your State.

I hope with your's and your Staff's review, You will agree that this Web-Site, as it grows, will allow visitors throughout your State, America, and the World to browse through the many "HomeTown Tributes" for the Towns of your State, each one Paying Tribute to, and permanently Preserving the History and Photographic Heritage of those Towns, of their People and, indeed, of the HomeTown Life in your State.

I am asking, through the Gravitas of your Office, if You would reach out to those State Offices and Agencies that You think will want to know about this Web-Site, and the opportunity that it offers to the Towns in your State. As mentioned above, I have addressed Open Letters to your State's Chamber of Commerce and Municipal Association asking each of these important state-wide Organizations, based on their advocacy for their Members, that they would reach out to their Members to visit this Web-Site for possible consideration. I hope that You would be willing to, also, reach out to these 2 important Organizations in your State on behalf of this Web-Site.


Thank You for your Interest and your consideration. If You or your Staff have any questions, please give me a call.

Stephen Van Hecke

Cell - 908-721-7321

E-mail - SVanHecke@HomeTownMemories.ORG






Browsing through the Pages of


From the bottom of this Introductory Page, you'll be able to Click to each of these 4 Pages.

* * * * * *

- America's FIRST - Dayton's"HomeTown Tribute"

With each of Dayton's 10 distinct 'Feature Sections'

( recommended to visit and browse through, first )

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- America's 'HomeTown Tributes' - by each State

As the Web-Site grows with "HomeTown Tributes" for more and more Towns, and in more and more States, it will be this page that will link you to your selected State and Town. A "Welcome to Our State" Page has been designed to pay Tribute to each of the 50 States. The Web-Site is currently completing an 'Honorary' Introductory 'Tribute' Page - "Our HomeTown...Today" , like the "Our HomeTown...Today" Page you just viewed for Dayton. Each of these will be for the Capital City in each of the 50 States.

Also, from the 'by State' Page below, you can Click on 'Mississippi' to see the "Logging-On" Ceremonies for the Towns of Bay St. Louis, and Pass Christian. The 'eye' of Hurricane Katrina plowed right over these two Towns located right on the Gulf of Mexico. While in the State as a volunteer ( 2008 ) helping to rebuild Bay St. Louis after Katrina, I created "HomeTown Tributes" for these two Towns wanting to help preserve what was left of their Photographic History.

* * * * * * * * * *

"A Photographic Retrospective - The City of Dayton and The University of Dayton - 160 Year Connection beyond Proximity"

And also, learn about a special Photographic Proposal for the City and for the University. - Just Click on this Page in the box at the bottom of the Page. It outlines a joint Partnership Project that this Web-Site is proposing to the City, and to the University for this Web-Site to create a permanent, Historical Photographic Retrospective for The City of Dayton, and for The University of Dayton. It would become a one-of-its-kind, Photographic Album that will Showcase, as well as, Preserve, and be internet accessable to all, that unique connection beyond proximity that The City of Dayton, and The University of Dayton has shared spanning 160 years.

* * * * * * * * * *

- "HomeTown Tributes" in All of the 50 States.

What could be - what should be - NEXT for this Web-Site ?

A Possible Plan or Goal -

By the end of 2 Years to have 500 HomeTowns with 500 Mayors and Town Committees each having said, 'Yes' for their Town to have their own "HomeTown Tribute". And, that would include by the end of that 2 Years, 500 separate "Logging-On Ceremonies" for those 500 Mayors and their 500 American HomeTowns.


America's 50 State Capital HomeTowns