On spring, summer and early autumn days, among masses of tourists and fair-weather appreciators roaming the downtown sidewalks, one person looks as though he stepped out of a history book.
Is that a fur trapper? A steamboat captain? A Fort Sherman commander?
Yes to all three, depending on the day. It's Robert Singletary, leading a group of curious sight-seers on a living history walking tour.
"He is an Idaho gem, G-E-M," Singletary's longtime friend and history-loving colleague Dave Eubanks said Tuesday. "It doesn't get any better than Robert."
Eubanks would know; he and Singletary tag-teamed living history presentations for Eubanks' students for about a dozen years before he retired from teaching at Lakes Magnet Middle School.
"It was just amazing to watch him," Eubanks said. "He's so intelligent and so knowledgeable and so into the presentation. It's like you are there."
Eubanks nominated Singletary for the Idaho Historical Society's prestigious Esto Perpetua Award, which honors people and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation of Idaho history. Singletary received his during a June 3 ceremony in Boise.
The board's decision to elect Singletary was unanimous.
"There's just nobody like Robert," Eubanks said. "This award is for helping others understand Idaho's history and also to preserve Idaho's history. I can't think of anybody more qualified than Robert."
Born in Cairo, Ga., Singletary has always had a passion for history as well as his other love, music. He pursued them through his service in the Army, during his college years and into his profession. He is the program and marketing director for the Museum of North Idaho, chair of the Kootenai County Historic Preservation Commission and he is the principal bassist for the Panhandle Symphony.
Singletary first became involved in local and regional history during Idaho's centennial celebration in 1990. He has served in many roles and capacities, contributing a wealth of information about Idaho history through education, presentations, written pieces and more.
Even though he was on the board of the Idaho Historical Society when the award was created 20 years ago, he was still surprised when he found out he was a recipient.
"This is considered the most important award for anybody in the field of history to get,” he said Tuesday, adding that this award is like the Golden Globe for historians.
"It's the biggie," he said. "It's the major award for history in the state."
Singletary said the work he’s done really has not been a job in the usual sense — "It was an honor to be doing this. For me to receive this award for doing that for years and years and years was indeed, to me, the pinnacle of my profession."
Singletary isn’t the only one bringing historic honors home to North Idaho.
Leanne Campbell, a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, an Air Force veteran and cultural tourism coordinator for the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel, is also a recipient of the 2019 Esto Perpetua Award. She was nominated by Coeur d'Alene Tribe public relations director Jennifer Fletcher.
"I think it's a really high honor to be recognized like this," Campbell told The Press. "Not only by the Tribe itself as a culture bearer, but recognized by the state of Idaho.
"Idaho's first people are really important. I'm glad they're recognizing our work in historic preservation."
Campbell, of Plummer, was raised and received her elementary education on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, where she also raised her family. She strongly embraces her history, culture, language and traditions and speaks the Coeur d'Alene and Nez Perce languages.
"She left and went to school and got her degree in fine arts. Then she came back home and she's helping to educate and inform others of our culture," said Laura Stensgar, cultural tourism director for the Coeur d'Alene Casino. "We’re really proud that she’s out there in the community sharing our culture."
Stensgar said Campbell is incredibly talented in her beadwork, basketweaving and other traditional arts.
Campbell said she has always had an interest in the culture, history, language and artifacts of her heritage, so it was really important for her to know them. She said the meaning of "esto perpetua" is "let it be perpetual," and she intends to perpetuate the work of preserving her culture's history for people now and far into the future.
"So many different elders and teachers I've had over the years," she said. "The work that I do is an accumulation of knowledge that happened over the years. It's a result of the dedication in my daily life."