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Isabel Kurth Award Winners

Mary Jane Spackman

by Roger Frey

The Isabel S. Kurth Award was established by the Board of the Newfoundland Club of America in 1993 to honor an extraordinary individual whose service to the club, dedication to the principles on which it stands and devotion to the breed is legendary. This award recognizes that member who best captures the spirit and exemplifies the standards of excellence in service and devotion to the breed that Isabel Kurth had so tirelessly set.

Each year at its fall face-to-face meeting the NCA Board of Directors considers possible recipients for this award and in doing so, realizes that our club is blessed by many individuals who give so freely of their time and talents. Yet being the recipient of the Isabel Kurth award is a very special honor—more like a lifetime achievement award that recognizes not only hard work and devotion to the breed, but sustained contribution over a long period of time.

This year the Board has chosen to honor one of our members who for decades has never quit working on behalf of the NCA, its members, and, of course, our dogs.  Though some people might be amused at describing her as “quiet,” she is everywhere, quietly making her contribution without looking for appreciation, without fanfare, and without seeking public acclaim.

What hasn’t she done? She has certainly been involved in conformation, putting championships on her own dogs and chairing both National and Regional specialties. She’s long been an active participant in working dog activities, putting VNs on most of her own dogs, chairing both water and draft tests, and serving as a mentor Water Test judge. She’s also been a strong contributor at the regional level, almost perpetually serving on the Board of Directors—often as president—of her regional club where she tirelessly works to host activities for the membership and introduce new members to activities that will better the lives of the dogs and their owners. She is also the force behind many fundraising efforts. Those who enter her home will often find her dining room table stacked with baskets of goodies as prizes for the next brown-bag auction.

Yet as important as her regional efforts and activities have been, the Isabel Kurth award recognizes her work at the national level, and there her list of her contributions is even more impressive.  For decades, she has served as the NCA’s historian, faithfully recording and securing the NCA’s history and sharing that history each quarter with NCA members via regular articles in NewfTide, being the “go-to” person for questions about the NCA’s past, and reminding us of the rich legacy that we now hold in our hands.

Yet there’s more…much more.  One of her passions is the health of the breed and in the mid-1990s she co-chaired the formation of the Newfoundland Health Challenge, the program that paved the way for the establishment of the NCA Charitable Trust in 2004. Tirelessly, she has worked to see the Health Challenge grow from its modest roots to a formidable force that raises and invests tens of thousands of dollars on research grants that can benefit the Newfoundland breed. And she’s not just an idea person. You can usually find her collecting items for the NHC silent auction, manning the tables at the National, and organizing the next fundraiser. Her contribution doesn’t stop there. She has sat on the Charitable Trust Management Board since its formation, serving that Board as its Secretary.

As if all that weren’t enough, she is an active contributing member of both the Health and Longevity Committee and the Steering Committee, ensuring that the NCA’s attention to the health of the breed will continue into the future.

The NCA is blessed to have many committed volunteers. But few people can match the scope and duration of her contributions to the NCA and to our dogs. We owe a lot to her energy, creativity, and pure stamina, and it is with grateful thanks that we present the Isabel Kurth award to Mary Jane Spackman.






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