by Ernst Lamothe, Jr.

    Audrey Johnson, left, and Vicki Profitt, who are co-writing a book on the history of Pittsford.
    discuss pictures they will use in the book at Pittsford Town Hall. / LAUREN PETRACCA

    A stay-at-home mother, Vicki Profitt didn’t know she wanted a change in her life. She just knew she always had a healthy appetite for knowledge. She had been intrigued for years by the cemetery tours offered to the public in Pittsford, coordinated by Audrey Johnson, Pittsford town and village historian.

    That started a friendship that ignited a new passion for Profitt, mutual respect for each other and a collaboration on a book due out next year. “Audrey is someone that has made a huge difference in my life,” said Profitt, a Pittsford resident. “Taking her tour was one of the seeds that led us here to writing a book together.”

    After Profitt took part in the cemetery tour four years ago, she met with Johnson and they started talking about interesting Civil War soldiers in the area. The pair had an immediate rapport, and soon they were giving joint tours in the cemeteries throughout the year. Profitt also started a blog called Illuminated History, where she writes about Civil War soldiers.

    When the two talked about history, Johnson pointed out a Confederate headstone belonging to John H. Thurmon. Having always been interested in the Civil War, Profitt decided to photograph and transcribe the graves of Civil War soldiers buried at Pittsford Cemetery. The project snowballed into a fun obsession to find any and all information about these men that she could. “I was looking to stay busy and wanted something extra to go along with being a stay-at-home mom,” said Profitt.

    The two women are now co-writing a book titled Pittsford for Arcadia Publishing. The book will feature numerous stories and never-before-seen pictures of early settlers and essential people who contributed to making the suburb a vibrant community.

    The women also serve on the Historic Pittsford board and work on the Day of the Dead, an annual October event created by Johnson that involves citizens acting out the lives of about a dozen deceased people buried in the Pittsford cemetery. The living history tour enables residents to learn about history in a creative, interactive way as people make a connection between the names on the headstones and those buried underneath it.

    “People find it interesting to learn about all these people that they otherwise would have no clue about,” said Johnson. “It makes for some good conversation because there are fascinating people who once lived here. And it’s just a fun event for people to attend.”

    Arcadia, which has published more than 7,500 books on local history, contacted Johnson years ago about writing a Pittsford book. Her ancestors, Barnett & Hannah Maxfield, were very early residents of Pittsford. Johnson was unable to write and organize the book because on her busy schedule, but she then thought of the idea of working with Profitt.
    They have been collecting pre-1950s photographs throughout the year by visiting the homes of many multi-generational Pittsford families. After months of doing research, gathering and scanning photos, they’re facing a challenge.

    “We almost have too much information and too many pictures,” said Profitt. “Now we have to decide what are the best aspects to put into the book. It definitely isn’t an easy job, but the book is coming along.”

    They each plan to write sections of the book and edit each other’s work so it has two interesting, yet distinctly different voices. The two women say they want to put out the best product they can by meticulously getting the genealogy and history correct. Profitt said Johnson is so well-versed in history, she could throw out a Pittsford resident’s name and Johnson could mention something interesting about them.

    Even though Johnson feels very comfortable reciting Pittsford history, that doesn’t mean co-writing a book was simple. Outside her busy schedule as a historian, it’s difficult to always put together the beginning, middle and ending stories of residents. But through the hard work, she has found several fun aspects.

    “When you do the research, you get to know how different families are connected,” added Johnson. “Sometimes you’ve always known one family line and you didn’t know how they eventually linked to the other side of their relatives. I just think history is fascinating as a whole, and it’s important for people to understand the importance of it even if they don’t think it directly affects them.”

    Johnson said she enjoys working with Profitt and that her conscientiousness and thoroughness make her a wonderful teammate. “I wouldn’t have done this book without Vicki,” said Johnson. “She brings so much of herself into this project. And with her technological expertise and my historical expertise, it has made this challenging endeavor worth it. I am happy that she is there every step of the way.”