Judy Prey (also known as “The Coin Lady”) has been a docent at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park (SHP) since 1984. Her warm smile and genuine love of people have establish Judy as a well-known personality at the park.
Read what Judy has to say about being a volunteer at Sutter’s Fort:
How did you get involved as a docent at Sutter’s Fort SHP?
My husband Steve knew George Stammerjohan when they both worked for California State Parks. Steve brought me to Sutter’s Fort in 1981, when we were courting, and introduced me to the Living History Program. I have always been a ham and thought acting out a historic sight would also satisfy my love of history. Steve and I took the training classes together, picked out our historic costumes, and researched our characters. We participated in our first living history event as docents in April 1983.
What’s your favorite part of volunteering?
I have lots of “favorites” really. I love meeting people from all over the world and enjoy learning from them all the time. Sharing all the research Steve and I have done over the years makes my brain happy. My family has always been involved in volunteerism; this allowed me to grow up on the philosophy of giving back to the community. All of the wonderful docents and volunteers at Sutter’s Fort are a part of one big family spanning back many decades. We are all friends.
What is it that you do in your role as a Sutter’s Fort volunteer?
It is a well-known fact that I like to talk; especially when it comes to telling stories about the history of Sutter’s Fort and the many travelers who came here. Visitors often refer to me as “The Coin Lady” because of the many historic coins I have collected over the years. I bring these to Sutter’s Fort during Hands on History events and demonstration days to show to visitors. People are fascinated by these coins, especially children. They have so many questions regarding where they come from and what the writing and symbols on them mean. History isn’t just dates and places. It is the “whys” and “hows” that people find so relatable and interesting.
What’s one of your favorite memories?
A number of years ago, a gentleman from China came to Sutter’s Fort with an American family he was visiting. He was sitting at my table as soon as the gates opened and sat with me for hours asking question after question. He went to every room and didn’t want to leave. The ranger had to eventually shoo him out before they closed the gates for the evening. It was such a memorable experience. His questions really made me think and dip into all those hours of research
What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not volunteering?
In my spare time, I like to make beaded jewelry. I’ve sold my hand-made jewelry at many local craft shows including the Elk Grove Dickens Street Faire. The Sutter’s Fort Gift & Trade Store has even started to carry my jewelry! I also belong to a writers group called The Warped Spacers. We are now working on our second anthology of short stories. Two historic ghost stories and the Sutter’s Fort activity book for children still await completion… when I have time.
Thank you, Judy, for your dedication and willingness to always learn new crafts and skills, and for your over 14,772 hours of volunteer service at the park!
We appreciate everything you do — for us and for California State Parks!
We are proud to support the volunteer efforts at Sutter’s Fort SHP with the help of our sponsor, Sutter Health.