Halfway through October, we're saying good-bye to two prominent citizens who have played important roles in preserving African-American history here in Barstow.

On Oct. 6, Russell Desvignes, a Tuskegee Airman who lived at our local veterans home, passed away. He was 87.

We've profiled Desvignes several times in the Desert Dispatch and our reporters over the past few years loved talking to him about his role in such a significant endeavor.

Desvignes was a member of the well-known all-black bomber group from World War II. He joined them in 1943 and trained extensively before being sent to Japan. Though he didn't end up seeing any combat, he is nevertheless part of an important historic development that diversified and strengthened our military.

Just earlier in the year, Desvignes received a Congressional Gold Medal in acknowledgment of his pioneering work. The medals were awarded to all the Tuskegee Airmen - his was given to him at the home by Nellis Air Force Base Brig. Gen. Everett Williams.

Desvignes' friends at the veterans home remembered him as a friendly face who spent much of his time at the front of the home greeting visitors. He'll also be remembered as an important, pivotal part of American military and civil rights history.

A week later, Annie Shropshire, who made a hobby out of preserving symbols and images of African-American history, passed away.

Shropshire was known for her involvement in local organizations and helping found our local Juneteenth celebration, memorializing the emancipation of the slaves.

But she's better known for opening up her house to visitors during Black History Month to show off her display of historical memorabilia. She owned more than 400 pieces that illustrated African-American history, and in February, she would allow visitors to take a look at them.

Some of the objects are not pleasant and are connected to America's history of slavery and segregation. It's important for younger generations to see these items, even more so as more and more African-Americans who lived through the harsher days of the civil rights struggle pass on. Shropshire's daughter, Eboni, has promised to continue the open houses.

Both Desvignes and Shropshire have played major roles in keeping African-American history in Barstow alive, and they will be missed.