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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2016

What is a History Hero?


Delores J. Allen has been a member of the Ritchie County Historical Society since 1983. She and her husband operate a business in a 1906 building, where they display railroad photographs, memorabilia, and artifacts. She worked hard for the creation of the Ritchie County Veterans Memorial, located in Cairo’s town square. In addition to Veterans Honor Bricks, five bronze plaques mounted on a concrete panel honor veterans who served in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society, Inc.

Leon Armentrout has made a significant contribution to West Virginia history by writing biographies for the West Virginia Veterans Memorial project on the West Virginia Archives and History Web site. He first wrote about a family member who was killed in World War II and then expanded on that by writing about members of his extended family, including casualties of the Korean War and Vietnam. By the end of 2015, Armentrout had written nearly four dozen biographies, with a promise of more to come as he works toward an even larger goal of providing biographies for all World War I casualties from Randolph and Pendleton counties.
Nominated by Mining Your History Foundation

Gordon Billheimer has been a driving force for the Montgomery Historical Committee and is its current vice president. He spearheaded a project to compile the history of Montgomery, pushed to get 12,500 photos and documents related to the Montgomery area uploaded on Flickr, and led a project to install a plaque about the Kanawha River Lock No. 1. Billheimer helped purchase a 32" picture screen that rotates local photos, which has been taken to local businesses to help spread the history of the Montgomery area.
Nominated by Montgomery Historical Committee

Patricia Joanne Bills has been a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution since 1980 and has held a number of committee chairmanships and offices with the Ohio Valley Chapter. Currently, she is serving as corresponding secretary and co-chairman of the Junior American Committee. A retired school teacher, her work with the Junior American Citizen and Good Citizen awards, American History Essay Contest, and American Flag presentations are examples of her dedication to the involvement of students in historical and patriotic activities. Bills also is a member of the Pleasants County Historical Society and will become that organization’s secretary in 2016.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Roger D. Blackburn, a 1963 graduate of Parkersburg High School and member of the Big Red marching band, never forgot his roots. After he retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra, he began to compile a history of the band, which had given him the background for a successful career in music, and of its directors. It became his passion in retirement, and in 2015 Blackburn shared the results of his efforts, a documentary on the early history of the band from 1924 to 1964, at a meeting of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society.
Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, Inc.

A longtime railroad employee, Dorothy Jean Boley was a co-founder of the Hinton Railroad Museum in 1991 and has been its president since that time. She has collected many C&O Railroad artifacts and organized them into displays, is a daily volunteer at the museum, helps prepare materials for museum brochures, and conducts tours through the museum. She also serves on the committee that organizes the annual Hinton Railroad Days. Without Boley, the museum, which has been the impetus for preserving historical buildings in town and revitalizing the downtown area, probably would not exist.
Nominated by Hinton Railroad Museum

Two decades ago, Jim and Barbara Bowling joined with friends to pool enough money to buy the pre-Revolutionary War Graham House at auction and organize the Graham House Preservation Society. They helped get the house listed on the National Register and collect artifacts that are displayed in the house. They also were instrumental in having a one-room school museum built on the property. Today, the Bowlings remain tireless workers in fundraising events, doing much of the food preparation, hosting, and set-up and clean-up for dinners held at the house to raise funds. They also help prepare materials for brochures and are involved with property maintenance.
Nominated by Graham House Preservation Society

A member of the St. Albans Historical Society for several years, Kevin Bragg hosts open houses at the society’s headquarters and museum once a month and during events in town. He has assisted in copying digital interviews with older citizens and works closely with the C&O Depot Museum to coordinate events. Bragg is always ready to volunteer for society events such as Founders Day and Morgan’s Kitchen Fall Festival, and he works behind the scenes to get things done.
Nominated by St. Albans Historical Society

Bill and Donna Brewster were instrumental in the recent publication of the Summers County Historical Society book One-Room Schools of Summers County. Building on the unfinished work of a former superintendent, the Brewsters researched, typed, located old photographs, and compiled facts and figures to bring the project to a successful conclusion. The couple also suggested earmarking the proceeds for a scholarship fund for a student interested in history. In addition, Donna is the society’s current treasurer and has headed the Program Committee, while Bill has chaired the Nominating Committee. They have hosted several meetings in their home.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Larry Ernest Butcher has been a member of the Pleasants County Historical Society for more than twenty years, has been society secretary for several years, and will become treasurer in 2016. He provides a valuable interface to community organizations in the selection and preparation of photographs and artifacts for display on special occasions. He has presented his extensive research on the Butcher and related families to the society. Butcher is a member and officer of both the Mid Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the Marietta Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution.
Nominated by Pleasants County Historical Society

Marilyn K. Coleman, current vice president of the Border Rangers Chapter, UDC, is a Civil War re-enactor who portrays a nurse on Educational Day at the Guyandotte and Barboursville re-enactments. She serves on several chapter committees, including the Grave Markers Committee, which locates Confederate graves and obtains markers. In addition, Coleman has participated in numerous Civil War-related events over the years, among them helping with tours at the Historic Madie Carroll House, decorating the Guyandotte Library for Guyandotte Civil War Days and for Confederate History Month, and participating in the Blue and Gray Memorial Service at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington.
Nominated by Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy

A Calhoun County school teacher, Daniel J. Cosgrove has developed lesson plans for the West Virginia State Museum and West Virginia Public Television. He has taken students on research trips to Archives and History, encouraged them to research local topics and to visit the local Heritage Village, and has had them speak to legislators during interim committee meetings. He has been a speaker at Calhoun County Historical Society meetings and also has had students give their state-winning historical presentations. Cosgrove was the 2014 History Teacher of the Year in West Virginia and is the current West Virginia Ambassador for National History Day.
Nominated by Calhoun County Historical Society

Sharon West DaRe has been secretary of the Cockayne Farmstead since it was formed in 2002. From 2002 to 2004, she also served as treasurer. Throughout her many years of faithful service, DaRe has appeared at events to educate others about the farmstead, chaired fundraising activities, secured outside funding for major improvements, formulated ideas for development of the property, and at times been a voice of reason when confronting major preservation hurdles. In 2015, electricity installation throughout the house was completed, a project that in part was funded by American Electric Power, whose interest in the farmstead was generated by DaRe.
Nominated by Cockayne Farmstead Preservation Project

Donald R. Davis has contributed to the preservation of the state’s history by writing books documenting the history and genealogy of several Upper Paint Creek communities in Raleigh and Fayette counties, notably Cirtsville, Sweeneyburg, Maynor, and Maple Fork. He currently is writing a history of Pax and nearby communities. Davis also maintains and shares an extensive collection of photographs of the people and activities in those communities that dates back to the 1800s. In addition, he has co-authored articles dealing with aspects of West Virginia State Police, West Virginia Army National Guard, and Marshall University Reserve Officer Training Corps history.
Nominated by Fayette and Raleigh Counties Genealogical Society, Inc.

Joe Figaretti has been a valuable resource to Wheeling National Heritage Area throughout the years. He is always ready to speak at events and lead tours, and he also has participated in the preservation summer camp for teenagers. Figaretti and his wife restored the 1892 Eckhart House in North Wheeling, and he has written docent scripts for several North Wheeling home tours. He also has been active in the Friends of Wheeling cemetery tours and in fundraising for the portrait of the first state capitol that was hung in the capitol building in Charleston.
Nominated by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation

Jack Fowler became executive director of the Point Pleasant River Museum in 2003 and since then has transformed the way to preserve river history and the impact of river industry on the State of West Virginia. With the recent addition of training simulators, the museum has increased its function as a learning center. Fowler is involved in every aspect of the operation and growth of the museum from grant writing to painting the room that houses a 2,400 gallon aquarium and driving the transport van to pick up guests arriving by boat.
Nominated by Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Cente

A life member of the Mineral County Historical Society, David L. Frederick Sr. has been a trustee since 2012. He has helped support and restore the Claysville Church and Traveler’s Rest Stone House and has assisted with the annual flea market and other fundraisers. Frederick is a collector, historian, and expert on Tiger Tractor, which operated in Keyser from 1947 to 1965, and he has written articles and a book on the subject. He is a certified archaeological technician and has spoken about the archaeology of the area. He is a member of the Mineral County Genealogical Society and the Sons of the American Revolution.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society, Inc.

Vickey Gallagher has served on the board of the Brooke County Historical Museum and Culture Center for 17 years and has been president for the last ten years. In the past year, she volunteered well over 200 hours at the museum. She serves on four committees, represents the museum to the public at speaking engagements and opening ceremonies, and makes herself available to other officers and board members. Gallagher creates brochures, arranges for speakers and programs, and interviews veterans and writes articles for the books on military patriots published by the museum. She currently is trying to save the former museum, Miller Tavern, from demolition.
Nominated by Brooke County Historical Museum and Culture Center

Richard I. “Rick” Greathouse has been a member of the Roane County Historical Society since 2004 and in that time has served as 2nd vice president, vice president, and president. During his tenure as president, the society has successfully completed a number of projects, including identifying, researching, and marking with bronze plaques historical buildings, churches, and residences built before 1910; establishing a walking tour of historic locations in Spencer; and filming a documentary of county history in narratives shared by society members. Greathouse also is secretary of the Daniel Boone Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and vice president of Mining Your History Foundation.
Nominated by Roane County Historical Society

As a youthful and energetic college archivist, Jason Lee Gum has breathed new enthusiasm for the study of Gilmer County, Glenville State College, and West Virginia veterans’ history since becoming the school’s fulltime archivist/historian in 2008. He has interviewed and videotaped more than 150 veterans as part of the Veterans Legacy Project, 2010-2012, and helped write a book and produce a film about them. Gum is the chair of the Program Committee for the Gilmer County Historical Society and has presented programs on historical document preservation and other archival techniques that have improved the society’s library and archives.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

Edison L. and Dorothy L. Gunno have been vital in helping to preserve the West Virginia State CCC Museum. They have been members of the board of directors since 2012 and contribute to the monthly meetings, CCC reunions, recognition events, and other functions, all while living at a distance from Quiet Dell. Using their organizational and communication skills, the Gunnos serve as co-chairs of the Newsletter-Communications Committee, producing four newsletters a year and updating and revising the membership list. Both also work with other committees to preserve the history of the CCC and the legacy of West Virginians who served in it.
Nominated by West Virginia State CCC Museum Association

Eric Hedrick single handedly moved the Pendleton County Historical Society into the 21st century with an active program of electronic dissemination of historical information. He created and maintains the society’s Web site, is engaged in the creation and electronic distribution of the quarterly newsletter, and established a program of copying and preserving fragile documents in the society’s archive, making these materials available to researchers and other users. Hedrick digitized probate records from the colonial period for Augusta County, Virginia, and currently is digitizing those in Hampshire County, from both of which Pendleton County was formed.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Larry Heffner is a talented researcher and genealogist. For several years, he has hosted Friday research in the Greenbrier Historical Society archives, and he frequently helps out on other days. He currently is working on a major project of indexing obituaries and death notices from the Greenbrier Independent as far back as 1860. Heffner also maintains a private library on Calhoun County, where he was born, through which he provides assistance to Calhoun County family researchers.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society

Gary Henline has been an active member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society for many years. A retired school teacher, he knows the importance of sharing knowledge and educating people about history. Henline organizes the maintenance crew to mow and maintain the grounds and roadway to the historic Cannon Hill Civil War site. He also contributes his ideas and knowledge to the organization for its growth and welfare.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

For five years, Susanna Holstein has been the co-host of “Here We Come A-Caroling,” an informative and entertaining program about the history of Christmas carols and tales in Appalachia that has been presented in venues across West Virginia and surrounding states. Putting together this program requires extensive research about the songwriters, why the songs were written, and how they were brought to Appalachia. Holstein also hosts the annual ghost walk, a one-hour lantern stroll through downtown Ripley that incorporates historical Jackson County events.
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

Roseanna Keller is a key component in preserving Marshall County’s history regarding local veterans. She interviews veterans or their families if the veterans are already deceased and writes their stories. In the last five years, Keller has contributed more than 100 veteran stories to the Marshall County Patriots and Heroes series, and she currently is working on stories for the next volume, all without monetary compensation. Her stories show the compassion and dedication she has in preserving the history of those who have preserved the freedom of this country’s citizens.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Don McGraw has been a member of the KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society since 2010 and often contributes to its publication. He also contributes books and other materials to the society collections. Originally from Logan County, he has researched families in the Pecks Mill area and is knowledgeable on that community as well as on Whitesville in Boone County.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

For more than a decade, Ron and Barbara McVaney have operated the Mountaineer Military Museum, which consists of hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and historical items from World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the Iraqi conflicts. The result of a graveside promise to a friend and 35 years of collecting military memorabilia, the museum showcases the stories of local military heroes. The McVaneys collaborate with Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants in preserving and disseminating historical information of the local area.
Nominated by Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc.

Marion Mace has been a member of the board of directors and vice president of the Society for Preservation of McGrew House since 1996. She also has chaired many committees over the years. She began the presentation of the “Order of the Rhododendron,” an award honoring the ten highest scoring Golden Horseshoe winners, and the ceremony has been part of the society’s birthday celebration for 18 years. Mace has worked with construction crews involved with restoration of McGrew House and is active in fundraisers and cultural programs. Although she is approaching 90 years of age, her energy, work ethic, and dedication to the society are an inspiration to everyone.
Nominated by Society for Preservation of McGrew House, Inc.

In 2014, C. Lee Martinec opened a cooperative store at Arthurdale similar to the 1930s original that burned in the 1970s. She approached the Arthurdale Heritage board of directors and offered to establish it in a former service station and to be volunteer manager. Martinec has increased traffic to the historic site, introduced local people to Arthurdale’s story, and provided an outlet for local foods and crafts, plus making a small profit for the organization. Without her energy and generous gift of time and knowledge, none of this would have happened.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Curt Mason has worked to make Preservation Alliance of West Virginia activities more successful since joining the board of directors in 2011. He serves on several committees and helps to select the West Virginia Endangered Properties List each year. Mason is a great communicator, and his interest in history, historic preservation, and museum artifacts, plus a willingness to contribute his time and skills, combine to make him a valuable resource in the Eastern Panhandle, where he is a member of several local historical and preservation groups. He has helped Preservation Alliance to increase its presence and services in Jefferson County and around the state.
Nominated by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Inc.

Since becoming archivist at West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2011, Brett Thomas Miller has volunteered at the Upshur County Historical Society. He shares his expertise on archival and preservation processes and acquisitions, among other matters, and serves as liaison between the society and the college. In 2015, Miller was co-curator for the society exhibit on higher education in Upshur County; helped with its construction, installation, and removal; and volunteered as a docent. He produced a college history in 2014 and wrote an article on the subject for the society publication in 2015. Miller is a board member for the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation and the Buck Collection Advisory Committee.
Nominated by Upshur County Historical Society

Reuben D. Mitchell has been an integral part of Wyoming County Civil War Days since 2012, serving as co-chair and overall commander of re-enactors. He also co-chairs the annual Civil War Education Day in Oceana, where approximately 600 students experience life in southern West Virginia during the Civil War through a living history camp and demonstrations. Mitchell also is helping the Wyoming County Historical Museum compile a list of all veterans from the county who died in service from the Civil War to the present for a memorial marker. An active Civil War re-enactor for 16 years, he currently is captain of Hale’s Battery, 22nd Virginia.
Nominated by Wyoming County Historical Museum

Burnis Morris, Carter G. Woodson Professor of Journalism at Marshall University, is the leading expert in West Virginia on Dr. Woodson, and he is researching, preserving, and promoting the history and heritage that Woodson left behind. Morris currently is helping Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation treasurer Dave Harris prepare for his living history portrayal of Woodson during Black History Month. The foundation is just one of many organizations that have benefited from Morris’s vast knowledge.
Nominated by Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Charter member and founding president of the West Liberty Historical Society, Inc., 2010-2013, Earl G. Nicodemus currently serves as vice president and treasurer. He has been a trustee of the Old West Liberty Cemetery since 1985 and is responsible for cemetery maintenance and upkeep. He has mapped the grave sites and done extensive research on those buried there, including veterans of the American Revolution and Civil War. Nicodemus recently documented the Old West Liberty Court House. The author of numerous articles on the history of West Liberty and the cemetery, he also gives presentations on the town’s history to civic and social organizations.
Nominated by West Liberty Historical Society, Inc.

Peggy Niebergall has been a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Wheeling for 17 years and is chair of the Preservation Awards Committee and co-chair of Meet the Candidate Night. She participates in numerous organization activities, including the Greenwood Cemetery tours, Civil War Fashion Show, and preservation workshops such as window preservation and cemetery restoration. In addition, Niebergall is involved in several other historical and historic preservation groups, and she currently is part of a small group working for preservation of the 1890 Aetnaville Bridge that connects Wheeling Island to Ohio.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

Eva Jo Patterson has been a member of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society for more than twenty years. She generously donates her time, money, and knowledge by collecting and preserving significant Civil War artifacts that she uses to teach others about medicine as it was practiced during the war. When Patterson learned that members of the Western Virginia Military Academy and Lizzie Cabell School for Young Ladies were in need of essentials to re-enact their Civil War history, she jumped in and provided what they needed. She is a longtime re-enactor and a member of Guyandotte Civil War Days.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

William Phillips was one of the founders of the Veterans Memorial Museum in 1992 and has been active in all aspects of the organization. A current member of the board of directors, he has served as parliamentarian, historian, vice president, and president. Phillips helped collect, catalog, and display artifacts detailing the history of Summers County veterans in eight major conflicts, and he continues to research the conflicts so that he can interpret them to others. He organizes group tours, volunteers as a tour guide, and helps with fundraising efforts, most recently through publication of an annual calendar.
Nominated by Veterans Memorial Museum

Wilma Richardson is a charter member of the Nicholas County Historical and Genealogical Society, and she also helped organize the Nicholas County Historic Landmark Commission. She located a suitable building for the society’s museum, the Hamilton House Farmhouse Museum; helped save a one room school now known as the Irish Corner One-Room School Museum; and helped preserve the old Nicholas County High School known as Old Main. Richardson prepared brochures for the two museums, created the “Tool Room” exhibits, and researched correct period furnishings for Hamilton House. She currently is working to preserve the Beaver Mill.
Nominated by Nicholas County Historical and Genealogical Society

Thorn C. Roberts has been a member of the Wirt County Historical Society since its formation in 1991 and currently serves on the board of directors. His knowledge of county surnames and forgotten locations around the county, and his willingness to share this information, is a tribute to preserving the county’s history. Roberts provides a popular display of county farm maps at the genealogy fair and helps people find their property or that of ancestors.
Nominated by Wirt County Historical Society

Currently serving as vice president, Sherry Stephenson has been an incredibly active member of Guyandotte Civil War Days from the beginning. She arrived with a zeal and enthusiasm that has made her an amazing asset to the organization. She obtains ads from local businesses for the event program, assists with the Ladies Tea, shares the history of the event with people, and recruits new members. Whether through her involvement with Huntington Chapter 150, United Daughters of the Confederacy, or with the Civil War Days, she strives to make sure that the service of veterans both past and present is not forgotten.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

Royce J. Watts is the founder, benefactor, and steward of the Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum. He began collecting historical artifacts pertaining to the mining and petroleum industries in 1979 and organized a museum in 1986. In 2005, Watts established a generous endowment for the museum. With his help, the museum has gathered more than 30,000 artifacts, photographs, and documents; organizes one annual exhibit, as well as traveling exhibits, educational events, and community events; and has hired a fulltime curator and a collections and program manager. Watts currently is working to have a museum-quality HVAC system installed to improve environmental conditions in storage rooms for preservation of collections.
Nominated by The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum

Joan Williams is current treasurer of the Mercer County Historical Society and is very busy with the many functions the society has on a yearly basis. She helps researchers in the society’s library and also is helping log many of the cemeteries in Mercer County. In addition, Williams keeps the story of Phoebe Clay, the first known white woman settler in the county, alive. Dressing in character, she performs for schools and churches and at the Mercer County Heritage Festival.
Nominated by Mercer County Historical Society

Crystal Wimer has been working with the Harrison County Historical Society through the Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps Program since 2014. She has written policies and procedures for the museum, has written a development grant application to help fund repairs to the Stealey-Goff-Vance House, and has worked to recruit, train, and manage museum volunteers. This past fall, Wimer collected pictures, artifacts, and stories from the museum and community to create an exhibit honoring Harrison County veterans. In addition, she prepares e-mail notices, manages the society’s Internet media posts, and is involved with fundraising efforts. She also has assisted other groups in the area.
Nominated by Harrison County West Virginia Historical Society, Inc.

Scott and Cindy Worley have been instrumental in the revitalization of Wildwood House Museum, the home of Beckley’s founder Alfred Beckley. They serve on the Wildwood Advisory Council, coordinating events and displays at the museum. The Worleys also volunteer as museum docents. When the Boy Scouts of America held their Jamboree in West Virginia in 2014, the Raleigh County Historical Society coordinated a service project under Scott’s supervision, with about 250 scouts cleaning tombstones at Wildwood Cemetery. Cindy offered tours of the museum to every scout involved in the project. She is the current vice president of the society, while he is the current society historian and also serves on the city and county historic landmark commissions.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

Click here to view History Hero photographs taken by the division photographer

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For more information about the History Hero Awards, contact Joe Geiger.


West Virginia's History Heroes

West Virginia Archives and History