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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2017

What is a History Hero?


Rebecca Banister has been a member of the Rowlesburg Area Historical Society since 2006 and heads the Communication Committee. She has helped with fundraising projects and dinners and for many years was a daily volunteer during the summer months for the community park concession stand. In addition to volunteering to keep the historical building open on holidays and when community activities are scheduled, Banister has helped to preserve the museum and depot by cleaning them and making sure that items are returned to their proper location.
Nominated by Rowlesburg Area Historical Society

Larry Y. Bennett possesses a wealth of knowledge regarding the location of Nicholas County cemeteries and historical sites. Since 2012, he has shared West Virginia history with elementary school students during New Hope’s Old Time Community Festival. He also lectures Richwood Middle School students on early county and state history during the school’s annual Heritage Days. In addition, Bennett has photographed more than 25,000 grave sites in the state and has been coordinator of the Greenbrier County WVGenWeb since 2015. He currently is writing a book on early Nicholas County settlers.
Nominated by Nicholas County WVGenWeb

Rosemary Bernatowicz is a founding member of the Society for Preservation of McGrew House and has been president for more than 25 years. Slated to be razed, through her efforts, the James Clark McGrew House was listed on the National Register, grants were obtained to restore the home, and the building was transformed into an educational and cultural center. Bernatowicz has drawn countless volunteers together in the effort to preserve the house and continues to lead by example. Whether roasting hot dogs, working in the parking brigade, or working behind the scenes, when the doors are open, she is always nearby.
Nominated by Society for Preservation of McGrew House, Inc.

Marsha Durrett Booth has served as president of Border Rangers Chapter 2580, UDC, for the past three years, and she previously served two years as chapter chaplain. She chairs the chapter’s newsletter committee, helps gather genealogical information for prospective members, and assists with memorial programs at cemeteries. Booth also has compiled the names of Confederate veterans at cemeteries. As a Girl Scout leader for six years, she has presented historical programs and has taught scouts how to trace family heritage and show respect for their ancestors. In coordination with Craik-Patton House, in 2016 chapter members in mourning attire attended a presentation that was part of a mourning exhibit.
Nominated by Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy

For six decades, James Cochran has made the local community aware of its past through the pages of the Moundsville Journal and the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register. He is a longtime member of the Marshall County Planning Commission and is on the local landmarks commission. Cochran is a strong supporter of a museum of local history in the old West Virginia Penitentiary. He is a veritable fount of historical knowledge and information.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Merle T. Cole created the Raleigh County Historical Society logo and letterhead, stimulated interest in the society’s newly formed cartography club, and coordinated the response to a Department of Highways request regarding a dressed stone wall along US 19-WV 3. He also prepared a highway historical marker application for Big Beaver Creek Ancient Fortification and a proposal for a plaque commemorating the location of James Bird Cole’s residence and workshop in Beckley. An authority on the early years of the West Virginia State Police, Cole has created the bulk of existing literature on the agency’s history. He also has written articles about West Virginia military history topics.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

A life member of the Mineral County Historical Society, Dinah W. Courrier edited and researched the society’s publication on Mineral County schools and prepared the society’s celebration program of the county’s sesquicentennial in 2016. She is a board member of the Mineral County Historical Foundation and has written three grants for preservation of the Carskadon Mansion. In addition, Courrier assisted the local newspaper with publication of two books, co-produced a DVD on county history, and coordinated programs, displays, and celebrations of black history in Mineral County and at Potomac State College. In 2016, she volunteered space, expertise, and memorabilia for a county museum.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society, Inc.

Lillian Wagner Eddy has held several offices with the Ohio Valley Chapter, NSDAR, and currently is chapter librarian. She also has been chairman of several committees for the West Virginia State Society and has served terms as state corresponding secretary and as vice chair, East Central Division. Eddy has helped compile local records for research, prepared data for the DAR Library, assisted with research on local family histories, and shared the art history of traditional rug hooking from wool preparation and foundation to completion. Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Mary S. Glass has served as a volunteer family history consultant for the Buckhannon Ward of Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church and since 2012 has been a volunteer indexer and arbitrator for historical records for FamilySearch. She has given presentations at Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants gatherings, LDS conferences, family history fairs, and other events. At Discovery Day in Clarksburg in 2016, Glass helped youth learn how to interview and record the life experiences of grandparents, and she also showed how to index a local cemetery. She has a wealth of historical and genealogical knowledge and is always willing to teach and share with others.
Nominated by Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc.

Sidney Grisell has been a member of Cockayne Farmstead Preservation Project since 2005. When the project was in its infancy, he opened doors and bridged relationships with community leaders and contributors, and he made his bed and breakfast available for informal gatherings and fundraisers to benefit the project. Grisell was involved in the successful acquisition of the south lawn of the farmstead and made contributions toward purchase of the smaller home that serves as the Visitor Center. He also is president of the non-profit Moundsville Economic Development Council, which has partnered with the Marshall County Historical Society regarding preservation of the West Virginia Penitentiary.
Nominated by Cockayne Farmstead Preservation Project

Though now retired, John F. Hanna’s work teaching Cabell County elementary school children about West Virginia history is as enduring and significant today as it was when he wrote his first Golden Horseshoe tests for students at the now defunct Monroe Elementary School in 1993. He continued the tests when he moved to Cammack, now Southside Elementary, where approximately 500 students take the test every February. Provided with study guides, PK-5 students have several weeks to learn about the state before being given grade-specific tests. Thousands of students have taken Hanna’s exams over the years, and additional schools have begun to give the tests.
Nominated by Cabell-Wayne Historical Society

When Lisa Harbour joined Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, she was tossed into the deep end of the pool. She not only stepped into the office of treasurer but also became involved in the Program and Ladies Tea committees. Harbour compiled and organized ads and articles for the annual event program. In addition she organized and staged the annual ladies tea, a period dress event attended by more than 100 women. To say she has proved herself in grand style would be an understatement.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days and Raid on Guyandotte, Inc.

Allen Harmon is color sergeant of Robert S. Garnett Camp 1470, SCV. For more than a year, he has led a project to verify and correct information on Confederate soldiers in Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston, documenting every fact on the Veterans Administration forms so that new headstones can be ordered to replace worn and erroneous stones. In the process, Harmon has identified some Union soldiers and is creating a list of all veterans in the cemetery to give to the sexton. He also secured a new flag to be flown at the plot.
Nominated by Robert S. Garnett Camp 1470, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Kathryn Harris has been treasurer of the Julia-Ann Square Historical Community Association for 11 years and chairs the Finance Committee. All grants received since 2003 have been through her efforts, and in the past two years she has been instrumental in securing more than $100,000 for the current Riverview Cemetery preservation project. Harris also wrote the application for Julia-Ann Square’s 501c3 status. In addition, she helps with the annual Victorian Christmas Homes and Spring Garden tours and with historical portrayals of people interred in Riverview Cemetery. Nominated by Julia-Ann Square Historical Community Association, Inc.

Steven D. Hart has held several offices with the Daniel Boone Chapter and the West Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution. He currently serves on the state society’s board of management as well as on several committees at the national level. Hart is a re-enactor in the Siege of Fort Randolph, Beverly History Days, and Battle Days at Point Pleasant, and he hosts weekend demonstrations at Fort Randolph in the summer and visits schools to provide American history demonstrations during the school year. In addition, he is an assistant scout master for a Boy Scout troop and a counselor for American Heritage, Genealogy, Indian Lore, and other badges.
Nominated by Daniel Boone Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution

After retiring from fulltime teaching in 2008, Joseph Laker joined the board of directors of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, and he has been board president since 2012. He has served on two important committees. One raised funds and selected the sculptor for the Francis Pierpont statue that stands in front of Independence Hall. The other has been raising funds for relocation of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument from Wheeling Park to Independence Hall in 2017. Laker also has written articles about Wheeling’s Civil War history and an Arcadia Campus History Series pictorial on Wheeling Jesuit University.
Nominated by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation

Patricia Richards McClure is a member of the Mining Your History Foundation, where she serves as assistant secretary and has begun helping with the newsletter. As a volunteer at West Virginia Archives and History for the past six years, she has written biographies of men and women on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, specializing in World War II. McClure directs and edits the work of several other volunteers also writing biographies and provides research assistance to overseas volunteers tending the graves of American servicemen and women. A retired associate professor of English, she also has guided elementary and high school students in preparing biographies of West Virginians who died in 20th-century military conflicts.
Nominated by Mining Your History Foundation

David M. McCormick has been attending Boone County Genealogical Society meetings since 1976 and has served on the board of directors since 2000. He has collected thousands of photographs and conducted many interviews with people in the Cobbs Creek area of Lincoln County, the result of which are a book on its history and a Facebook page that shares the photos and information on them. McCormick also shares his knowledge about cemeteries in the county. In addition, he was instrumental in creation of the Brig. General Charles Yeager monument on U.S. 119 and helped build the foundation for the monument.
Nominated by Boone County Genealogical Society

Pamela A. McFarland is a lifelong resident of Pleasants County and has an in-depth knowledge of the county and its people. She has used that knowledge to provide leadership to volunteers performing analysis and indexing of the Pleasants County Historical Society’s photograph holdings. A volunteer for several years, McFarland donates several hours each week to identifying and organizing photographs. She has numbered and cataloged pictures with detailed index terms and is helping create a computer-based index with the goal of an online photographic support system. This activity has resulted in initial updates to the photo index on Pleasants County WVGenWeb.
Nominated by Pleasants County Historical Society

A founding member of the General Hugh Mercer Chapter, SAR, Gregory B. Morgan served as vice president for three years and has been president for the past year. He also serves on the color guard and is a member of several committees. He has devoted more than 20 years to the education of local residents and visitors about the history of Mercer County and the surrounding area. Morgan is a Civil War re-enactor and has participated in numerous events and school programs. He also is active in projects with Flat Top Copperheads Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Nominated by General Hugh Mercer Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution

Joseph Obidzinski moved to West Virginia to accept a temporary summer position with WVU Jackson’s Mill Farmstead and stayed an additional two years as an AmeriCorps member. He helped in the development and presentation of hands-on history through the History Hitting the Road program, helped to develop and implement programming for group tours and public visitation of the farmstead, and acted as grist miller for the operation and maintenance of Blaker’s Mill. With Obidzinski’s help, the farmstead has grown into a site that not only tells the history of the Jackson family but also reflects rural life in the area during the 19th century.
Nominated by WVU Jackson’s Mill

William Stephen “Steve” Ostaff was librarian for the Gilmer County Historical Society, 2012-2013, and is a past member of the historic landmarks commission. For several years, the retired teacher has demonstrated blacksmithing at the West Virginia Folk Festival. A member of the Gilmer County Needlework and Fiber Guild, Ostaff weaves wool blankets from wool provided by his own sheep. He also is a member of the North-South Skirmish Association.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

P. Douglas Perks has provided leadership to Jefferson County historical, school, and library groups and created a spirit of cooperation among various organizations. A former social studies teacher, he currently is historian of the Jefferson County Museum and of the Elmwood Cemetery Association, and he also is a certified park guide at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and vice chair of the Charles Town Historic Landmarks Commission. In addition, Perks researches, writes, and speaks about the county’s history. He co-organized the Civil War Sesquicentennial Seminars, 2011-2016, and he worked with the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society to preserve one of the first structures built by a free African American.
Nominated by Historic Shepherdstown Commission

Diane M. Rhodes has staffed the Wheeling Room at the Ohio County Public Library for 17 years and helps people researching their family history, making the library an essential stop for genealogists. She created a user-friendly pamphlet that takes patrons step by step through the process and has assisted people applying for the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution. Rhodes also has compiled several genealogy-related books and is currently compiling an index of Wheeling obituaries. She loves genealogy and is willing to go the extra mile to help patrons.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogical Society

Erin Denise Rothenbuehler has been a member of the board of directors of Friends of Wheeling since 2015 and has worked at the Ohio County Public Library since 2013. She co-founded and designed a collaborative community Web site, Archiving Wheeling, for the library and its heritage partners that promotes local archival collections and tells stories about West Virginia history through archival materials. Rothenbuehler also designed the Web site Archiving West Virginia for the West Virginia Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference. In addition, she is a board member of West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation and recently redesigned the foundation’s Web site.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

Bonita Schreckengost is second vice president of the Roane County Historical Society. A recently retired art teacher, she paints large family trees for people that include eight or more generations, ancestral homes and farmland, and other features. Schreckengost helps organize the society’s genealogy fair each year and sets up family tree paintings at that event. She also works on fundraising ideas and locates and scans old family photos. Last year, she was in charge of removing the society’s sign at Spencer State Hospital’s cemetery for refurbishment. In addition, she is a board member of Mining Your History Foundation.
Nominated by Roane County Historical Society

Dallas W. Skeen has been a member of the Jackson County Historical Society since it was formed in 1969. Over the years, he has served four terms as president, and he currently is vice president. Washington’s Western Lands Museum was established and the Sayre Log House was relocated to the museum site during his terms as president. Skeen has assisted with publication and distribution of several books on Jackson County, presents programs at meetings of the society and other local organizations, volunteers at the museum, and gives tours of the log house at Cedar Lakes. His willingness to give his time and talents to the society makes him an invaluable member.
Nominated by Jackson County Historical Society

A former West Virginia Studies teacher, Sandra Skidmore has been part of the Heritage Farm Museum and Village family and has continued to touch the lives of Appalachia’s youth for more than 20 years. She has taught knitting, weaving, and quilting classes; organized quilt shows and helped curate the textile-related exhibits; assembled barn looms and sewing machines; portrayed a schoolmarm for school and festival tours; and collaborated on creation and re-enactment of the lives of a traditional Appalachian family. Every year, Skidmore makes ice cream for the Fourth of July Festival and apple cider for the Fall Festival. She also has worked in the office when needed.
Nominated by Heritage Farm Museum and Village

Patricia Smith has been historian for the Mercer County Historical Society for several years and is editor of the society newsletter. She also is active in genealogy and willingly helps other people. Director of the Princeton Railroad Museum for the past two years, Smith has brought new life to the museum through tours, living history programs, trolley rides, and other events, and attendance has greatly improved as a result.
Nominated by Mercer County Historical Society

William “Henry” Smith has been a member of the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society since its founding in 1988 and has been head of security since the alarm system was installed in 1994. He has spent many nights checking on the house when the alarm has gone off and taking police for a late night tour. A plumber, Smith installed the plumbing for the restroom and kitchen so the Carroll House could provide these facilities. In addition, he is a member of the board of directors and volunteers for events when needed, whether for the Easter Egg Hunt, Carroll Heritage Day, Guyandotte Civil War Days, or the Christmas event.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Patty Swango has been a member of the St. Albans Historical Society for several years and is the group’s vice president of special events and fundraising. She also serves on the Founder’s Day Committee, serves as a host and guide for the annual Christmas Homes Tour, and contacts vendors and re-enactors for Morgan’s Kitchen Fall Festival in addition to helping with various activities, unselfishly giving her time to educate others about the history of St. Albans. Swango works closely with other organizations to coordinate events, often working behind the scenes to get things done.
Nominated by St. Albans Historical Society

Bobby E. Tabor Jr. has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for 15 years, and he is the current commander of Camp 1694, SCV, and a member of the Headstone/Grave Marking and Color Guard committees. He is a Civil War re-enactor in Giles Artillery and a living history interpreter who makes presentations to schools and civic organizations. Over the past few years, Tabor has arranged for issuance of a proclamation for Confederate History and Heritage Month by the Mercer County Commission. He also is a member of the General Hugh Mercer Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution.
Nominated by Flat Top Copperheads Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Walter Washington is a life member of the Jefferson County Historical Society and served on the board of directors from 2003 to 2011. He has restored and maintained Harewood, the historic home of his ancestor Samuel Washington. As president of Friends of Happy Retreat, the home of Charles Town founder Charles Washington, Walter Washington has worked tirelessly with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the City of Charles Town to preserve the home, which was purchased by the Friends in 2015 and named a National Treasure in 2016. He also is a former president of the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission.
Nominated by Jefferson County Historical Society

Lorraine Weaver has been an integral part of Arthurdale Heritage, Inc., for 32 years. She was one of the original group of homesteader descendants who worked together to make the dream of restoring the earliest Arthurdale Heritage buildings a reality. Weaver is a member of the Legacy Committee, which is working to build an endowment fund, and she maintains the craft shop inventory and helps with craft classes. Her work during fundraising events, tours, and community history days ensures that the group will be able to continue the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt’s first New Deal community.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Leslie Weddle is the most versatile volunteer that the Greenbrier Historical Society has ever had. She started out at the front desk, greeting the public and answering the phone. Her organizational and information management skills soon found an outlet in the archives and collections, however. Weddle’s quick grasp of collections management and care practices has made her a valued and trusted member of the team. She accessions, catalogues, labels, and ensures the proper storage of artifacts, and she assists with creating and staging exhibits. Weddle also helps with hosting special events at the museum and gives tours as needed.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society

Fred Widmyer was president of the Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society from 2007 to 2014. During his tenure, he affiliated the society with the Chamber of Commerce, initiated participation in the recently reinstituted Morgan County Fair, began and conducted an oral history project, arranged for and managed acquisition and disposition of a local historian’s collection of books and ephemera, published a calendar featuring local historic churches, and undertook digitization of all the society’s microfilm records. Widmyer reinvigorated an effort to install and replace historic narrative plaques in Berkeley Springs, a project he has continued since leaving office. To date, 50 plaques have been installed.
Nominated by Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society

Tammy M. Withers has been financial secretary of the Brooke County Historical Museum and Culture Center for more than three years and is a member of several committees. After the museum was authorized to move into a new facility, she spent evenings and weekends cleaning and painting the main display and gift shop areas. In early 2016, Withers, a school teacher, went through the museum, taking pictures and creating checklist sheets for her version of a museum scavenger hunt. Afterwards, approximately 170 elementary school students were taken to the museum to search for items shown on photo sheets, an activity that exposed them to their history.
Nominated by Brooke County Historical Museum and Culture Center

The late Ernest Wright did a great deal for KYOWVA’s library over the years. In addition to serving on the board of directors, he volunteered at the library when it was located in Guyandotte, answered inquiries from local researchers, and set up the Facebook page with the help of his grandson. Wright indexed The Regimental Court of Enquiry: 120th Regiment of Cabell County Virginia Militia. He also photographed all of Woodmere Cemetery and donated copies of his pictures to the society. In his later years, he volunteered with Find A Grave.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

Paul J. Zuros is the current executive director of the Craik-Patton House and a former volunteer at both the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center and the Hancock County Historical Museum. He coordinated preservation of 25,000 Weirton Steel negatives while working to get his Eagle Scout badge, and he continued to volunteer at the Weirton museum while in college. Zuros helped with initial setup of the museum and delivered presentations on Weirton Steel’s contributions to World War II. In addition, he conducted a training class on proper indexing, storage, and preservation of museum items for the Hancock County museum. Zuros also is a board member of the West Virginia Association of Museums.
Nominated by Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, Inc.

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