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Meet
West Virginia's
History Heroes
For 2013

What is a History Hero?


John B. Arbuckle Jr. has been actively involved in the Greenbrier Historical Society since 2000. A member of the fundraising committee from 2000 to 2002, he served as co-chair of the Millennium Restoration Committee, 2002-2006, and president of the board of directors, 2002-2011. He currently is treasurer and chair of the finance/fundraising committee. During his presidency, the debt incurred for the renovation of the North House Museum was reduced by more than 90 percent. The society acquired the Barracks, a hand-hewn log structure, for future use, and it provided a temporary home during renovation. Under Arbuckle’s leadership, education programs were begun for pre-school and school-age children and adults.
Nominated by Greenbrier Historical Society, Inc.

An honorary member of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, Paul A. Borrelli is always available as a resource and has given many programs at society meetings. He can be counted on to provide items for the display case at the Parkersburg/Wood County Library. His efforts, encouragement, and enthusiasm for the preservation of local Catholic church history led to publication of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church early baptismal records. His huge photographic collection and amassed volumes of newspaper articles provide information and details about major events and important buildings in Parkersburg, and he graciously shares these materials. To Paul, history is something to be shared and kept alive.
Nominated by Wood County Historical and Preservation Society

A retired school teacher, Julia Bragg has been an active volunteer at Jackson’s Mill for more than 20 years, providing historical tours of the buildings and grounds, demonstrating fiber arts such as spinning and weaving, and providing handmade items for the farmstead’s general store. Through her work with the Jackson’s Mill Heritage Foundation, she has organized and assisted with many fundraisers. Julia knows the importance of sharing knowledge and educating youth in the skills of the past and is a valued historical educator at Jackson’s Mill. She also shares her skills through educational demonstrations at schools, churches, and festivals.
Nominated by WVU Jackson’s Mill Farmstead

Deacon Douglas W. Breiding, president of the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society for the past two years, has been instrumental in the design of a database of interments from all local cemeteries that eventually will permit retrieval of a list of interments based upon a variety of criteria. Still in the test phase, the database has more than 26,000 records of interments. He has designed other databases for cemeteries and created maps for several of them, and, in 2012, he received the Friend of Mt. Calvary Award for maintaining the database of Mt. Calvary Cemetery interments. In addition, Deacon Breiding periodically offers a beginner’s genealogy course at the Ohio County Public Library.
Nominated by Wheeling Area Genealogical Society

The late David L. Chatterton was a member of the KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society from 2000 until his death in 2012. During that time, he volunteered weekly at the society’s library, donated books for patron use, helped the society move to its present quarters in Huntington in 2007, and contributed to or co-authored several books. Scanning and editing were his specialties. In addition, David served as corresponding secretary from 2007 until his health forced him to give up the office in 2011. He also was a member of the membership committee. David was always willing to help.
Nominated by KYOWVA Genealogical and Historical Society

Linda S. Comins is a champion for West Virginia Independence Hall. A member of the board of the Independence Hall Foundation, she served as president for five years. She also was involved in the Civil War Battle Flags Committee and serves on the Battle Flags Film Committee. An active member of the Wheeling Civil War 150 Commemorative Committee, Comins coordinates a monthly series of newspaper articles on Civil War-related events. She has helped to promote the Friends of Wheeling’s Greenwood Cemetery tours, written extensively about historic preservation efforts, and been a strong advocate for the preservation and interpretation of local history and historic structures. With a lifelong interest in the state’s history, Comins achieved the highest score statewide on the Golden Horseshoe test in 1969.
Nominated by Friends of Wheeling

For more than two decades, Kenneth John Connell has been a dedicated student of and speaker on Civil War history. A Confederate re-enactor, he annually recreates a Civil War encampment at the State Folk Festival during which he describes what life was like for infantry soldiers. Connell is a former vice president of the Gilmer County Historical Society and has been an important part of the society’s sesquicentennial program, in particular by giving an informative and emotion-packed lecture on the Civil War in Gilmer County and central West Virginia. Currently, he is the president of the Friends of Bulltown, which seeks funds for the Bulltown Historic Area in Braxton County.
Nominated by Gilmer County Historical Society

Roy H. Copen has a true love of Wirt County history and has supported the Wirt County Historical Society without fail. He is a former president and has helped the society to plan and organize the yearly genealogy fair, to locate and clean up old cemeteries in the county, and to research and document landmarks. His wealth of knowledge about the county has played an important role in making society projects successful. Copen also is a trustee for the historic Ruble Church and continuously works on that structure, both performing manual labor and raising funds for its upkeep.
Nominated by Wirt County Historical Society

Michael L. Crites’s work to research and document the history of 18th- and 19th-century plantation homes, commercial structures, and more humble homes in the South Branch Valley has created an invaluable archive of information about the structures and the people who built them. In 2010-2011, he saved, moved, and preserved a 1780 log summer kitchen that is now open for tours and historical events. Crites, a member of the Hardy County Historical Society board of directors, 2000-2010, is the resource person not only for the society but also for other organizations and individuals. He was appointed to the Moorefield Historic Landmark Commission in 2012.
Nominated by Hardy County Historical Society, Inc.

The son of original homesteaders, Roger Day grew up in Arthurdale. He has been a member of the board of directors of Arthurdale Heritage, Inc., since 2009 and is actively helping to expand tourism at the historic site. Day also is head of the maintenance committee and tries to address possible problems in the eight AHI buildings before they need an expensive fix. He has spent many evening and weekend hours improving the museum and this past fall oversaw insulation of AHI’s historic home E-15. Day also uses his woodworking talent to produce items that he donates for sale in the craft shop.
Nominated by Arthurdale Heritage, Inc.

Currently in her third term as a member of the board of Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants, Doris Dean is a dedicated volunteer at the library and helps to promote the group’s work in any way she can. She makes herself available to help people researching their genealogy, goes to various history and book fairs to promote the library and to display Hacker’s Creek publications, and works at all fundraising activities. Doris has even rearranged her work schedule on short notice many times to help the society.
Nominated by Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants

Virginia Ellis is a powerhouse within Guyandotte Civil War Days, and her energy and dedication to the committees she chairs or serves on is second to none. Whether she is engineering the theme and decorations for the military ball, planning details for the ladies tea, or teaching local students about life during the 1860s, her enthusiasm is contagious. Ellis is also a member of Border Rangers Chapter 2580, United Daughters of the Confederacy. Her desire to share and promote the rich history of Guyandotte, Huntington, and the state makes her a history hero.
Nominated by Guyandotte Civil War Days, Inc.

Gloria Friedrichs has been a dedicated member of the Fayette and Raleigh Counties Genealogical Society for many years and served as president from 1998 to 2008. During that time, she oversaw the reprinting of several local history books and worked tirelessly to record many Fayette County cemeteries, which resulted in the publication of seven cemetery books. Gloria also developed a rack card for placement at public places throughout the state to encourage membership in the society. Most recently, she worked on the project to rebind nearly 100 of the society’s research collection books to ensure that they will be available for researchers.
Nominated by Fayette and Raleigh Counties Genealogical Society

Michael Gioulis is the leading professional and volunteer in the preservation of West Virginia’s historic buildings. He has directly helped to revitalize countless historic buildings, downtowns, and districts and, as a consultant, has assisted Main Street/ON TRAC Communities and the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority. Gioulis has been a member of the board of directors of Preservation Alliance for nearly 30 years; served terms as secretary, treasurer, vice president, and president; helped organize statewide conferences and participated as an expert presenter; and been heavily involved with development of the Endangered Properties Program and selection of sites for the annual list. Over the years, he has been a consistent and successful advocate for endangered sites and historic preservation legislation.
Nominated by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Inc.

Anna Gray has served faithfully as recording secretary of the Raleigh County Historical Society for 16 years. She is an enthusiastic participant in all society activities, including Founder’s Day and the Christmas Open House at Wildwood House Museum. Anna also has been a member of the governing board and secretary-treasurer of the Wildwood Cemetery Preservation Association, sponsored by the historical society, since its organization in 2000, and she was a volunteer in updating the registry of graves in the historic Beckley cemetery in 2007.
Nominated by Raleigh County Historical Society

Mary and Philip Greathouse have made extensive contributions to the Brooke County Historical Museum over the years. He has been vice president, 2003-2005; president, 2005-2007; and chair of the maintenance committee, 2005-2013. She has served as display chair on the acquisitions committee, 2011-2013. This past year, however, their contributions were outstanding. Between February and December, Philip and Mary each volunteered more than 1,000 hours to transform a telemarketer’s setup into a suitable museum and culture center. He supervised and participated in the demolition, construction, plumbing, and electrical work to bring the building up to code. She chose wall coverings and worked on the arrangement and installation of displays.
Nominated by Brooke County Historical Museum and Culture Center

In 2011-2012, Donald Leroy Hale and Dorrene Gageby Hale co-chaired a committee for Pack Horse Ford Chapter, NSDAR, and General Adam Stephen Chapter, NSSAR, that located, researched, and documented 19 Revolutionary War soldiers and patriots who are buried in the Lutheran and Reformed graveyards in Shepherdstown so that plaques could be placed in their memory during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration. The husband and wife team also participated in efforts to move the DAR Bee Line March Monument for preservation reasons in October 2012 and have compiled information on cemeteries in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. Dorrene Hale was regent of the Pack Horse Ford Chapter for 12 years and is current registrar. Donald Hale is registrar of the General Adam Stephen Chapter and writes the quarterly newsletter.
Nominated by General Adam Stephen Chapter, National Society Sons of the American Revolution, and Pack Horse Ford Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Nancy Harvey was the force behind designation of the Historic District of Bath. After becoming a member of the town council in 2003, she took steps to develop the Bath Landmark Commission and to have Bath established as a Certified Local Government. Nancy was the first chair of the committee that worked on the historic district, successfully applied for a survey grant, and selected a historian to prepare the National Register nomination for the district (listed 2009). She next worked with a webmaster to develop a Web site for the district, obtained a grant for 75 markers, and worked to create a historic district interpretive sign.
Nominated by Museum of the Berkeley Springs

A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans since 2009, James Blaine Hypes is the current commander of Camp 1694, Flat Top Copperheads. He is chairman of the committee to restore the iron fence around the Lee Tree at Maywood, Fayette County, where Robert E. Lee had his headquarters in 1861, and to plant another maple tree. A Civil War re-enactor, Hypes has participated in dozens of re-enactments across the eastern United States. He also is a living history interpreter who makes presentations for civic, historical, and school groups.
Nominated by Camp 1694, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Co-founder of the Ritchie County Historical Museum, Eva May Lambert served as the museum’s president from 1990 until June 2012. She provided the vision to change the former Harrisville Grade School/Board of Education Office into the present-day General Thomas M. Harris School Museum. She obtained donations of standing exhibits, resulting in a museum full of historic artifacts and memorabilia and a genealogy library. Eva May created an exhibit with the names of the county’s Golden Horseshoe winners and a Community Tree with the names of people associated with the former school and museum supporters.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Museum, Inc.

James and Janet Lockhart have been active for many years in promoting the rich heritage and genealogy of the Mountain State. Both have given generously of their time and talents in conducting genealogy workshops, and they have published dozens of books. They also have volunteered as docents at Blennerhassett Mansion and the Parkersburg/Wood County Public Library for many years. Recently, the Lockharts have extended their zeal for Celtic heritage by helping to bring a Celtic Heritage Celebration to Parkersburg. Janet Lockhart is a former regent of the Charleston Chapter, NSDAR, and is currently registrar of the Blennerhassett Chapter. A former president of the Capt. James Neal Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, James Lockhart currently serves as vice president and registrar.
Nominated by Kanawha Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and Wood County Landmarks Commission

A retired educator, Nicki Melissinos has served as secretary of the Marshall County Historical Society for three years. She volunteers weekly at the historical museum, has participated in genealogy workshops, and performs genealogy research in response to inquiries on the society’s Web site. Nicki also files Marshall County obituaries and keeps articles about the society and area events. Several years ago, she helped inventory items at the Cockayne Farmstead. In addition, she volunteers at the Grave Creek Mound museum, where she has helped inventory the Dragoo collection and will assist in its cataloguing.
Nominated by Marshall County Historical Society

Lois Miller has been president of the Mercer County Historical Society since 2005. From the initial establishment of the society’s museum and genealogy library, opened in 2010, to thinking of and carrying out ways to finance society activities and writing grants, she has excelled in the preservation of history. In 2012, she oversaw the collection of recipes and publication of the society’s cookbook. Also through her efforts, in 2012 the society founded the Mercer County Heritage Festival, attended by nearly 2,000 people, adding the proverbial feather in the cap of this “history dynamo” by bringing history to the average citizen in an entertaining environment.
Nominated by Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.

A 30-year member of the St. Albans Historical Society, Marion Moir has been a valuable contributor to society activities. She serves on the society’s Founders’ Day Committee and helps organize the annual Main Street event to celebrate the town’s history. Recently, she contributed local history information to society members making a presentation at an elementary school. As current president of the Teays Hill Cemetery Association, Marion has helped to identify several Civil War soldiers’ graves and to organize a Memorial Day observance for them.
Nominated by St. Albans Historical Society

For many years, Jean Moore has conducted genealogical and historical research to help answer queries received by the Ritchie County Historical Society. She also has provided information for the county’s GenWeb site. Jean headed a committee to create a computer database of records from three local funeral homes and, where possible, consulted census and other records to obtain missing information. The result is a database that contains information on approximately 9,900 decedents. She also is the co-author of a book on her family.
Nominated by Ritchie County Historical Society, Inc.

Robert L. Neely has been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution since 2010 and currently serves on the committee to restore the iron fence about the Lee Tree at Maywood, where Robert E. Lee had his headquarters in 1861, and to plant another maple tree. He has marked the grave of Confederate Pvt. Robert A. Christian of the 60th Virginia Infantry in Beckley. Neely also is a Civil War re-enactor and living history interpreter and has participated in dozens of re-enactments throughout the eastern United States.
Nominated by Gen. Hugh Mercer Chapter, National Society Sons of the American Revolution

When the president of the Tyler County Heritage and Historical Society became ill in January 2012, Shirley Neff jumped in and made sure that the museum was able to operate as normal. She answered phone messages and letters requesting information on the county or genealogy and often was the only person available to open the museum. She hosted tours and special events, helped with the newsletter, sorted mail, and ran the gift shop. Were it not for Neff, the Tyler County Museum would have been closed this past year.
Nominated by Tyler County Museum

Margaret Ott was a driving force behind forming the committee that became the Frankfort District Historical Society in 1988 and saved a local landmark in Short Gap, the circa 1790 log Stewart’s Tavern. Her behind-the-scene fundraising efforts were instrumental in raising money to purchase the building and to dismantle and reconstruct the tavern across the road from its original site. An avid baker, Margaret once commented that she had helped to save the building with one home baked pie after another. She also played a role in the effort to have Stewart’s Tavern placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Nominated by Mineral County Historical Society, Inc.

John George Pandelios has been a member of the board of directors of the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center since 2006 and is a member of several committees. He researched and translated from Greek to English the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church’s parish council meeting minutes, 1917-1997 and co-published the information. In 2009, he helped create the timeline “100 Years of Making Steel in Weirton” and took part in the documentary. A donor toward the purchase of the WAMCC building in 2010, in 2012 the 96-year-old Pandelios donated the proceeds of his new book Memoirs of North Weirton, 1920 through 1930s to the museum.
Nominated by Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center

Currently serving in his second year as vice president of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society, John Jarrett Peters is interested in cemetery preservation. He formed a board of trustees to oversee the Bartram-Fort Gay Cemetery, and within one year the board raised more than $10,000 for perpetual care, in part through a booklet on the cemetery for which Peters was a major contributor and served as editor. He now has become involved with the John Wellman Cemetery, where early settler John Wellman, a founder of Wayne County, and his wife are buried. Once again, Peters formed a board of trustees to oversee the cemetery.
Nominated by Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society

Sadie Belle Propst has been a member of the Pendleton County Historical Society board of directors for more than a decade. She has organized and managed society meetings in the Union and Circleville districts, was instrumental in providing artifacts and information to support the recent Patriotic Pendleton exhibit at the museum, and collected documents and encouraged North Fork participation in Bible Day, a major effort to copy and preserve local records. In addition, Sadie Belle organized and chaired the nominating committee to select a new slate of officers and board of directors to chart the society’s future.
Nominated by Pendleton County Historical Society

Kathie Reed and Frances Weekley are the Ohio Valley Chapter, NSDAR’s, genealogy team who work tirelessly to record local and family history. They have taken old listings of cemeteries and produced books to preserve the information for future generations. Kathie and Frances were instrumental in organizing a memorial/funeral for a World War II soldier whose body was found 60 years after his death, researched and organized grave markings for three Revolutionary War soldiers, helped with a memorial service for a Civil War soldier and restoration of his grave stone, and rescued grave stones from the old Hays Cemetery. Both have held positions in the chapter and state organizations; currently, Frances is chapter recording secretary and Kathie is chapter librarian.
Nominated by Ohio Valley Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Treasurer of the Wyoming County Historical Museum for the past three years, Betsy Ross also serves as chair of the time capsule project and of book sales. She spearheaded the reprinting of two local history books. Ross is the liaison between the museum and the school system, county commission, and city hall; and she coordinated Education Day for the 1st Annual Wyoming County Civil War Days re-enactment in 2012. She also prints a newsletter, helps secure exhibits, and volunteers as a guide at the museum.
Nominated by Wyoming County Historical Museum

Richard Simmons grew up in Guyandotte and has a deep appreciation for its history and heritage. He promotes its past and present and was a major player in the Guyandotte Bicentennial celebration in 2010. Simmons is active in the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, participating in its events, acting as a docent, and giving historical presentations. In addition, Simmons is active in the Guyandotte Improvement and Historical Association, spearheaded projects such as signage to enhance the community’s history and heritage, has researched graves in the historic Guyandotte Methodist Cemetery, and has written many articles on Guyandotte and its history that have appeared in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.
Nominated by Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc.

Joanne Sullivan has been involved with Wheeling area history and historic preservation organizations for many years. Her most important contribution has been her photography. An active member of Friends of Wheeling, she faithfully photo-documents the houses and buildings that the group tours and makes them available through an online photo-sharing Web site. Joanne also makes her photographs of historic, endangered and demolished houses and buildings available to local organizations for use in their projects. More important, she is an advocate for saving and relocating important Wheeling records and artifacts. She is truly an asset to the Wheeling area historical community.
Nominated by Wheeling National Heritage Area

As former regent of the Fort Ashby Chapter, NSDAR, (2005-2011) and current volunteer museum curator/event coordinator, Barbara Gunderman Townsend has led the campaign for restoration and historic preservation of the 1755 log structure, Ashby’s Fort Museum. Through her efforts, the chimney was restored, lights upgraded, a new roof and gutter system installed, and other improvements made. She also arranged an archaeological dig in 2009 to determine Fort Ashby’s original footprint. She arranges historical programs, tours, and events to showcase the French and Indian culture and to tell the story of Fort Ashby. Barbara embodies the DAR mission “to promote historic preservation, education, and patriotism.”
Nominated by Fort Ashby Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Active members of the Summers County Historical Society, Benny D. and Gayle Vest revived a faltering society project to publish a second volume on cemeteries. They spent hundreds of hours researching and compiling data on the 1995-2004 period, as well as omissions and corrections from the first volume, into a document, then formatting, editing, and proofing the final product, which is now ready for publication. The Vests also shared their knowledge about many old structures for a book on Summers County barns, published in 2011.
Nominated by Summers County Historical Society

Since 2004, Jamie Vosvick has been tirelessly dedicated to the preservation of the Cockayne Farmstead. A professional archaeologist, he has volunteered his services to the farmstead. He performed a Phase I archaeological survey of the property, authenticated the earthen mound as cultural, documented more than 1,500 family artifacts, and assisted with the excavation of two privies. In 2012, he prepared a report for SHPO approval so that design of a geothermal climate control system for the farmhouse could move forward. Each year, Jamie participates in several educational events at Cockayne. He has taught important lessons and given the project a credibility that it would not otherwise have achieved.
Nominated by Cockayne Historic Preservation Committee, Cockayne Farmstead

James Ray Walters has been a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia State CCC Museum Association since 2011 and serves on several committees. As chairman of the Parade Float Committee, he maintains the float at his home. James has represented the association at various state CCC reunions, and he spoke at the 2012 reunions at Watoga State Park and Richwood and at the association’s fall jubilee. In addition, he is a member of Elihu Hutton Camp 569, Sons of Confederate Veterans, helps maintain Mount Iser Confederate Cemetery in Beverly, and has participated in several sesquicentennial re-enactments.
Nominated by West Virginia State CCC Museum Association

A member of the board of directors of the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation and vice president since 2011, Leon White is instrumental in the preservation of the historic Memphis Tennessee Garrison House. He is a member of the restoration committee that is working to restore the house and turn it into a museum on Huntington’s African American history and heritage. Working with police, he has protected the property from vandals and drug dealers. White also assists the foundation treasurer, serves on the annual fundraising banquet committee, and volunteers to do whatever the foundation needs to have done.
Nominated by Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation, Inc.

James Wilburn has worked for many years to collect and preserve the records of Kanawha United Presbyterian Church in Charleston. Through this work, he became one of the original members of the Religious Archivists of the Greater Kanawha Valley in 2007 and has assisted the organization with workshops, History Day displays, and tours of religious houses of worship during FestivALL. His work at Kanawha United Presbyterian will ensure that the records of this nearly 200-year-old congregation survive, both locally and through microfilming by the Presbyterian Historical Society. Jim also volunteers weekly at the West Virginia State Archives.
Nominated by Religious Archivists of the Greater Kanawha Valley

Richard R. Wilt, a longtime member of the Harrison County Genealogical Society, has kept the society from disappearing behind a wall of outdated methods of communication and publication. Several years ago, he persuaded members that the society needed to have a presence on the Internet. Dick set up a Web site and maintains it “with more encouragement than actual help.” As webmaster, the 77-year-old has acquired the responsibilities of a “country” editor who must solicit continually for material to fill the pages and do much of it by himself. In addition, he has compiled several family histories.
Nominated by Harrison County Genealogical Society

Robert Bruce Wolford has taken the lead in promoting the City of Romney. In partnership with the city, he obtained funding to have signage, which was designed by his 8th-grade students and interprets Civil War sites in Romney, installed. His analysis of prewar structures helped the city to identify those most critical to the historic fabric. He coupled the study with graphics to create an inventory in a “then and now” manner, which he presented in newspaper articles. Wolford prepared and during the gala week co-presented a pictorial history of Romney during the Civil War. His knowledge of the city and its development proved invaluable to the Romney 250th organization in its preparation, execution, and formulation of plans.
Nominated by Romney 250th

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