PHMC Volunteers of the Year for 2020-21 Part 1

Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces Associates
Justin Skavery
Justin has been a tremendous asset to the Anthracite Heritage Museum’s volunteer corps since he began as an intern in May 2018. Though Justin has only been a volunteer for a short period of time, he is willing to assist where he is needed and to learn new skills. A lifelong resident of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region, Justin is enthusiastic about working with the historic collections at the Anthracite Heritage Museum. Over the last several years Justin has helped catalog and inventory collections, conducted research, and worked on several small exhibits. During the pandemic’s teleworking phase, Justin was also willing to help the Anthracite Heritage Museum curator enter artifact descriptions and record historic photographs, especially those taken by John Horgan Jr. Thank you, Justin, for your contributions.

Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates
Noah Lewis
For over 25 years Noah has been giving living history talks as Edward “Ned” Hector, a hero of the Battle of the Brandywine. He became interested in Hector’s story when he was volunteering at his child’s school and was asked what he knew about the colonial era. This request came at a time when he was exploring his own genealogy, and it spurred a “second career” that is driven by passion. In the first year Noah developed a talk and presented to 28 classes. Since then, he has brought the tale of this African American patriot to thousands of captivated people at Brandywine Battlefield Park and other sites around the Philadelphia region. His portrayal of Ned Hector has also helped to illuminate the history of other Black soldiers and civilians during the American Revolution. Noah has been assisting with school programs, re-enactments, summer camps, and Brandywine’s Remembrance Day for years. He has remained an important part of the Brandywine family, and during the pandemic he helped present a virtual Remembrance Day to people from across the country. We thank him for his dedication and commitment to Brandywine Battlefield Park and for his significant contributions to our programming and mission.

Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society
Joe Ramus and Larry Gesner
Joe Ramus and Larry Gesner are dedicated volunteers at Bushy Run Battlefield. They can be seen at the battlefield weekly and at every site event, volunteering for traffic control and parking. Both Larry and Joe work weekly to maintain the monuments, signage, and public access kiosks at the park, handling the grass-cutting, weeding, and overall repair of these important parts of the education offerings at the battlefield. They keep the grass trimmed in the area around the visitor’s center that we use for outside educational programs as well. Larry and Joe also prepare the site for the annual battle reenactment, haunted hayride, car cruise, and other events that take place at the park. In 2021, Joe dedicated 182 hours of service to Bushy Run Battlefield, and Larry dedicated 213 hours. We thank them for their commitment and hard work on behalf of Bushy Run Battlefield.

Friends of Conrad Weiser Homestead
David Sonnen
Having grown up in the area, David has always been familiar with the Conrad Weiser Homestead. He was a seasonal employee for the Homestead in the 1980s and continued volunteering after becoming a Friend’s member and eventually the Associate President of the Board for well over 20 years. Along with his duties as a board officer, David volunteers at events and is the official photographer for events and the flora and fauna within the Memorial Park. Many of David’s pictures can be seen in the Friend’s newsletter and on the Homestead’s Facebook page. When the COVID 19 pandemic hit in 2020, David assumed more roles, seeing that the trash was gathered and set out for pickup as well as walking the park on weekends to look for any sign of trouble. The Homestead is fortunate to have his valuable leadership, time, and talents working for us.

Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace
Michael Weber (2020) and Kathy Donaldson (2021)
Mike began volunteering at Cornwall in 2019 and currently serves as a weekly tour guide, historical researcher, and program presenter. In 2020, when the site closed to the public, Mike conducted research on the mining operation at Cornwall, including summarizing detailed monthly reports of Bethlehem Steel; the result is a 257-page manuscript, Always More Production, that will be published in 2022. Mike was also instrumental in establishing the site’s popular monthly virtual programming that helped fill the gap created by the cancellation of in-person lectures and tours. He gave the inaugural webinar in June of 2020 and has continued to present virtual lectures on such topics as mine safety and gold extraction at Cornwall. With the site reopening to the public in 2021, Mike resumed his weekly tour-guiding, provided content for the site’s “PA History to Go” video, and assisted with public programs. We thank Mike for his ongoing dedication to Cornwall Iron Furnace and for sharing the depth and breadth of his knowledge and skills with our visitors and virtual audiences.

Kathy has been a member of the Board since 2015, serving as secretary, treasurer, and planning committee member. When she retired in 2019, she began to dedicate even more time to the Furnace, stepping up when there was a job to be done. In 2021, during the pandemic shutdown, Kathy played a large role in the implementation of a new Point of Sale system for the museum store, helping the team to research potential software and peripherals, manually entering items into the computer, and packaging and labeling merchandise in the newly updated store. She continues to serve as purchasing coordinator for the store and fills in as cashier when needed. As a former educator, Kathy spearheaded the publication of the Junior Collier Children’s Activity Book, modeled on the NPS Junior Ranger program. She regularly edits the Furnace’s quarterly newsletter and organizes raffle baskets to raise funds for the site. Her commitment and her friendship to all are valuable contributions to the Cornwall Iron Furnace and its successful public programming and customer service.

Friends of Daniel Boone Homestead
William Jewell
Through the many changes that COVID brought in 2021, Bill has served as one of our most flexible volunteers. He has created and delivered virtual programs, been our much-complimented weekend guide, and assisted with all of our event programming. His extensive knowledge of colonial life and trades, flintlocks, and Daniel Boone has made him an invaluable resource to the site. Bill is also a favorite of our guests; his in-depth knowledge of objects on display in the Visitor’s Center and the Boone House have been highly spoken of by visitors. Bill has been more than willing to step up wherever needed to help with proofreading, program suggestions, and doing the bulk of our weekend tours after reopening. It’s been a tremendous pleasure to work with Bill. The Homestead appreciates all of his hard work and looks forward to many more years to come. Thank you, Bill, for your help and support!

Friends of Drake Well, Inc.
Richard Paul (2020) and Jean Riddle (2021)
Richard has been a dedicated and dependable volunteer at Drake Well Museum and Park since the beginning of 2019. He can be found all over the site raking, pruning, digging, or planting. His upbeat and outgoing personality and his love for the museum and park make him one of Drake Well Museum’s outstanding volunteers. He enjoys engaging visitors in conversation as he works. If he is unable to answer their questions, he connects visitors with those who can help. Richard’s greatest contribution has been the project of making the Native American Oil Pits accessible for visitors to see. As an avid hiker and camper, Richard noticed that this area of the park had become very overgrown and asked if could take on the project of clearing the oil pit area. Thanks to his efforts, visitors are once again able to view the Native American Oil Pits. Richard was one of the first volunteers to come back to the site after the pandemic, as he wanted to get the gardens looking their best for returning visitors. The site greatly appreciates all that Richard has done and will do for the site and our visitors.

Since 2018 Jean, a retired Oil & Gas Landsman, has donated 400 items, mostly from her career researching oil & gas mineral rights in western Pennsylvania. This past year she reached out to two other female landsmen who donated land maps and artifacts from the Desk & Derrick Clubs, educational clubs for people working in the oil and gas industry. Jean also used her contacts at Peoples Natural Gas Company to garner a donation of 19 natural gas artifacts. She then turned her attention to helping the museum find artifacts demonstrating Pennsylvania oil refinery sponsorship of motorsports. She felt an exhibit featuring racing would help draw new visitors to the museum. During the last year, she has found and donated motorsports racing ephemera, artwork, and model racing vehicles sponsored by Pennzoil, Quaker State, Amalie, Sunoco, and Valvoline. She reached out to other collectors and continues to help the museum build these collections. Without her extensive efforts, this year’s racing exhibit would not have been possible. We thank Jean for her continued support of the museum and its mission.

Eckley Miners’ Village Associates
Dave Matsinko
Dave epitomizes “volunteer of the year.” Since joining the Eckley crew after retiring as a special education teacher, he has been a dedicated and present fixture at the site. In his many years at Eckley Dave, an accomplished folk musician, educator, and traditional multi-instrumentalist, has performed solo and with an ensemble at just about every Patchtown Days and Christmas program, has participated in Halloween programming, led school tours, and even took a turn on the Associates board. Dave studies traditional Appalachian and coal region music and includes history, context, and stories whenever he plays. He has also been working with the Walk In Art Center, a Schuylkill Haven folk art space, encouraging collaborations between Eckley and the center. This year, Dave has been one of the most active volunteers despite COVID. In addition to helping at programs, he performed and lent music to the “PA History to Go” video production at Eckley. Dave’s good nature and enthusiasm rubs off on his fellow volunteers and staff, and we’re all very happy to have him at our site so often.