Category Archives: Member profile

Bob Fallon — Member Profile

Bob and Vicki

Bob was born in Camden, NJ. He’s the third oldest among nine Fallon children. “You didn’t want to be late for meals!” Outgrowing their home, the family moved to Merchantville in 1957. There, he attended St. Peter School and Merchantville High School.

“Back in those days, young kid’s activities included sports, biking, and playing war games with toy guns. The latter seemed so natural, because most of our parents served during WWII, and we wanted to be just like them. My youthful interest in warfare was expanded when a buddy introduced his collection of books and artifacts from that War and the Civil War. I never really lost interest.”

Upon high school graduation, and with Vietnam intensifying, Bob enlisted into the Marine Corps. “It was my turn to act.” Arriving in Da Nang on January 30, 1968—start of the Tet Offensive—he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division. For 13 months, he witnessed the full spectrum of war. “Combat made indelible impressions. To this day, at an instant, when triggered, I can be back there seeing, sensing, and feeling the heart-pounding events.”

Retuning to stateside duty, he had 2½ more years of his enlistment obligation—a difficult adjustment from the trials of combat. “Initially, it was difficult, simply finding peace. Fortunately, I was able to turn around, primarily from my family, some friends, and my religion. Others weren’t so lucky. Another factor was a re-assignment from Quantico to DC, where I was selected as a staff car driver, taking notable military and political figures to and from all the Capitol-area venues. But it also included many funerals at Arlington Cemetery. At times, that was tough.”

Enlistment ended mid-1971. Bob then went to electronics school and became a technician at Schaevitz Engineering in Pennsauken, NJ. He worked there for 20 years, with increasing roles, and became the Engineering Manager. “During this time, a mentor encouraged me to start college. I did, and enjoyed it, graduating nine years later from The University of Pennsylvania (aided by the GI Bill). Also, during this time, I met Vicki, a wonderful woman, who, along with her three children, brought new meaning to my life.” They married and now have four grandchildren. Vicki also graduated from Penn. Recently ending her career as a Data Processing Manager for the State of New Jersey, she is an accomplished quilter.

He held two more Engineering Manager posts in Voorhees and Cherry Hill, before retiring. Vicki and Bob have lived in Medford, NJ for the past 25 years.

Bob renewed his interest in The Civil War after viewing the 1990 Ken Burns Miniseries, and followed-up by reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, which lead to many more period books. A favorite among the people he studied was A.P. Hill. “The guy had moxie.” A focus of Bob’s studies is comparing the experiences of Civil War soldiers to his own.

After some internet research, he discovered the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table. He called the phone number, and Mike Cavanaugh answered. They had a good conversation and Bob joined Old Baldy in 2005.

Bob has been to several battlefields. He finds them all memorable. While Antietam and Gettysburg are large-scale, he found the simplicity of Ball’s Bluff to be more poignant. “Vicki and I went there years ago, a fall afternoon, a tranquil setting: the brilliant autumn leaves, the stillness. For a time, we were the only ones there. While reflecting, it was like being in church.” One prerequisite for their battlefield touring is its proximity to fabric stores, for Vicki.

Bob’s other interests include: working-out (basement gym), reading (mostly historical topics) and classical music (all periods, especially Baroque). But, of prime importance is applying time and attention to the overall welfare of the extensive Fallon Family.

In closing, Bob said that he “thoroughly enjoys Old Baldy. It gives me what I want: quality presentations and learning something new or about topics I had forgotten. Rich Jankowski and his team have elevated the Post with remarkable achievements, and made great advances in the diverse scope of Civil War education.”
We appreciate Bob’s sentiments and are glad he connected with Mike Cavanaugh 16 years ago.

Profile written by Jim Heenehan

Steve Peters — Member Profile

Steve Peters was born on September 24th, 1947, in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and he was also raised there. He attended a self-contained school district, so the other kids were all from his town. Grades 7th through 12th were all in the same building and Steve’s graduating high school class only had 148 students. Given the number of kids in the school district Steve found himself in the same room with some of the other students for 12 years. As you could imagine, he grew very close to some of these kids and they would often do things outside of school together.

“I used to tell people that I had the best of both worlds,” Steve said. “I could walk out my back door and be in the middle of the woods; I could also walk out my front door and be in the middle of the city.” Steve was a Boy Scout and loved the outdoors. He used to go out to the woods with his friends to catch minnows to use as bait to fish for bass. When they weren’t out fishing or hiking, they would go out on the town attending one of the many local restaurants or one of the two local movie theaters. One of Steve’s other hobbies was stamp collecting. On top of all of that he played baseball, football, and wrestled in high school. He and his friends were always afraid to do anything reckless because two of his friends had brothers in the police force.

His family would attend car races at tracks just about every week. This tradition started way back in his father’s childhood when he fell in love with races. Ever since then Steve’s father loved racing and later passed it down to his children. Steve was at a racetrack before he was even one year old and grew up with a strong passion for racing. They used to go on Saturdays or Sundays after church to races. Sometimes they had to walk 3 miles between their car and their seat, but it was totally worth it to them. Steve’s dad also passed on a love of the North American railroad system. Columbia was one of the main lines of the Pennsylvania railroad, so Steve had many opportunities to see train cars. Steve’s dad would take him to see different train cars and tracks.

After graduating from high school in 1965, he attended Delaware Valley College where he earned a degree in animal husbandry in 1969. His favorite class was genetics and entomology. The professor of that class loved wrestling and previously knew Steve because he wrestled and played football in college. He worked on the college farm from his sophomore to senior year running the pig and swine operation. He was also a dorm counselor for three years. Steve never got any sports scholarships, so he had to take up these jobs to make his own way.

Toward the end of his college career, he became a part time truck driver and then shortly after graduated college and got a football coaching job in Conshohocken. He moved to Conshohocken and after a year got a job teaching agriculture in Northern Burlington County in Columbus, New Jersey, despite not having a teaching certification. It was a long commute, and he did that for a year until he got a job at Wood Archbishop High School teaching biology. He was a football and wrestling coach there for 20+ years. He also served as a high school and college wrestling official for 28 years. He did not need a teaching certification for this job either, but he knew it would make him a better teacher, so he earned one at Temple University. He then switched to teaching environmental science at the same school while taking more college classes to make him better at his job. He worked at Archbishop for a total of 46 years until retirement. While he was teaching, he was also a racecar official and photographer for a national racing publication for 30 years. He was able to attend local races during the school year after classes were over, and travel great distances on the weekend and during the summer.

Steve met his wife Carol in college, they married and had three children. They have been married for 46 years and now have four grandchildren. Nowadays Steve spends most of his time watching sports on television, fishing, driving others in his community or learning about history. Specifically, Civil War history. Steve’s interest in history started during a 3rd grade field trip to Gettysburg. Over years, he read books, went to reenactments and researched the historical significance of his surrounding areas. Steve said he would have become a history teacher, but his college did not offer the major.

Soon after retiring from teaching, he attended a Delaware Valley Civil War Round Table (CWRT) meeting and met the “crazy guy in glasses” Rich Jankowski. The speaker at that event was the author of some of the Civil War books Steve was reading, Ed Bonekemper. Steve was blown away by the enthusiasm put forth by Rich and the members Old Baldy, so he joined our Round Table. He is a frequent attendee of the pre-meeting dinners at the Lamp Post Diner, traveling down from Lansdale with Steve Newcomb. His smile and positive attitude are welcomed at our meetings. He also joined the Delaware Valley and the Bucks County Round Tables as well as the GAR museum in Philadelphia.

Profile written by Talon Lauriello.

Lorraine Gancher — Member Profile

Lorraine Gancher grew up in Garfield, NJ (named after the Civil War general and president), an industrial town along the Passaic River not far from New York City. She often took the train or bus into New York City with family or friends for various excursions. She remembers seeing the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall at Christmas time and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. She also has fond memories of her trips to the Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, and the Statue of Liberty.

Back in high school, Lorraine had a strong interest in history. While learning about the kings and queens of England, she and her friends adopted the personalities of various royalty and wrote each other spoof letters. For example, as Lady So and So, the Lady in Waiting to Princess Such and Such, she wrote her friend, the Duke, “We just visited your estate and really enjoyed our stay.” Lorraine’s love of letters also prompted her to become pen pals with fellow teenagers in England, South Africa and Australia. Her Aussie correspondence continues to this day, causing Lorraine to reflect, “The mail is my friend. I’d hate to see it leave.”

After high school, Lorraine attended Montclair State College (now University), where she received a Teaching degree in Social Studies for Junior and Senior High School and a Librarian degree for grades K–12. Upon graduation, she moved to South Jersey, becoming a librarian in the Bellmawr school system. She first worked 30 years at the elementary school and then 10 years at the middle school as a school guidance counsellor because she received her Master’s Degree in Student Personnel Services from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University).

In addition to her librarian duties, Lorraine also helped organize PTA fundraising and various after school activities. These included decorating for the school dances, and “Read Aloud Night,” where she got the mayor, members of the police force and others to read various children’s books for the students. Lorraine helped out with all the school activities, like Book Fairs and contests. She also got parents involved and volunteering. On holidays Lorraine dressed up to read to the younger students, performing as a pumpkin, a turkey and even a talking Christmas tree.

The school district appreciated Lorraine’s efforts and had a surprise for her before she retired. A friend of hers suggested they attend an upcoming school board meeting to be held outdoors at the school. As Lorraine always went to these school board meetings, she was happy to go. “They were doing work on the outside of the school,” Lorraine recollected, “and a drape hung over one side of the building. I had no idea something else was going on. At the end of the meeting, I am called up to the podium, a cord is pulled, the drape comes down, and there is my name in stainless steel letters on the side of the library.” The Bellmawr Park Elementary School library is now the Lorraine A. Gancher Library. What an appropriate honor for someone who loves reading and spent her career helping students.

And speaking of kids, Lorraine also raised three stepchildren of her own—James, Kristin and Tammy. They have since moved all over the country but she keeps in touch with letters, phone calls and gifts. Lorraine prefers these more personal interactions to email correspondence.

Lorraine first learned of Old Baldy while taking a course on the Civil War with Dr. Pesda at the Camden County College Civic Center during the Civil War Sesquicentennial. At the course, she met Old Baldy members Joe Wilson and Gerri Hughes, who encouraged Lorraine to join our Round Table, which she did six years ago. Lorraine enjoys reading Civil War letters, has visited Gettysburg, including the Eisenhower farm, and has been to several sites in Virginia. But her love of history transcends the Civil War. She’s been to Jamestown, Roanoke, several historic lighthouses, and various places in the Hudson River Valley. Some favorite Hudson River spots include Hyde Park, Olana (Frederick Church’s home), Sleepy Hollow, West Point and Bear Mountain.

To this day Lorraine loves taking classes on all sorts of subjects, usually at St. Peters College, Glassboro University or Camden County College. As she notes, “I consider myself an eternal learner as I’ve been going to classes since I was 5.” And fortunately for us, she also learned about Old Baldy at a Camden County College class just a few years ago.

John Galie — Member Profile

John Galie was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1955. At the age of five, he and his family moved to Heritage Village in Marlton, New Jersey, which is where he grew up. He attended Saint Joan of Arc elementary school and he was in the first graduating class. He then went to Holy Cross in Delran for high school and John told me that it was painful. There was a far distance between his house and the high school with only one bus traveling between the two once a day. Because of this, he didn’t participate in many after-school activities. He did however find some solace with the photography club since we could complete his assignments in and around his home.

John quickly realized that he wanted to become a mechanic so during high school he worked at small local repair shops specializing in lawn mower repairs. He learned a lot there and worked hard. His father’s philosophy was that if you want something you have to earn it and John took that to heart. He even worked as a janitor at his old elementary school for some extra money in order to buy his own tools.

After graduating from high school his father wanted him to go to college, so John chose to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia to become a Mechanical Engineer. His career path would forever change after his co-op program year with the National Weather Service in Washington, DC. There he was exposed to a computer for the first time and it blew his mind. Right then and there he decided to change his major to Electrical Engineering and continued at Drexel for two more years.

During his third year at Drexel, he met a girl while on his Co-Op assignment in Washington, DC, named Patricia, who was a senior at Penn State. They were married during his junior year and moved to Flint, Michigan, where Pat took a job with A.C. Spark Plug. This move required changing schools so John transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He had to drive 50 miles to and from school which left no time for extracurriculars. The tedium of traffic and the annoyance of never attending a football game at this school was all worth it though when John graduated Magna Cum Laude and got a great job at IBM.

His job involved developing semiconductors and processing technologies in East Fishkill, New York. In 1986 IBM reorganized and asked employees to volunteer to switch into different branches of the company. John volunteered to switch from the manufacturing side to the technical sales force. Over the years, John’s various account responsibilities included State and Local Governments, casinos in Atlantic City, and finally the U.S. Army.

This sales position took John and his family to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is where he currently resides. He and his wife have been married for 45 years and they have four children who all became engineers. John has been involved with several volunteer opportunities such as being a Cub Scout leader for his son, Little League Coach, as well as being a Big Brother. John served on the Cherry Hill Board of Education for 12 years which enabled him to present all four of his children with their high school diplomas. Now his children are grown, and he enjoys spending time with his eight grandchildren. John retired from IBM in 2008 after 30 years of service.

John’s interest in history started at an early age, when one cold November morning, his father woke him and his brother at four AM and said “get up, you two are coming with me.” His father had business that day in Washington, DC, and afterwards took the boys to Arlington National Cemetery. It was Tuesday November 26th, 1963, the day after JFK was buried. His parents both served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. His father was a radio intercept operator-(German)-stationed in Europe and his mother was a high-speed radio operator in the Women’s Axillary Corp (WAC), stationed at Vint Hill Farms, Virginia. What really ignited his spark of interest in Civil War history was his first visit to Gettysburg with his good friend Bob Russo. After which he started looking into his family history and discovered that his grandfather served in World War I and his great grandfather served in the Civil War, 12th VA Co G. John went to Old Baldy meetings off and on for a few years until eventually deciding to join the organization. He has been a member for five years now and thoroughly enjoys it. John is currently a volunteer battlefield interpreter at the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, where he conducts weekend tours on a monthly basis.

Profile written by Talon Lauriello.

Lynn Cavill — Member Profile

Lynn Cavill grew up in Upper Darby, attending Upper Darby High School. Graduation ceremonies were held in the Tower Theater (some Old Baldy members might remember the Tower Theater from their old concert days). After graduation, Lynn went to Drexel University to study math, but left half way through to get married. She has two daughters, Alice and Sandy, and four grandchildren, two of whom are now in the U.S. Air Force.

After a bit, Lynn got a job as a clerk with the U.S. Post Office. “While one piece of mail does not weigh a lot, handling 100,000 pieces of mail a day is a lot of work on your body.” This inspired Lynn to return to school and get a degree from the Community College in Philadelphia in Electronic Engineering Technology. This, in turn, helped her become an electronic technician for the Post Office, where she helped maintain the computer-operated mail processing equipment. She was the only woman doing this work at her facility and was fortunate to have good bosses during her career with the Postal Service.

One perk of her new job was that she travelled periodically to Norman, Oklahoma for training. Asked what are some of the positives about visiting Oklahoma, Lynn chuckled, “It’s not New Jersey.” But more seriously, Lynn was impressed with Oklahoma’s big sky. “You can see for miles,” she noted, though being in the plains also gets very windy. It also gave her an opportunity to see her maternal aunt and cousins, who live in eastern Oklahoma.

Travel is something Lynn really enjoys—especially her six Rick Steves’ tours. Some favorites include Paris & South France; Brussels & Amsterdam and several visits to Germany. But the trip that stands out is her journey to Normandy in 2011 with her 15-year-old grandson (now in the Air Force). She fondly recalls his hopping into trenches and pill boxes, their visit to the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Sainte Mere Eglise, and other sites. At dinner one night, her grandson ordered the special, which he happily discovered came with a glass of wine (age limits on wine and beer are more lenient in Europe).

Lynn’s hobbies include quilting, which she’s been able to focus on since her retirement a few years ago (she likes using 1850-1900 reproduction design fabrics in her quilts), and genealogy. This latter interest has led her to a couple of ancestors who fought in the Civil War. On her father’s side, she discovered her great-grandmother’s brother, Private Arnold M. Nichols, who grew up in Chester County, PA. He joined the 9-month 124th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which mustered into service in August of 1862. With less than a month of training, the 124th was sent to Antietam, where it fought near the East Woods, trading volleys with Confederate infantry in the Cornfield and supporting nearby Union artillery. They suffered 50 casualties that day. The 124th also fought at Chancellorsville before being mustered out later that month. Lynn spent many days at the Federal Building in Philadelphia, looking through rolls of microfilm to find out more about her ancestor. She discovered his 1903 petition asking the government to increase his $12/month pension. Lynn does not know if his petition was ever granted.

And on her mother’s side, she learned of her great-great-grandfather, Private George W. Goff, who fought for the South with the 8th Arkansas infantry at Shiloh before transferring to a local cavalry unit (Price’s), where he served the remainder of the war.

Lynn’s favorite Civil War site is Gettysburg where, in addition to the battlefield, she enjoys waking around the town. She noted that her visit to Gettysburg contrasted with her first visit to Antietam, which is more secluded. At Antietam, she forgot to take water with her and realized too late that there was nowhere nearby to get something to drink.

Lynn has always been interested in history, and when a friend mentioned the Old Baldy Civil War Round table to her eight and a half years ago, she joined up. And we’re glad she did.

Bill Holdsworth — Member Profile

Bill Holdsworth was born in Norristown, PA, 1955. He is the eldest of four children, from his mother Martha Jane and his World War II veteran father John. Bill first attended catholic school in a suburb in Philadelphia but switched to a public school in Montgomery County in 4th grade. At 12 years old Bill got his first job as a caddy at a golf course. He then worked three years at a Burger King until he landed a job that would ignite the spark to his career.

In high school, Bill started working at a record store in a mall at age 16. The record store was a melting pot of all ages to meet and connect through music. Bill said that his middle-aged boss would often have to find records for customers based on them humming or singing the song they were looking to buy. In addition to learning about all kinds of music and artists through the job Bill would also go to a lot of concerts. He has attended over 1000 concerts throughout his life and he has been to almost every concert venue in Philly. His favorite artists include Johnny Cash and Bob Marley with his favorite genre of music being reggae. When Bill wasn’t selling records or going to concerts, he was participating in high school club sports such as the winter and spring track team for shotput and discus as well as the intramural basketball team. He continued working in the music retail business through college at Montgomery County Community College. During this time, he also picked up a second job as a school bus driver. He would work the mornings and afternoons and go to class in-between.

Bill loved working grew tired of school, so after two years of college he dropped out and quit his bus driving job to pursue his music sales career full time. He worked a combined seven years in music retail and then two years for a wholesale distributor called Suburban One Stop. After that he worked for major record companies like RCA Records, Motown, PolyGram records and the Universal Music Group. Bill said the most important skill he learned was knowledge about people and music throughout the world. When records started to lose popularity Bill along with hundreds of his other colleagues were laid off from the same company. He was then hired by Music Video Distributors which is where he currently works.

While working on his life professionally Bill also worked on it socially and romantically. Bill’s aunt worked at a flower shop and introduced him to her employee, Deborah. She and Bill fell in love and got married a year and a half later in 1984. Debbie and Bill went on to have three sons, William, John and Kenneth. Around this time Bill developed a new hobby of fishing in freshwater. His favorite fish is the smallmouth bass.

Bill’s passion for military history started after reading Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. He then saw an ad in the paper about a local civil war heroes event going on at Norristown High School. There he met a representative from the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table named Steve Wright. After learning more about the CWRT he decided to join, and he thoroughly enjoys attending and participating in the meetings and events. Steve and Bill became great friends and to this day go on many trips to historical battlegrounds, most notably traveling to the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in 2015 for the 70th Anniversary Re-Union of Honor. Bill hopes to retire in the next year to make more time for volunteer organizations, hobbies and family. The OB CWRT is grateful that Bill and Debbie joined as she has produced our wreath for General Winfield Scott Hancock’s tomb for the last 27 years.

Wayne Blattner — Member Profile

Born in Norristown, PA in 1953, Wayne Blattner’s Civil War interest seems foreordained. He attended the Abraham Lincoln elementary school and as a Cub/Boy Scout (fortunate to earn Eagle Scout in 1968), participated in the Norristown Memorial Day parades which ended at the Montgomery Cemetery, where the Scouts placed flags on the graves of local Civil War veterans.

Wayne with Ed Bearrs

After high school, Wayne studied at a technical drafting school in Reading, PA, where he received a certificate of Drafting and Design. This launched him on his career of drafting electrical engineering diagrams showing the locations of the electrical wiring, outlets, light receptacles, and fire alarms for building renovations and construction. Though Wayne jokingly referred to himself as “the dinosaur in the room” because all the other engineers had degrees, he had great bosses who helped him advance his skills. He worked 24 years as a Senior Electrical Designer for Bala Consulting Engineers in King of Prussia and retired in 2020 from his final job at Kupper Engineering in Ambler, PA.

As a kid, Wayne attended Camp Innabah in Chester County. He liked it so much that in his late teens he took a second job joining the camp support staff. This proved fortuitous as he met his future wife, Cheryl, there in 1975. She was working in the program staff, as a camp counselor. They hit it off and got married two years later, moving to Royersford, PA. They have two children – Kurt (who is also an Eagle Scout) and Corrine, born in 1982 and 1985, respectively.

Wayne’s Civil War interest stems from a family reunion in the late 1980s. He was talking to his great aunt, who told him that when she was a child she often spoke with her two grandfathers, both of whom fought in the Civil War. These were Mills Williamson, who served first with the 4th PA Infantry (a 90-day unit) and then the 95th PA Infantry (part of Upton’s VI Corps brigade), while William Charles was with the 5th PA Cavalry. William Charles was a widower who lived his final years with Wayne’s great aunt’s family. This inspired Wayne to research his great-great grandfathers’ Civil War service.

Then in 1990, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary came out and Wayne was hooked. He did additional research and learned of five other relatives who fought in the Civil War, one of whom, John Burnett, also served in the 95th PA Infantry. Burnett’s sister, Martha, married Mills Williamson, and the two brothers-in-law enlisted together in the 95th PA after Williamson’s service with the 4th PA ended. Wayne also discovered that Williamson was wounded during Grant’s May 12, 1864 attack at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle. Later, Wayne was on a tour of the Spotsylvania battlefield with the legendary Ed Bearss (one of his six Ed Bearss tours). The night before the tour he asked if the next day Ed could show him where his ancestor got wounded and Ed said OK. The next day was a hot, humid, 95-degree scorcher. As the day and tour drew to a close and people began returning to the buses, Wayne figured Ed must have forgotten their conversation. Suddenly, Ed called out, “WHO’S THE GUY FROM THE 95th PA?!!!!” Wayne meekly raised his hand and Ed walked him over to the spot where the 95th PA did its fighting and where his great-great grandfather probably got wounded.

Wayne’s favorite Civil War books include Gordon Rhea’s volumes on Grant’s Overland Campaign as well as Eric Wittenberg’s books on cavalry engagements. His favorite battlefields are Gettysburg, where three of his ancestors fought, followed closely by Antietam. Besides Old Baldy, which Wayne joined in 1995, he belongs to many other Civil War organizations, such as the Civil War Round Table of Montgomery County, which meets in Norristown (Wayne’s “home” Round Table); the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, General Hartranft Camp #15, which meets in Harrisburg; the Gettysburg Foundation; and the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, which also organizes Civil War tours.

Wayne’s other outside interests include both model trains and vintage steam engine trains. While his model train setups as a kid were limited to layouts around the tree at Christmas, later in the 1980s and 90s, he began to take 1-2 day steam engine excursions, ranging from the more local Scranton to the Poconos trips to a 2–day steam engine outing from San Jose, CA to San Francisco and back. One possible train inspiration was Wayne’s maternal grandfather, who worked as a fireman and then an engineer for the Reading Railroad. Wayne must have thought of him every time he “took a ride on the Reading” when playing Monopoly. In addition, Wayne is an avid ancestry.com guy who has researched over 35 families for family members and friends. He has traced his own family tree back to his 7th great-grandparents, who were part of the Schwenkfelder 1734 migration from the Poland/Germany area of Europe. They came to William Penn’s new colony to escape Europe’s religious intolerance and most settled in Montgomery County.

Wayne’s Civil War connections start with his ancestors who fought in the war and continue today to his numerous Civil War groups which, happily, include the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.

Ellen Preston — Member Profile

Ellen Preston grew up in Bellmawr, NJ, attending Highland High School. If you went to a Highland HS sporting event back in the 1970s, you may have seen Ellen as she was the Highland Tartans’ school mascot. Her outfit included a kilt, sash, gaiters, hat and bagpipes. How did she come to play the bagpipes? Ellen played clarinet in the school band and her teacher encouraged her to try bagpipes. While not easy to learn, she did it and still plays to this day, including at her son’s wedding. And yes, she did get to bonnie Scotland—three times.

In high school, Ellen read Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, sparking a lifetime interest in the Civil War (another favorite Civil War book is Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic). Her Civil War focus was further nurtured by a trip to Gettysburg with her Girl Scout troop when she and her Scout-mates reenacted the fighting at Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

After high school, Ellen attended Sterling College in Vermont before joining the Air Force as a life support specialist. She later took night school courses at Camden County College and got a Master of Science degree on-line from Swinburne University in Australia. Since getting her degree, Ellen has held many diverse jobs, including an anti-terrorist food expert, working for Amtrak on its $100 million labor schedule system, and her current position for the Delaware River Port Authority running its SAP Systems Upgrade project.

Ellen’s husband, Dietrich, is another Old Baldy member and Civil War enthusiast. They’ve been married 8 years though have known each other long before that, having met on South Street in Philly 26 years ago. Ellen saw him and a voice in her head said, “He’s the one.” So she went over and struck up a conversation. It turned out they both had mutual friends and they kept in touch over the years. And eventually they got married. Between them, they have three children from a prior marriage: Rowen Gunn (39) lives in Colorado while Remy (16) and Liam (18) reside in Pennsylvania.

Ellen has been with Old Baldy for 6 years and has served on its Board of Directors. But her most famous Old Baldy contribution has been her New Jersey Civil War map. The map started as a lark—she’s always had an interest in local history—and began researching places in New Jersey with Civil War connections. She then placed them on a map which eventually became the New Jersey Civil War map featured at our Old Baldy meetings. “It’s been a fun project,” Ellen noted, “which has really taken off.”

While Ellen does not have a favorite battlefield, she has visited many Civil War sites. Rich Jankowski likes to kid her as being the only other person he knows who has visited the Prairie Grove battlefield in Arkansas (Ellen was out there on a business trip). But her most memorable trip to a Civil War site was in 2017 when she was on a Fort Sumter tour during the total solar eclipse. Her group was at the fort when the eclipse began before moving onto a boat and seeing the climax on the water. “It was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” recalled Ellen. “As it got closer to totality, a really creepy feeling came over us. The shadows were all wrong. While not totally black, it was dark enough.”

Her many other interests include life in the 1800s, nature photography (she has 30,000 photos, including eagles, ospreys and herons, her current favorite focus), kayaking and horses. Ellen has also served as the chairperson of the U.S.–Icelandic Horse Congress. This group helps with the importation of horses from Iceland. Because the breed is raised in this far north island nation, the isolation results in a unique small and sturdy steed. Ellen once wrote an article for an equine publication on riding Icelandic horses in the Pine Barrens which still generates comments from those fond of this unusual breed.

As can be seen, Ellen is a person of many interests and we are fortunate that her interests include the Civil War and the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.

Jim Heenehan — Member Profile

Jim Heenehan
Jim Heenehan

As a child growing up in New Rochelle, New York, Jim Heenehan received a special gift from his parents: a Marx Civil War toy soldier set. Not long after, he began collecting Topps Civil War Trading cards, and in April 1965, his parents took him to Gettysburg where he climbed a cannon and walked up Little Round Top. A lifelong passion for Civil War History ensued.

Years later, two books, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and Twentieth Maine by John Pullen, ensured that his interest would continue.

“I found these books compelling as they tell the story of the heroic actions of Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment in their defense of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg,” said Heenehan. “The bravery of Chamberlain and the 20th Maine helped save Little Round Top, the loss of which would have spelled defeat for the Union cause.”

“For his tenacity and heroism at Gettysburg, Chamberlain was later awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893,” he added.

Yet Heenehan’s interest in the Civil War goes far beyond just visiting battlefields or reading about Civil War history—he has also published four articles about the war, including one on the Philadelphia Brigade defending against Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg and one recounting the Civil War service of five key Union regiments that defended Gettysburg’s Little Round Top, which were published in The Gettysburg Magazine and America’s Civil War Magazine.

“The Battle of Gettysburg has always been of special interest,” said Heenehan. “And that interest is one of the reasons I joined the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table 25 years ago.”

Currently a resident of Bryn Mawr. Pennsylvania, Heenehan is a retiree from the Environmental Protection Agency where he litigated administrative law cases. It was while working for the EPA that that he met his future wife, Carolyn, who was in Philadelphia temporarily on a fellowship from The Pennsylvania Council of The Arts. She is also a Civil War buff.

“Pre-covid, I was a regular attendee at the Old Baldy monthly meetings and participated in a number of the group’s activities,” he said. Now meetings are twice a month on Zoom, although we are hoping that in-person meetings will resume later this summer or fall.”

“I think most members are looking forward to that,” he added.

Heenehan is also looking forward to the return of another activity: baseball, in particular Philadelphia Phillies baseball. An avid fan for many years, he was in the stands when the Phillies won their first World Series in 1980.

“Since this was their first World Series win, I had plans to go on the field and celebrate at the end of the game, which was traditional,” he said. “I had no idea that this would be
the first time that fans would be prohibited from coming onto the field after the home team clinched the world series.”

“So, when policeman on horseback surrounded the field, I had to come up with another plan,” he said.

With a chutzpah that only a Philly Fanatic could understand, Heenehan joined a group of women he surmised were the Philly wives and walked with them onto the ballfield and into the dugout, telling the security guard that he was the younger brother of Del Unser, a reserve Philly outfielder who had a good post-season. No further questions were asked, and he was escorted into the clubhouse to celebrate with the with the team. Sadly, his ruse was discovered when he sat down next to Del Unser’s wife who blew the whistle on him.

But there are no regrets on Heenehan’s part for this somewhat devious incident, and indeed, perhaps even a sense of pride. After all, how often do you get the chance to meet someone you idolize? And, if you ever take chances in life, won’t you regret it later on?

If I were to ask James Heenehan that question, I have no doubt what his answer will be: go for it.

Priscilla Gabosch — Member Profile

By just about any standard Priscilla Gabosch has had a full and interesting life.

Born in the Midwest outside of Chicago, she also attended college in a rural area and subsequently has lived on both coasts. We are fortunate that her husband’s job led to a relocation to the Delaware Valley and that she likes the East Coast best.

Priscilla went to Blackburn College where she received her B.A. degree with a major in English and a minor in languages.

In addition to her formal education Priscilla has taken advantage of the Center for Learning and Responsibility—including several courses on the Civil War. She is currently engaged in an Opera Appreciation class as well.

After college, Priscilla went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad and having aptitude for technology, she was chosen to participate in the company’s program for training in computer programming, which has put her in good stead for her further work in the insurance and banking areas. At retirement, she was working as a Business Systems Analyst in IT at a bank involved in Mutual Fund management.

Priscilla and her husband have been breeding and showing Rhodesian Ridgebacks since 1983. From this, she has become involved in the AKC as a licensed judge and has been involved with several dog clubs, serving in a number of positions, including Chairman of one, AKC delegate, Treasurer, Past President, Recording Secretary and Chief Steward.

Priscilla is also an avid reader with, as she puts it, eclectic tastes.

Her interest in the Civil War was sparked after taking several courses at CCLR about generalship and battles of the Civil War. She particularly enjoys strategy, not only of the Civil War, but other conflicts as well—she lists “Zulu” as one of her favorite movies and was impressed by how a small group of soldiers could hold off a large attacking force. The subject of slavery and the WWII genocide has also moved her to learn more about these topics.

While she has many and varied interests and accomplishments, Priscilla feels particularly proud of her being chosen to judge the National Specialty of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States in 2005—selected by her peers. She has also been awarded the AKC’s Good Sportsmanship Medallion not once, but twice. In addition, she has been Gloucester County Kennel Club’s Show Chairman for 20 years.

All in all, a very accomplished life that most of us can aspire to.