Category Archives: Member profiles

Blattner Wayne – Member Profile

            Born in Norristown, PA in 1953, Wayne’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.

            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. 

Frank Barletta – Member Profile

In 2015 Frank Barletta went on a road trip to middle Tennessee to retrace the steps of the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and one of its men, then Private George S. Myers, from Stone River to Chickamauga, Georgia, where the regiment fought September 19-20, 1863 in the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. For his actions on the 19th – he “saved the regimental colors by great personal devotion and bravery” – Sergeant Myers, promoted May 1, 1865, was awarded the Medal of Honor. (Frank wrote a lengthy story about his trip for the November 11, 2015 issue of the Old Baldy newsletter.)

Since the journey South, Frank has been fascinated with the life of Sergeant Myers, so much so “I’m going to write a book. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish.” He is trying to find information about the before and after of the Sergeant’s time in the Civil War (1862-1865) by reading newspapers, diaries of the regiment soldiers, and maps. “I’m a maps guy. I love studying maps. Every step that George made, I followed along.” Given where Frank spent the early part of his life, his book could very well be about the Revolutionary War.

Born in 1943 in Boston Massachusetts, Frank spent 35 years in New England and the rest of his time in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. When he was ten, Frank worked during the summer at his father’s heavy construction company and his job was to fill the kerosine “bombs” or lanterns used to alert drivers of nearby construction work. His mom used to make him wear rain gear because it was a dirty and smelly task. Frank picked up another skill on the job – cleaning lumber or taking the nails out of planks. A kid being a kid, Frank decided to hammer the nails back in instead and he could do it with two or three strikes of the hammer. The neighborhood kids found out how fast he was and would give him twenty-five cents to hit nails at the town carnival and win them a prize. Frank won every time.

Grown-up Frank graduated in 1961 from Catholic Memorial High School, and then went on to St. Anselm College in New Hampshire where he earned a BA in Economics. He worked 37 years for Collier International; head of facilities for 30 years, selling churches for seven.

Away from real estate, Frank has been a seven-year volunteer for the New Jersey Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. His primary job is to advocate for people living in long-term care facilities by investigating and resolving complaints made by them or by others on their behalf. “The work is critical. Covid showed that some of these places are not great.” 

With a love for history, Frank is or has been involved with numerous related organizations and projects. In 1976, Frank, with his American Revolution living historians group, recreated a British Army Grenadier with the 3rd Regiment of Foot to serve as an honor guard for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the Concord and Lexington Battlefield site for our nation’s Bicentennial. He made his own clothing, even his own bearskin hat.

As a 10-year member of the Old Baldy CWRT, Frank has served as a board member and is currently treasurer, a position he has held for the past five years. In October 2018 Frank spearheaded the Civil War Naval Symposium on board the Battleship New Jersey in her berth at Camden (Delaware River). It featured several well-known experts in the history of the Civil War navies, sixteen exhibitors, and period songs. “I’m very proud of putting that together. It was a grand affair. The first time a Civil War Naval symposium was onboard the ship.” 

Frank is on the advisory committee for Homecoming 250 Navy Marine Corps, a charity created to host the main celebrations of the Navy and Marine Corps 250th birthdays in 2025 in Philadelphia and on the Delaware River. (Speaking of history, Frank’s grandfather is a second cousin to Harry S. Truman!)

Horseshoes, bowling, pickleball, Tai-Chi – they all keep Frank feeling fit and young-er. Oh yeah, and he is a BIG Phillies fan. Frank’s wife, Sandy, bought him in July 2017 a gift certificate to take a yoga class at the ballpark. On the field. With hundreds of other people. A free ticket to the Phillies evening game was the reward. “The best gift my wife ever gave me! It was the coolest thing! Even the Philly Phanatic did yoga!

Frank and his wife, Sandy, share 41 years of marriage. They live in Marlton, New Jersey with their two rescue dogs, Shiloh and Wally.

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Bill Hughes — Member Profile

Bill Hughes is a Vineland, New Jersey boy, raised up around a father and grandfather whose work ethics and positive role model lives made a deep impact on him.

Bill is a graduate of Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, with a Master of Education degree from West Chester University. He taught physical education and drivers’ education at Pennsauken High School for 38 years. He also coached soccer, and refereed soccer and track & field. He was inducted into the Pfeiffer University Athletic Hall of Fame as well as the South Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame. He served on the board of the Sterling Regional School District for 18 yrs.; before joining the board, he spent 25 years as a volunteer fireman.

Over his 81 years, Bill has become quite the writer and publisher as he accomplished with his two books pertaining to the Civil War era. The U.S. General Hospital at Beverly, New Jersey, 1864-1865 traces the hospital’s roots and the people who shaped it.“The hospital was the reason for the beginning of Beverly National Cemetery.” The book was later used as a source for a mail-related story in The Journal of the New Jersey Postal History Society.

The Civil War Papers of Lt. Col. Newton T. Colby, New York Infantry is a compilation of Colby’s personal letters, newspaper articles, and accounts of fighting and daily life from other soldiers. Colby served with two New York regiments, the 23rd and the 107th, until getting typhoid fever after Chancellorsville. He served later in the Veteran Reserve Corps as superintendent of the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. Colby, recognized as an excellent soldier by his peers and commanding officers, was Bill’s great-great-grandfather. “It started with over 100 of his personal letters home to his father during the war. With about 10 years of research on my part, I found many other documents and side stories about him. I felt it was history that should be preserved.” (Bill had two other Civil War veteran ancestors, his wife had one.)

Bill is nearing completion on a Civil War history of Vineland, a city that did not exist in 1861. “I have identified over 600 veterans that had something to do with Vineland. There are over 300 veterans buried here, and that to me was an amazing number. I wrote a bio for each one.” Two are special: Dr. Charles Brewer, a surgeon general on General Robert E. Lee’s staff in Richmond and brother-in-law to Major General J.E.B. Stuart; and Sergeant William Pittenger, one of the Andrews’ Raiders who went south and stole a locomotive from the Confederates, spent time in a Rebel prison, and then won the Medal of Honor.

It is obvious the substantial amount of time Bill spends on researching Civil War history. He and his wife of 47 years, Marty, have traveled many years in RVs to Civil War sites and have followed J.E.B. Stuart’s trail around the Union Army and Colonel John S. Mosby all over Virginia.

Bill is a member of the American Battlefield Trust, Millville Army Air Field Museum, Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society, numerous Elks and Masonic lodges, the NRA, and is a trustee of the historic Siloam Cemetery in Vineland.

As for the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia, Bill has been a faithful member for 31 years and is a past secretary. To write the history of the group — founded in 1977 — Bill has had the monumental task of tracking down past members, gathering pictures, and rounding up newsletters.

“I have dabbled in many things.” We noticed, Bill. Thank you!

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Arlene Schnaare — Member Profile

Before joining the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table nine years ago, Arlene Schnaare believed everything she was told about the American Civil War. Case in point: the old legend that coded messages were embedded in quilts hung on a fence or clothesline along the Underground Railroad to direct runaway slaves to safe houses and routes to freedom. It is an exciting tale, one that is easy to believe as it has been told and written as truth for generations. But the story that quilts contained secret codes before and during the Civil War has been entirely dismissed by history scholars and quilt historians. A bear paw design sewn into a quilt did not mean a slave should follow an animal trail into the woods to find water and food, or that a quilt with a monkey wrench block signaled slaves to start gathering tools for a planned escape North. There is simply no evidence of truth, which came as a surprise to the quilt-making Arlene Schnaare. “Before Old Baldy, I believed all the stories I knew about the Civil War. The quilts? It is a feel-good story but it’s not true. There are lots of fallacies in Civil War history. I’m learning to separate truth from fiction.”

Arlene was not interested in the Civil War, or quilts, when she was living in St. Louis, Missouri, her birthplace. After graduating from Mercy High School, Arlene enrolled in a three-year registered nurse program at St. John’s School of Nursing and worked at its affiliate, St. John’s Hospital. Across the street was the St. Louis College of Pharmacy where she met a student named Roger Schnaare. They married in 1960.

The couple moved to Indiana for Roger’s graduate studies at Purdue University and lived there for four years. They moved back to St. Louis, stayed for three years, and then moved east to Turnersville, New Jersey. They have three children: Tim, Mary and Theresa; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Arlene and Roger currently reside in Haddonfield.

After she retired from nursing, Arlene went to work part-time at a needlepoint store and began an interest in the craft as well as cross stitch. Then she developed an overwhelming love of quilting. “I call it a disease. I’ve made 35 so far. I’m just fascinated by the colors and designs.” Although Arlene is currently working on a copy of an 1820 quilt, Civil War reproduction quilts are her forte. In fact, Arlene already has all the materials she needs to make a reproduction of a quilt that reportedly hung in Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home at Knob Creek in Kentucky. “I promised Abe I would do it.”

It was through quilting that Arlene developed an interest in the Civil War, an era she says she knew little about. She and Roger have visited the Gettysburg Battlefield and also made a trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell. She was in awe of the history around her. “I touched the Liberty Bell. At Gettysburg I stood there. I stood there.”

Arlene was taking continuing education classes at The Center at Camden County College when she first bumped into Richard Jankowski and Frank Barletta of Old Baldy. After looking over a brochure Rich handed her, Arlene asked Frank if a test was required to get into the group. He replied no and encouraged her to attend a meeting. It was one of the best decisions she had ever made. “Old Baldy has been good for me. Walking across the campus I feel like I’m 19 again. I like the feeling of being there. Everyone is so smart about the Civil War.” Arlene spoke about her reproduction quilt collection at an OB meeting in 2017.

Soon after she joined Old Baldy, Arlene and member Priscilla Gabosch were recruited to create a membership committee; their first job was to convert the old paper records to a computer-based system. Both women have done a wonderful job with the membership program. Their spreadsheet format is still in use today.

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Gary Salkind — Member Profile

Gary Salkind was born in Wynnefield, Philadelphia on July 30th, 1953. He grew up in the area, living in Wynnewood, Havertown, Overbrook Park, and Drexel Hill. He went to Lower Merion High School in Ardmore and graduated in 1971. Gary continued his education at Saint Joseph’s University and then at Temple University School of Medicine. He was a practicing physician who taught at a residency program; worked at the Philadelphia Nursing Home; and performed house calls for patients until he retired in 2019.

Gary’s family consists of his wife, two children, four grandchildren, and a sister and her family. He and his wife Mindy have been married for 45 years. They met in 1975 at a Messianic Jewish congregation in Philadelphia.

In retirement, Gary has found more time to spend on his hobbies. He enjoys reading about his historical interests and visiting historic sites. He and Mindy are members of the Tapestry Historic Dance Ensemble, a group that performs social dances of different periods of history.

Ever since he was a child, Gary has had a love for history. He and his childhood friends would act out World War II fighting. Some of his main interests include military technology and the experiences of common soldiers. He says it is convenient to love Civil War history because the battlefields are near enough to visit.

Gary became a part of the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table in 2020 after he discovered an old OB pamphlet when he was cleaning out his files. He searched online for more information and found that he could join the meetings virtually. He says membership now has the ability to expand regardless of where the meetings take place.

Gary is a member of the Friends of Gettysburg, a group that helps raise funds to preserve and maintain the battlefield. He is also a member of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America.

Paul Prentiss — Member Profile

“Since the fifth grade I wanted to join the Navy like my dad and granddad. By the seventh grade, I really liked mechanical things like ships and airplanes and wanted to go into engineering to design and build them.” To make his goals a reality Salem, Massachusetts native Paul Prentiss would need opportunity, intelligence, hard work, and to love two things: an adventurous woman, and shiny things that go “bang.”

At the end of a four-year Navy ROTC scholarship, Paul graduated from the University of Michigan Physics program, and the Naval War College in Rhode Island. After he was commissioned as an ensign he went west to California, and throughout his service was able to visit many worldwide sites where extraordinary events unfolded including Manilla Bay, Pearl Harbor, Inchon, and his favorite, Yokosuka, Japan. Commodore Perry’s “Black Fleet” arrived very close to the city in 1853. Afterward, to stop the incursion of foreigners, a series of fortifications were started and in use through 1945. “Exploring these historic structures was exhilarating, dangerous, and very rewarding. Sometimes we were able to talk with the locals and get their perspective of WWII and the subsequent occupation.”

In March 2022 U.S. Navy Captain Paul Prentiss retired after spending 43 years supporting the active Navy, Naval Reserve, and working/supporting Lockheed Martin. He was a surface warfare officer specializing in combat systems and then as a civilian continued in the same career. He also recently retired as a chief scientist for a national science and technology company. The history of technology is one subject Paul finds very fascinating. “Most of my reading and study concentrate from the Industrial Revolution (1760s) to the present. I strive to understand why and how technology was created to solve problems.”

As a nine-year member and trustee of the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable, Paul has helped us find the best solutions for the toughest challenges. Because of his research and writing skills, the Roundtable was selected to receive the 2022 Wallace L. Rueckel Innovation Award by the Civil War Roundtable Congress. The award is given to recognize a Civil War Round Table for its creative, effective, and inventive programs that provide value to its members and community. “This is really a proud moment for Old Baldy. Our group has worked hard to improve membership experience, so we really value and respect this honor.”

Paul found Old Baldy when member Marty Wilensky, pulling a secret recruiting trick, asked Paul to accompany him to a meeting. “I was very excited and did a lot of online work researching the Sultana Disaster of 1865, getting ready for an in-depth discussion. I really enjoyed the presentation (by Don Wiles) and the friendliness of the group. I joined the very next meeting.”

Paul has written several articles for the newsletter, and presented to the Roundtable a very interesting story about a distant cousin and his last assignment on board the USS Monongahela. In “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” — Admiral David Farragut and the Battle of Mobile Bay August 5, 1864 we learned of Lt. Roderick Prentiss who participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay as executive officer aboard the steam screw sloop, and who was struck by flying splinters caused by cannon fire from Fort Morgan. He subsequently died of his wounds the next day at the age of 24. Paul has learned that some Prentiss family papers were donated to Montana State University. “I was able to get copies of family letters, fellow officer letters of condolence and Navy documents to learn what happened.”

Today, family for Paul includes his wife, Susan, and their son, Sean, who is getting married in November. Paul and Susan have graciously hosted Old Baldy picnics at their home in Marlton, New Jersey. The couple have been married for 39 beautiful years, first by a Navy Chaplain in Alameda, California and then again in Paul’s home parish. “Saying the vows twice really tied the knot tight!”

Paul is a Samaritan Hospice volunteer, STEM mentor, Ben Franklin American Legion Post 405 of Philadelphia finance office volunteer, and an active member of the Coastal Defense Study
Group. If you happen to have an upright bass or a bass guitar laying around you might ask Paul to play a number — he was once a member of the Boston musician’s union and played back-up for Bobby Hebb’s second album. (Remember Hebb’s ‘66 hit, “Sunny?”)

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Susan Kovacs — Member Profile

oplus_51

It was 1970, the year before Allentown–born Susan Kovacs would graduate from Mansfield University with a B.S.Ed. in secondary education–social studies, and the U.S. Peace Corps was holding an informational event on campus. Susan went, was encouraged by what she heard, and applied to the volunteer program in her senior year. When the invitation to serve arrived, Susan found out that she was going to be teaching English as a second language (ESL) for two years overseas. Where overseas? Majuro in the Marshall Islands (Federated States of Micronesia). “I said, ‘Where in the heck is Micronesia?’” Susan’s father, a WWII U.S. Marine veteran, pulled out a map and showed her. He knew, of course, that just after WWII ended the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests and detonated the first hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands. Still, Susan trained for three months in Hilo, Hawaii, learning a new language and becoming familiar with food options in her host country. One week after training was completed, Susan, now an unofficial U.S. ambassador of goodwill, headed to the Islands. “Having the ability to travel during the summer of 1972 throughout several island groupings of Micronesia, I was able to walk North Field on the island of Tinian. This was the departure point during WWII for the B–29 bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar, which carried the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

oplus_48

After Susan returned to the states in 1973, she held a number of retail management and banking positions, and in 1985 earned a B.A. in business administration–accounting from DeSales University. Across the street from her banking job in downtown Bethlehem was Pentamation Enterprises (now PowerSchool), a provider of cloud–based software in K-12 education. The company hired Susan away from the bank, where she was training tellers, to train school districts on its software. To prove how much she loved her job, Susan stayed on for 35 years. She retired in 2022.

So, why did Susan Kovacs go into the teaching and education field in the first place? “I wanted to be a history teacher. In 7th grade I had Mr. Richard Kantor for American history who made the subject so exciting and fascinating. And throughout high school and college, I never had a history teacher that could match his skills and passion for the subject and I found that disappointing.”

Susan continues to be a student of history. She came to the Old Baldy CWRT in 2008 through her beloved late husband Michael Cavanaugh, a founding member of OB who served over the years as treasurer, program chairman and twice president. They had been married for 14 years when Michael died January 7, 2020. “What a wonderful opportunity it has been to meet individuals, authors and historians with similar interests.” Susan is also a member of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Pennsylvania. She says she is interested in the American Civil War because it was a changing moment in the history of our country. “And it is a war that did not create separate countries, as has happened in other parts of the world, but kept the country intact as one nation.”

Susan’s biggest hobby is reading and that includes various books and biographies related to the Civil War. Her two most favorite books have been Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Bethlehem has a very active arts and cultural scene and Susan enjoys being part of it. There are jazz concerts at Lehigh University Zoellner Arts Center as well as classical concerts presented by the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra and Miller Symphony Hall. “And in the summer you can find me at the Bethlehem Rose Garden listening to Sunday evening local band and jazz groups.”

Profile by Kim Weaver