26 February 2008

The Word Gatherer

What: Augusta County Historical Society’s Stuart Speaker Series
When: Thursday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m.
Where: Smith Center for History and Art, 20 S. New St., Staunton, Virginia
Program: Author Carol DeHart will speak about her new book, John L. Heatwole: The Word Gatherer
For more information: ACHS office 540-248-4151

Folklorist and Artist John Heatwole Remembered in Book

John Heatwole will long be remembered in the Shenandoah Valley as a master craftsman—both of wood and of words. And, although he was a renowned wood carver, Heatwole’s lasting legacy is in the folkways that he helped preserve. Many of the stories, history and culture that he gleaned through oral histories in western Virginia and neighboring West Virginia would surely have been lost without his efforts. But what about John’s own story? On Thursday February 28 at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center in Staunton, author Carol DeHart will shed some light on the story of John Heatwole at the Augusta County Historical Society’s fourth Stuart Speaker Series program.

DeHart, who recently published John L. Heatwole: The Word Gatherer, began writing journal entries at an early age. Following her early childhood years in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan she became a Virginian, graduating from high school in Arlington in 1975. After attending Prescott College in Arizona, she settled for good in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley. The stories told to her by her neighbors in Criders sparked her initial work with oral histories, many of which are now part of the James Madison University Library’s Special Collections in Harrisonburg.

Several years before his death in late 2006, Heatwole sat down with DeHart and gave her his own personal oral history. The pair had planned to publish the book together, but upon John’s untimely death due to cancer, DeHart had to carry the project through to completion without him. Included in the history are a number of photographs of Heatwole’s carvings and other artwork.

Following DeHart’s program, visitors will have an opportunity to purchase The Word Gatherer and have it autographed. The Thursday night program, which is free and open to the public, is the fourth in the society’s newly launched A.H.H. Stuart Speaker Series held in the Smith Center and focusing on topics of local historical interest. The newly restored railroad hotel houses exhibit galleries, classrooms, a research library and a lecture room. The series is named for one of the most prominent men ever to live in Staunton, Alexander H.H. Stuart, a local attorney, member of the Virginia General Assembly, Secretary of the Interior under President Fillmore, and a member of the Peace Commission that tried to prevent the outbreak of the Civil War.

For more information on the program, call the historical society office at 540 248-4181. The Smith Center is located at 20 S. New Street. Ample parking is located at the new Staunton parking garage across the street and is free in the evenings.

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