Friday, May 23, 2008

Remembering a Schuylkill County Historian. . .

It was with sadness that I learned earlier this week of the death of Leo Ward, friend and long-time director of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County.
When I first discovered the historical society in the early 1990s, Leo was there to point me in the right direction. . .handing me copies of the 48th's regimental histories, as well as letters, photographs, etc. I still remember the first time I walked into the society's quarters, which was located at this time in a cramped, tiny building next to the Pottsville Free Public Library. Leo kind of looked at me as if I was lost and had stumbled into the building by mistake. . .I was, after all, just a young teenage kid. But when I told him I was interested in the Civil War and especially the 48th, he showed me Colonel Sigfried's headquarters' desk, the large oil painting of James Nagle, and even some clay pipes and 9th Corps badges sculpted from clay extracted during the digging of the Petersburg Mine. Later on, Leo gave me the thrill of a lifetime when he allowed me to hold Nagle's Mexican-American War sword while he snapped a picture.
Over the years, Leo had asked me to present little presentations about Nagle and the 48th, most memorably, at the 2004 rededication of the Schuylkill County monuments at Antietam and at the opening of the Civil War Room at the Historical Society's new headquarters on Centre Street in the fall of 2006.
Leo Ward (right) at the 50th PA Monument at Antietam in 2004
(Photo Courtesy of Tom Shay)

The last I spoke with Leo was back in December of '07 concerning the restoration of the 48th PA monument at Antietam and the missing sword. He promised to get back in touch with me, but then I discovered that he had fallen, breaking his hip. He seemed to be getting better, but just last week a friend told me that he had taken a turn for the worse.

Leo Ward died Monday, May 19, at the age of 78. He was a Schuylkill County historian extraordinaire, and was the driving force behind the relocation of the society's headquarters from those cramped quarters next to the library to the spacious and quite eloquent Female Grammar Academy on Centre Street. Schuylkill County history will not be the same without him, and he will be missed.

Ward's obituary can be found here:


Anonymous said...

Leo Ward was a great steward of Schuylkill County's history. He encouraged and assisted many of us in studying our county's Civil War history. Please advise Ted Alexander of Leo's passing, as Leo had given Ted a tour of Molly Maguires sites many years ago.

Tom Shay

John David Hoptak said...

I talked with Ted today and he was made aware of Leo's death from Leo's son, David.


Kevin said...

John, -- Leo was of great help to me during my two days researching the Crater at the Historical Society. We had a wonderful chat after I helped him close up shop for the day and he was kind enough to walk me back to my hotel and point out a few choice spots for dinner.