Several of you have been nice to ask how my job search is going and I thought I would give an update. I continue to actively look for new employment. There are several opportunities that I am studying right now. Most of them are very similar to roles that I have held in the past (leadership roles in IT/telecom and nonprofits focused on education), however, part of me thinks that I should really think out of the box. What ideas do you have? What are the most interesting / inspiring careers you have heard of?
As you might have read yesterday, I was down in Southern Virginia with my cousin Doug doing some genealogical research on our family. On Sunday Doug and I drove to Petersburg, VA to the Blandford Church, where one of my great, great, great (about 6 more “greats” should be inserted here) grandfather, Theophilus Field, was buried. He is the only person to be buried in the church itself.
That’s not the only reason the church (and surrounding cemetery) is notable. Built in 1735, it is one of six buildings in the world that every window is made of Tiffany stained glass. The church has an interesting history which includes it’s restoration in the early 20th century. After years of abandonment, The Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg decided to restore the church as well as retrieve thousands of bodies left scattered around the Petersburg area after the Civil war and give them a Christian burial. What they thought would take them a year or so turned into a 15 year process where more than 30,000 soldiers’ remains were collected and buried.
During this time, the celebrated stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany offered to help the Ladies Association and steeply discount the cost of 15 stained glass windows to be outfitted in the church. The Ladies sought sponsorship from Confederate states and states that were sympathetic to the South. Only one state that was asked didn’t sponsor a window, that was Kentucky. When that happened, Tiffany himself paid for the last window.
The windows are beautiful…my favorite was the Louisiana window that portrays St. Paul holding a sword. Standing inside the dimly lit church the kaleidoscope of colors and the musty smell transport you back in time. If you visit Petersburg, make sure you visit the church.
The cemetery is also interesting. The remains of soldiers from every war that the US was involved in prior to the Gulf War can be found there. It is the resting spot of the late actor Joseph Cotton, made famous for his work in many of Orson Wells’ films. With more than 300 acres, it’s the second largest cemetery in VA (after Arlington Cemetery).
So why do I know all of this…because I had a great tour guide! Gene, originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Petersburg for a 2.5 year military assignment and ended up staying over 50 years. Full of knowledge and energy, Gene now works for the Petersburg Tourism Department. It is by chance that he ended up being our guide, as the person scheduled to lead our tour was running late and Gene offered to cover for her.
I learned some other interesting things about Gene…he used to be a school teacher – taught piano and voice, although had to stop his singing due to some throat complications he had as a result of contacting Polio when he was 10. Another interesting tidbit about Gene is that he and I went to the same university. Well, when Gene attended it was called Indiana State Teachers College – now it is Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I rarely meet alumni by chance and this was extra special since he studied there before it achieved its university status.
Gene was very hesitant to accept my $10 since I am unemployed now. He shared that his son who lives in Florida has been unemployed for 15 months. He finally agreed to accept the $10 and decided to donate it to the Petersburg Museum Foundation, a new organization founded in 2007 whose mission it is to ensure the long-term preservation, restoration, and interpretation of Centre Hill, the Siege Museum, and the Blandford Church.
Gene and I have already exchanged emails and I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout the year. I am waiting to get donation details if anyone would like to send the Petersburg Museum Foundation a contribution. They have ambitious plans but need more than a million dollars in funding.