MVPA, Inc. is a non-profit charitable 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization with a mission to support– through education, study, and advocacy — the preservation of historic structures, landscapes, communities, and archaeological sites as well as related photographs, manuscript, ephemera and material culture items or collections in the Western Valley region of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yearly grants will be awarded to worthy projects within the counties of Botetourt, Rockbridge, Augusta, Bath and Alleghany, in furtherance of these goals.
Board of Directors:
MARGARET (PEGGY) W. CROSSON has been a resident of Botetourt County for the past 21 years. During this time, she has restored a 1921 farmhouse in three phases. She has a B.A. in Social Studies from Mary Baldwin College and a M.A. Degree from Hollins University with concentrations in Social Studies & Group Dynamics. Her thesis was a research document that explored the national history of healthcare voluntarism.
Peggy is retired from Carilion Health System (now Carilion Clinic) having served as Director of Patient & Volunteer Services for 26 years. Her primary role was directing a department of approximately thirty paid staff and three hundred volunteers who provided a wide array of non-medical services to patients and families on both the Roanoke Memorial and Community Hospital campuses. She served two-terms as President of the Virginia Association for Healthcare Volunteer Administrators, and has published articles in several journals such as The Journal for Volunteer Administration. She has been a consultant to and trained volunteer groups and non-profit organizations in best practices for volunteer program management. One such effort evolved during the administration of Governor Mark Warner when she chaired a southwest Virginia 12-man coalition of educators, businessmen, and government officials to design a Statewide Workforce Development Model.
Peggy’s love for history was manifested in 1995 when she began to serve on the Board of Directors of Historic Fincastle, Inc. (HFI). Following retirement from Carilion in 2002, she was hired as HFI’s first Executive Director. One historically significant project was obtaining a cost-share grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to lead HFI and the Fincastle Town Council in the second architectural survey of the town and surrounding area.
The opportunity to promote the connection of Virginia’s west valley region to the explorers, Meriwether Lewis & William Clark, was a longtime interest that materialized four years ago. She currently chairs MVPA’s Regional Lewis & Clark Eastern Legacy Trail Committee and also serves as MVPA President.
KEN KOONS holds a Doctor of Arts Degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is the General Edwin Cox ’20 Institute Professor of History at Virginia Military Institute, where he has taught courses in social and economic history since 1982. His research and writing focuses on the history of society and economy in the Pennsylvania and Virginia subsections of the Great Valley of Appalachia. His publications include articles on the history of wheat farming in the Valley of Virginia, and on slavery and its aftermath in the region. Koons is editor (with Warren R. Hofstra) of After the Backcountry: Rural Life in the Great Valley of Virginia, 1800-1900 (University of Tennessee Press, 2000). Also, he serves as a consultant to museums, government agencies, and various non-profit organizations on issues relating to the history of agriculture and rural life. Ken serves as MVPA Vice-President.
MRS. DELL TAYLOR of Natural Bridge also kindly accepted our invitation to join the Board of Directors in the Fall of 2014. Dell, retired from a career in education, spent five years as Marketing Director of the Frontier Culture Museum and later as Marketing Director for Lexington/Rockbridge Tourism. Her experience in marketing and working with non-profit organizations will be an asset to the Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance, Inc. She also brings a lifetime of passion for preservation. Most recently she and her husband have completely restored an important 1800s Rockbridge County home. Dell serves as MVPA Membership Secretary.
DEBORAH (DEB) KOONS worked for eighteen years as a medical research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia and subsequently took some time off to focus her energies on caring for her children. In 2004 she returned to work, redirecting her career toward community outreach services. She conducted educational outreach programs on adolescent pregnancy prevention and family life education for the Shenandoah Valley Office on Youth. For seven years she served as a volunteer advocate with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for Children, a group that advocates for the children of families involved in Juvenile and Domestic Court due to abuse or neglect, and in 2009 she became a caseworker for CASA. Since 2010, Deb has been the Site Coordinator for Valley VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), an IRS-sponsored program for low-to-moderate income families in the Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County area. She is also a financial education volunteer working with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Program. Deb has lived in a 1880s-era farm house for nearly thirty years and has a long term interest in old houses and buildings and in preserving traditional material culture. Deb serves as MVPA Treasurer.
JOSEPH OBENSHAIN (JOE) is a semi-retired attorney who lives in a longtime Obenshain family home, the Blue Ridge Hall, on Lee Highway/the “Great Road” in the Mill Creek area of Botetourt County. Joe was raised on a family farm outside of Blacksburg where his father was a professor of Agronomy at Va Tech. As a boy, he enjoyed exploring the un-restored Smithfield Plantation house on Va Tech farm property prior to its ownership and restoration by the APVA. Joe attended Davidson College where he majored in History & received an A.B. degree. He then attended Columbia University School of Law and graduated with a J.D. degree. Following service as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army with a tour of duty in Viet Nam, Joe returned to Virginia and began his legal career as law clerk for the Hon. James C. Turk, U.S. District Judge, Western District of Virginia. His legal career included the private practice of law in Montgomery County, service as an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia and almost a quarter century as Senior Assistant County Attorney for Roanoke County. Joe served as president of the Salem/Roanoke County Bar Association in 2001-2002. He has been a member of the Buchanan Rotary Club since 2003 & has served multiple terms as club president and as Assistant District Governor for Area 6 of Rotary District 7570 from 2008-2011. Joe is a member of two Civil War military study groups. Joe & Marcia are members of historic Mill Creek Baptist Church which he has served as a Deacon and currently serves as Moderator. During 1975-76, Joe and his wife Marcia lived in Smithfield Plantation as the curators and their daughter Catherine was born 6 weeks after they moved in there. Marcia helped train the first docents at Smithfield who included Joe’s mother, Josephine Obenshain. Joe and Marcia also have two sons, Chris & Matthew (“Mac”) and two delightful granddaughters.
ANNE HERRING, of Natural Bridge, holds a B.S. Degree in Agricultural Economics from Virginia Tech. She is currently employed by USDA/Rural Development as the Virginia Rural Development Coordinator. Anne is the fourth generation owner of the Rockbridge County Herring Family Home known as Herring Hall, “one of the Seven Hills of Rockbridge County.” Formerly known as “Clover Hill,” Herring Hall was a famous Inn and Restaurant, run by her ancestors from 1926 – 1970. Anne opened her version of Herring Hall as a Bed and Breakfast in 2008, keeping the property historically significant while also allowing for modern guest comfort.
KURT KUNZE is a retired Senior Foreign Service officer with the U. S. Agency for International Development and a retired Lt. Col. in the U. S. Air Force Reserve. During his career in the Federal government, he served tours in Spain, Panama, Kenya and Egypt as well as multiple assignments in Washington, D C. After retiring in 1997, he and his wife bought a farm in Botetourt County and have spent the intervening years restoring their ca1845 farm house. Kurt has been active in conservation and preservation since moving to the area. In addition to putting his farm in a conservation easement in 2002, he served on the Board of Directors for the Valley Conservation Council (VCC) from 2008 to 2014. He also served on the Boards of Directors for MVPA’s two predecessor preservation organizations as well as on the MVPA Board since its founding. He has a MA degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. He and his wife, Amparo, have three children: Erik, Emily and Katia. Presently, Amparo and Kurt live on their farm near Buchanan. Kurt serves as MVPA Secretary.
JAMES (JIM) M. JOHNSTON is a native of Rockbridge County, was raised in Collierstown and graduated from Lexington High School in 1963. He attended and graduated from Emory & Henry College in 1968. Jim worked as an accountant for a number of years prior to entering the real estate business with Commercial Investment Realty in 1976. In 1985, he established Johnston Realty which he has owned and operated since that time in Roanoke, while also doing extensive appraisal work for the Southwest Virginia Bankruptcy Court in Staunton, Virginia. Jim is an avid sportsman, member, and past President of Float Fishermen of Virginia, Inc. During this affiliation, he actively participated in efforts to protect and conserve Virginia’s free flowing streams and rivers in Virginia. In 1985, this resulted in “Virginia Scenic River Status” granted to fourteen miles of the James River in Botetourt County, beginning two miles below Eagle Rock extending to the Rt. 630 Bridge at Springwood. This was the first such protective river achievement in southwest Virginia. Jim’s other interests have included being a member of Rucker’s Run Fishing Club, Ltd., and currently serves as Secretary – Treasurer; has been a ham radio operator since 1989, currently licensed as “Extra Class“; has been a serious collector of antiques since 1980 and is well known throughout southwest Virginia for his knowledge of clocks and time pieces as well as firearms and pocket knives. Jim has been a member and volunteer of Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance, Inc. for the past three years.
KURT C. RUSS is currently the Executive Director of the Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance, Inc. having formerly served as director of Washington and Lee University’s Laboratory of Anthropology. After graduation from Washington and Lee University, Russ was awarded the year-long Liberty Hall Scholar fellowship. He subsequently completed his graduate work at the University of Tennessee where he received the prestigious Hilton A. Smith University fellowship. Russ, an historical archaeologist, has more than 30 years of experience in archeology, material culture/decorative arts research and historic preservation. He has directed excavations of historical potteries in Virginia as well as investigations of domestic farmsteads, early educational institutions, and iron mining and manufacturing sites. Under the auspices of his consulting firm, Virginia Heritage Resources Group, he has completed research and investigations for a variety of local, state and federal agencies. Bringing an anthropological perspective to his collecting interests in 19th-century Virginia decorative arts, Russ has served as guest curator for exhibits at the Virginia Historical Society, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. In addition to a prolific list of archaeologically-related publications, two of his most recent publications focus on Virginia ceramics and furniture. Published in Ceramics in America, “The Remarkable 19th-Century Stoneware of Virginia’s Lower James River Valley,” and coauthored with several colleagues, takes his research interest in Shenandoah Valley pottery to the James River Valley; while, an article in American Furniture with Jeffrey S. Evans details the identification of one of the earliest and most significant schools of safe furniture production in the Shenandoah Valley entitled, “The Kahle-Henson School of Punched-Tin Paneled Furniture from Lexington, Virginia, ca. 1819-1831.” Finally a book co-authored with Jeffrey S. Evans (Russ’s partner in The Virginia Safe Project) and growing out of a current exhibit on Virginia Safes at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is expected to be published in March of 2015.