Birthday at crossroads of history

The Tygart Valley Lion’s Club celebrated the 70th birthday of cancer survivor Jim Wiest at the Beverly Heritage Center Thursday, Oct. 4.

It was a time to remember that many paths have crossed in this valley and that good friendships can bridge much difficulty in the progress of a human life and history.

Many people in this valley remember Jim Wiest in the 1980s and 1990s as the Xerox representative who arrived in local offices when the copy machine was broken down and there was an urgent need to have it fixed. Others remember him using his private plane to help find victims after the Flood of ’85 when people could not get fresh food and potable water. Others know Jim now as a person who has overcome cancer and stroke to build furniture and help friends who were faced with disabilities.

The warm hospitality of the Tygart Valley Lion’s Club at this event in Beverly Heritage Center helped me to think of the reasons I care about historic preservation. History gives us a link between human generations and helps to put current issues in perspective.

The group of people who attended this birthday party ranged in age from less than two years to well over 80. Jim Wiest and his father-in-law, Dr. Don Roberts, shared the same birthday on Oct. 4. If Don Roberts were alive, he would have been 105, and he would have loved to see the ways the Beverly Heritage Center shares the story of local history within the context of great food, Old Time music and friendly conversation.

If we think that we are faced with difficulties now, we have only to remember the plight of Native Americans relinquishing their high hunting grounds to our intrepid ancestors, or the slaves going over the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike to be sold down the river to pick cotton in the deep south, or Union and Confederate soldiers writhing with the pain of gangrene in one of Beverly’s Civil War hospitals.

Building roads in these mountains has been challenging from the days of the Seneca Trail to the current Corridor H project. The path moves as we work to find our way through these ancient hills. Our population reached its peak when we had 21 trains a day bringing products in and out of Randolph Co. H. G. Davis knew railroads were the most efficient way to move products and people, but 20th Century Americans failed to follow that logic.

Historic preservation allows us opportunities to see both the wisdom and folly of the past.