Don Wood: ‘Pure genius’ at preserving Berkeley County history

MARTINSBURG – History lovers across the Panhandle are giving thanks for the life of Don Wood, who served as president of the Berkeley County Historical Society for more than two decades and as an active member of the association for more than 40 years.

The Martinsburg native died on Sunday at age 79.

We asked friends and colleagues with the Historical Society, Main Street Martinsburg and other organizations to share their thoughts on the award-winning historian:

Judy Malone, formerly with the Apollo Theatre in Martinsburg

“Don never met a stranger and he remembered everyone he met. His knowledge of everything about Berkeley County was pure genius. And now, he gets to meet all of those whose history he’s been telling for so many years.”

Ed Wilson, board member Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival

“About a year after I moved to Berkeley County in 1999, I enrolled in the Leadership Berkeley program through the Chamber of Commerce. One of our program days focused on Berkeley County History, and we visited the Historical Society’s headquarters at the Belle Boyd House. Don Wood was residing there at the time.

“Being new to the area, I was a neophyte on the history of the area. I was immediately taken with the depth of Don’s knowledge and his passion for the subject. Don gave me a fascinating booklet on the history of Honeywood, where I live. We had frequent contact over the years and Don helped me write a historical piece on the Apple Harvest Festival.

“Don had a wealth of knowledge and never hesitated to share it with anyone who was interested. He was a community treasure and will be greatly missed.”

Don Silvius, member of the Berkeley County Historical Society

“He was very knowledgeable and was the authority on most things historical in Berkeley County, as we all know. I worked with him for more than eight years at BCHS and learned so much from him, almost by osmosis.

“A few years ago when we published ‘A Martinsburg Picture Book,’ I gave him a draft to review and when he gave it back to me he said, ‘I am surprised how much you know. It makes me feel better about the historical society after I’m gone.’ A rare compliment … those were treasured.

“You earned his respect and when you did, he graciously gave it. I think that is the way it should be. He’ll be missed, but his work will benefit researchers forever. He was a true pillar among historians and a cornerstone of Berkeley County history.”

For over thirty years, Don worked with the State Historic Preservation Office receiving almost annually federal and state funding to support various development projects, historic surveys and National Register Nominations in Berkeley County.  His determination and perseverance resulted in significant achievements for the county including the restoration of the Belle Boyd House and the creation of the county archives center next door.  Not afraid to speak his mind, Don was zealous in his support of the county’s historic resources.  Don received the state’s History Hero award in 1997.  He was one of a kind and will be missed.

Susan M. Pierce, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston

“For over 30 years, Don worked with the State Historic Preservation Office receiving almost annually federal and state funding to support various development projects, historic surveys and National Register Nominations in Berkeley County.

“His determination and perseverance resulted in significant achievements for the county including the restoration of the Belle Boyd House and the creation of the county archives center next door.

“Not afraid to speak his mind, Don was zealous in his support of the county’s historic resources. Don received the state’s History Hero award in 1997. He was one of a kind and will be missed.”

Tony Senecal

, former Martinsburg Mayor “I am truly sorry to hear of Don’s passing. Don was a true historian for Martinsburg/Berkeley County. He kept us aware of our surroundings. I know that my City Council and I’m sure Mayor [George] Karos’ Council bent over backwards to aid Don in his quests. His ardent love of the area’s history will be missed but not forgotten.”

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