Barbara “Bobbie” Platt

Written By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

America lost one of its best this week. 

Her name will not appear in the headlines of any newspaper. It will not be number one in a Google search of famous people. There will be no testimonials on the national news, and very few people will know of her passing.

That’s exactly the way she would want it; no fuss, no fanfare, no fame, no public display of emotion.

Barbara Platt was a tiny woman with enormous talent and a heart as big as the moon. When she and her husband moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1955, she found her passion. For more than 50 years she studied the Gettysburg National Battlefield, and she gave generously of her time to help preserve this national treasure.

Her book, This Is Sacred Ground, is one of a few books written about the battlefield not the battle. It has received four star reviews from people who have read it. “Civil War Librarian” selected it as one of the top ten books about Gettysburg most frequently consulted and enjoyed:

“Platt’s work may be close to one of a kind, having a clear focus on the acres in the park’s boundaries but not becoming overwhelmed by the myths and realities of interpreting the battle.”

If you visit Gettysburg and you stay at the Doubleday Inn Bed and Breakfast, you will receive a complimentary, autographed copy of what is described as “the most comprehensive history of the Gettysburg Battlefield since those 3 days in July, 1863”

Since its publication in 2001, Barbara had been a fixture in the gift shop at the Visitors’ Center. Almost every day of the week, she sat for hours talking with visitors and autographing copies of her book for everyone who purchased it.  This is where we met, and this is where our friendship took flight.

During our Face of America journey, we visited Gettysburg five times. It was my good fortune to have the pleasure of Barbara’s company at lunch during four of these visits. We had a good number of telephone conversations, and Barbara provided feedback for our book, America at Its Best.

Bobbie, as she was affectionately known to her friends, Kitch and I had much in common; a love of history, a compulsion to write, an interest in little known, but inspirational stories of hope and service, a love of animals and an heroic battle with cancer.

Bobbie knew the insidiousness of cancer in very real and personal ways. She battled breast cancer and she defied the odds. She had compassionate and very helpful advice for Kitch during her battle with breast cancer. “I don’t think about it,” she told us, “I just live my life, and do what I want to do.”

Recently, a very aggressive form of breast cancer resurfaced, and Bobby resumed chemotherapy. Nevertheless, when I asked her to sit for an interview for our documentary about battling cancer, she did not hesitate. She arranged all the details for our visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park. She was a perfect hostess.

During the interview, she was courageous, forthright and purposeful. She provided a priceless interview. At one point she looked at me and said, “I know we all have to die.  I would like to beat this thing so I can be here for the 150th anniversary of the battle.”

After the interview she introduced us to several people who work for the National Park Service. During these encounters, I detected great warmth, and respect. The people we met admired and liked Bobbie. You could see it in their warm embraces and their welcoming smiles when they greeted and talked with Bobbie.  

Unfortunately, Bobby did not get her wish.  She will not be here to celebrate the anniversary of the battle, and we will not be the beneficiaries of her deep understanding of what took place here in 1863. Cancer took her life and as the African saying goes, with her death we lost a library of priceless information and nuance.

During our first interview in 2010, Bobbie said something about Gettysburg that made an indelible mark on my soul. She was talking about the men who waged war in this sacred place and the public spirited men and women who have dedicated themselves to preserving this sacred ground:

You have to believe in something, if you are going to be successful, if you are going to make any contribution. I think that the men who fought here loved their country. I think that in the past few years we’ve had people leading this park who loved it and understood what the sacrifice was. If you have love, you have a lot going for you.

While studying the battlefield where 160,000 combatants engaged in the most brutal form of warfare producing 51,000 casualties, Barbara Platt, discovered the power of compassion, faith, honor, historical preservation, perseverance, respect, thoughtfulness, tolerance and love. She spent the last 11 years of her life sharing these healing gifts with everyone she met.

Barbara Platt – wife, mother, student, expert, friend, volunteer, and animal lover was an extraordinary woman. Those of us who knew her felt her love, and we were enriched and inspired by her quiet, humble, direct and no nonsense way.

America has lost one of its best public spirited citizens. She died the way she lived, courageously and quietly with dignity and class. She is a Face of America Kitch and I will never forget because she exemplified what America is on its best days. She was honest, thoughtful, helpful, loyal, tolerant and full of optimism and hope.

Her life gave truth to her words, “If you have love, you have a lot going for you.”

The words of one of her heroes Abraham Lincoln apply:

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”

Thank you, Bobbie for showing us the way. You will be remembered with admiration, and you will be missed in all the ways that matter. May God have mercy on your soul.

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(The Picture of Bobbie Platt in her volunteer uniform courtesy of The Gettysburg National Military Park.)