Gettysburg Gifts: Preserving the Memory

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright 2014
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it. L.M. Montgomery

During these harsh days of February when the weather outside isPark Feb dark and dreary and the conditions inside are jinxed by the flu, all of us need something that will lift our spirits. It might be an unexpected telephone call or an e-mail from someone who has been out of contact for a while. Often it is a thoughtful, handwritten card or note from a neighbor, a friend or a former student.

While Kitch and I watched the snow pile up in front of the entrance to Windsor Park, the sound of our mailman’s truck brought anticipation and, on several days, delightful surprises.

Every day we received a note or a symbolic gift from someone who attended the premiere of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.


A typewritten letter from Gettysburg Mayor Bill Troxell contained several beautiful thoughts about the screening, the reception, the gratitude gifts and the friendship that developed during our many visits to his office while we were producing the documentary.

His kind words reflect the spirit of Melanie Greenberg’s words:

Gratitude can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further open our hearts and help rewire our brains to fire in more positive ways.

Jim and Amy Clegg attended the screening with their children.Amy_250 Their thoughtful note carefully folded and placed in an envelope they stamped with a Medal of Honor commemorative stamp touched our hearts in a special way.  

Amy is a doctor of hope in our little corner of the world. She is the face and the voice of Express Employment Professionals. Her name is prominently displayed in the end credits of the documentary. Without the opportunity she created for us, we would not have had the resources to produce Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.

Amy helps people who are struggling understand the powerful words of T.S. Eliot:

Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.

Several years ago, Kitch and I met Bill Gaydos in Shanksville at stamps2_250the People’s Memorial to the Heroes of Flight 93. In that sacred place, while we were producing one of the documentaries in our What Is America? series, we became fast friends.

Bill is a retired educator, a photographer and a poet. His is one of the finest men of faith Kitch and I know. He is loyal, encouraging, helpful, and reliable. He understands how difficult it is to produce documentary in a generic way.  He has been with us on many documentary shoots in Shanksville, and he has attended every one of our screenings since the day we met.

This week Bill blessed our home with a portfolio of collectablePoem_250 Medal of Honor stamps and a framed copy of his beautiful poem about the documentary.
When Kitch and I think about Bill Gaydos the words of an ancient quotation about friendship come to mind:

A friend is someone to whom one may pour out all of the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Bill’s poem occupies a prominent place in our home in the room where another priceless treasure evokes wonderful memories of January 18, 2014.
E  J Surprise When we entered our room at the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg a colorful bag had been placed on the desk. It contained a framed copy of the title card of the documentary.

Our dear friends Ellen and Jerry Mondlak who own and operate Mondlak Printery had this treasure placed in the room to ease the anxiety we were experiencing before the premiere. The note that accompanied this gift lifted our spirits, eased the tension and made us feel good all over.

As a companion to Bill’s gift, it evokes memories that are best described by Willa Cather:

Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.

One of the most symbolic surprises came from the heart of JoanneJoanne_250 Chabalko. We met Joanne during the production of Windsor Park Stories. She is the person who introduced us to 2d Lt. Emily Perez.

To honor her friend Steve Woods, a former Green Beret, she gave us the only one she had.  Her kind words touched our hearts:

I wanted to share this labor of love with you. I was in graduate school at Wilkes and they were selling these cards to donate the proceeds to survivors. I purchased several, and this is my last one. It seemed too sacred to write in. I know you will find a place for it.

We are now three weeks away from that wonderful evening in Gettysburg, but the memories of that night are alive and living in the hearts of people who attended the event.
Like the heroes we celebrated in the documentary, the people who shared their gifts with us taught us some very important lessons:

morning sun

We are our memories;

Our memories can save us;

Everybody needs memories;

We live best when we think of others;

Gratitude is the spark that lights the candle of joy.

Thank you Mayor Troxell, Jim and Amy Clegg, Bill Gaydos, Ellen and Jerry Mondlak and Joanne Chabalko. 

You filled our home and our hearts with February sunshine. You eased our anxieties and freed our spirit. You have given us memories that will brighten every day and give us the strength to keep moving forward. You are examples of America at its best, and Kitch and I are in your debt.

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