Posts Tagged ‘Gettysburg Gifts’

Gettysburg Gifts: Preserving the Memory

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

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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Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Nothing is more important than creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. Jack Stack

Robert J. Monahan, Jr., knows something about creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. He was born,bobM_2sm raised and educated in Gettysburg.  It is fair to say that he loves this city and its legacy, and he has spent a good part of his life helping his hometown prosper and grow. 

Today, he is making the last minute arrangements for the 2013 Medal of Honor Convention which will be held in Gettysburg.

Last year, I had the privilege of watching Bob Monahan do what he does best, lead by making people feel they make a difference.

It was beautiful October day. The place was Lincoln Square, and the occasion was the raising of the Medal of Honor Flag. It was a bobM_Flag2smtouching symbolic event marking the beginning of a year of activities designed to commemorate the Medal of Honor and its living recipients at the annual Medal of Honor Society convention.

Little did I know then that almost a year later, Kitch and I would be preparing the production of a documentary to be shot on location at the convention. To be very honest, the person who made this possible was Bob Monahan.

He read the article we published in our blog. He took the time to make contact. He showed a genuine interest in our work. He invited us to meet with him. He encouraged us to move forward with the documentary, and he promised to do everything in his power to help us realize our dream. He delivered on his promise.

In my mind, Bob Monahan personifies all of the characteristics of the Face of America on its best day.

He is helpful, honest, and genuine. He cares about others. He is generous with his time, and he knows how to bring out the best in the members of his team.

Bob Monahan is a service-oriented person who gives to give not to get. His philosophy of leadership is deeply rooted in finding out what people can do, and helping them do it.

He is the person who initiated the idea to have Gettysburg host the Medal of Honor Convention to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle that changed America forever. He has worked tirelessly for three years to make this event happen.


All that being said, one of his most compelling characteristics is his welcoming and friendly way. He is the kind of person you would want to be your neighbor. His life is centered in his family. When you visit his office, the pictures occupying the most prominent spaces speak to family and friendship.  The reception you get from Bob is warm and supportive.

Bob Monahan enjoys making things happen. He does it in quietbobM_office3sm ways with determination and perseverance that is always wrapped in a package of dignity and class.

When Kitch and I think about our best moments in Gettysburg, our visits with Bob Monahan and his correspondence with us always come to mind.

When we think about America at its best, we think about his goodness, his kindness, his concern for others and his willingness to help.


For us, these words of Amelia Earhart provide a perfect description of Robert. J. Monahan, Jr., a classic Face of America on its best day:

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.  

Kitch and I would like to adapt the words of William J.H. Boetcker to express our gratitude:

Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty… and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.

Thank you Bob for making our dream become a reality.

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For more information about the Congressional Medal of Honor,
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(The studio pictures of Bob Monahan were taken from his Qurvis Focus Washington interview,

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 1

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The Illumined Gifts of a Teacher

Written by: Thomas A. Mazur, Supervisor: Fine, Practical & Performing Arts, North Plainfield School District, North Plainfield, New Jersey
Photographs by: Bill Gaydos & Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013 Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

A celebration followed the premier of Tony Mussari’sEisenhower Inn_350 documentary “Walking Into the Light at
Gettysburg” (1/19/13). It was held at the Eisenhower Hotel and Convention Center just outside Gettysburg.

It was an appropriate and characteristic occasion to augment Mussari’s artful film, which elicited a
rousing standing ovation at its emotional conclusion in the Lenfest Theater at the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Walking graphic_250“Walking Into the Light at Gettysburg” was such an uplifting experience, the opportunity to sit, break
bread and chat afterwards was a pleasantry, only to be surpassed by demonstrations of the values that
were offered in the film.

A highlight of the banquet was the address by Dr. Stephen Post, Director of the Center for Medical
Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, New York.

Dr. Post is a man of many honors, awards and innovations. His address centered on the scientific evidence of the value of doing good, and its benefits to one’s health and well-being. At the conclusion of his talk, Dr. Post did not hide his best-selling book “The Hidden Gifts of Helping,” rather he gave it to everyone to take home as a gift.

Another rare and special highlight came when the MayorOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of Gettysburg, William Troxell presented the key to his city to North Plainfield, New Jersey. The key was accepted by North Plainfield Board of Education Vice President, David Branan, Board member Thomas Kasper and North Plainfield Councilwoman, Mary Forbes.

The celebration concluded with a demonstration of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of kindness as Tony and his wife, Kitch presented a
thoughtful gift to everyone who participated in the special occasion. It was characteristic of them to
“walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.”

The old professor paced a larger than usual classroom,
modeling the values he seeks in others, accenting the positive with passion and humility, giving illumined gifts to those who love and support his leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower would have approved.

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 2, Mayor William Troxell

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts, Part 2, Mayor William Troxell

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs, Kitch & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD.

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. Henry Ford

Three months ago, I had a coming together moment.Mayor_7854_250  It happened during the Medal of Honor flag raising in Lincoln Square in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Prior to the ceremony, I met and photographed Mayor William Troxell as he greeted people who came to participate in the ceremony. 

Last week, Kitch and I met with Mayor Troxell in his office. During that meeting we got to know the mayor up close and personal as some would say.

The Mayor is an engaging man, a good man, a kind man and a very interesting man. His family roots run deep into the soil of this historic town.  They were here during the American Revolution, and he and his brother have spent a good deal of time documenting the Troxell family tree.


When you are with the mayor you feel welcome and very comfortable.  That is a by-product of his humility. This is a man who is dedicated to service not debilitated by the false pride of power, prominence and influence. He is generous with his time, and he makes you feel welcome, wanted and valued.

His office is a museum of interesting artifacts of genealogy, and public service. When he learned about Kitch’s interest in her family history, he shared his experiences while compiling two manuscripts about his ancestors.

Then he took us to the Council Chamber, and heMayor5_7890_250 explained the origin and significance of the beautiful historical paintings that hang on every wall.

Kitch was taken by the huge painting of General Eisenhower. Her father served in Europe during World War II. She has spent many hours documenting his movement from Sicily to a liberated concentration camp in Germany.

I could not take my eyes off the unusual painting of Mayor4_7890_250Abraham Lincoln.  It is called the Blue Lincoln, and it has an intriguing quality of solemnity and sadness.

Before we left the municipal building, we discussed the protocol for the premiere of Walking Into The Light at Gettysburg and the banquet which would follow. The Mayor graciously accepted our invitation to welcome our guests at the screening, and he was a willing participant in a surprise we had planned for the elected officials from North Plainfield, New Jersey, who would be in attendance. He showed us the key to the city he would present to them, and he explained its symbolism.

Little did I know at the time, the mayor had a surprise of his own for Kitch and me.

It was so refreshing to work with Mayor Troxell.  HeKLMmayor_0925_250 did not play any power games. He was available, and enthusiastic about our film and the screening.  There were not filters or questions about the appropriateness of his attending the event. His staff did not make us jump through hoops to get a meeting with him.  He answered every e-mail. When we met, he affirmed our work, and he made us feel at home. I am convinced that we were treated no differently than any other person who would ask for his help.

On Saturday, January 19, Mayor Troxell and his wife became a part of our documentary family. There were no uncomfortable moments. They were there to help us, to enhance the experience for our guests and to do whatever they could do to represent Gettysburg in a warm and friendly manner.


Mayor Wiliam Troxell is accomplished in many ways; a celebrated high school athlete, a successful coach, a World War ll veteran, a respected member of his community and one of the longest serving mayors in Pennsylvania. These are all important elements in his resume, but in the end it is his kindness, his gentle spirit, his humility and his welcoming way that draws people to him and creates a bond of admiration, respect and gratitude.

Would that every leader in America had the innate gifts of leadership possessed by Mayor William Troxell.

Would that Gettysburg will have the able leadership of William Troxell for many years to come.

Thank You Mayor Troxell. You are a face of America on its best day, and we are in your debt.

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Gettysburg Gifts: Part 3, Tim Johnson

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 3, Tim Johnson

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

There is incredible value in being of service to others. Elizabeth Berg

Every now and then you meet someone who makes anIMG_7905_hotel indelible impression on your heart and soul.  That’s exactly what happened the day I met Tim Johnson, the manager of the Hampton Inn in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Tim is a quiet man, an unassuming man, a caring man, and a competent man. He has the perfect personality and temperament for the position he holds.

Tim Johnson is all about quality service for everyone who stays at the Hampton Inn.


How does he do it? He gives each guest more than they expect when they enter the door.  He puts a face behind the brand so they have a personal connection.  He trains his people in the art of customer service. He attends to the little things that people in a hurry often forget.

He is pleasant to his customers, because he believes they are entitled to a pleasant experience.

I have never had a conversation with Tim that has not included this question from him, “How can I help you?”

Everything about Tim speaks to his willingness toTim_7827_250 help people. It is not a formula or a strategy; it is a valued principle and a way of life.

During our visit in April 2012, he helped us convert a suite on the first floor into a classroom. We had our meetings there and we constructed a set in that room where living historians could perform and we could videotape their performance.

During our recent visit, the challenge was greater. The lobby of the Hampton Inn was being renovated. Signs of construction and repair were everywhere when we visited one week before our screening. Tim assured us, it would be presentable and functional on January 19, for our guests.


Arriving early to attend to many last minute details, Kitch and I observed Tim supervising the construction crew. He placed two large signs in the entrance; one apologized for any inconvenience the renovation would cause guests, the other welcomed our group from North Plainfield, New Jersey, our friends, family, former students and their parents.

He stayed until 10 p.m. one night to oversee the arrangement of furniture for the meet-and-greet event we had planned for the members of our group. He saw to it that everything was in place for the complimentary breakfast the next morning.

Then he took the extra step, he and his teenage daughter Cassandra attended both the screening and the banquet.

In my opinion, Tim Johnson is a genuine Face ofTim2_7827_250 America on its best day. He is a living breathing example of customer service at its best, and he is one of the genuine gifts of Gettysburg that made our screening a success. He and his wonderful staff make every visit to Gettysburg an enjoyable experience.

Would that everyone would attend Tim Johnson’s school of customer service. What a wonderful world it would be.

Thank You Tim
Thank You Ann
Thank You Mary
Thank You John

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Gettysburg Gifts: Part 4, Bonnie & Frank Orlando

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts, Part 4, Bonnie & Frank Orlando

Written by Kitch & Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by: Tony & kitch Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

What a cruel thing war is to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors. General Robert E. Lee

The Civil War arrived at the door of Gettysburg onlee_349 July 1, 1863, when General Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into town and set up camp.

Three days later he was forced to retreat, leaving a large contingent, thirty percent, of his soldiers either dead, dying, seriously injured or captured.

Lee is not an historical figure we talk about much in the North. That is unfortunate. If, however, you are walking the streets of Gettysburg during the 150th anniversary of the battle or attending a function in town, he may become the focus of your attention.

A double-take is in order when you see him and his wife, Ann Custis Lee, walking about and nodding to all they see.  Lee’s uniform is just like the one we BF3_7985_250have seen in historical photographs. Mrs. Lee wears a dress similar to the ones we remember from “Gone With The Wind:” six layers of clothing covered by a magnificent silk moire dress, ear bobs, hair caught up in a net topped by an elegant hat carrying a parasol or a cane.

The famous general and his wife are the creation of Frank and Bonnie Orlando who came to Gettysburg when the retired from their careers in education. They are called upon to perform in many venues, and they are exceptional at what they do. They are living breathing experts on the Lees.  They have read extensively-not only the books written but journals, letters, and family histories. This research brings a depth of knowledge and understanding to their performance.

The ten students in our documentary and everyone inBF4_7985_250 our production crew can give testimony to the many important lessons they teach when given the opportunity to recount the wit, wisdom and insight of the General and his lady.

There is another side to the Orlandos that Kitch and I were privileged to see. They are wonderful people with caring hearts and willingness to help others. From the moment our eyes met, we became fast friends. We recognized their talent, expertise and noble purpose. They believed in our work, and the enormous obstacles we faced in realizing our dream to produce Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg.

During the past nine months we have rendezvoused several times with Bonnie and Frank for coffee, for dinner, for dessert. They opened many doors for us. They BF_7985_250encouraged us and they helped us navigate the bumps in the road during our journey to the screening and the banquet.

Every encounter was joyful and pleasant. Every one of the 185 e-mails we exchanged contained kind words of affirmation.

Every memory we have of Bonnie and Frank is positive. The last sentence in the note Frank sent to us the night after the screening and banquet says everything one needs to know about why Bonnie and Frank Orlando are Gettysburg Gifts to Kitch and me and two radiant Faces of America on its best day for everyone who visits Gettysburg:

"God speed, thank you for your gifts, and never forget that you possess one of the greatest gifts God ever bestowed upon mankind – true friends in Gettysburg, PA."

Thank You Bonnie and Frank for helping us make our dream become a reality.

Thank you for giving your time, effort and energy to teach young people like the students from North Plainfield what really matters in life.

Thank you for the priceless gift of friendship.

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