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Retiree devotes two decades to Gettysburg's battlefield

HANOVER, Pa. — From building wormwood fences to sweeping the old armory, Barbara Finfrock has had a hand in preserving countless sites on the Gettysburg battlefied. And after 20 years of volunteering, she has no plans of slowing down soon.

Finfrock, a 79-year-old retiree, has volunteered with the Friends of Gettysburg and Gettysburg Foundation since she moved to the area in the early 1990s. Although history was never a major focus for her before she moved to Gettysburg, the park has become a significant aspect of her life over the past two decades.

"It's a passion, and I hope to instill that in other people," she said.

Finfrock moved to Gettysburg after retiring from a job in Washington, D.C. Unlike many imported locals, the former teacher and government writer did not move to the area for the history; she simply liked the shift from the bustling metropolis to the quiet farms of Gettysburg.

As she rode her bike around the area, she noticed a sign seeking volunteers for the Friends of Gettysburg. That signed changed her life.

"I've had real important jobs, but this is the most rewarding thing I've ever done," she said.

The Friends is a branch of the Gettysburg Foundation, Gettysburg National Military Park's private nonprofit partner. The group assists the park with all kinds of battlefield projects, from monument restoration to visitor services.

Initially, Finfrock stuffed envelopes for the group as a way to pass the time. She started asking for more responsibilities, and soon found herself engulfed in the organization.

In the past two decades, she has helped visitors, restored monuments and acted as the eyes and ears of the park as a member of the Park Watch. She has also served for several years as vice chair of the Gettysburg Foundation's Board of Directors.

One of her proudest moments was helping park visitors during a Ku Klux Klan rally, she said. One young couple in particular was distraught about the clan's presence, so she helped them find peace in the solemnity of the battlefield. The couple later came back at the end of their visit to thank Finfrock for her guidance.

These small moments are what makes the work worth doing, she said.

While each of the park's thousands of volunteers play a crucial role in maintaining the historic site, Finfrock's lasting commitment to the site makes her one-of-a-kind, said park spokesperson Katie Lawhon.

She and Finfrock have worked together on many projects in the past 20 years, from rallying support for the demolition of the Gettysburg National Tower in 2000 to establishing the park's Rummel Farm.

"She maintains her enthusiasm and her energy, and she's constantly working to get other people excited," Lawhon said.

Finfrock has no idea how many hours she has put into the park over the years. Some weeks, she works more than she did before retirement, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

"When I'm needed, I go," she said. "I can't do enough, and I hope to stay healthy and keep doing it.
 

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