By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Historical Society and Museum dedicated several honorarium bricks in their Memory Pergola to individuals and organizations who have supported the society and museum and their work, at a ceremony on June 3, 2023.
The pergola stands on the lawn of the museum. It was built in the summer of 2004 by Jeremy “Muffin” Allen of Boy Scout Troop 18 as his Eagle Scout project.
Bricks were placed within the pergola in honor of Sherri Winkler of Nite Owl Artz, Chris Duncan of Vinton Computer, Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, and the Town of Vinton.
“Sherri Winkler, owner of Nite Owl Artz, started her creative multimedia business in 2017,” said Denny Dickens, vice vresident of the Vinton Historical Society. “She named it Nite Owl Artz because she had always worked nights during her career in the news industry. After living here for a few years, she decided she wanted to volunteer in the community. Meanwhile, the Vinton Historical Society and Vinton Museum needed a website to reach out to the community about the programs and services offered at the museum. It was a perfect match. Sherri offered her services to create our first webpage and continues to manage and edit it at no cost to the museum…and the rest is history!
“Roanoke-area native Chris Duncan founded Vinton Computer in 2010,” Dickens noted. “Chris got the inspiration to change the model for computer repair after witnessing the frustrations others were experiencing with computer stores, both large and small. To get their computer issues resolved, people were paying hundreds of dollars just for labor and waiting weeks to get their computers back. This was unacceptable to Chris. He knew he could do it better, faster, and much more affordably. Chris decided to open a new type of computer-repair store – one that delivered outstanding customer service, fast turnaround, and value – located at 360 East Virginia Avenue in Vinton.
“The Vinton History Museum has one part-time employee and volunteers that work to manage all of the programs and services offered,” Dickens continued. “As you can imagine, it does not have a technology department to keep its vital computer systems working. Chris and Vinton Computer have donated equipment, technical support, repairs, and much-needed advice to create our computer network so we can manage our collections, scan documents, and communicate through email and social media.
“Rosie’s and Colonial Downs began operation in the Commonwealth several years ago, bringing action all across Virginia with folks experiencing their favorite games, jackpots, and more,” Dickens said. “At the core of Rosie’s corporate philosophy is a commitment to ‘Lead by Example.’ This is the standard set to provide continual investment in the growth of communities where team members live and work. Rosie’s selected the Vinton Historical Society as a recipient of the ‘Rosie’s Gives Back’ grant two years in a row. The first grant has been used to purchase equipment and supplies for the Museum Preservation Project, which will allow us to digitalize our paper documents and photos and create a photographic record of our artifact collection. This project is ongoing and just getting started, and would not have been possible without Rosie’s support.
“The Town of Vinton is one of the founding partners of the Vinton Historical Society with its inception in 1984 and made it possible for the Historical Society to utilize the donated Upson Home at the site of the only history museum in Roanoke County,” Dickens explained. “Since 1984, the town has been an active and supportive partner in the funding and operation of the museum for the community. We are very proud of this partnership and support the town’s efforts to preserve its history and to provide research to enhance economic development, to recognize businesses and citizens, and contribute to the education of our youth. The museum officially opened in 1989 – and is still ‘Preserving the Past for the Future’ with thousands of artifacts that relate to the history of Vinton.”
Vinton’s Community Programs Director Chasity Barbour continued the ceremony with the dedication of a bench in memory of Kevin Mark Wilhelm, a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and well-known citizen of Vinton, who passed away in 2022.
At an event on Memorial Day 2022, Wilhelm’s family and friends unveiled a bench they had raised funds for and had built in his honor. They chose to have the Trex bench placed at the Vinton History Museum with a plaque remembering Wilhelm as a “beloved son, brother, husband, Chief, father, friend, and ‘Papa,’ strong in his beliefs, stronger in his love, proud of his service, and loving his Lord above. He taught us to preserve and learn from the past.”
Wilhelm was born in 1957 in Roanoke and grew up in the Vinton area, including at Montgomery Village where he established a paper route and built a customer base for The Roanoke Times. He was a graduate of William Byrd High School.
He worked as a boilermaker/blacksmith at Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W), ran “Mama’s Mercantile” with his wife, Page, in Montvale, owned concession businesses with her along the Gulf Coast, and served as a chief petty officer in the United States Navy.
Wilhelm joined the Navy in November 1986, when he was about 30 years old, and went on to serve his country aboard the USS Saratoga (CG-60), the USS Vicksburg (CG-69) where he earned the honor of becoming chief (an astounding accomplishment he achieved in under eight years), the USS DeWert, and at Pensacola Naval Station.
In his retirement, Wilhelm was a familiar figure in Vinton with his daily walks throughout the downtown area, especially enjoying the Vinton War Memorial grounds and the High Ground Monument and introducing them to his grandchildren. His family and friends say he was a “stranger to none wherever he went.”
Barbour and museum board members also thanked the Vinton Public Works Department for the continuing assistance with improvements and maintenance at the museum, and especially singled out Tobbie Russeau in Building Maintenance for his efforts.
After the bench and bricks were dedicated, the History Museum held its annual ice cream social, with treats from the local Neighborhood Walmart, and offered tours of the museum.
The museum also bid a poignant farewell to Alyssa Moorman who has been serving as an intern at the Vinton History Museum since January. Museum Executive Director Judy Cunningham said Moorman “has been a huge asset to the museum. She has brought so many skills to the museum– writing, photography, creative design, technology, and organization. She has written articles for The Vinton Messenger and social media about museum artifacts.
Moorman has accepted an internship position at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest this summer and will then be heading to the University of Arizona in August to attend graduate school, studying archaeology.
The Vinton History Museum, located at 210 E. Jackson Ave., Vinton, is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There is room for about 700 bricks in the Memory Pergola. If you are interested in honoring or memorializing an individual or group with a memorial brick, contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540)342-8634.