From OLLI Fall Kick Off – Text of 25th Anniversary Remarks

chancellor-1OLLI’s September 7th fall kick off celebrated our 25 years of lifelong learning. Since many members requested the text of remarks, we provide the outline from our speakers: Dr. Chuck Korte, co-founder of the program; Carol Rahmani, chair of the OLLI Advisory Council; and Dr. Jim Clark, professor emeritus of English at NC State and 25-year instructor in the program.

Chuck Korte’s remarks: 

Big picture for OLLI:

* OLLI a reflection of a significant cultural shift in view of retirement years;  from  “step aside” to “stay involved”.

* older adults healthier, living longer, more financial secure, more wanting to stay active and involved,  keep learning, give back to the community

  1. Local picture:

* we noticed the success and proliferation of learning in retirement programs. esp the one at UNC-Asheville

* we studied our local environment, which looked promising for a learning in retirement program; three pluses:

– a well-educated and growing population of older adults

– rich local educational resources: colleges and universities, state government,  RTP

– we did a local survey that showed that there would be strong interest among local older adults in an NCSU learning in retirement program

* we developed the key features for our own program:

– member-led and open-ended

– members as resource (instruction, volunteers, leaders)

– accessible; low fees, volunteer instruction

3.We all have been pioneers in this changed view of the retirement years and should continue to be pioneers

carole-2-faculty-1Carol Rahmani’s remarks: 

  • To Chuck Korte, Co-founder of Encore—Owe him a debt of thanks for being a visionary in 1991.
  • Understood retirees of the future would see education as a never-ending quest for knowledge—insatiable appetite for learning—a passion!
  • Life-long learning programs were springing up across the nation—Our Encore program was part of a national movement! 500+ lifelong learning programs today.
  • In 2000 and 2001, Philanthropist in CA, Bernard Osher, became interested in providing financial support to lifelong learning programs.
    • Since then, the Osher Foundation has provided endowments to 119 programs, all known as Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLIs).
    • Encore became an OLLI in 2014, and we have received two $million endowments that will help keep our fees affordable for decades to come.
  • Our OLLI now has 1500+ members.
  • Varied interests, varied backgrounds, but we have in common our passion for learning.
  • Increasingly we have come to see that we are a community of learners.
  • My personal experience—
  • Entering retirement—knew I wanted to do volunteer work; knew I needed intellectual stimulation.
  • Joined Encore in 2009; My first course—Great Decisions (Keith Brickman)—Hooked from day 1!
  • Was invited to join Program Development Committee. This filled a void that I’d experienced since retirement—collegial relationshipsteamwork. Deepened sense of belonging to our learning community.
  • Open house—please talk to committee members about how you could volunteer to support OLLI.
  • Andy Rooney—60 Minutes—Quote that makes me think of OLLI—“I’ve learned that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.”
  • Members—smart learners
  • Instructors—Every class led by a talented, passionate teacher.
  • Speaking of smart, talented, dedicated instructor—Dr. Jim Clark
    • For all 25 yrs of our program’s history, he has taught.
    • Several yrs ago, saw Jim at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a State-Carolina baseball game. Chatted about our mutual love of college sports.
    • Apropos that Jim Clark is a baseball fan. After all, for 25 yrs. he has hit home runs every time at bat in the OLLI classroom!

Jim Clark’s remarks: 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you should know where you come from.”

The slave girl Sky reiterates this Gullah saying in Sue Monk Kidd’s 2014 novel entitled The Invention of Wings.

Where Encore and more recently OLLI have come from is a very special story, one that did not begin just twenty-five years ago.

In my four-part discussion of why we are here to celebrate, the first part offers a brief history of informal education, the non-credit but invaluable inspiration of wonder and cultivation of curiosity through the ages.

I. Let’s think of this amazing history as if it were a six-session, team taught OLLI course offering entitled “The Joys of Informal Education”

The first session would be devoted Aristotle’s 4th century B.C. Lyceum  in Athens. The site of this hallowed place has been excavated and reclaimed in just the last several years. There Aristotle challenged his young students as well as the  curious citizens of Greece as he walked about among them. Like many teachers, he walked as he taught.

Session two will be about a New England adaptation of Aristotle’s lyceum begun in 1826 by Josiah Holbrook in and around Boston.  This popular intellectual exchange grew to involve some of the most famous Americans of the day, among them Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony.  By 1834 over 3,000 lyceums had been formed in the developing United States based on the Holbrook model.

The third session of this OLLI survey of the history of informal or non-credit education should focus on the Civil War era’s creation in 1862 of the land-grant system of higher education for our country. Justin Morrill of Vermont was the US congressman whose name is synonymous with the establishment of this unique national framework that includes the eventual founding of North Carolina State College and NC A&T State College. Chancellor Woodson has volunteered to teach the session devoted to this innovation in informal education.

Meanwhile, as session four will show, informal education in America was also advanced by the Chautauqua movement beginning in 1874 when Lewis Miller and John Vincent, two Ohioans, began a Methodist Camp Meeting in western New York State to inspire and inform Sunday school teachers. A related spirit of inclusive inquiry swept through the nation, especially the old northwest, and until about 1930 small town and city Chautauquas thrived among citizens of various religious faiths and intellectual persuasions. The original Chautauqua is still an annual summer phenomenon today at the site first selected for informal religious enrichment in 1874.

Session five is about a major milestone in land-grant education. To the growing agricultural and mechanical arts interests in formal and informal education was added in 1914 the Smith Level Act, named for two southern congressmen, Hoke Smith and Asbury Lever. Their legislation extended informal education across the far reaches of the American countryside through the Agricultural Extension Service, now known in North Carolina as Cooperative Extension. Initially every rural county in the country became an informal classroom where trained male and female agents extended scientific and practical knowledge to boys and girls as well as to their parents and grandparents. If it was hard to teach old farmers new practices, the children were there to help usher in the new era. You may recall that in our time it has been the young’uns who taught us adults to recycle our plastic, metal, paper  and much else.

For the sixth and final session of this proposed OLLI course about informal education, the focus will be on the land-grant domain of NC State University. Here in 1978 this country’s first Humanities Extension Program was established in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to use county extension offices and media to offer non-credit seminars across the state. By the time Encore, the first stage of OLLI, was founded in 1991, Humanities Extension had already identified a number of NCSU professors with an eager readiness to volunteer for instructional service in McKimmon, myself among them as a director of Humanities Extension. A new informal education theme of that era was  “engagement,” a more dynamic concept than “extension,” for from now on the exchange of ideas would be two-way: The teachers would learn from the students while the students learned from the teachers.  Lifelong learning and learning in retirement soon engaged citizens in McKimmon as well as statewide, including those men and women still on the job and those already in retirement.

II. Among the leaders of this effort in North Carolina to extend the Humanities across the state was UNC System President William C. Friday. He and NC State Chancellor Joab Thomas saw that funding for the innovative new extension and engagement program became a permanent line in the UNC system budget. Within that decade President Friday himself retired and chose to devote himself to informal education on a regional basis. Passionately he addressed illiteracy, the condition of being unable to read and write sufficiently well to uphold the vital responsibilities of citizens in a democratic society.

President Friday continued in this new line of his life’s educational leadership to employ an old technique. He used index cards to remind himself of topics he wanted to mention to staff members and associates as he met them in the hallway or on the street.

Let me share with you a few such topics. These are not taken from President Friday’s archives but, rather, are typical of his wide and wise social perspective on educational leadership in recent decades

Index card one: The Death of Allen Oliver in 1928: This venerable poultry specialist at State College had taught adults and children how to raise chickens for meat and eggs. When news of his death became public, a woman he had taught as a girl brought to his home here in Raleigh a linen covered pan of dressed but uncooked chicken parts. She said to his widow: “I heard that Mr. Oliver had died. I am sorry. All that I have he taught me to make. I wanted you to have this pan of food as a token of my gratitude and sympathy.” Telling your teacher “Thank you” is good public policy at any stage of life..

Index card two: The Sandy Creek Baptist Church Bus. Up in Franklin County east of Louisburg a blue and white church bus recently carried an ambiguous message on its back door and bumper: “Jesus Said Follow Me. Do not park behind this bus.” President Friday understood that ambiguity is a major reality in our world. Hardly any issues are black or white, all good or all bad. Much of the time  our lives are as confused as that message on the church bus.

Index card three: A Two Shoestring day. How many of you have ever broken both shoestrings the same day? It is indeed rare. What would your reaction be if it happened to you? President Friday endured in his long career many days when more than two public shoestrings broke. He led North Carolina onward.

Index card four: The Umbrella Dilemma. As overheard in a western New York parking lot this summer as storm clouds gathered: “If you do not bring the umbrella, you will not need it!” How is that for faith and foolishness? What if the umbrella you did notbring were education, either formal or informal?

Index card five: Remembering to Know, President Friday used his index cards in order to remember what he wanted his associates to think about or take care of. Perhaps he was inspired by North Carolina native Thomas Wolfe who believed that until you write down what you remember, you do not really know it.

III. Thomas Wolfe, whose first novel was Look Homeward, Angel, referred to his eventual success in learning to write as his “line of life.” He grasped written language in first grade, not before then. Like most of us, Wolfe had naturally learned to speak and to read through informal or natural means in his literate family.  Some of our neighbors, even today, have never lived in homes that supported natural early childhood development. Illiterate parents or guardians with no books around still abound despite President Friday’s addressing this difficult issue during his retirement. These challenged citizens were left behind. They had no verbal lines of life or only tattered ones.

Since my long association with Encore and OLLI has involved work with a variety of non-fiction life writing and short fiction courses, many of them during my own active retirement, I want to read to you a short piece of my own writing. It is about a dear old semi-literate African American man I knew well before I went to college. He had retired to the rural village where he and I grew up in different generations. The year was 1960. I was clerking in my father’s general store:

One Saturday night closing time was approaching, and Uncle Enoch Davis was still sitting on the slatted bench inside as I filled the drink coolers and swept the floor. No one else was in the store. Thinking something might be wrong, when I finished sweeping near where he sat, I sat down beside him. He placed his left hand on my right knee and told me why he had come home to Vaughan to die.

       Mr. Russell, he said, had been a deliveryman for the McPherson Bottling Company in Littleton. One day many years ago in driving near where Uncle Enoch and his family were living and farming, Mr. Russell’s truck hauling 7-Up, NuGrape, and Orange drinks in addition to Pepsi Colas had accidentally struck and killed his only grandson. Eventually Uncle Enoch had come back to Vaughan so he could see and talk to Mr. Russell, the last person who had seen his beloved boy alive. Ending his story, Uncle Enoch let go of my knee and said. “You is my onliest boy now.”

       I locked and barricaded the front door of the store and turned out the lights as he and I approached the back door. We went out together. At the top if the hill, he headed toward his house, and I went home to bed. My dog Mitzy had heard me slam the back door of the store and soon appeared out of the dark to walk down the dirt road with me. She was guarding me and the metal moneybox I carried. I valued her and the brave old man very much. I still do

 It was brave for Uncle Enoch to do what he did, as an old man to come back and live alone where he had lived as a boy. There he steadily defied the deadly grief of losing his only grandson. Instead he sought the company of the white man who had accidentally run over and killed that beloved boy. And Uncle Enoch somehow found in me, a white boy, someone to love as his own as he approached the end of his tattered life line. I loved him too.

I hope OLLI and its predecessor Encore have been sustaining you through a love of wonder and curious inquiry as you pursue informal education lines of life in your retirement. Here is a final way to think about our joint efforts.

If you had been born in an Asian culture such as Vietnam, you would naturally or informally have learned to speak a tonal language. For instance, a one syllable word like the word meaning table could become the word for friend with a different accent or tone. And this same basic word becomes the word for sell or sold with yet another tonal emphasis.The dynamic, base word is spelled b,a,n.

Experts, such as the faculty in Design at Stanford University tell us that Asian students who naturally mastered tonal languages beginning in infancy are more creative, imaginative, as well as more successful professional designers and artists than their students who learned non-tonal languages such as English.

I suggest that our active participation in OLLI, whether as a student or as a volunteer teacher, is a good way to develop at this end of our lives the stimulating mental agility that learning mere, non-tonal English did not provide us at the beginning of our informal education in early childhood.

I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that I cherish this “second childhood” opportunity. Not knowing where we are going, we do know where we have been inventing our wings.

Jim Clark, September 7, 2016

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Take Me Away, OLLI!

OLLI VOICES - our member blog


We were in our seats and waiting for “takeoff,” but this was different: So many of the “passengers” seemed to know one another! In fact, I had seen a friend at the doorway. We had chosen seats next to each other and were catching up.

A studious looking man came around the seats and stepped up to the podium. No, this was not a limited-space airliner, but an auditorium in the McKimmon Center of NC State University. For just ten dollars, I was about to “travel” overseas, and hear fascinating stories and unparalleled information about the archeology of Petra, the anthropological UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place most likely created in the fourth century BC. With the aid of photographic technology, I would see pieces of human existence from the settlement that took place at Petra, and hear a lead instructor of the dig tells us the Petra story!


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10 Good Things About Getting Older

10 Good Things About Getting Older


I’m kinder and more confident, and best of all, I like myself more.

Well as the author says there are many more than 10 when you sit down to think about it – we would love to hear from readers on your favorite things about getting older too! But in the meantime we are sharing this positive, inspiring article first published on the website  Click on the link below to read on………

10 Good Things About Getting Older

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More Than Volunteering

 In this posting, OLLI member Phoebe Johnston interviews OLLI Advisory Council chair, Carol Rahmani

When I asked my friend Carol Rahmani for a little of her time to sit down with me, she didn’t hesitate.  For OLLI she is always available.  Carol is a longtime resident of Raleigh, retired public school psychologist and administrator, alumna of NC State, and irrepressible NC State sports fan.  We members of NC State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, (OLLI), formerly known as Encore, owe immeasurable thanks to Carol.

It looks like you are enjoying retirement. Do you feel you owe that in part to OLLI? I am a naturally busy person, and my career didn’t use up my energy, nor my desire to be of help to others.  I love being useful, and since I fell in love with OLLI, have also loved being a volunteer with the program.

We at OLLI are an enthusiastic bunch.  A class or lecture at OLLI often has a retired or current NC State or other university instructor in front of the room.  Many times though, the class leader is someone who simply has a love of the subject, and has become expert.  For instance, a former Chairman of the Raleigh Area Council of Churches inspired us with stories about Rosa Parks and Desmond Tutu.  A retired engineer shared his love of Volcanoes and Their Impact on Civilization.  All instruction and lecturing is on a volunteer basis and at OLLI we are never captive to a limited topic area.  For example, if you take Music of the 60s, you learn modern musical history,  musical form,  music appreciation fundamentals and hear stories about the musicians themselves.   That means we are very passionate, student and presenter alike.

For you, Carol, OLLI volunteering is a natural extension of your career in education.  Tell us how OLLI all started for you.   I have lived in Raleigh since I began college here, and had never known of the lifelong learning program until I was close to retirement age, when a close friend who had already retired enticed me with stories of things she learned and did at OLLI (Encore).  “These are fabulous courses; you’ll love everything!”  she would say as she gave me details.  During early retirement, my time was consumed with family needs but as soon as I could, I jumped right into OLLI  with both feet.  Right from the start I made new friends.   I’ve lived in Raleigh most of my adulthood, and enjoy a broad array of friendships,  but there’s always room for more.  My OLLI friendships have continued to grow, and have continued to enrich my life and my experiences of OLLI.  It’s hard to express how important friendships are for a retired person, and especially one who is single.

The OLLI catalog continues to expand.  Every semester, there is a list of courses and lectures that spark interest for things I never thought I would be attracted to.  It is very hard to choose just a few! They range from literature and philosophy to photography, theater costuming,  financial planning, and on and on.  This wide range of courses,  lectures and study trips is generated by the OLLI Program Committee.

Carol, you are the Chairman of the OLLI Program Committee.  The very busy and dedicated Committee members bring together ideas for courses, lectures and study trips with instructors and semester schedules.  How is this done a daunting three times a year?   Success in reaching our goals takes many people – members, member volunteers, and the phenomenal four staff members of the OLLI Program . The two greatest challenges are: 1. continuing to involve more members and 2. expanding the course roster to accommodate membership growth.  I am proud to have been involved in a reorganization of the Program Committee’s processes that implemented seven subcommittees focused on broad topic areas.  We had looked at models from other Osher programs, and through working with our knowledgeable and dedicated staff members, the seven-subcommittee method was adopted.  Our very broad age-range (50 to 90+ -– two generations) and resulting range of interests are well-served by our current course-development processes..  The Program Committee and the staff have together become a well-oiled machine, and we have no doubt that the future of our course offerings will be extraordinary.

Opportunities for member involvement are not limited to the Program Committee.  A member can be a part of many other committees or have other tasks within the program.

Over your years in OLLI (Encore), Carol, you must have had some favorite classes, study trips or lectures.  I am a lover of history and other subjects that fall outside my career area of expertise.  OLLI provides opportunities to study such topics that I enjoy through courses such as the Civil War Sesquicentennial Series and associated study trips.  I’ll describe one of my favorite instructors.  OLLI was more than lucky to have had a retired Army colonel and a very passionate military historian become one of our dedicated instructors, not only for this five- year Civil War series, but also for other historical reviews of wars that have been formative in our nation’s (and the world’s) history. Our trips that accompanied some of the courses and were led by our military historian engaged us more thoroughly than any other kind of  tour we could ever have taken.  I never learned so much and had so much fun doing it!

What do you have to say to age 50plus Raleigh area residents who are not yet acquainted with OLLI?         I would have to say first that this is not just learning through attending classes!  OLLI means new friends, new life experiences, and endless stimulation.  OLLI taught me how satisfying it is to step outside my comfort zone by taking courses I might not have been drawn to in college or grad school.  There are no grades, no mandatory reading, no tests.  A member can be part of a number of interest groups, a book group, a writing group or more. There are even parties and social events! 

NC State’s OLLI Program is part of a network of 100+ Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the country, of which there are four in North Carolina.  We have something for everybody!  Look us up at

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Memories of the Outer Banks

What a fascinating OLLI-NC State study-trip to the Outer Banks in April! On our first day we were treated to a fine excursion out to Corolla, the northern-most point on NC’s coast. The paved road ends and a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is needed to drive out in search of the descendants of the Spanish mustangs whose blood-lines date back to the 1500’s and still inhabit the beach. The wild horses were out in large numbers for us-we saw around 50 of them! WOW! Afterwards we visited the Whalehead Club, Sea Turtle Research Center, and the Currituck Lighthouse. A few of us climbed the 220 steps straight up to the top of the lighthouse. The views of the ocean and sound from the top are stunningly beautiful. Another WOW! Then the focus of our trip turned to Wilbur and Orville Wright’s great feats, and their early work accomplished at Kitty Hawk that culminated in their (and mankind’s) first flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Many of us had taken Jim Clark’s OLLI course based on McCullough’s book “The Wright Brothers.” Our visit to the Wright Memorial, Kill Devil Hill and the site of their flights provided the biggest WOW of the trip!

Carol Rahmani – OLLI Member and Chair of the Advisory Council


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Memories of Cordoba, Spain

A bridge dating back to the Romans, a water wheel built by the Moors, a synagogue dating from the Middle Ages – these are only a few of the delights we discovered in Cordoba. The city is located on the Guadalquivir River which in Roman times was navigable all the way to the Atlantic. That is no longer true.

The city itself is a charming maze of narrow streets occasionally offering a glimpse into private courtyards, the whitewashed walls of which were adorned with hanging pots from ground to roof. How do they ever keep them watered in summer temperatures we were told reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

The highlight of our visit was the magnificent mosque cathedral. Its towering interior arches were decorated with alternating stripes of white limestone and red brick, the builders (beginning in 785) were the original recyclers, re-using Roman capitals.

The history of the region is one of successive religions. Thankfully the mosque was so beautiful and well-built that the thirteenth century conquering Christians added a cathedral in its center rather than demolish.

We said goodbye to Cordoba’s Bougainvillea draped walls with regret. One could spend days wandering through it and still scratch only the surface of its incredible history.

Barbara Brown (OLLI member) who recently returned from an OLLI study trip to southern Spain and Portugal.




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A Successful Baby Boomer’s Life of Lists and Leadership

Full disclosure – I am re-blogging this article from, an online magazine featuring numerous links and articles aimed at baby boomers. It caught my eye because it confirmed that the simple act of list-making can be one of the secrets of success. My husband is a great list-maker. Every weekend I am in awe and slightly envious of his ability to extract the most from his non-work days by making a list and getting stuck into it as soon as he rises. Meanwhile I will be wasting precious time toying with the idea of several projects trying to decide what to do first. I can learn a lot from him and from Richard Branson – let us know your thoughts. Are you a list maker?

Joan Hardman-Cobb (Special Programs Coordinator)

A successful baby boomer’s life of lists and leadership (
Sir Richard Branson is a baby boomer we can all admire. He has created everything from Virgin Records to Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Galactic. He is one of the world’s most successful and likable corporate leaders. So, we hope our boomer brother Sir Richard doesn’t mind if we share his short essay, “New Year’s Resolutions and making lists.” We figure, if it’s good enough for him … it’s good enough for us! Over to Richard………..Richard Branson

Ever since I was a young boy I have made lists of goals and resolutions. It’s how I make sense of the ideas in my head, the suggestions I receive, and the progress we are making. What’s more, if I didn’t write down all of my ideas and resolutions, I might forget them!

Here are 10 simple steps for making a list that you will be able to stick to:

1. Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big either.

2. Always carry a notebook. You need somewhere to write your ideas down, and while using a folder on your phone is better than nothing, a piece of paper is far more memorable.

3. Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts, what suits you best? I find a combination of short phrases and scribbled pictures works best for me.

4. Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day. Cut your day up into chunks, and you’ll get lots more done.

5. Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done.

6. Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There’s no point setting targets if you don’t know if you are hitting them.

7. Set far off, outlandish goals. Resolutions shouldn’t just have short-term endpoints. What do you want to have achieved in five years’ time? How about 50 years?

8. Include personal goals in your lists, not just business. There’s no real separation between work and life, it’s all just living. The same goes for lists.

9. Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself.

10. Celebrate your successes then make new lists of new goals. The cycle should continue as you make more and more progress. I have boxes and boxes of old notes, filled with old lists, and I’m busy making more.

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Walking Where My Ancestor Fought and Died 151 Years Ago

Capt WarnerStudy Trip to the Petersburg National Battlefield (October 7, 2015)

Walking Where My Ancestor Fought and Died 151 Years Ago

 Many of us in OLLI are history buffs, and take virtually every history course offered.  A favorite series and instructor for so many of us have been the courses and study trips led by Dave Milidonis in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.  The final event in this five-year-long series was the October 7th trip to the Petersburg National Battlefield, which has been preserved to memorialize the nine-month siege of the city by the Union Army, in its quest to take Petersburg as the gateway to seizing Richmond, which would surely result in an end to the long and bloody Civil War.  For the Confederates, holding Petersburg was vital in their desperate efforts to maintain control of their capital, Richmond, and avoid certain and immediate defeat.

In his typically riveting, detailed and no-holes-barred teaching style, Dave led us from one battery and fort to the next in Petersburg’s 30-mile battlefield site, culminating in a visit to the Crater.  Though not as massive and deep today, there is still a large pit where the Union forces had exploded a powerful mine under the Confederate entrenchments in an attempt to breach their line of defense and break through into Petersburg.

Some weeks prior to leaving for the study trip, I had told Dave that my great-great-grandfather had served in a South Carolina unit that was engaged in the Confederate defense of Petersburg, and that he had been killed there.  I asked Dave if he would be willing to research where in the expanse of entrenchments my ancestor’s unit might have been on November 5th, 1864, when he was fatally wounded.  Dave graciously, even enthusiastically, agreed to look into the military records and told me the information he would need about my great-great-grandfather’s unit.  I sent him all the information I could put together about Captain Jacob Warner of South Carolina’s Holcombe Legion, Elliot’s Brigade.  Within a few hours, Dave emailed me detailed information about Jacob Warner’s unit—that he had served in Johnson’s Division, 4th Corps.  He had discovered that Cpt. Warner’s unit was at the site of the Crater on July 30th, 1864, when the mine was blown, and that 700 men in his unit had died in the explosion.  Those who survived engaged in a counter-attack against the invading Union troops, resulting in massive casualties on both sides.  The Confederates, led by troops from S.C., held the Crater and patched the break in their lines.  Cpt. Warner had beaten the odds and survived the carnage in July, but his luck ran out on November 5th.   On that fateful day, he was ordered to lead his men on a night attack against a Union picket line that had been dispatched close to the Confederate lines.  It was in that fire-fight that he was fatally wounded, and he died the next day.

When we were there on the battlefield, in the vicinity of that night attack, Dave wove the story of my great-great-grandfather’s mission into his discussion of the battles.  He pointed to a line of trees about 200 yards away and just outside a fort where the attack unfolded, and told us that was the approximate location where Cpt. Warner would have been fatally wounded.   I was not the only one of our group who was fascinated by Dave’s riveting portrayal of the events; I could see that we all were.  Several members told me later that hearing my ancestor’s story had made it all so much more vivid and real.  Dave is a master at making history come to life; at transporting us to the time and place we are studying. DM

For me, this discovery about my great-great-grandfather’s mission and location when he was killed was captivating and emotional.  You see, since I was a teen-ager, I have felt a special fascination with him.  When I was about 16, I learned that my grandparents had copies of letters that Jacob Warner had written home to his wife throughout the war.  They had never mentioned the letters because no one in the family had ever expressed an interest in him before me.  I eagerly read each one of them.  They told of his love, his sacrifice, his extreme hardships over the course of the war and the unraveling of the Confederacy (no pay, holes in his boots, frayed  uniform, ammunition shortages, a serious scarcity of food), and they told of his dreams of returning home to resume their lives after the war.  Instead, he died at Petersburg on November 6th, 1864, at the age of 39.  The war finally came to an end five months later.

My grandparents also had a portrait of him in his uniform, a copy of which is at the top of this blog.  Knowing what he looked like had always made him more interesting, more real, to me.  So, history buff that I have always been, after reading his letters, I pondered and ruminated about him and his participation in that tragic war.  I often felt disappointment and disillusionment in him, for getting caught up in the paranoia over “northern aggression” and the Confederacy’s extreme bravado and delusions of grandeur.  In his case, like most Confederate soldiers, his participation in the war had nothing to do with a personal attachment to slavery.  He had no slaves.  What he had was a wife and seven children!  His youngest daughter, my great-grandmother, was only a year old when he went off to the war, and grew up not remembering her father or having him in her life.  His wife, my great-great-grandmother, had to run their farm and take care of all those children without his help, not to mention endure loneliness and hardship over the subsequent three decades that she lived without him.

Yet, I know that people are products of their times and the events that shape their lives. In Jacob Warner’s case, I learned that he served the cause that he believed in with valor, and gave his life for it.  It was a profound experience for me to learn how and where he died, and what his experiences had been at the Crater and in the months prior to his death.  It brought some closure to my ponderings.  I am deeply appreciative to Dave Milidonis for leading me on this journey of discovery to Petersburg.

Carol Rahmani (OLLI Member)

October 30, 2015

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Such knowledgeable “Gadgets” instructors!

Doug Hall, one of the instructors for OLLI’s “Gadgets” course,

FullSizeRender (4) shows off a robot car made by his family members in the basement of their home. Pictured on the right is fellow instructor Tom Price.

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Scenes from OLLI’s Gadget Class

OLLI member Julia Daniels reports from OLLI’s Gadgets Course with Tom Price and Doug Hall:

Great class!!
Today was an excellent explanation of the navigation systems used by our GPS as well as the navigation apps in our smart phones. They were compared and contrasted.
The second half of the class was a demonstration of the various forms of lighting used in our households:  from  incondescent to LED.  I suspect most of us headed to Home Depot after class to replace all the bulbs in our homes!
FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (3)IMG_1388
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