Skip to main content

Family letters bring Civil War history to life during program at The Holmstad

May 01, 2017 10:51AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

David Ritchie lives at The Holmstad retirement community in Batavia. He reads aloud letters from his great-grandfather, James Crawford, a Union soldier during the Civil War, to fellow residents as part of a program called, “Civil War Letters.”

Quill and pen are far removed from David Ritchie’s background as a high-energy physicist who worked at Fermilab. But his great grandfather, James Crawford, was a prolific writer who penned letters detailing his time as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Ritchie, who lives at The Holmstad retirement community, has been reading the family letters aloud each week to fellow residents as part of a program called, “Civil War Letters.” The readings began last August.

Handed down through generations from his mother’s side of the family, the original hand-written letters are safely housed in the Illinois State Historical Museum in Springfield. The recent batch of carefully typed copies of letters Ritchie read were dated March 1865, and tell of harrowing days as he fought with the 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company G, offering a taste of what life was like to a Union foot soldier.

“It’s why I come back every week, because we are getting so much historical information about the war,” said resident Ellie Fusaro. “He was a dedicated soldier, talking about how the Union must prevail in all his letters. I find it fascinating. David is so helpful and so willing to do this.”

The topics within the letters - the realization he wouldn’t be home in time to harvest the wheat, a few lines of poetry on the travesty of slavery and the need for a unified country - spark lively discussions among the group. When the group discovered Ritchie’s family turned letters from Jimmy to his sweetheart into a book, titled “Dear Lizzie,” further options of script writing were considered.

“This program is great,” said Bruce Larson, 76. “I taught American history for 40 years, so this is fascinating to hear what the soldiers write about. You don’t get this information in other ways.”

Ritchie said he values the weekly gathering to share the letters with fellow residents.

“It rejuvenates me every time I come to read the letters,” Ritchie said, who admits this is his first time reading them from start to finish.

“I knew if I didn’t start to read the letters, there would be a disaster at some point and I might lose them,” said Ritchie. “What’s so great about the exercise of reading the letters is telling Jimmy’s life,” Ritchie said. “The Holmstad doesn’t put any bureaucracy in the way for me to do this.”

“Resident-initiated programs like David’s are the hallmark of LifeConnect®, our wellness partnership with residents,” said Resident Life Director Nicole Sickafoose. “Working closely with residents to plan activities and programs allows them to share their interests and knowledge with others and foster new relationships.”

Sickafoose said there are dozens of resident-initiated programs and activities, including: The Holmstad Home Store, which sells gently used furniture and home décor to the greater Batavia community; the woodworking group and Creative Arts Center, which are responsible for creating the life-sized yard art displayed during the Christmas Open House; SoulCollage® Workshops; the ArtWise exhibit; the Jeopardy game; and more.

To learn more about The Holmstad or to arrange for a visit, call 877-226-7310 or visit  www.TheHolmstad.org or Facebook.

Today, News Historical David Ritchie
  • Tri-Cities Exchange Club Breakfast

    09/26/2017
    07:00AM — 08:00AM

    Every Tuesday morning, 7-8am, men and women meet for breakfast at Colonial Cafe on Randall Road, ...


  • Coat Drive

    09/26/2017
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Please help those in need in our community with donations of new or clean, gently-used winter ite...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    09/26/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    09/27/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Wednesday Walking Club

    09/27/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00AM

    Wednesdays, April 5–October 25, 8–9 AM Free drop-in program for all ages Get fit the old-fashio...


  • Coat Drive

    09/27/2017
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Please help those in need in our community with donations of new or clean, gently-used winter ite...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    09/27/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    09/27/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    09/27/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • Coat Drive

    09/28/2017
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Please help those in need in our community with donations of new or clean, gently-used winter ite...


  • Nature Tykes (for 3 year olds)

    09/28/2017
    09:30AM — 10:30AM

    In this program, for 3-year olds and their parents, grandparents or guardians, we’ll explore the ...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    09/28/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Fabyan Villa Museum & Japanese Garden open

    09/28/2017
    01:00PM — 04:30PM

    The Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden will return to a public hours schedule starting on Su...


  • Little Naturalists

    09/28/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    In this hour-long program for 4-5-year olds, children will discover the wonders of nature through...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    09/28/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • Please join the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, Batavia Mayor Jeffery Schielke, and Batavia represen...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    09/28/2017
    08:00PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • Coat Drive

    09/29/2017
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Please help those in need in our community with donations of new or clean, gently-used winter ite...


  • Moms Connect

    09/29/2017
    09:00AM — 10:15AM

    St. John Lutheran Church at 7214 South Cass Avenue in Darien, IL will sponsor a new Bible-based s...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    09/29/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Story Time at Creek Bend Nature Center

    09/29/2017
    10:30AM — 11:00AM

    Treat your child to Story Times at Creek Bend Nature Center. This popular program series is for c...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    09/29/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    09/29/2017
    08:00PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • Live Entertainment: DJ

    09/29/2017
    09:00PM — 11:55PM

    Join us on historic Bourbon Street in Jambalaya at Pheasant Run Resort every Friday for live ente...


  • LEHSO Resale

    09/30/2017
    07:00AM — 02:00PM

    LEHSO Clothing Resale The Lisle Elementary Home & School Organization clothing resale is a bia...


  • The Holmstad’s 40th Annual Bazaar

    09/30/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    The community is invited to wrap up their holiday shopping early by stopping in at The Holmstad’s...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Green Fair

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Eco Vendors, Farmer's Market, Recycling Extravaganza, Green Speakers, Food Trucks, Children's Mak...


  • National Public Lands Day

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Volunteers are needed to help us plant trees, collect seeds and clear brush at our National Publi...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    09/30/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    09/30/2017
    07:30PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • St. Charles Singers: Mozart Journey XII

    09/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    The St. Charles Singers will launch its 34th concert season this fall with a new installment of t...


  • Live Music

    09/30/2017
    09:00PM — 11:55PM

    Join us on historic Bourbon Street in Jambalaya at Pheasant Run Resort for live bands every Satur...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    09/30/2017
    09:45PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


Neighbors Magazines
Neighbors Magazines, 28 South Water Street, Batavia, IL 60510, 630-995-3482, www.welcometoneighbors.com
Contact us