Separated by five generations, one hallowed battlefield brought together two men and shared a story that only a place could tell. Now by creating the 11 Most Endangered Preservation Fund, Ned Brokloff is using his legacy to protect threatened places and honor the memory of an ancestor who taught him the value of deciding today how you want tomorrow to be.
For years, Ned Brokloff had heard stories about his great-great-great grandfather, George Washington Long, Jr. Thanks to his mother's keen investigative genealogy, they had discovered that he served with the Pennsylvania volunteers and was wounded during the Civil War.
"I know he was shot in the leg by a musket and was really lucky to have survived."
After a long convalescence, George Long was discharged and returned home to his family farm in western Pennsylvania, where he lived to be almost 80-years-old.
But it wasn't until Ned visited the Wilderness Battlefield in Orange, Virginia, that he understood what happened that fateful day on May 6, 1864.
"You can't appreciate history without being there. When I visited, our guide made sure to point out the place where his brigade had fought and where he was likely wounded. She read letters from his brigade about the battle. All the intimacy of being there and picturing how they were feeling, how scared they wereYou can't get that sense from books or movies. You have to be there."
As a long-time member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ned has long enjoyed Preservation magazine, but was dismayed to read in 2010 that the Wilderness Battlefield was threatened by encroaching development by Walmart.
"When I saw that the Wilderness Battlefield was on the list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, I tried to picture where they were going to put the WalMart. The way I thought of the Wilderness compared to the other famous battlefields, it was the most remote. You can still see the trenches. Why in the world would someone want to ruin that experience? One of the most beautiful vistas is going to be clogged up with that mess."
Ned decided to do something about it. Working with the Planned Giving office at the National Trust, Ned was able to devise a way to use his legacy to protect Wilderness Battlefield and other endangered historic places.
Through the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Preservation Fund, which will be established by a gift from Ned's estate, places listed to the 11 Most Endangered list will be given critical support to protect the unique story they tell.
"Visiting other sites and seeing the cracking walls made me realize how much it costs to keep these things preserved. I don't want to see these things disappear. I'd like to see whatever I do help to leverage others to join to raise money to accomplish these things. If I can help facilitate greater achievement, that's good."
Ned's foresight and careful planning is a tremendous gift to the next generation. His generosity and the generosity of others like him will preserve this and other important stories for years to come.
"When I was 6 years old, I visited Gettysburg for the first time. I still remember it like it was yesterday. If I had only read about it in a book, there's no way I would remember. There is nothing like being there."
A story like this can only be told by a place. Who knows, maybe five generations from now, the sacrifice of George Long will still be told at the Wilderness Battlefield because of those who cared enough to protect it today.