April Martin Danner - April Martin Danner is the current Museum Director for Historic Smithfield. She comes to the role after being
involved with Smithfield for many years, serving as a part-time Education Outreach and Head Interpreter. April holds a
Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in American History from Virginia Tech with minors in Education and Literature. Her advisor,
mentor, and friend during her time with the history department was Dr. James I. Robertson Jr. April recently earned a
Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from The Institute for Policy and Governance at Virginia Tech and Grant
Writing Certification from Fort Hayes University.
April is from a local family with roots going back to the 1750s in what would become Montgomery County. The kinship and
love of the history of the New River Valley is literally in her blood. Many of April’s passions and independent projects reflect
her desire to protect and share the rich history of the area. She is an active member of the Allegheny Chapter of the
Daughters of the American Revolution, the Burkes Garden National Daughters of the War of 1812, Captain Milton H.
Harmon United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the National Daughters of 98’ Spanish American War. April also founded and is an active participant in the Gatekeepers: Montgomery County Cemetery Project which locates, cleans, documents, and preserves many abandoned family cemeteries contained within the county. April additionally served and worked as the Chairperson for the Montgomery County Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Committee along with the Pulaski County Committee and City of Radford members. Both Montgomery and Pulaski Counties received the highest awards from the Virginia General Assembly for their efforts during the Sesquicentennial years.
Currently, April is the Montgomery and Pulaski County Chairperson for the Great Valley Eastern Lewis and Clark Trail and the county Chair for the Virginia Commission for the Centennial of WWI and 75th Anniversary of WWII. April is also the winner of many national and state awards in historic preservation and education. The national awards include, The Historic Preservation Medal from the National Daughters of the American Revolution, The Spirit of 1812 Award, and the National Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal. State awards received are the Winnie Davis Medal along with the Virginia, Annabelle Drummond McMath Graduate Scholarship.
Grace Hemmingson is a first year masters student in Public History at Virginia Tech. She is originally from Vienna, Virginia, but has adopted the New River Valley as a home away from home. She has a wide range of academic interests, including the colonial era, the history of tuberculosis and the rise of state-sponsored health institutions in the 20th century. In her free time, she sings soprano in her church choir. You might hear her singing the National Anthem at Historic Smithfield!
Judy Foster - Judy holds a BA in Marketing from the University of South Florida. She spent the last 21 years of her career in Washington, DC working on capital markets regulatory issues and training securities examiners before retiring to Blacksburg. Her attention to detail, diligence, and enthusiasm are invaluable to Historic Smithfield.
1000 Smithfield Plantation Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060 540.231.3947 email@example.com
Sarah Winkowski - Sarah is a student of Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech, and has had a passion for museums, archeology, and the natural world from a young age. She has participated in undergraduate research at Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech, studying orchids, snapping turtles, and zebra finches. Here at Smithfield she has volunteered in special events, summer camp, and as a tour guide.
Additionally she has spearheaded Smithfield’s transition from hardcopy collection records to a digital management database. She has also been working on inventorying the museum collection and updating the collection records, and plans to input the Smithfield library records into the digital database. This past spring she undertook a service learning project with her Ornithology class at Virginia Tech, and worked with several other classmates to design and install informational signs for a birding trail at Historic Smithfield. Going forward she is especially interested in enhancing the connections between the history of Historic Smithfield and the rich natural history that finds its home here in southwest Virginia.
Melvin Lester - Melvin Lester is a native of Princeton, WV. He served in the US Navy on active duty for three and one half years. After his military service he attended Concord College in Athens, WV and graduated in 1974 with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. In 1986 Melvin began reenacting and
performing in living history programs for the Civil War period and in the mid-1990’s added the Revolutionary War period as well. Melvin is still active in the hobby. Following a thirty year accounting career he earned another undergraduate degree from The University of Mary Washington with a major in Historic Preservation. After graduation he served a one year term as a VISTA volunteer in Elkins, WV. As a VISTA Volunteer, preservation programs were organized for the local community in which basic restoration methods were taught. Another year was spent in Elkins supervising a three member Americorps preservation team. The team began restoration work on an early twentieth century grain mill. Melvin served as a docent volunteer at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest for approximately three years before attending the University of Mary Washington. After retiring, Melvin and his wife, Kathy, moved to Claytor Lake and Melvin began volunteering at Smithfield Plantation.
Katherine Okie - Katherine has vivid memories of her first visit to Smithfield as a seven year old history buff who considered historic costumes to be everyday clothing. In 2007, she joined the Smithfield Junior Interpreter program, and a year later she took on her current position as the program's coordinator. While at Radford University, she had the opportunity to pursue her many interests with a major in History and minors in both Dance and Geo-spatial Science.
She interned at the University Archives, conducted a local Oral History Independent Study, volunteered as an interpreter at Ingles Colonial Farm, and performed with the Radford University Ballet Theatre. In both 2011 and 2013 she won the Winesett Award for Library Research, and she graduated as the History Department's 2014 Dean's Scholar. These days she continues to do a little bit of everything. Besides sharing her love of history with the next generation of Smithfield interpreters, she owns and operates Westover Ballet School, teaches piano, sews historic costumes, organizes community folk dance evenings, and is an avid swing and contra dancer.