Local woman shares her passions for history in the valley
EDINBURG – Historical preservationist Judy Reynolds, 68, knew early in life she wanted to make a difference in the field of history. How she admits, she wasn’t entirely sure. But perseverance would guide her.
“After thinking about all this and going back, I always said I wanted to be a school teacher,” Reynolds said. “Where that came from, I have no idea.”
But she has an inclination that it started with her love of history in Mrs. Gochenour fourth grade class, and added that teacher “just brought out the history lover in me.”
History has always held a major space in Reynolds’ heart. She recalls sitting in Virginia history class mesmerized by the stories on the pages of her textbook, which would later be banned due to its portrayal of slavery. Her favorite story was the western expedition of Lewis and Clark, which Reynolds said helped her refine her goal to become a history teacher.
Years later Reynolds would attend Madison College, now James Madison University, where she would receive a degree in elementary education with a minor in history. She was told there were already enough history teachers.
“I started teaching in Toms Brook and had second graders,” she said. “But I quickly realized that I could teach history to second graders.”
After 14 years, Reynolds made a career change that allowed her to return to JMU, where she finally pursued her love of history. She received a master’s degree in history that she would take into the field of historic preservation.
“I was a 30-year-old graduate student at the time,” she said. “That was breaking the mold.”
From there, she jokingly said, she no longer stayed to the straight and narrow.
Reynolds served as the director of the Warren Heritage Society and retired as the head of the Mosby Heritage Association after 15 years. She was also the first female tourism director for Shenandoah County, and she created the walking tour of downtown Front Royal still used today. She’s a member of the Mt. Zion Lutheran Church council, the president of the Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries and head of its Luk’s Backpack program. She also volunteers at the Shenandoah County Library, working in the archives, where she added she feels like home.
“If you make your own limits, you can do anything you put your heart to,” Reynolds said.
Coming through the 1950s, Reynolds said she remembers segregation and how women were treated. In comparison to then and now, she said she hopes women will stand up and share their voice.
“I don’t want to see women condemned if she’s more career-oriented than family orientated,” she explained. “I think this women’s movement is wonderful. It’s sort of like coming through the 50s and 60s. We knew there was segregation. We sort of put it behind us where we couldn’t see it. And the same thing is happening with ‘Me Too’. We knew these things were going on, we just put it in the background. And I think it’s time it comes out.”