PRINCETON--Southern West Virginia has always heard the call of the country in times of need. There is no better legacy to exemplify the service of these men and women than the Those Who Served Museum located in the War Memorial Building in Princeton, West Virginia.
When asked, Tony Whitlow, museum volunteer, curator and friend states, “these vets, pilots, sailors and all of the soldiers have stories that are relevant today,” and this motto and mission serves the daily direction of this museum.
This well-kept and educational museum is a fitting tribute for all those have served in all wars—from the American Civil War to the more recent conflicts in the Desert. “We focus on the stories of the men and women who served,” says Libby Turner, museum volunteer, and, “this museum is an important part of their legacy.”
Starting as a simple display cabinet in a county administrator’s office, the vision and service of this tribute has grown.
“Folks would bring by pieces of memorabilia and souvenirs/artifacts that their families had collected through the years,” and the display continued to grow. In the mid-1990’s the display had far outgrown its case and in 1999 the museum was granted a basement home in the War Memorial located at 1500 West Main Street in Princeton. In the mid 2000s the museum climbed to the top floor, and is fully accessible by elevator.
“We have received donations of items from near and far,” says Whitlow, “and we even have a fraternity pin that originated in Bluefield, and was returned from a young lady in North Carolina, who felt that she needed to get it back home, where it does belong.” The story of this pin is just one of the many stories that your guide will take you through as you visit this unique museum.
“We carry on their stories,” says Whitlow, “and it is important that these stories--these sacrifices are never forgotten.” Stories from almost every conflict confirms the heroic nature of our local troops.
From 2nd Lt. Dana White of Princeton, who left Concord during World War II and is credited for saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, to S.Sgt. Junior Spurrier who single handedly captured a German village (and subsequently received the Congressional Medal of Honor) will live through the stories and guidance of the Those Who Served museum. Besides the vivid displays filled with rare finds and artifacts, on the second floor also resides a Memorial Room dedicated to each soldier who has given his or her life in service to the country.
“Conrad Jenkins, local artist and veteran, painted many murals” accompanying each of the dedicated areas in the Memorial Room. From ‘Flanders Fields’ and her infamous poppies to the creation of “cold and isolation” found during the Korean Conflict, each area reflects the tone of the memories of the soldiers.
Visitors from all around the globe have made the stop at the Those Who Served War Museum in Princeton. Visitors from, “the U.K. and Germany,” have made the stop and have truly appreciated the dedication to our collective memory. Whitlow says, with a smile, “they all are well pleased with our museum, and we would love to have more folks from the area to drop in and check it out.”
With the continued dedication from a staff of volunteers, combined with the support of the Mercer County Commission, and the gifts of time and materials from the local community, the Those Who Served War Museum will continue so the next generation may understand the complexity, sacrifice and bravery of those who have served.
Whitlow and his volunteers have decided to continue the charge, and to “make sure that these stories of heroism and sacrifice are never forgotten.”
The Those Who Served War Museum is easily accessible on the top floor of the War Memorial Building located at 1500 W. Main Street in Princeton, WV. Museum hours are Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Small groups can be accommodated by calling 304-487-3670.