The 2017 Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame class honorees are Harlean James of Washington, DC; Charles Parry of Blacksburg, VA; Mildred Norman "Peace Pilgrim" Ryder, of Egg Harbor, NJ; and Matilda "Tillie" Wood, of Roswell, GA.
Beyond her A.T. work, she served in Washington for many years as Executive Secretary of both the National Conference on State Parks and the American Planning and Civic Association. She held various leadership positions in national planning and parks over a 37-year career.
Charles Parry was described as a relentless Appalachian Trail volunteer. He served as the Roanoke A.T. Club's trail supervisor from 1976 until his death in December 2010, shaping nearly all of the 120 miles the club maintains and playing a pivotal role in the return of the A.T. to McAfee Knob in the late 1980s. His was a time of numerous trail relocations. As a former club member said, on a work trip, "he emphasized the 'work' part."
He held master’s and doctorate degrees in mathematics from Michigan State and spent his career teaching at Virginia Tech with the same passion he brought to the Trail. At the time of his death at 68, he was professor emeritus in the College of Science.
Despite the popular belief that Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire A.T. in one year, Mildred Norman Ryder, universally known as "Peace Pilgrim", accomplished that feat in 1952. Thru-hiking the A.T. was just the first step in Peace Pilgrim's unique mission. She felt she had received a message from God to spend her life advocating for peace. After the A.T. thru-hike, she spent the rest of her life walking in every part of the country and most of Canada. By 1964, she had walked more than 25,000 miles. Eventually, she stopped counting.
As she became more famous, she received invitations to speak at schools and churches. Friends and observers described her as fearless. In her words: "I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace; walking until I am given shelter, and fasting until I am given food." Ironically, this woman who walked everywhere was killed in a car crash in 1981.
Tillie Wood and her husband Roy were newlyweds in 1939 when they discovered a run-down cabin in the mountains south of Pearisburg, VA, just a half mile from the Appalachian Trail. They kept the cabin while Roy pursued a career preserving national forests and state parks. After Roy retired in 1981, they decided to fix up the cabin as a hostel for A.T. hikers. Sadly, Roy passed away just after the work was finished in 1986.
Tillie spent the next 21 years giving hikers a place to rest, shower and warm their bellies with a Southern breakfast. Woods Hole became known as one of the most beloved hostels on the A.T. In 2007, Tillie learned she had cancer with only six months to live. Her granddaughter Neville felt called to keep up the family tradition. If anything, Neville's husband Michael was even more enthusiastic. Under the stewardship of Neville and Michael, the tradition of Tillie Wood and Woods Hole hostel continues to this day.
Six classes have previously been elected to the A.T. Hall of Fame. The Charter Class, elected in 2011, comprised Myron Avery, Gene Espy, Ed Garvey, Benton MacKaye, Arthur Perkins and Earl Shaffer. Members of the 2012 class were Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, David A. Richie, J. Frank Schairer, Jean Stephenson and William Adams Welch. The 2013 Class was Ruth Blackburn, David Field, David Sherman, David Startzell and Everett (Eddie) Stone. The 2014 Class was A. Rufus Morgan, Charles R. Rinaldi, Clarence S. Stein and Pamela Underhill. The 2015 Class was Nestell K. "Ned" Anderson, Margaret C. Drummond, Stanley A. Murray and Raymond H. Torrey. In 2016, Maurice J. Forrester, Jr., Horace Kephart, Larry Luxenberg and Henry Arch Nichols were inducted. Additional information on the first six classes of the Hall of Fame is available HERE on the Museum's website.
Jim Foster, chair of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame selection committee, said a 6 p.m. reception will precede the dinner, which begins at 7 p.m. The cost of the reception and dinner is $35 for museum members and $45 for others.
Complete information on the Hall of Fame Banquet is available at https://2017athalloffamebanquet.eventbrite.com Tickets may be purchased either at that website, or directly from the Appalachian Trail Museum by sending a check to:
Appalachian Trail Museum
1120 Pine Grove Road
Gardners, PA 17324
Questions about the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Banquet may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hall of Fame Banquet will be the kickoff of the Museum’s Hall of Fame Weekend. Questions about the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Banquet may be sent to email@example.com. For lodging options during the Hall of Fame Weekend, go to the Museum's website: www.atmuseum.org