The Friends of Happy Retreat was founded in 2006 to respond to concerns of residents of Charles Town, West Virginia, about Charles Washington’s home, Happy Retreat, and its vulnerability to development in the state’s rapidly growing Eastern Panhandle—just 55 miles northwest of Washington, D.C
The City of Charles Town commissioned a property appraisal in January 2006 that indicated the property could be subdivided for residential development. Meanwhile, the Friends of Happy Retreat was launched as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit dedicated to “acquiring, preserving, and utilizing the property for public benefit.”
Among the organization’s first orders of business was a survey conducted to determine the feasibility of the project. This survey found near-unanimous agreement that the Friends’ vision for Charles Washington’s Happy Retreat as a public resource for education, enjoyment, and economic development through heritage tourism are very important to the city, region, and state. With that vote of confidence, the Friends of Happy Retreat has continued its fundraising work and over the past four years has maintained on option on the property, with $35,000 total payments to date, which will be credited as earnest money in a purchase.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF
President. J. Randolph Hilton was a labor relations specialist for the government of Montgomery County, Maryland, until his retirement. He served as mayor of the City of Charles Town and remains active in Jefferson County and Charles Town public affairs.
Vice President. Walter Washington is a direct descendant of Samuel Washington (1734-1781), brother of President George Washington and Charles Washington. He has a law degree from American University and is a practicing attorney in Charles Town. Walter is the owner of Samuel Washington's home, Harewood, built in 1770 near Charles Town.
Treasurer. Richard Seckinger, originally from Philadelphia, is a retired air traffic controller. Served as treasurer for 9 years of Zion Episcopal Church, Charles Town; Board of Directors of The Old Opera House; Treasurer & VP of AIDS Network of the Tri State Area; and Distinguished Past President of Lawncrest (Phila) Kiwanis Club. Also a volunteer with the Animal Welfare Society in Jefferson Co. An avid history buff and a diehard Phillies fan!
Secretary. Paulette Sprinkle is the executive director of the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She has a master’s degree in Strategic Leadership from Mountain State University and 30 years experience working in tourism, historic preservation, and education. A talented graphic designer, she created the flag of Washington County, Maryland.
Marjorie Gaestel is retired after serving 25 years as a bookkeeper with the Point Pleasant, New Jersey, Board of Education, where she managed a $10 million budget. She is a member of the Point Pleasant Historical Society, an avid genealogist, a daughter of the Union Army, and a student of Washington family history.
William E. Jackson has practiced law for more than 40 years. Educated as an engineer and lawyer, his practice focuses on patents, antitrust, trademarks, trade secrets, unfair competition, false advertising, and First Amendment issues. Bill is a Registered U.S. Patent Attorney. His activities have included Moot Court Judge for Intellectual Property Competition, George Washington University Law School, and, in Virginia, the Piedmont Environmental Council and "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground.” He has also been active with with the Land Conservancy of Adams County, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; and the preservation of his family farm located near the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield.
Nelson Parkinson, a native of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, deepened his appreciation of historic preservation through his U.S. military career and his service with the State Department. Based in Rome, he and his family traveled throughout Europe. Today, as general manager of a Charles Town hotel, he welcomes visitors from around the world and shares with them his passion for the heritage of Jefferson County and the future of Charles Washington’s Happy Retreat.
Bill Senseney was born and raised in Jefferson County. After receiving a BS in business administration from West Virginia University, Bill took over active management of the family business. In the ensuing 15 years, he raised a family, farmed, served as president of the Charles Town Retail Merchants Association, became a member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission, and began distance running. Bill served eight years as sheriff and treasurer of the county and has just been reelected to his third term as magistrate.
Nancy Steele, a native of Pennsylvania has been a teacher in West Virginia for over 30 years. She is presently a teacher with the Jefferson County Schools. A graduate of Slippery Rock State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Masters of Arts Degree from West Virginia College of Graduate Studies and West Virginia University. She is a member of Jefferson County Historical Society, active in St. Johnís Lutheran C1hurch in Harpers Ferry and has a love of history especially the Civil War.
Robin Huyett Thomas, a resident of Charles Town with roots deep in West Virginia, is an accomplished interior designer, painter, and potter with bachelor of science degrees in fine arts and interior design from the University of South Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth University, respectively. As a commercial interior designer, she has managed projects for many government agencies, including the Department of Defense, which presented her with two awards for her work on the post-911 Pentagon reconstruction program. Active in civic affairs, she also plays polo and chairs the Friends’ major fundraiser, the Washington Family Homes Tour.
John Hough, bio to come.