By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News
GETTYSBURG — Danville native Susan Reichen Boardman said the most incredible thing she has done so far during Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary celebration was chaperone the author of the book which partly inspired the Oscar-winning movie “Lincoln.”
“It was an incredible honor to accompany her,” Boardman said of historian and “Team of Rivals” author Doris Kearns Goodwin, who gave the keynote address Sunday during the “New Birth of Freedom Event” at Gettysburg.
“That’s the kind of cool things that happen to you at Gettysburg,” said Boardman, associate director of the leadership program for the Gettysburg Foundation. “I got to chaperone her the entire time she was here,” said the Danville Area High School graduate and former registered nurse.
Boardman guides executive leaders, including management from government, nonprofit organizations and corporations, to spend the day on the battlefield and study leadership decisions and styles using the battlefield as a study of people instead of tactics.
“While there have been anniversaries in the past that are all famous and now this one, which is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I get to experience, I hope Gettysburg will be remembered for its legacy of education,” Boardman said.
About 30,000 visitors are expected daily at Gettysburg this week to mark the 150th anniversary of the battle which took place July 1-3, 1863. Gettysburg is considered the turning point of the Civil War.
Boardman, a licensed battlefield guide who conducts executive leadership tours of the battlefield, this week is leading tours for board members and VIPs. Dignitaries from all the states, including governors, are converging on Gettysburg.
She will also support the operation of the visitors’ center “in real time on the anniversary of when the event happened.” Guides will position themselves for talks throughout the day to tell visitors what happened that day 150 years ago, she said.
Re-enactments last weekend and this weekend will be held offsite. “This is more of a real-time experience,” she said of happenings at Gettysburg, which is part of the National Park Service.
She serves as a guide to foundation visitors. The foundation supports the park. “My job is to take them to the battlefield and introduce them to Gettysburg — it’s an incredible job — I love this story,” said Boardman of the foundation mission to support the National Parks Service mission of preserving, protecting and educating.
Boardman began as a park guide in 2000 and has been working with the foundation since 2003 when the new museum and visitors’ center project was kicked off.
An emergency department nurse at Sunbury Community Hospital for 23 years, she said history was always her hobby and more specifically the Civil War. “I would spend every weekend at Gettysburg,” said Boardman, who became a licensed guide after taking a highly competitive test which begins the process to become a guide. When she took the exam, she said about 20 guides were chosen from among 192 people.
The Gettysburg area resident since 1998 said the park this week is “just covered with people. It’s exciting. The more distance placed between an event and a current date, the harder it is to engage but Gettysburg is a place that inspires people to visit because every single hometown across this nation had a family affected by this battle and this war — it’s part of everybody’s heritage.”
The most well-known units from Danville at Gettysburg were the 93rd from Pennsylvania and the 35th from Pennsylvania, also known as the Sixth Reserves, although she said, there were Danville residents with several other units.
The units from Danville saw heavy action July 2 “to help save the Wheatfield,” said Boardman, who wrote the book “The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama — A History and Guide” about the massive oil painting in the round which reopened in 2008.
She has also written publications for Danville’s Iron Heritage Festival and presented programs at the festival.