Mystery solved

May 4, 2014
Standing around a young pine tree are, from left, Gaylord Sheller, Bill Wentzel and Albert Townsend. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

It’s good to remember that when we eventually pass from this earth, we continue to reside in the memories of our friends and family. Some of us will be remembered by many and for quite a long time, which is the case with Gaylord Sheller, the man on the left in this week’s Mystery Photo.

A couple of dozen people called or emailed us to identify Sheller, among them one of his sons, Gene Sheller of West Alexander, and his daughter, Jane Teagarden of Claysville.

Sheller operated a dairy farm in West Finley Township and was a longtime member and director of the Washington County Soil Conservation District. He was nearly 97 years old when he died in 2005. Sheller and his wife, Mae, who died in 1998, had four children, including Sam, who lives in Alexandria, Va., and Donald, who died at age 9. Gene worked the dairy farm and taught at Washington High School for 33 years until his retirement in 2003. Jane became a pediatric nurse and nursing instructor at Washington Hospital.

Among the many to identify Sheller was Bill Wentzel, the man in uniform in the middle of the photograph. Wentzel was a forester for the state Bureau of Forestry, a position he retired from eight years ago.

“I would estimate the photo was indeed taken around 1980 to advertise and promote the planting of trees through Bureau of Forestry programs,” he said.

Wentzel now works part time for the Greene County Conservation District. He and his wife, Miriam, live near Waynesburg, and according to the number of phone calls we received, is known and remembered by many people in these two counties.

Wentzel was the only one, however, who could identify the man of the right.

“Al Townsend planted thousands of trees between 1978 and 1982,” Wentzel said.

Townsend was originally from Ohio, did not live nearly as long in this area and died in Florida in 1998. According to Wentzel, Townsend was a businessman and tree farmer who was a member of the American Tree Farm System, which recognizes people who manage their woodlands and plant trees. The photo was taken on his property in Buffalo Township.

The Scotch pines in the picture have survived.

“The trees shown in the photo are now 40 or 50 feet tall, Wentzel wrote in an email. “They can be seen growing on the hillside on the south side of I-70 at the Taylorstown (Route 221) exit.”

Those tall pines are a reminder that what we do in this life really matters and can last for many generations.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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