Paying it forward: History enthusiast walks in and volunteers

Like many subjects of “Paying It Forward” features, Dennis Cavalier is reluctant to step into the spotlight.

The volunteer at the Ohio River and Campus Martius museums said there are a number of people who do a lot of things to help the two institutions that showcase the history of Marietta and the region. Among Cavalier’s contributions are leading tours of the Rufus Putnam House, home of one of Marietta’s founding fathers, and serving as chairman of one of the museums’ newest events, the Inland Waterways Festival.

Cavalier said other volunteers are welcome; they just need to call Campus Martius at 373-3750.

“Everybody has a skill, everybody has something they’re good at,” he said. “And there are all kinds of local organizations and national organizations that need help, and you can find somebody that needs your skills.”

Question: When did you first get involved with the museums?

Answer: Three years ago when I retired. I’ve always enjoyed history, and the first week I was retired I walked in here and volunteered ’cause I thought I would enjoy it.

Q: What sort of work have you done at the museums?

A: Tours of the Putnam House, (serving as chairman of) the Inland Waterways Festival. Also, in the spring when the school children come in, I teach things like Native Americans and farming, different things like that. Teach them about Native Americans and what they did in this area, and they get to make a prayer stick to take home.

Q: Why did you take the lead on the Inland Waterways Festival?

A: No one else would do it (laughs). … I’m retired; I had the time to work on it. The first year (2012) it was just too much to expect the employees to do it. They talked me into it, and it turned out very well.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with the museums?

A: Giving the tours (is) actually my favorite thing. Like (recently) we had people that all were very interested in the history and asked a lot of questions. You get to exchange stories with these folks, and they’re from all over the country.

Q: Has you ever gotten a question that stumped you?

A: Oh yeah, a lot of times. There are just too many details to know the answers to everything. I just have to ask someone else or read a lot and try to figure it out myself.

Q: Would you recommend volunteering with the museums to others?

A: Oh sure. Especially if you have an interest in the history of Marietta or just history in general. It’s a great place to come. I learn something every day.

Q: What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned in your time there?

A: I think a lot of the river history of this area … that I wasn’t aware of. Like Marietta was a seagoing ship-building port at one time.

Evan Bevins conducted this interview.