By Leigh Ann Rutledge
MALVERN – In the midst of patriotic unrest in the United States today, a Malvern man is standing tall.
Jim Vahila has, and continues, to honor veterans of the American Civil War. He painted a wall in the swimming pool room of his home at Lake Mohawk with an American flag and a Union soldier depicted from the Civil War.
Vahila became a Civil War buff after talking with a Timken Company co-worker who was also intrigued with the war between the states. Interest in the Civil War grew after a period of time and continues to grow Vahila noted. He has a collection of books on the Civil War and he and wife, Terry, have visited Gettysburg at least 30 times in their 50 years together. (So many times, a waitress at one of the diners they frequent during their trips recognizes them time after time.)
A statue “In Remembrance of Soldiers from Brown Township in the Civil War who are Buried in the South 1861-1865” is located at the entrance of Bethlehem Cemetery on SR183 outside Malvern. The statue was Vahila’s inspiration for his painting.
He traveled to Civil War battlefields to do research on the men listed on the statue. They also visited several museums with Civil War collections.
Vahila began the project by painting the American flag. He added his vision of the statue and then listed the names of the Brown Twp. soldiers buried in the South. Their names are listed on the white stripes of the flag. The names were redone after they faded due to the moisture in the room.
Jim became interested in painting after his service in the US Army from 1961-1963.
“I had no idea he could paint until he started this project,” said Terry. “It was all done freehand. He has had no professional training.”
Little by little over the years, Jim worked on his painting. After finishing the American flag and Union soldier, he added a Confederate flag on the wall.
Brown Twp. Civil War soldiers listed on the flag in Vahila’s pool room include:
Jacob Taylor, Co.I 98th OVI, Chickamauga, TN;
Samuel F. Totten, Co.F 104th OVI, Marietta, GA;
Charles Tillet, Co.I 98th OVI, Atlanta, GA;
Adam Ulman, Co.F 184th OVI, Chattanooga, TN;
Thomas Wier, Co.B 65th OVI, Camp Irwin, TX;
George Kleitz, Co.K 19th OVI, Kenesaw Mountain, GA;
Isaiah Eagy, Co.D 25th OVI, Hilton Head, SC;
Solomon Leggett, Co.H 98th OVI, Bentonville, NC;
John A. Marquis, Co.I 1st OVI, on the way to Andersonville Prison;
Amos Morrison, Co.I 1st OVI, Resaca, GA;
Nathaniel Murfin, 26th Ohio Battery, Vicksburg, MS;
Andrew W. Myers, Co.I 98th OVI, Lebanon, KY;
Joseph Neely, 3rd Ohio Battery, Marietta, GA;
David Neely, 3rd Ohio Battery, Marietta, GA;
Robert Reed, 40th Illinois, Shiloh, TN;
Joseph Roudebush, Co.A 80th OVI, Farmington, MS;
Samuel J. Crissinger, Co.K 10th OVI, Newbern, NC;
Ethan A. Clark, 25th Wisconsin, Memphis, TN;
Andrew C. Criss, Co.E 1st Michigan Cavalry, Alexandria, VA;
Jacob Wesley Davis, Co.A 80th OVI, Paducah, KY;
Frederick L. Fishel, Co.I, 98th OVI, Jeffersonville, IN;
Erwin J. Gordon, Co.A, 80th OVI, Fort Hill, TN;
Joseph Harsh, Co.I, 98th OVI, Camp Nelson, KY;
Joseph Keckley, 3rd Ohio Battery, Marietta, GA;
Wm. Keier, Co.D, 19th OVI, Stone River, TN.