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Board Member Extraordinaire

Robert Hennigar

He’s a pilot, diver, actor, and technology expert. Renaissance man and new Historical Society board member, Robert Hennigar, grew up in pristine central Maine. In fact, he remained in the state until his graduation from the University of Maine with a degree in electrical engineering.  It’s where he met his wife, Tosha, also an electrical engineer.

Robert HennigarAfter graduation, Bob worked for Champion International and later studied at Xavier University receiving a Masters in Business Administration. In 1998, he joined Rayonier and was initially located in Jesup, Georgia, which he assesses as a quaint…town. Two years later, Rayonier relocated Bob to Jacksonville; he continues to work at the company’s Riverplace Tower headquarters on the Southbank where he is a “solutions architect solving business problems” with technology.

Bob has spent hundreds of hours since last November as a JHS volunteer  extraordinaire, not only in his role as a director, but also in hands-on efforts.  He’s located computers and a server to add to the JHS archives; and he’s upgraded all of the society’s computer programs. With these technological changes, JHS now safeguards a precious collection of more than 10,000 scanned documents and photographs all “backed-up” on-site and off-site. He’s expanded the electronic storage space to allow continued back-up for these rare pieces of city history. Simply stated, he’s the ultimate tech.

He also chairs the society’s Merrill House Committee and volunteers as a docent at the society’s Merrill House, along with his daughter Alyssa, a high school senior. In recent months, Bob underwrote repairs on the house’s concert roller organ and reached out to descendants of the Leach family; the Leach family occupied the house for 40 years, and some of the family had never seen the home until Bob invited them for a tour. He even participated with Gary Sass in city walking tours where he promoted membership in the Historical Society.

“Bob is a dream board member and volunteer. Whatever project he takes on, he handles every aspect of the project to perfection. He’s spent many nights, weekends and late afternoons upgrading our computer systems and offering tours.  He’s provided organization-altering work,” said Executive Director Emily Lisska. “And Bob’s so diverse. When he took on a last minute role representing the society at Avonlea Antiques, rave reviews followed.”

While Bob was a prime mover for a grant to document objects in the archives, he’s also stepped up as a major underwriter for the December Gingerbread Extravaganza; he and his daughter also plan to build a gingerbread house for the society’s only dedicated annual fundraiser which places him in the ranks of a truly dedicated supporter.

His pursuits are diverse and were revealed with reluctance. He’s a pilot and has flown gliders; he’s enjoyed mountain piloting in Alaska and admits, it’s not always to the delight of his family. He studied acting recently at a community theater; he cans his own vegetables, and has even kayaked in Prince William Sound near the remarkable (and dangerous) calving glaciers.  More recently, he was “dropped-in” to the wiles of the Allagash River for a canoe trip. He’s also participated in scuba dives on wrecks off the Florida Keys.

When Bob’s son, Kurt, turned 16, they hiked the sometimes notorious and often celebrated 140 mile Himalayas Circuit Trek.  It’s a trip on foot that begins in tropics and moves to the world’s deepest gorge and later reaches a mountain pass of more than 18,000 feet.

When asked what brought him to the somewhat sedate Jacksonville Historical Society, he said he wanted to get involved in the community and “know more about my city.”  “In a world with groups destroying history, I saw a group here trying to save and preserve history and I felt compelled to do something to help. I walked in the door and everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I knew I wanted to be involved.”

And we’re so glad he is.

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