In Memoriam

James F. Prentice 1953 - 2020

On December 8, 2020, the Harpers Ferry Park Association and National Park Service lost a longtime volunteer, steward, pioneer of their Certified Guide Program, and dear friend.

There are few people who have given as much time, knowledge, and support to Harpers Ferry and the National Park Service. A true child of the NPS, Jim was born in a national park (Perry's Victory National Monument, Put-in-Bay, Ohio) and grew up in national parks at Hopewell Furnace, PA, Harpers Ferry, WV, and Washington DC. At Hopewell, he had his first performance in front of the public as a 7-year-old blacksmith's helper.

In 1961, his dad, J.R. Prentice, was named superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Monument. Lower Town became his home, and he became a lifelong student of its history. A construction contractor for over 30 years, Jim began volunteering at Harpers Ferry NHP in 2009 at the time of the John Brown Raid Sesquicentennial. In 2013, he became one of the first Harpers Ferry Certified Park Guides. Over the next 7 years he helped build the guide program and gave tours to thousands of visitors.

The following quote is from a card Jim received from a visitor. These words beautifully express the way Jim was able to captivate his audience with his passion for telling the story of Harpers Ferry, and how Harpers Ferry held a part of his soul.

March 27, 2017

Dear Jim,

It’s hard to put into words the impact you had on me and my family this past Saturday. Your passion and knowledge of Harpers Ferry is vast and your love of the National Park [Service] added so much to our tour. On top of all that, you spent over 4 hours with us! We cannot thank you enough. . . . We’ll be talking about our day with you for years to come for sure!

Warm Regards,


Jimmy loved a good debate with the park rangers at Harpers Ferry. He could be stubborn and mischievous. But he always had the best interest of the park and its visitors in his heart. And he always stood proudly in his volunteer or park guide uniform. 

HFPA has established a James Prentice Memorial Fund in his honor. Donations will be used to pay living allowances for park interns—the next generation of park stewards and advocates—or fund other volunteer-related programs.