Photo courtesy of Joel Farkas
By Steve Sears
When Joel Farkas, Revolutionary War buff and lecturer, saw his days as a business owner dwindling to a possible end, he started to ponder life as a retiree and becoming a…what?
“One day I decided, ‘Well, you know what? Maybe it’s time for me to consider retiring.’ So, I said like I think a lot of people do. ‘All right, I’m going to retire, then what am I going to do all day?’”
He started with his iPhone, listing in the “Notes” section under a heading “Retirement” any ideas that came to his mind, that list growing to about 20 things.
Volunteering was the first thing he did, serving the National Park Service as a volunteer docent tour guide at Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown. “However,” he says, “lecturing was the furthest thing from my mind.”
In the process of his researching the Ford Mansion history, he says, “One thing would lead to another and to another. You can’t help but get involved with other things. And one day I said, ‘You know, I’ve got all this information. I want to share it with people.’ As a tour guide, of course, I have to talk about the Ford Mansion and things casually related and fill in a few things here and there, but there’s so much more I want to talk about. I just found it fantastic.”
“That gave me the idea to write a lecture.”
That initial writing and presenting of that first lecture has led to 20 more. Farkas, 77, a Denville resident and a graduate of Ohio State University who served as an officer in the United Sates Army, has an involved lecture schedule with a variety of topics. He presents them to libraries, schools, and organizations. “I am finding that there is an interest in the founding of our country,” he says with great enthusiasm.
As a tour guide, Farkas always gets three questions about George Washington. “Number one, did he have false teeth? Were his false teeth wood? Well, they were never wood. The answer is a definitive, ‘No.’ Question number two: ‘How did George Washington die?’ He died from what doctors today call acute bacterial epiglottitis.” And then there’s that cheery tree tale. “What is this whole thing with. ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie?’ Actually, there was a lot of myths about George Washington, the wooden teeth, for one thing. The cherry tree, we know where it came from and I go into the story, etc. Those are the three most asked questions as a tour guide.” As for lecturing, one topic visitors bring up regularly is about women and their contributions to our American Revolution. “I cannot begin to tell you how interesting this research was,” he says of the topic, and it goes beyond Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. “Oh my word, there are so many interesting women, and they’re interesting because of what they did.”
Consider some of his lecture topics, in addition to “Remember the Ladies: Women During the American Revolution” and “Amazing Women of the American Revolution”. There are “George Washington and Morristown, NJ…Perfect Together”, “Battles of the American Revolution”, and much more.
The whole list of lecture topics including videos of presentations, and more information about Joel Farkas, can be found on his website, www.revolutionarywarlectures.com