Local connection to “Monuments Men” is a woman

June 19th, 2015 9:14 am

First Posted: 2/13/2014

The recently released movie “Monuments Men” tells the story of the civilian art experts who recovered artifacts that were stolen from private collections by the Nazis during World War II and returned them to their rightful owners. Not generally acknowledged was the fact that among the 300 so-called monuments men, there were dozens of women who engaged in the same recovery of artworks.

One of them, according to a Dietrich Theater news release, Ardelia Ripley Hall, was the aunt of Richard West, of the Mehoopany area. Ardelia Hall (1899-1979) visited the from time to time to see her sister Frances West who lived in Mehoopany and her sister’s brother-in-law, Alva Tompkins, in Tunkhannock. Alva Tompkins, when visiting Washington, D.C., would stay in her home.

Margie Young, of Tunkhannock and her sister Calista Hendrickson remember visiting her there and being in awe of the stories she told. Helene West, Ardelia’s niece, tells of listening to her tales of returning stolen art works, such as a portrait of St. Catherine by Rubens.

According to the Dietrich Theater, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Hall was instrumental in identifying important works of art that were still missing, some of which had been taken to the United States. It was largely because of her efforts that 1600 items were returned to public institutions in West Germany, Austria, Italy, and Poland, as well as to private collections, including that of the Rothschild family in Paris.

Her art restitution work did not stop with World War II, but continued with the Korean War as well. Even the area of Tunkhannock and Mehoopany were brushed by her visits, and when viewing “Monuments Men,” the Dietrich Theater encourages moviegoers to reflect that women played a significant role.