Written by Al Tonetti
Dave Bush was instrumental in the founding and development of the Ohio Archaeological Council (OAC). In 1975, he was one of two featured presenters at the organizing meeting of the OAC, representing the Ohio Department of Transportation. He served as President from 1979-1981. Soon thereafter he held positions with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Case Western Reserve University, and served as the Regional Archaeological Preservation Officer for the Northeast Ohio Region of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the agency through which we met. Dave was a strong supporter and advocate for the regional system, which due to federal budget cuts ended in 1981. He participated in many efforts to improve the work of the SHPO, the OAC, and Ohio’s archaeological community, including development of a state archaeological preservation plan, and wrote the first publication about historic preservation and archaeology in Ohio (Archaeological Preservation in Ohio, 1978, Ohio Historical Society). In the 1990s, Governor Voinovich appointed Dave to terms on the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board. Dave also ran his own cultural resource management firm, David R. Bush, Inc., conducting hundreds of archaeological investigations in Ohio before joining the faculty at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.
Dave and I had a few memorable experiences with his work at the site of Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison in Ottawa County, Ohio. Dave was the leading advocate for and primary author of the successful National Historic Landmark nomination for Johnson’s Island, assisted by former National Park Service chief historian Ed Bearss and me. He did not shy away from tough and controversial matters even when it seemed it would be for naught. Last fall, at my request, Dave agreed to present a summary of his work at Johnson’s Island at the OAC’s 2022 spring membership meeting, and an interview with me on his perspectives on the founding of the OAC, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate in 2025, and the future of Ohio archaeology. I am deeply saddened we did not have the time.
Here is a link to Dave’s memorial https://www.jenkinsfuneralchapel.com/memorials.php?id=1862. From it: “He attended Miami University in 1973, graduating with a BA in Anthropology. He earned a Masters degree in 1974 from Kent State University. Dr. Bush went on to earn a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Case Western Reserve University in 1987.
Dr. Bush held many professorships, along with director and board positions at Case Western Reserve University, University of Pittsburgh, and lastly from 1998-2017, Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Historic and Military Archaeology at Heidelberg University. Dr. Bush's ultimate professional legacy was his passion and dedication for field work and study of Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison. As founder and Chairman of The Friends and Descendants of Johnson Island Civil War Prison, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Johnson’s Island Prisoner of War Depot. Thru this he was able to get the land designated as a National Historical Landmark. In 2011 he achieved a lifelong goal and authored “I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island, Life in a Civil War Prison”. In addition, he served his country as an Anthropologist in MIA-POW recovery for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Dr. Bush proudly recalled this service in SE Asia as a life changing event.
While at Heidelberg University, Dr. Bush mentored dozens of aspiring archaeologists and created the Johnson's Island Experiential Learning Program in Historical Archaeology, a program that allowed thousands of 5th - 12th grade students, teachers, and parents to experience history hands-on. Participants also gleaned insight into what life was like at a Civil War prison by listening to diaries and journals of the POWs. He led summer field schools, teacher workshops, and volunteer programs at Johnson's Island throughout his career.”