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Foundation Board

Meet the Board of Preston Castle Foundation

The Preston Castle Foundation's
Board of Directors

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Karl Knobelauch


I spent my grade school years in Omaha, Nebraska where I was born.  My family moved to the suburbs of San Francisco when I was entering junior high school.  While attending Sacramento State College I met my wife Patty, who is a fifth generation member of an Ione farming family.  We married after college and lived in Novato, California.  We moved to the family farm outside of Ione in 1981.  In 2006 I retired after a thirty-seven year career in local law enforcement.

During the last thirty years of living in Ione the Preston Castle has been the iconic symbol of Ione’s history.  I see the Preston Castle from the back of my house and every time I drive into Ione.  After I retired I decided that I wanted to give some of my time to preserving the Preston Castle, so that future generations will be able to see the place where California started to bring a better future for youthful offenders.

Karl serves on the Events, Finance, Site Development, Bylaws, and Kitchen Committees.

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Jim Bennett

Vice President

I was born and raised in Amador a county. I started very young in the fire service and the auto parts industry. The fire service has always been my first love.

I now am a full time fire apparatus engineer with the City of Ione Fire Department. I got involved with the Preston castle about 5 years ago when the fire chief had us staff an engine for the Haunt. Since then I have taken on many other projects with the castle as far as minor repairs and the committee chair for the Preston Castle Haunt.

This year I also have become a board member with the Preston Castle Foundation. I have a true love for public service and the castle. Once it gets in your blood it is hard not to love it. I am married with 2 adult sons and reside in Ione.

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Barbara Murray


I was born in Sacramento so I am a native California girl. When my maternal great grandfather came to the United States from Yugoslavia, he settled in Plymouth and worked in the mines. My family has a long history in the Sacramento and Amador Counties area.

In 1981, my husband and I relocated our family from the bay area to Pioneer. When we left the bay area, I was a clerk typist at an elementary school in Santa Clara County. After several months of living in Pioneer, I took a job as an instructional aide at Sutter Creek Elementary School. My career with Amador County Schools lasted 31 years. The aide position led to a secretarial position and after 5 years, I moved to the district office as administrative assistant for Business Services. Ten years later, I was promoted to Director of Fiscal Services and then served as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services until my retirement in 2010.

Barbara serves on the Finance Committee.

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Jamie Armstrong


I have been involved with Preston Castle since 2014, starting with the Halloween Haunt. I quickly took to the castle and extended my volunteer efforts to historical tours, and have chaired many of the fundraising events throughout the year.

My volunteer duties include being a part of the Preston Castle Board of Directors, while holding a full time position as the Executive Director of the Amador County Chamber of Commerce. My ability to coordinate, and manage different people and personalities has lead me to the role of beloved haunt mom for the last 3 years, and hopefully more to come.

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Sybil Griffith

Administrative Assistant

I was born in San Francisco, but moved to Ione at age 3 when my Dad was hired as a Parole Agent for The Preston School of Industry. I attended school in Ione, then struck out on my own for a number of years before moving back to Ione. I got a job with the Amador County Office of Education as an Instructional Assistant for Special Education.

Several life changes occurred that eventually led to my current life in Ione with my husband Preston. I am still working as an Instructional Assistant and am currently at Ione Elementary School.
Several years ago I was approached by a Preston Castle Foundation member at an event at the Castle. She said that giving tours for the Castle would be a perfect fit for me. I decided to become a docent, received training, and started leading historical tours. I really enjoyed it and started getting involved in more and more of the events at the Castle. In 2014 I was asked to become a “person in charge” on tour days and took that on whole heartedly. I am responsible for running tour days once or twice a month during tour season.

I am currently on the tours committee and was recently put in charge of docent scheduling and elected as a board member. The Preston School of Industry will always have a special place in my heart. It brought me to Ione and was a large part of my life growing up. I started volunteering as a tribute to my Dad who retired from PSI and passed away from cancer in 2010. I’ve continued my volunteering because I love it.
Sybil serves on the Tours Committee.

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Donna Munson

Board Member

Born in Michigan, I grew up an “army brat”, traveling & living all over the U.S. Tired of snow, we came to Sacramento when my dad retired. I graduated from Elk Grove High School, then attended Sac City College while working for the State of California. I then worked at the Sacramento Army Depot until I joined the Army myself. After training, I was assigned to Nuremberg, Germany, where I met my husband to be, who was from lone. In 1976 we were married & came home to meet each other’s family; that was when I had my first up-close visit to the Preston Castle. It was condemned & in terrible shape, but was such a beautiful building that I was instantly hooked!

There were several more visits over the years, but raising a family & working at the USPS took up all my time. In 2010, after an early retirement, I learned that tours were being given through the castle, so I took one & found the volunteer opportunity that I had been looking for! I’ve now been a docent at Preston since 2011, leading hundreds of visitors through Preston Castle & sharing it’s history.

I enjoy talking to people from all over & seeing the expressions on their faces as they take in the magnificence of the Castle for the first time. I’m proud of being a PCF board member & sharing in the restoration of this beautiful building with a dedicated group of volunteers who give so much of their time & love. No matter how often I see Preston Castle, I still get goosebumps every time -1 hope that feeling never goes away!

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David Barnes

Board Member

I was born in Sacramento and grew up in Folsom, CA. My wife Rebecca and I moved our family to Ione in May of 2000 to raise our kids. I have a background of 33 years of Corporate Retail Leadership. In 2020 I opened Ione Sweets, an ice cream and nostalgic candy shop on Main St. In downtown Ione.

I first got involved with the castle in 2014 with my daughter Emily to help with the Haunt. Since then, my entire family has been involved. My wife helps collect tickets at the door. My son Greg also helps and has played the role of the Castle superintendent since 2019. 
Over the past 7 years, I have assisted in helping with the Haunt, Christmas at the castle, movie night and becoming a docent. It is a true privilege to be on the Board of Directors as we work together toward restoring Preston Castle.

I am currently in charge of leading the Landscape crew and committee. I look forward to continuing to bring beauty to the castle and the grounds with our many volunteers and community.

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Bill Thiry

Board Member

I’m originally from Chicago IL. But grew up in the SF Bay area and moved to the foothills in 1990. I never really knew anything about the castle until I moved to Ione in 2008. I visited the castle for a tour and then I was hooked. Loved the architecture and history.

I was talked into becoming a tour docent, which I accepted graciously and started learning everything I could of its history. In 2009 I was elected on to the board of directors and since have volunteered countless hours dedicated to the Foundation and our mission.

During the last 13 years, I have served as Building Chairman, Facilities Mgr, Television and Film production chairman, Haunt Chairman, and organized numerous fundraising events. I have served on and continue to serve on numerous foundation committees. My dream is to hopefully someday see the building restored !!

Oh and Yes, I have seen our ghost friends too.

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Rod W. Burton, III

Board Member

I was born in Columbus, OH and raised in Pittsburgh, PA where my family was in the steel business. I received my bachelor’s degree in History from Roanoke College in Virginia and my Juris Doctorate from UOP McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA. After practicing law for a large firm in the valley for many years, I opened up a small law firm in Sutter Creek where I live. I also work at a local winery on weekends.

I am in agreement with the rest of board, in my feeling that Preston Castle represents the “preeminent landmark in Amador County” and an important part of the County’s rich history. I am honored to sit on the Board to assist it in any way I can to help preserve and restore this majestic building.

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Melanie Fox

Board Member

I moved to Ione in 1993 at the age of 2 and have grown up enjoying our small town and the history it offers. Working for a medical group for the past 12 years I have continued to call Ione my home while raising my daughter Hazel with my husband Caleb of five years. I also enjoy gardening, crocheting and any form of creating art. I have had a love for the Preston Castle since an elementary school field trip exploring the exterior of the Castle and am grateful to have a place to volunteer my time and create lasting memories with my daughter. Having been involved from 2015-2022 with the Preston Castle Haunt decorating and running the makeup team, I am now expanding my volunteer time into other events and projects at the castle. I am very excited to be on the board and to continue to be a part of preserving a piece of Ione’s history.

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Nancie Lee Cummins

Board Member

Being part of the Preston Castle Volunteers since 2005, I’ve watched our Preston School of Industry become the Castle we know. Takes a village is oh so true.

Born and raised in Palo Alto, two sons, and 3 grandchildren, life is good. I’ve always felt that we have been blessed with so much, giving back has always been my model.

Background in Healthcare as a Certified Fraud Examiner, and site inspector nationally, being home in Ione is a pleasure.

Ione has simple pleasures of a country life with a Castle in the midst. What better place to have fundraising events of all kinds as volunteers come together with a common goal to support our foundation. Preston Castle is a great place to meet and enjoy our community.

Presently as a member of the Foundation board, Chair of Crafts Spring Fair, Christmas Fair, Cemetery and working in merchandise keeps me busy.

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Anita Thomas

Board Member

Born and raised in Sacramento, my husband and I moved to Ione when we retired after 34+ years each with Sacramento County. My County career consisted of two years in the Treasurer-TaxCollector’s office, 20 years in the Sacramento Sheriff’s department working at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, Crime Analysis Unit, and finally as the department’s chief fiscal officer. I finished my time with Sacramento County as a policy/budget analyst in the County Executive’s office.

I have been a castle volunteer for 13+ years, all of it in the Gift Shop. I love spending time in this beautiful building and am excited to see the completion of various projects. The to-do list is long but we are working through it and progress is evident in the paved parking lot, roof and gutter repairs, the start of replacing the wrap-around porch, and several infra-structure fixes that are difficult to see but make the building healthier.