Taylor Veterans Museum displays history and memorabilia of those who served
By SUE SUCHYTA
TAYLOR – In a quiet corner of the city’s municipal offices, a small cadre of volunteers celebrate Veterans Day year-round by preserving memories of local residents who served in the armed forces.
The museum, 23555 Goddard Road, founded in 2009, proudly displays the personal keepsakes of area veterans donated by those who served and their families.
The collection, housed in wooden cabinets with glass fronts, includes uniforms, weaponry, flags, photos and the military history the donated items represent.
Museum chairman Wayne “Boomer” Buck, a state commander of the Michigan Department of Foreign Wars, said the presence of the museum is important because it represents the Taylor men and women who served their country honorably, as well as those who gave their lives.
The museum, staffed by a team of 14 volunteers, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“If we had more volunteers we would be open more,” Buck said. “The only qualification is be nice to people that visit and inform them about the displays in the museum.”
Museum volunteer Patricia Kucharek of Taylor said the museum needs young volunteers to insure its ongoing viability.
“I’m 84; my time is shortening up,” Kucharek said. “If I am gone, who is going to take my place? We need people to be concerned about it staying open.”
Call John Meyers at 313 720-9913 for more information or to volunteer. Volunteers need not be veterans.
Buck said museum guests include city hall visitors as well as schoolchildren.
“We have some school groups but we would like to have more,” Buck said. “It is very important that the young ones learn as much as they can about this country.”
Kucharek said they had several school groups visit the museum on Election Day Nov. 4.
“We explain to them what (the museum) is all about, and the different wars,” she said.
Volunteer Walter Howard of Taylor said visiting the museum helps students to understand the role veterans served.
“I think it is important that all kids know what goes on in the world, and who protects them, and how they are protected,” Howard said.
Kucharek said U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr. (D-Dearborn) donated his military memorabilia after a visit to the museum. Dingell joined the United States Army in 1944 at the age of 18, and rose to second lieutenant.
Dingell, 88, is the longest-serving member of the United States House of Representatives, having served for 58 years. He is one of two World War II veterans still serving in Congress. He retires at the end of the year.
Kucharek said museum displays are rotated every two to three months since the collection exceeds the available display space. She would not want to see the museum move away from the city offices, though, because many museum visitors stop in after conducting business with city offices.
“If we had a little more space where we could put everything out it would be nice, but this is an ideal place because if you moved out of here, and you opened up a veterans place by itself, how many people are going to stop?” Kucharek said. “At least they have a reason to come into city hall.”
Howard said adults, including veterans who visit the museum, like to read the veterans’ histories as they view uniforms and medals in the display cases.
“It’s all fascinating, especially to younger kids,” Howard said. “The older people come to pay their respects. They know what’s going on where the military is concerned.”
One of Kucharek’s favorite displays honors a high school classmate of hers, Robert Simanek, a Marine private first class who fought in Korea. When he and others came under heavy fire and sought cover in a trench, he threw himself on an incoming grenade to protect the others. He survived despite serious injuries, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“He’s a slender little man and just the nicest guy in the world, and he sacrificed,” Kucharek said. “I get to see him a couple of times a year.”
A crocheted American flag, made in 2012 by a group of local crafters, adorns Simanek’s display case.
Museum volunteers also place flags on veterans’ graves in the city — which includes Civil War veterans — on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
The museum sells military-themed caps, mugs, decals and other souvenirs, with proceeds funding the group’s missions, including two annual $500 scholarships to Taylor Truman and Kennedy high school graduates from the schools’ Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Kucharek said the museum’s role is ongoing and evolving. While some volunteers devote time to the displays of veterans’ memorabilia, others help veterans with their current needs, including accessing timely health care and affordable housing.
Kucharek said her daughter volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, a group that works worldwide to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness. Locally the group dedicates some of its housing to veterans in need.
She hopes some of the children and young adults who visit the museum will become volunteers.
“These kids are going to be veterans some day,” Kucharek said. “I don’t think we are ever going to solve all the problems of the world. We are expected to, and we are trying.”