2023: Museum Year in Review
An Outstanding Speaker Series, a Two-Day Conference, Growing Media Presence, Expanding Partnerships, Veterans Outreach, and New Exhibits
Guest Speaker Programs
Our speaker program turned in another remarkable year, bringing veterans and community together for eight presentations by authors, historians, and veterans. Six of the speakers were authors, who talked about their books. One program included both a film and a book, and a second program was a multi-media presentation of WWII radio and newsreel excerpts from the famous Fox Movietone News Collection housed by the University of South Carolina
Three of the programs featured veterans speaking about their personal experiences while serving. Programs were hosted at the Transylvania County Library, Brevard College, and the Co-Ed Cinema. The eight speaker events drew 330 total attendees for an average of 41 per event, some traveling from Spartanburg, Greenville, and Charlotte. We continued our practice of live-streaming and posting our presentations on Facebook.
U.S. Air Force Captain David B. Grant
Veterans Take the Stage
Brothers and Sisters Like These is a program of the North Carolina Veterans Writing Alliance Foundation in which veterans give public readings of their essays, poems, and other writings as part of a combat healing process. In October the museum sponsored such a reading held at Brevard College. Ten men and women from the Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts courageously opened their hearts to an attentive audience of 60 who left with a new understanding of and respect for all who have served in combat zones.
A Walk Through History
The museum hosted its first ever 2-day historical conference in November, held at Grace Brevard Church, and focusing on WWII. Nationally known historians and best-selling authors James Scott, Alex Kershaw and Jonathan Jordan gave presentations on day one, addressing major events covered in one of their books. On day two participants heard firsthand accounts from local WWII veterans George Sarros, Ed Cottrell, and Milt Fletcher who had lived through the same or similar events as those spoken about by the historians.
A generous grant from the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority covered two-thirds of the conference expense. There were 67 participants, virtually all of them traveling from outside the county to attend, including from five other states. Many stayed at area lodging. The conference included a museum tour, a walk through downtown, and a book signing at Highland Books. The lead organizer of this event was Michael McCarthy supported by 26 volunteers committing 462 hours to provide a satisfying and smooth-running experience. This event helped establish the Museum as a History Center of Excellence and a proven tourist draw for Transylvania County.
The Living Museum
A steady pace of informal and social events brings veterans together with each other and with the community. These ranged from veterans stopping by the museum and chatting with visitors or serving as docents in our Pathfinder corps, to story-telling events with scout troops, Junior ROTC cadets, and local students, to award ceremonies and holiday observances, to media interviews.
We started the year with a birthday gathering for WWII centenarians. In March, a gathering was held for National Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Day. In May, Anchor Baptist Church, with the museum’s participation, hosted a deployment send-off dinner for the Brevard National Guard Reserves unit. In October, two of our veterans were nominated by museum volunteers and honored with Quilts of Valor.
In November, an evening of food, drink, and dance celebrated Veterans Day at Grace Brevard Church, the museum joining the American Legion and the VFW to offer this event to the public. We invited the citizens of Transylvania County to formal observances of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. On Memorial Day we arranged for interviews by Spartanburg TV station WSPA with three veterans. With Veterans Day approaching, WGGS-TV South Carolina contacted us seeking interviews with two veterans, whose stories were aired on the TV station. In April the museum’s annual Transylvania County Junior ROTC scholarship of $1000 was awarded to high school student Haley Salter.
The Veterans Coffee and Conversation group, which is supported by a Pisgah Forest Rotary grant, met monthly at the Brevard American Legion Post, ending the year with 17 in attendance for the Christmas party. Over the year, 52 veterans have participated, with 7 to 12 typically in attendance monthly including some female veterans.
Every Veteran Has a
Story to Tell
Stories are at the heart of the museum’s mission to honor, educate, and preserve. Display artifacts often encourage visiting veterans to tell their own stories. This year museum volunteers collected and published the stories of four veterans who served, respectively, in WWII and Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Afghanistan. The museum has successfully published three handsome books containing the stories told by 80 local veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The seventh edition of the WWII collection was released in 2023.
Sgt. Hallimore with friend
Joe Cooper Goes Global
Joe Cooper is a near lifelong Transylvania resident who served in both WWII and the Korean War. His stories were collected and published on the museum website and in the Transylvania Times. Joe recounts the sinking of carrier USS Ommaney Bay by a kamikaze attack in January 1945 which he survived after hours clinging to a life preserver and surrounded by sharks. In July 2023 the wreckage of the Ommaney Bay was discovered by an Australian team. News organizations searching for “Ommaney Bay” were led to our website, and the discovery of the last known survivor of the Ommaney Bay: Joe Cooper. Reporters came calling, even from Australia and Japan. We know of 13 U.S. interviews or articles appearing in Texas, San Diego, New Orleans, Chapel Hill, Florida, Pittsburg, and on National Public Radio.
Joe Cooper, WWII and Korean War Veteran
Nurse Honor Guard Salutes Dorothy Managen
Dorothy Managen, who turned 100 on January 5, 2023, served as an Army Nurse in WWII, and cared for American POWs returning from Japanese prisons, soldiers who had suffered grave depredations, and desperately needed nurture and loving care. The North Carolina Nurse Honor Guard, 12-strong and in full uniform, paid tribute to Dorothy in a formal ceremony organized by a museum volunteer. Following the ceremony, Managan talked with each of the Honor Guard nurses individually and signed her story for them in the museum’s book “We Shall Come Home Victorious.”
Pilot Ed Cottrell Meets Aviation Students
Ed Cottrell, a WWII P-47 fighter pilot, talked with young aviation students about the 65 missions he flew during the Battle of the Bulge. The students, ages 14 to 18, hailed from the Christ School in Arden, where they are part of a newly founded aviation program. The school has its own plane and two former Navy fighter pilots serving as instructors. The event was held by museum volunteers.