Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Museum visitors enjoy a day filled with memories

Recent museum visitors took a photo op in the Victorian garden of the Flat River Historical Museum. Gerry Williams Vandlen of Grand Rapids, seated at right, is daughter of H.O. “Bill” Williams, the museum director when it was first created and for many years afterward. Seated next to her is her daughter, Karen Riendl of Wisconsin, who arranged the visit to surprise her mother. In back, from left, are Gerry’s other daughters, Sue Main of Lakeview and Linda Drobish of Gowen. — Submitted photo

GREENVILLE — The past visited the present recently when descendants of one of the founders of the Flat River Historical Museum visited the museum for a private tour.

The daughter and three granddaughters of the very first museum director, H.O.”Bill” Williams, had come to experience the heritage of their father and grandfather. They were greeted at the museum by board president Keith Hudson and board member Judy Gager who were excited to hear and share stories of the past, especially during this 50-year anniversary of the museum.

Williams’ granddaughter, Karen Reindl of Wisconsin, had conspired with her sisters, Linda Drobish of Gowen and Sue Main of Lakeview to surprise their mother, Geraldine “Gerry” Williams Vandlen of Grand Rapids with the visit to the museum. Karen and Sue’s husbands had also tagged along for the visit.

The memories began quickly as Gerry read one of the historical placards on the entry ramp and recognized a picture of her father at the initial dedication of the museum in October 1972. (The museum will do a RE-dedication in October 2022 for its 50-year anniversary.) Once inside they enjoyed the anniversary display of photos showing the development of the museum in its early days.

Gerry remembered much about the museum during the time her father was the director, but was also very impressed with how the museum had changed with its recent updates and enhancements. All the visitors expressed appreciation for the time and effort involved in designing the museum and sustaining and improving it during its 50-year history.

Viewing the doctor’s office period room at the Flat River Historical Museum in Greenville, Gerry Williams Vandlen spotted the needlework plaque on the wall and said, “I made that!” She is the daughter of H.O. “Bill” Williams who was the first director of the museum in the 1970s and helped create and arrange many of the period room displays. Williams’ three granddaughters brought their mother for a surprise visit to the museum recently. — Submitted photo

As they toured the unique upstairs period rooms, Gerry looked into the doctor’s office vignette and spotted the needlework plaque on the wall. “I made that!” she declared. Early notes about the room confirmed her donation and indicated that her father had helped create and arrange that room and many of the other displays.

After Williams’ retirement from New York Central Railroad in 1968, the family had moved to Greenville to be near family in Lakeview. He became active in the Flat River Historical Society and spent nearly every day at the museum. He was also instrumental in having the former Eureka Township hall moved to the museum site. Williams died in 1998.

As they left, the visitors paused for a photo op in the Victorian Garden as a remembrance of a day filled with many memories of the past and of the legacy their father and grandfather had given to the Greenville community.

The museum is located at 213 N. Franklin St. in Greenville and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 4:30 pm. Private tours can be arranged by calling (616) 894-1783.

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