Grace Werner, a bell collector, holds an engraved bell presented to her by Director Steve Arseneau as a gift for 5,000 volunteer hours at the Museum at SMC. Starting with a Bells of Sarna string from Pentwater in the 1960s, she has collected 150, including a crystal bell as a souvenir from Prague.

Archived Story

Werner logs 5,000 hours at museum

Published 5:40pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grace Werner has given the Museum of Southwestern Michigan College the clothes off her back on her way to 5,000 volunteer hours — almost 2½ years as a 40-hour job.
“I didn’t think it was that much until I reached” 5,000 hours, she said Tuesday.
When she started in 1994, she was still working as a nurse. She worked in industrial nursing for three years, then spent the bulk of her career, about 35 years, at Pawating Hospital, now Lakeland, in Niles in three different stints.
Werner, who lives in the Edwardsburg school district in Milton Township, served in the U.S. Army as a nurse during World War II. She donated her World War II uniforms, featured in the “Small Town, Big World” exhibit, to the museum
She served 1½ years after enlisting in 1944. By the time she was licensed, it was V.E. Day. After basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., 30 of her class went to three Air Force commands. The Air Force was not yet a separate branch, but part of the Army.
Werner said military service took her to Illinois, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.
For museum Director Steve Arseneau, Werner works on local history, inventorying, storing and organizing the collection.
“Grace is such a good friend and her 5,000 hours is quite an achievement,” Arseneau said. “She has served as the de-facto collections manager since 2006 when the curator position was not filled. I am able to give her a new task and know it will be done with great attention to detail. Every museum needs a volunteer like Grace to help keep the collection organized.”
“It keeps me busy,” said Werner, who volunteered about a year before she retired. She has done everything, including giving school tours, since finding sitting the desk “too boring” and asked for more to do. “It evolved from there,” said the mother of three children in Edwardsburg, Granger and South Bend, Ind., grandmother of four and great-grandmother of four.

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