Volunteer muscle moved museumPublished 9:11pm Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Chuck Timmons of Sister Lakes belongs to three Masonic lodges — Dowagiac, Marcellus and Lawrence — and promotes blood drives before committing months of his time to move a museum.
Timmons brought to Dowagiac Area History Museum a skill set of working in the aerospace industry in California for Hughes Aircraft Co., the defense contractor founded by Howard Hughes, and, before that, six years with Heath Kit in St. Joseph.
When he retired 20 years ago, the 1955 Dowagiac graduate “came home” after 30 years away from the area.
Director Steve Arseneau arrived in 1998 and consulted Timmons for a Masonic-related exhibit.
He soon joined the advisory committee, which he has chaired for eight years.
While Arseneau routinely relies on a cadre of 30 volunteers to sustain the museum, Timmons and Al Palmer came in like it was a fulltime job for three months.
The museum closed at Southwestern Michigan College last July 6, beginning six weeks of taking down exhibits, including a smaller-scale Beckwith Theatre, and packing them for the trip to town or campus storage.
“Chuck helped plan this new facility,” Arseneau said. “We moved in in early February and he and Al came in 30 hours a week.”
“I knew it would be a big task,” Timmons said, “but it needed to be done. Steve had it all mapped out. He was the grand designer of the layout, with his expertise. It’s repurposed beyond belief” since Behnke’s Paint and Floor Covering.
Motivating Timmons was a “feeling of being useful with some of the skills you’ve developed over a lifetime. I don’t have the passion for history Al Palmer has.”
“Chuck’s good with electronics,” Arseneau said. “From the jostling of the move of the cabinets, a lot of lights didn’t work. Chuck was able to get them working. He and Al and myself made a great team. It’s 4,000 square feet of exhibit space that had to be redone and painted. I couldn’t have done it without those two guys. It would have been impossible.”
Timmons modestly brushes aside such praise. “We’re old and slow, but we putter along when we get going.”
With DAHM open, “I’m catching up,” Timmons said. “There’s yard to keep up and plenty of things to do to occupy time. With this heavy commitment that we had here, you just shovel things aside or get up earlier or work later. In retirement, you find ways to fill the day, but you’re less efficient.”
Arseneau said a couple of volunteers of the caliber of Palmer and Timmons trump quantity.
“I had my own job filling cabinets,” Arseneau said. “If I had 12 people, all asking me questions for direction, the cabinets never would have gotten filled. Having two incredibly dedicated guys who knew their jobs enabled me to do the jobs I needed to do. But going forward, we always need good volunteers.”
“Some have put in thousands of hours over the years to the museum,” Timmons said, “which makes a huge difference. We hope with this new, more visible location, more will enjoy the museum.”