Brookings County Historical Society endorses change at museum

Courtesy photos: Above, the board of directors of the Brookings County Historical Society/Museum have named the museum’s music room the Gladys and Howard Lee Music Room in honor and appreciation for their years of service to Volga and Brookings County. Below, Shirley Deerthardt of Aurora, seated center, was elected president of the Brookings County Historical Society/Museum at the society’s annual meeting. She succeeds Phil Wagner, left, of Brookings, who had provided society leadership for the last four years before accepting the vice-presidental position this year. Re-elected to a fifth year of service were treasurer Darla Strande of Brookings, center, and Bob Buchheim of Volga, secretary.

BROOKINGS – At its annual meeting earlier this month, the Brookings County Historical Society/Museum board of directors decided to experiment with a new weekly schedule next year, and it named the main museum building’s Music Room after longtime members and museum advocates.

The music room will be known as the Howard and Gladys Lee Music Room.

Music has always been a part the Lees’ lives. They first met at a rehearsal for a Christmas pageant at Waldorf College where they were staff members.

After graduating from Volga High School and South Dakota State University in 1941, Howard taught high school social studies and served as band director at Wessington High School. He joined the Navy in late 1942 and in March 1943 became communications officer aboard the  USS Boise.

During World War II the light cruiser saw action in operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

After the war, Lee attended graduate school at the University of Iowa and was a member of its concert and marching bands. He also directed an Iowa City church choir and the community’s YMCA chorus.

In 1949 he became a faculty member at Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, teaching commercial subjects and directing the college band. While there he met and later married Waldorf staff member Gladys Egertson in 1950 at Petersburg, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter the couple moved to Volga where Lee was engaged in banking.

Lee became very active in the Volga community in a variety of organizations. He was a member of the Brookings Kiwanis club for 52 years. He served as director of choirs and instrumental ensembles for the Volga First Lutheran Church, was director of Volga’s Community Chorus and played in the Brookings Community Band.

Gladys was the Volga First Lutheran Church organist for 25 years.  

Lee, 102, served as a board member and as treasurer of the Brookings County Historical Society/Museum for more than four decades and was closely associated with the funding and construction of the museum’s first building in Volga’s Peeke Park.

Howard and Gladys, 96, have been active members of the historical society and of the museum for more than 60 years.

At the annual meeting, members also re-elected officers and five board members. Officers are Shirley Deethardt of Aurora, president; Phil Wagner, Brookings, vice-president; and Darla Strande of Brookings and Bob Buchheim of Volga, treasurer and secretary respectively.
Re-elected to three-year museum board memberships were Chuck Cecil of Brookings; Don Kleinjan, Volga; Dennis Hanson, Volga; Janet Gritzner, Brookings; and Deethardt.    

In other action, members decided that the six-building complex will be closed on Sundays and Mondays during the 2022 summer season to reduce the need for volunteer greeters and guides.              

Deethardt said that the museum has over the last several years experienced a decline in visitors on Sundays and Mondays, often with no visitors during either of those days. “So the board has decided to try this new schedule as an experiment and see how it goes,” she said.

The museum’s new schedule beginning in 2022 will be Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. beginning on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day.


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