I received this note a couple of months ago from Phyllis Arver Hessler. She addressed it to the Rockford Area Museum and she wrote: “I wrote this story for the writing class I belong to at Clark Retirement. I live here now in Grand Rapids. I may not have all the facts right but my Fellow Writers should enjoy it. I would like to visit the new museum when it’s ready. I’m happy there are devoted volunteers who, also, love Rockford. You may not be able to use this story. I’m a faithful fan anyway. Sincerely, Phyllis Arver Hessler”
I am sure that readers will enjoy the letter and the content follows: “Growing up in Rockford there wasn’t any museum. Later, with the push of some older residents they started a small one. It was in an older building downtown near the river and the railroad tracks. Several citizens became interested and formed a Historical Society. For a small fee anyone could become a member. Many volunteers were busy setting up displays and collecting items for the shelves. There were many records. The former newspaper called the ROCKFORD REGISTER had been put on tapes and you could view select items of interest. Several of the volunteers were former school teachers who stayed to live in Rockford.
The displays were of old time pictures and items: an old buggy and mannequins dressed in the style of former days. As the years passed school children visited the building and visitors to the city looked inside. Later many items could not be seen because of lack of space. Walking through one day I found my husband’s Great Grandfather’s picture on the wall. That influenced our family to become society members. Several years ago a new District Courthouse was built on Main Street. The city fathers were pleased to have more people coming to the city. By some geographical error county officials decided the District Court had to move to Grand Rapids Township. There was a lot of arguing about that but the ruling held. The court moved. The building stayed in Rockford.
The Historical Society was interested immediately in the building. They put their heads together and made plans to raise funds to finance a move from the old museum to a new building. The volunteers and officers of the society contacted Rockford area residents. This museum would not compete with the Grand Rapids one or the Gerald Ford museum but carry on the Rockford Area history.
Many new efforts have been made and they have plans to move in very soon. It should be a highlight for visitors. And there are many good restaurants in the area. Many little shops to browse in is a big attraction. A new Meijers is just off the highway. The city policemen are very helpful if you have a problem.
I like to brag about Rockford as I have many deep roots there. I grew up there and spent all my school years there. My Great Grandparents on all sides are buried there as well as my grandparents and parents. My father as well as my husband and I and our four children and five grandchildren all graduated from Rockford. I used to think I should have a reserved parking spot downtown, but that never happened. But I love Rockford! Stop in town some day and see our museum. Tell them I sent you! –Phyllis Hessler ”
My thanks to Phyllis for sharing her writing with all of us and for her solid, positive support of the Rockford Area Historical Society and its projects. She is a great example of the caring people who have made our area the great place that it is.