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Veterans' museum ready to return home

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Kelsi Dew, right, curator of the Edgecombe County Veterans' Military Museum, shares a laugh with U.S. Army veteran and museum volunteer Bill Cobb as they arrange exhibits on Friday at the museum in Tarboro.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Monday, January 28, 2019

TARBORO — Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum President Donnie Hale remembers well the time nearly a year ago when he discovered bats inside the location in the 100 block of West Church Street.

“I just went in one morning — and there they were, in all their radiant glory,” Hale said.

More specifically, Hale said he had gotten to the back and turned on the lights before seeing anywhere from eight to 10 of the highly maneuverable creatures.

He said when he opened the door, “Some of ‘em went out and some of ‘em didn’t. So we called the town, who’s the landlord. And they got the animal control people involved. And it went from one thing to another.”

“We finally had to close,” he said, citing the old saying about one needing to be better safe than sorry.

Fortunately, he said, there was no damage.

Most of the museum’s artifacts and memorabilia were put into storage and the museum temporarily operated in a smaller location in the 500 block of Trade Street while the West Church location was being revamped.

The West Church location is set to reopen in at 10 a.m. on Friday, with Hale emphasizing, “That’s in stone.”

As for whether the place has been improved, Hale, with a chuckle and a hearty laugh, said, “I certainly hope so.”

When the doors open, visitors are going to be able to see scores of artifacts, including former weapons and former uniforms, and to see numerous portraits. The museum also has one of the finest military libraries in North Carolina.

The museum also highlights the career of retired U.S. Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, 77, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997-2001.

Shelton was born in Tarboro and grew up on a farm near the town of Speed. He was the 14th to serve as chairman of the joint chiefs.

“So that makes him pretty impressive nationwide,” Hale said.

Hale also pointed out the museum honors former U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Adolphus Staton, who was born in Tarboro and who lived from 1879-1964.

Staton received the Medal of Honor after American forces secured the port of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1914. American forces occupied the city amid civil wars of the Mexican Revolution.

Staton also was awarded the Navy Cross for helping save the USS Mount Vernon after the vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918.

Just behind the museum and on the side of the former Colonial Theater is a large mural completed in 2012 to honor veterans.

The mural is designed to provide a different representation of each war U.S. forces were in.

The mural’s base also has more than 800 bricks with the names of veterans.

The museum was established in 2004 after having been the idea of the late Joel Bourne, a retired Tarboro attorney who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific theater of World War II.

The museum was in a single room at the local Chamber of Commerce before eventually ending up in a building at 106 W. Church St., right behind the Tarboro Town Hall.

“It’s the second largest tourist attraction in the county,” Hale said, with the No. 1 being the annual tractor pull in Pinetops.

The museum, once reopened, is going to maintain visitor hours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and is going to be open by special requests.

Admission is free. The museum is going to be reachable by phone at 823-0891 and also has a website at https://edgecombevet.com/.

There’s also a video online about the museum at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8SfFggrpsw.

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