The people behind the scenes are often the people who deserve the most praise and recognition, yet they rarely get the applause they deserve. Often times that’s how those behind the scenes people want it. They prefer to work in humble quiet, out of sight and out of mind, getting work done that most other people wouldn’t think to do. At the Courthouse Square Museum, Gaylord Edgerly was one of those individuals. Always working, tinkering, and fixing whatever was of need, or whatever came to mind.
March 15, 2018 Gaylord died at the age of 85. The beloved handyman of Charlotte spent 25 years or more volunteering his time, skills, and resources to preserving Eaton County’s two original courthouses, as well as the old sheriff’s residence. Gaylord was known for his many building and artifact projects, many of which can be seen by visitors to the Courthouse Museum.
One of Gaylord’s first major projects was moving the original courthouse, which now sits at Bennett Park. That project set Gaylord on a decades-long journey to preserve Eaton County history. Since then Gaylord has helped restore the glass window ceiling in the Courthouse Museum, rewired all of the electricity in the museum, wired all of the old fashioned telephones in the museum to working order, restored nearly all of the instruments in the museum to be playable, and more. From doorknobs, to toilets, to heating, slate roofing tile, to hand carving ornate wood trim on the old sheriff’s residence, the trace of Gaylord’s handiwork is imprinted all over Eaton County’s historical buildings.
According to Julie Kimmer, manager of the Courthouse Square Museum, Gaylord’s contributions are incalculable.
“If we had to pay electricians’ and plumbers’ wages, I don’t know that we could’ve done it,” said Kimmer of Gaylord’s services.
While Gaylord was a part-time employee of the county museum network, he was a full-time worker. While talking to the County Journal, Kimmer could walk through any given room in the Courthouse Square Museum and point to half a dozen things Gaylord personally added, or fixed in a room.
“He did a little bit of everything,” said Kimmer. “The thing he enjoyed very most about the three old buildings were the craftsmen that made them. Taking care of them (the buildings) was paying homage to people who originally built them. He felt he was respecting them by keeping the buildings restored.”
But Gaylord was also a people person. Kimmer remembered him as a jokester, and a lover of the social side of his volunteer work. Gaylord could be seen every year driving the Courthouse Square Tractor in the parade, and including other members of the community and historical societies in his projects was his joy. Even Gaylord’s family partook in volunteering with the museum.
Gaylord’s funeral took place Tuesday, March 20 in Lakeview, Mich. where he was originally from and finally laid to rest by his wife, Jean. On Wednesday, April 14 at 2 p.m. a memorial will be held in Charlotte at the Courthouse Square Museum, in honor of Gaylord. With the skills that were gifted to him, Gaylord set an example for everyone by volunteering in his community. He gave of himself and did what he could to preserve the wealth of history in Charlotte and Eaton County. His legacy may not be in a wealth of printed words or public works, but it’s in flipping of a light switch, the beauty of stained glass windows, and the laughter of children as they talk through 19th century telephones.