It is ironic that the Coast Guard Heritage Museum was the brainstorm of two former Navy men—our founder and first president, Cape Cod historian and lawman Lou Cataldo and CDR Maurice Gibbs (USN Ret) of Nantucket.
CDR Gibbs is a founding member of the U.S. Life-Saving Heritage Association (USL-SHA) and President Emeritus of the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum. It was he who suggested we re-name the Donald G. Trayser Memorial Museum noting that local history buffs might know about historian Trayser but: “Everybody knows the Coast Guard!”
Three former Coasties—Jim Walker (USCG Ret) of the American Lighthouse Foundation, Albert L. “John” Manning (USCG) and CPO Dan Davidson (USCG Ret)—both of them charter members of the Eastwind Association--came on board during the planning stages. So did Barnstable businessman Joseph Dugas who loaned us money to restore the interior of the old Custom House built.
CAPT Robert L. O’Brien (USCG Ret.)--former Comptroller for the U.S. Coast Guard and former Chief of Staff to the Commander of the old First Coast Guard District-- was a charter member.
Others instrumental in our founding include the late Cape Cod philanthropist L. Paul Lorusso--a former WWII Army Air Corps Veteran; Francis I. Broadhurst, ex-Navy Petty Officer (SO1) and retired journalist; RADM John Aylmer (CDR USN-Ret)--former president of Massachusetts Maritime Academy; Ralph L. Jones (USCG-Ret) a decorated Coast Guard veteran; Village Blacksmith Jim Ellis who works his forge in the old Carriage House on the museum grounds; and Hyannis businessman Stuart Bornstein. There are others instrumental in the start up of the CGHM who are no longer active, but their contributions are still appreciated.
Captain Bob O'Brien, Captain Robertson Dinsmore and Senior Chief Bill Collette (L-R)
We opened our doors to the public in May 2005, hard pressed not only for funding but also for exhibits.
Maurice Gibbs and Jeremy Slavitz, then Curator of the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum, brought dozens of exhibits on loan from the Egan Foundation. Orleans Historical Society loaned the Beach Cart last used on Cape Cod for a breeches buoy rescue in 1962. Ex-Army officer Richard Boonisar, a major collector of Revenue Marine, Lighthouse and LifeSaving Service memorabilia loaned his magnificent collection of historical artifacts, which remain a centerpiece of our exhibits. He’s a co-founder of the US Life-Saving Heritage Assn. and owns a former Life Saving Station on the shores of Plymouth Bay. RADM David P. Pekoske (USCG), keynote speaker at our “Commissioning Ceremony” August 12, 2005, was joined by a host of past and present Coast Guard dignitaries. He was impressed with our mission and the fact that we were housed in a former U.S. Custom House and Post Office building. “It is most fitting,” he said, “since all Coast Guard officers and Petty Officers to this day are sworn Customs Officers.” Since then we have hosted many Coast Guard leaders, including VADM Dan Abel, RADM Daniel Neptun and VADM Linda Fagan, all former commanders of the First Coast Guard District, as well as CAPT Allan K. Brier (USCG Ret) and CAPT Robertson P. Dinsmore (USCG Ret) who were part of our ongoing lecture series on Coast Guard history..
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Our list of volunteer directors expanded quickly with more Coasties. We added CWO Richard d’Entremont (USCG Ret), CAPT Roland “Bud” Breault (USCG Ret) and Dr. James L. Baird Jr. PhD (USCG Auxiliary). George Washburn (USCG Ret) who was the first Editor of our newsletter and Army veteran Harris Weston (who was drafted the day he was to join the Coast Guard).
CGHM Staff get-together - 2018
SCPO William E. Collette (USCG Ret.) brought new life to the Coast Guard Heritage Museum. He brought in ex-Coastie Jack McGrath who eventually succeeded Collette as President.
Senior Chief Collette reached out to other Coast Guard groups like the Chatham Legends, the Cape Cod Chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association and other related groups. Some signed on as honorary directors and many have donated items for display and gave us much needed cash contributions as individuals or as a group.
One of our most prominent donors was Gold Medal Recipient Bernard Webber (WO, USCG Ret) hero of the Pendleton Rescue with CG36500. Mr. Webber donated his uniforms, medals and ribbons dating back to service as a teenager in the Merchant Marine in WWII, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He was an Honorary Director and adviser to the museum.
Senior Chief Bos’n Mate David Considine, former OINC of Chatham Station serves in a similar capacity as does John Galluzzo, executive director of the US Life-Saving Heritage Assn, who has written extensively about the Coast Guard and lectured on his historical research.
President Emeritus Al Manning and former VP Dan Davidson brought The East Wind Association to the museum for their annual meeting in 2008. The work these two men, Jim Walker and others put into creating the CG Heritage Museum in the beginning is beyond value. In true Coast Guard fashion they see something that needs to be done and they do it!
We continue to develop fresh, new exhibits and continue to reach out to other museums, historical societies and organizations like the Cape Cod Military Spouses Organization, fraternal organizations, libraries, local elementary and secondary schools, and Coast Guard installations. Our goal is to attract adequate funding to allow us to continue to tell the story of the Coast Guard, its past, present and future. That is our mission and with the help of a great many volunteers we will achieve success.
USCG alumni Capt. Buck Baley (ret), Capt. Greg Ketchen (ret), Cdr Jim Sylvester (ret) on duty.