When town history-buff Gary Revier died last December, one of the first questions that went through many peoples’ minds was, “What’s going to happen to all of his stuff?”
When the late Gary Revier died last December, one of the first questions that went through many peoples’ minds was, “What’s going to happen to all of his stuff?” In addition to being mayor of Redwood Falls, Revier was also one of the area’s most passionate historians. Revier’s collection of documents and photos was becoming the stuff of legend in southwest Minnesota, in part because he was so generous in sharing it. For several years, Revier had a daily email update, sending several hundred subscribers a Redwood history photo of the day. Toward the end, he shifted to Facebook to reach even more people. Then there were the many Powerpoint displays he had put together to accompany his many lectures to groups wanting to know more about the area. Several years ago, Revier gave this reporter an external computer hard drive containing copies of approximately 250,000 documents and photos about Redwood’s history. You’ve seen examples in many Gazette stories since then. With Revier’s sudden death, many people became concerned about his collection. Would it end up going to people who would appreciate it? Or would it just sort of disappear? As it happens, Scott Larson was the first person to find out. “The day Gary died, I got a call from Nancy (Revier’s wife),” said Larson last week. “She asked if I had heard he had passed away. I said I had, and she said, ‘Be aware; I’ll be calling soon.’” Although Revier’s death came as a shock to everyone, the fate of his historical items wasn’t a surprise to Larson, a fellow history buff and long-time member of the Redwood County Historical Society. “Gary said to me, ‘I hope you outlive me, because all my stuff is going to the Redwood County Historical Society. Two months later, Gary died,” Larson said. “After Nancy had sorted through it to remove the personal items, there were still about 45 boxes of material left. We loaded them into a van and a Suburban; it filled both of them,” said Larson. Since then, Larson and Redwood County Museum curator Pat Lubeck have been sorting through the boxes and albums in as much of their spare time as they can find to do it. The first problem they’ve encountered: there’s just so much stuff, and it’s not the best organized in the world. Paging through the old photos albums, you can see pictures of, for example, old Pancake Days celebrations scattered all over, with no index to keep it in order. “Gary was interested in everything. His interests ran broad and deep,” said Larson. “I think he spent a lot of time collecting it, and told himself he’d organize it later. “Our first task it having to sort through and categorize everything,” said Larson. “He had items about everything: families, cities in Redwood County, personal items, a ton about Ramsey Park, a ton about buildings in town, lots of military. “Some of it is in bad shape. We’re going to have to make some decisions about whether to keep it,” Larson said, displaying a torn and tattered antique photo literally coming apart at the seams. To complicate things even more, many of the thousands of historical photos aren’t dated or labeled in any way. In addition, there is still an unknown amount of other material stored on Revier’s computer hard drives, but unfortunately no one currently knows the passwords to access them. Several boxes of documents and photos were labeled “To be scanned”, so Larson and Lubeck are scanning those items themselves. Whenever possible, they’re returning borrowed items Revier never got to. “It’s taking up all our free time,” said Larson. “I’ve been looking through maybe one photo album a day.” Larson and Lubeck’s final goal is to have all the sorted materials stored in books stored in the museum. There will be at least one book devoted to each of the 16 towns in Redwood County, with divisions into decades if necessary. The books will also make Revier’s collection more accessible for families wanting information about genealogy. If you know your family was from Clements, say, you should just be able to go to the Clements book and find everything you need in one spot. Revier’s legacy will live on.