The arrival of Nov. 11, 2018, marked the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

For Grove City resident and military memorabilia collector Bob Traphagan, the day marked a special beginning.

Traphagan celebrated the grand opening of the Central Ohio Military Museum, a permanent space he has curated for the collection of memorabilia he has amassed over the past quarter century.

"I wanted to get this museum established before I got too old to be able to run it," he said. "I can't describe the feeling I had when we opened our doors."

The museum occupies the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11208 building at 1010 High St. in Harrisburg. Traphagan purchased the building from the post, which will continue to hold meetings at the site until it finds a new home.

The museum's exhibits span two rooms. With 4,200 square feet, the museum can display about 30 to 40 percent of Traphagan's collection at any time.

The front portion of the museum includes a display of modern military uniforms and memorabilia from America's most recent conflicts in the Middle East, dating from 2001 onward.

A temporary exhibition space will have a rotating series of displays, Traphagan said.

"Right now, with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we're featuring items relating to that war," he said. "We're planning to change the temporary exhibition on a quarterly basis. It might be a specific war or campaign, a particular military unit or some general theme relating to military service."

The front portion of the museum also includes a Gold Star Wall honoring 20 residents from Grove City and southern Franklin County who died in service from World War I to the present day.

"It's important for us to always remember the soldiers who gave their ultimate sacrifice," Traphagan said.

The back room has displays of uniforms and artifacts from the nation's 20th-century wars and displays with information about the Revolutionary War and Civil War.

Before it housed the VFW, the building was home to two banks, and Traphagan has plans to convert a walk-in safe into another area for displaying uniforms.

Another room will be converted into a canteen where visitors will be able to have refreshments. The room will be adorned with portraits of military personnel.

A World War II era payphone booth is in the canteen room.

"Isn't that something?" Traphagan asked, beaming as he pointed out the phone booth. "Kids today have no idea of what that is. To think you could put in a nickel and make a call."

Traphagan said he plans to rig the phone so that when people pick up the receiver, they'll be able to hear a recorded message about vintage phone booths.

"There's a story behind every piece of memorabilia we have on display here," he said. "That's what I want people to think about -- the people to whom these items are connected."

Some of the uniforms on display have text cards providing information about the people who wore them.

Two uniforms belonged to Luther and Harold Crabtree, brothers from Columbus who saw combat as Marines at Iwo Jima in World War II.

"Luther was an assault-team leader and his brother was an assistant squad leader," Traphagan said. "Luther made it through the campaign. His brother was killed on Iwo Jima in that same campaign, just 15 feet away from him."

Howard Bentley, 98, lives in Grove City and the museum displays the uniform he wore while serving with the 96th Infantry Division in the Battle of Okinawa.

"He was the winner of four Bronze Stars, with a V for Valor," Traphagan said. "He brought back a Japanese good-luck flag from Okinawa and a flag all of his buddies signed from his unit," which are on display in the case below his uniform.

The museum's opening ceremony was held at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, the time and date when the armistice ending World War I took effect 100 years ago.

"With such a momentous anniversary occurring, I really wanted to open the museum on that day," Traphagan said. "It was a hectic eight weeks getting the building reconfigured from a VFW post to a museum. We were still working right up to midnight the night before the opening."

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including the Grove City High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

"I really hope we can encourage teachers to bring their classes for field trips to the museum and other groups to pay a visit," Traphagan said. "We want to serve as a resource of educating today's generations about what previous generations have done to serve and protect our country."

The museum needs volunteers who would greet visitors and complete light housecleaning tasks, said Rita Traphagan, Bob's wife.

"I'm just so happy for Bob, that he's been able to see this day come," she said. "It's something he's worked so hard to achieve."

Volunteering at the museum "gives you a chance to meet some wonderful people who care about our military and the sacrifice they have made," Rita Traphagan said.

Bob Traphagan said he would be able to spend much of his time at the museum, working to improve the facility, now that he is retired from serving as a grocery-store manager.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Admission is $1, which will help cover the maintenance costs of operating the building, he said.

More information is available at thecomm.org.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 614-992-4110 or email traphagan@thecomm.org.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman