BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Memorial Day has personal meaning this year for the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.
In January, founder Galen Cole passed away.
Then the pandemic hit, forcing the museum to close to visitors, including thousands of school kids.
As Joy Hollowell reports, the cancellation of today's annual parade is especially tough on veterans.
The Cole Land Transportation Museum is heavily involved in the Bangor Memorial Day parade. Executive Director Jim Neville says this year marked a milestone for the museum.
"This would have been our 30th anniversary," says Neville. "Whether they are marching as veterans or putting stickers on the walking sticks that everyone has become accustomed to having. And that's not happening."
Founder Galen Cole was a fixture at the parades. The 94-year old's passing on January 10th marked the start of a tough year for the Galen Cole Family Foundation.
"The impact that Galen had and this foundation had, during his lifetime, I don't think we can ever put a number on it," says Neville, getting emotional. "Right up until a week before he passed away, he was on the phone with me, talking about the plans for this year. You will not be able to replace Galen Cole, and so we're doing the best we can to just do the best we can."
Cole cared deeply about connecting Maine's youngest generation with its veterans. This spring, about 4,000 kids were scheduled to visit the museum through school field trips.
"For me, that's my favorite part of this job because I get to interact with the kids through the veteran interview program," says Neville. "The schools are already re-booking for the fall, being very optimistic."
Neville says the museum has undergone a deep cleaning is ready to open now, they're just awaiting approval. Like everything else, social distancing rules will be followed with required masks and required reservations for groups of five or more. They're also looking forward to the rescheduled fourth of July parade in September.
"The jeep will be there, and the bell will be there, and we will try to bring back some normalcy to what's been a tumultuous season so far," says Neville.
Neville adds that the museum is currently hosting an online Black and White Campaign.
"Our curator has archived thousands of old black and white photos that people have donated to us digitally, and she is putting them on Facebook with a back story to them."
The museum hopes to open sometime in June.
For the latest updates, log onto https://www.colemuseum.org/