There are not many people in Hawthorne that can say they meet people from all over the world on a weekly basis, but Debby Schwarz can add that to her volunteer resume. As a weekly worker on Thursdays at the Ordnance Museum she is the first to say, “volunteering fulfills me and is sure cheaper than therapy.”
Her journey into giving just three hours of her weekly afternoons began 11 years ago when asked to bring in crocheted dishcloths and homemade items for the Ordnance Museum gift shop. In spite of constant leg and hip pain, which causes her to use a cane, she has been a constant supporter in the legacy this museum provides to the community and to the world.
“I never dreamt I would meet such interesting people from the ends of the earth. I’ve traveled quite a bit – as a Navy brat kid, and then my ex-husband was Army,” she said. “
We were stationed in Germany when I was just 35 years old, raising my baby daughter as an army wife, but somehow I always found my place and settled in. In Germany I was known as the military mom, guiding all the younger wives into the pathway that I knew so well. So now, all these years later, I’m a greeter at this museum, where strangers share their military stories and we relate to common places as if we are old friends. Lots of visitors teach me rare things about the bombs or items we have here. I have visitors that actually come by on regular trips, planning their routes around Thursday stops in Hawthorne, just to see me and say hello. That makes my day.”
Schwarz has been around long enough to see the growth in the museum’s pieces and in the reputation, of which a wall map shows hundreds of pin markers which indicate all the places from the world in which visiting guests have come from.
“The highest amounts of guests I think I’ve ever had on a Thursday are 31 and I’ve just had three that made me nervous over all these years. One guest in particular said I was going to hell by supporting war. Instead of defending myself, I let him know, it was because of “wars” he was able to tell me that in this free country. He shut up after that, so I didn’t dial the police to come. ”
With total respect toward the military, history and the legacy within her own life, Schwarz traveled to the Hampton Court Palace in England 12 years ago. She is a direct descendant of Catherine Par, who was Henry VIII’s sixth wife.
“She was the one wife that didn’t get killed by him and she outlived him to luckily remarry. My lineage came from that marriage. I got to visit exactly where she lived in London. It helped me get in touch with my family roots. I stayed with a family, which allowed me the personal side of England, which I loved. I enjoy history and what transpires over the years, so I guess you can see why working at the museum fits my personality so well. I am a small contribution to a large story here – and I know how to greet someone with a smile.”