The newest permanent exhibit at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum started as a memorial for one man, firefighter Dennis Rodeman, who was struck and killed by a motorist last year while raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. But as the exhibit took shape, the scope of the memorial expanded.
“We said, ‘Let’s do something to honor not only one person, but all those first responders,’” said William Adcock, R. E. Olds Museum executive director.
The museum, aided by state Rep. and former Lansing Fire Chief Tom Cochran and Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski, reached out to local authorities to collect items for the exhibit.
“The police department and the fire department went through all the artifacts they had,” Adcock said. “They were able to give us uniforms, photographs — really anything we wanted. We had carte blanche to build this first responders display.”
The exhibit includes modern police and firefighter equipment, as well as historical items dating back as far as 1870. It also features a placard with the names of the Lansing men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. Adcock describes the exhibit as permanent but “fluid.” The museum expects more donations for the exhibit, and it will add or rotate artifacts as these come in.
Mayor Virg Bernero and city officials gathered Wednesday to commemorate the exhibit’s opening.
“Especially in the times we’re in, we’re reminded of the heroic efforts that our first responders take on every day on our behalf. They put their lives on the line for us every day,” Bernero said. “This is an undertaking that they have taken on willingly on our behalf and on behalf of Lansing residents. I’m grateful for that. This is one of those things that’s great to see.”