CHEHALIS - The man who says he founded the Veterans Memorial Museum after a spiritual visitation from God in 1994 will retire as the facility's executive director at the end of the year.
Lee Grimes, 62, announced his impending retirement in a letter sent this week to members of the museum’s board of directors.
Charles “Chip” Duncan has been chosen to replace Grimes, who will remain involved in the museum and its programs.
“Retirement does not mean that I will be walking away from the museum, never to be placing my foot within its doors again,” Grimes said in the letter. “Quite the contrary, I will be very active in the proceedings of the museum and especially will place myself at the disposal of Mr. Duncan for any questions or concerns that may arise.”
Grimes started the museum in his garage and opened the first public storefront in 1997 on Main Street in Centralia. In 2005, Grimes spearheaded the opening of a facility visible from Interstate 5 Exit 77.
In the letter, Grimes said he began work on the museum in January 1994 after a spiritual visitation at 3 a.m. He said the voice told him, “No, do not let them forget, go out and get their stories.”
He wrote: “Knowing this referenced America’s veterans, I have obeyed God’s word and have dedicated 16 years of my life to that very vocation.”
The museum has 9,000 square feet of gallery space with 85 display cases and hundreds of displays dedicated to veterans. It also has an event center, a library and a gift shop.
Grimes said in the letter that he wants to see the museum “grow to new and higher levels.” He said Duncan possesses the qualities of a successful director and understands the goal and mission of the museum.
Grimes said he will seek to be placed on the board of directors in 2011 after Duncan – currently an administrative assistant – takes charge.