Bill and Karen Hayes knew they wanted to get involved at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West from their first visit in 1980 with Bill’s cousin and Center Trustee and Advisor, Gordon Barrows. “We really fell in love with the place,” Bill recounts. That love took its form in decades of faithful membership support from their home in Texas where Bill worked as a financial advisor. Since recently retiring to Shell, Wyoming, their dedication to the Center has only increased.
Bill drives more than ninety miles each week to volunteer in the McCracken Research Library. He’s taking inventory and handling delicate historical documents, photographs, and books as he helps digitize the collection to make it more accessible for scholars, historians, and enthusiasts.
Before that, Bill and Karen joined the “Eagle Posse” in response to a plea for volunteers from the Draper Natural History Museum’s Golden Eagle Research Program because “it seemed like it would be fun to get outside and be part of it.” They spent mornings in the field watching nests, documenting eagle sightings, and noting the presence of young eaglets.
The hours spent behind-the-scenes have provided valuable insight to the needs of the Center and further shaped the Hayes’ desire to meet those needs through their donations. “As a volunteer in the McCracken, I see the need for archival supplies such as file folders, bank boxes, and the day-to-day nuts and bolts supplies,” Bill explains. “These folders and cases are the backbone of the Center and allow us to preserve and understand the history and people behind the thousands and thousands of ‘things’ the visitor can see. The work is not as visible and doesn’t get the fanfare like someone giving money to purchase art or underwriting an exhibit—but it’s very important.”
Bill and Karen understand the impact individuals can have on the day-to-day operations of the Center, and they’re planning for theirs to extend beyond their lifetimes. Bill says, “We decided to support the Center, through our estate plan because we know it will be well used. It’s our way of helping preserve the collections and to make sure it’s available for generations to come.”
The staff and board members of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West have the tremendous honor and responsibility of fulfilling the mission of the Center with all gifts received. We are thankful for Bill and Karen Hayes, and others like them, whose generosity furthers the values of the American West during their lifetimes and beyond.
First published in Points West magazine, Fall/Winter 2018.