“Mainly keeping up with the honey-do list,” Coates said with a chuckle.
The 63-year-old retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander recently had a second retirement, stepping down from the job he took as the museum’s curator in 2005. Coates joined the museum as an intern 10 years ago while finishing a master’s degree in history from Cleveland State University.
His successor has yet to be determined, but if that person has the same drive as Coates did in his tenure, the museum will continue to grow and prosper.
“For the first five years I was there, I essentially worked for other people,” Coates said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do the things I thought needed done.”
But once he was named curator, Coates got busy doing those things. He installed or refurbished 14 exhibits in the museum while digitally organizing the museum’s collection.
One of the exhibits he updated is about the largest investigation in Cleveland Police Department history – the Torso Murders of the 1930s. Coates said he made the exhibit, one of his personal favorites, easier to understand and more comprehensive.
“The exhibit was there before, but it was nowhere near as self explanatory,” Coates said. “I expanded that to show what was known about all 13 of the victims.”
Another of his favorite exhibits is “The Glenville Riots,” an exhibit depicting the most brutal day in CPD history when 14 officers were wounded or killed in 1968. And he also worked on “The Old Days,” a look at the department’s beginning in the late 1800s when officers worked 10 or 12 hour days seven days a week.
Also as curator, Coates went around the area and presented The Museum-in-a-Box to schools, nursing homes, retirement homes and civic organizations. He used three different presentations depicting eras of CPD history – 1866-1912, 1912-1932 and 1932-1941 – and said the presentation on the most recent years was the most requested. But the oldest presentation was Coates’ favorite as it came with many artifacts such as old batons, hats and handcuffs which he would pass around the room.
“Each one was unique,” Coates said. “The first one is fun to do because there are artifacts. We have a hat in that box that’s over 100 years old. Collectively the part I enjoyed the most was doing the presentations to the public. I enjoyed giving those talks.”
Prior to his time at the museum, Coates spent 30 years with the Coast Guard before retiring in 1995 after serving in the Cleveland district office. During that time, he was stationed on five cutters on both coasts and the Great Lakes.
Coates said he will continue to travel in retirement, and one of the first destinations on his list is Seattle, a place his wife Joyce has been wanting to go to see their grandchildren.
“My wife has been after me to quit working for a long time,” Coates said.
Contact Andrew Harner at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.