Michigan Military Heritage Museum Receives Large Donation

Mike McCloskey unwraps soldiers from a World War I set at the Michigan Military Historical Museum on May 12.

By Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

The Michigan Military Heritage Museum, located in Grass Lake, MI., received its largest donation on Saturday, May 12 when Michael McCloskey, a retired college professor, brought down a truck full of collectible toy soldiers sets.

McCloskey, 77, loved toy soldiers ever since he was a child. Although he was a never a military man himself, the idea of having displays always intrigued him.

He began when he was twelve years old, collecting soldier and train sets. Eventually, he gave those away but when he was older, missed them, so began collecting again.

“From 1983 on I bought from what I remembered as toys as a child,” said McCloskey. “Then I started buying one of each item in each catalog. Over the 25 years, I probably bought everything in every catalog. That’s what this (collection) is.”

McCloskey sent a letter to the Michigan Military Heritage Museum on Feb. 15, stating his intention to donate his extensive collection of toy soldiers and sets.

The sets included everything from the U.S. Civil war to sets of Agincourt Knights. Many sets were limited editions or special collections and most hadn’t even been removed from their boxes.

McCloskey said that the collection was insured for $95,000 five years ago and that he was giving about $85,000 dollars’ worth to the museum, keeping a few boxes with sentimental value for himself.

Scott Gerych, Trustee on the Board of the Michigan Military Heritage Museum, said the museum had never received a donation this big. They’ve had a cannon donated and a truck and a trailer, but those were known donations coming in, something they were prepared for.

“My reaction to the letter? You look at the letter and you see a bunch of zeroes together, you’ve got to read it two or three times to let it sink in,” said Gerych. “Lot of boxes to put away, sorting to do. It’s fantastic, wonderful that he thought of us.”

McCloskey said that he was getting too old to set them up himself, and after moving from a house to a smaller apartment, just didn’t have the room to keep all of the sets.

“I kept saying, I’ll find another place, get a barn (to display them),” said McCloskey. “At this point in my life, I’m saying get a barn? Get a life.”

Gerych told The Sun Times the plan is to put some on display, things they can tie into the museums mission like Civil War, WWI, and WWII sets.

“Beyond that Zulu, Napoleonic, Crimea, all those that have nothing to do with the U.S., we’ll sell to raise money for expansion and other projects. That’s what he wanted us to do.”

One of the few McCloskey kept includes the coronation set of Queen Elizabeth on June 3, 1952.

“That’s what I started out with,” said McCloskey. “The coronation set at age 12, when I was little. Might as well go back to that. They’re no longer available for sale, but a memory for me. I’m displaying them in my little glass cabinet at home, small and plenty of room for it.”

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

Leave a Reply