Betty Barr and Don Kleier are unabashed lovers of history — particularly Frankfort’s history. And they believe they are devoting their time and wealth at the ideal place to preserve and display the town’s history: Capital City Museum.
Both are retired dentists. Barr’s specialty was pediatric dentistry and Kleier was an endodontist, focusing on root canals. They met in dental school at the University of Kentucky, married and practiced in Denver.
When it was time to retire, however, they left the mountains of the west and came back to Frankfort, Barr’s hometown.
“I wanted to come home. I grew up and went to school here. Both my father and my grandfather practiced in this building,” said Barr, speaking almost reverently of the structure housing the museum. Her father, Vincent Barr, was a dentist and her grandfather Joe Barr a physician.
Kleier is a self-described Army brat. That is, his family moved from place to place when he was a child. So, settling in Betty’s hometown suited him fine.
“We’re amateur historians,” Kleier said. “We want the museum to be one of the reasons people travel to Frankfort and perhaps decide to live here. Coming from a place like Denver where people don’t seem to know each other to a place like this with such a sense of community is great.”
Barr and Kleier not only give their time to the museum; they also share their financial resources. Some of their contributions are being used now in an expansion of the museum on the Main Street side that hopefully will be open in time for the annual Candlelight Tradition in November.
Barr describes herself as the “No. 1 Volunteer” and her husband as “the idea guy.”
“He’s pretty smart,” she said.
The couple got involved with the museum’s fishing reel exhibition a couple of years ago, one that will become a permanent exhibit in 2020 after the addition is completed.
“We both like to fish, and we helped John with that exhibition,” she said, referring to museum Curator John Downs. She has served as president of the Old Reel Collectors Association and the organization’s 2013 convention was held in Frankfort.
“Frankfort is famous for the manufacturing of baitcasting reels,” said Kleier. “There were some high-quality reels made here with ‘Made in Frankfort, Kentucky’ stamped on them.”
Barr and Kleier spend a lot of time at the museum but don’t consider it work.
“There’s mental work to it, but we love it,” Don said. “We want to give back and to leave a legacy. It’s part of our goal.”
They consider Frankfort a great place, steeped with history and community.
“Just look at places near the museum,” Barr said. “From the front steps you can see the Old Capitol and the Kentucky History Museum. Just up the hill is the Military History Museum and a few blocks down are Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House.
“There’s just a lot here and we want to do our part to preserve it.”
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