Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Remembering and thanking Willard Derrick

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As many of you know, Willard Derrick passed away on Saturday, June 30. To some, it might have been just another loss to family and friends in the cycle of life, but this passing touched a large circle of friends, organizations, businesses and volunteers.

Willard was part of, instrumental in, and provided vision and support for so much of what we now know as everyday. During his 80 years, his tenacity and competitive spirit married with his visions was an unbeatable team.

We all know of the growth of Sandy Spring Bank as Willard climbed the ranks to eventually become president and take the bank to nearly $1 billion in assets. The community that he loved and to which he was so deeply committed reflected the generosity of his heart and the touch of his hand. Most people in our area crossed paths with Willard at social events, golf tournaments, Sandy Spring Lions Club activities and more. He was not one to let his position and⁄or success in business stop him from setting up tables for the museum’s Strawberry Festival, the annual Montgomery General Hospital Picnic and Bazaar, or selling Christmas trees for the Lion’s Club. He was the epitome of giving support and help to friends and neighbors.

For the Sandy Spring Museum, this was an especially painful loss. Willard was one of the founders of the museum 26 years ago. At the beginning, he supported and aided the cause by allowing the blossoming museum to have a room in the basement of the local bank building. He was always concerned about protecting the history and artifacts of our area and making it available to our children and our children’s children. He felt so strongly about community history that he was one of the driving forces to raise the funds that resulted in the building of the museum’s permanent home.

In March of this year, we opened our new Library and Archive with Willard again helping to raise the money necessary for its construction. Now we have the space and the facility to protect the historical artifacts that have been donated to the museum over the years, as well as those that continue to be received.

Willard was delighted to see what had been put together by the staff, volunteers and the trustees, making the museum a state-of-the-art facility and a hub of community events.

He had one more goal that he wanted the museum to reach. We needed to get our endowment fund, already at $600,000, up to the $3 million mark. It was the last piece of the puzzle to make the museum self-sufficient. Reaching that goal would allow the museum to cover its operating costs and continue to host and sponsor the Spring Gala, the Strawberry Festival, the Concert Series, the Homes Tour, the Hands-On Summer Camp, the quarterly Art Gallery exhibits, the new Carriage Museum, the Toy Train Exhibit and the Holiday Christmas Party.

We at the museum, and many people whose lives were touched by Willard, are now rededicated to making one of his final visions a reality. Just as Willard would have done and said, we will get this done, we will reach our goal and we have Willard to thank. Again.

Henry Lieberman is executive director of Sandy Spring Museum, located at 17901 Bentley Road. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 301-774-0022 or visit