Greenville man turns his home into a museum for his World War II collection
|Published: 08-16-2023 2:47 PM
For the past six years, Ray “Moe” Desrosiers has been transforming his childhood home in Greenville, inside and out, into both a home for himself and his extensive collection of World War II artifacts.
The exterior of the home is half-transformed, with the front garden lined by stone walls hand-built by Desrosiers, and planted with a summer flower garden. In the side garden, another project, destined to be a water feature, is underway.
“It’s a work in progress,” Desrosiers said.
Desrosiers grew up in the house, and six years ago, when his wife died, he decided to downsize from his home in Temple and move back to Greenville. He said he recalls struggling with mowing the sloping lawns of the front and side yard, and promised himself he wouldn’t be mowing it – though he admits the extensive transformation of the lawn into a garden isn’t less work.
Behind the front door, one of the first things visitors see is the start of Desrosiers’ collection, lining the hallway.
It’s just a taste of what is in store. The entire first floor of Desrosiers’ house has been turned into a museum for his collection, which is curated into exhibits. There are spaces for his relatively smaller collection of Japanese and German artifacts, but the majority of the home is designated for American memorabilia.
Desrosiers has always had an interest in military history, specifically World War II, which he said was the conflict he most-often saw depicted on television. His father served in the war.
“He didn’t talk about it much. I wish I had asked more,” Desrosiers said.
Desrosiers himself is a veteran, having served 3 1/2 years in the Army. It was during his time in the Army that he first dabbled in collecting military paraphernalia, first with a focus on edged weapons like bayonets. In 1979, he exited the Army and didn’t do any collecting for years, he said. He resumed the hobby after his father died, and he found a cardboard box with things from his time in the military.
About 12 years ago, Desrosiers said he really started to throw himself into collecting avidly, and did so seriously. He transformed an outbuilding on his property in Temple into a home for his collection, which he took to calling “A Soldier’s War Museum,” and inviting anyone who was interested to take a tour of his collection.
That’s a tradition has continued since moving to Greenville. His father’s things hold a place of honor, and serve as a template for some of the other items because Desrosiers started to think that if his father had packed away everything from his time in the war and stored it somewhere out of sight, likely other soldiers had done the same. Desrosiers started to specialize in hunting down similar lots with uniforms and artifacts that all belonged to a single man.
“At that point, my goal was just to learn something about these men. Their things were put away and just forgotten about. I wanted to put it in front of people,” Desrosiers said.
One such individual is Sgt. Jack Schlager, whose uniform and footlocker contents Desrosiers has given its own display. Desrosiers traveled to Georgia to pick up the collection. Schlager was a member of the 82nd Airborne, and parachuted into Normandy. He was captured by the enemy several times and escaped. He has a road named after him in France.
It’s these kinds of details that Desrosiers likes to learn about these men when he buys or is donated their belongings.
Desrosiers said he hasn’t been able to fully research every person’s belongings in his collection – he has over 500 items, belonging to a total of 60 soldiers. But he said he tries to learn a little something about each of them, often pairs the collection with a photograph and does more-extensive research when he can.
“They’re all special to me,” he said.
Desrosiers’ collection includes items from some local soldiers, including Francis Leger from New Ipswich and Greenville and Bob McQuillen of Peterborough, but he said he also gotten them from New York and as far away as California.
Desrosier’s home does not have public hours, but he invites anyone interested to see his collection to do so by making an appointment by calling 603-878-3009 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or email@example.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.