Benton County Historical Society’s 2017 Benton Lecture series with a talk titled, “Merci Train: What the French People have given to America and to Oregon”


John Irving and Bob McElroy will kick off the Benton County Historical Society’s 2017 Benton Lecture series with a talk titled, “Merci Train: What the French People have given to America and to Oregon” on Monday, January 23, 2017 at 10:00 am in the Moreland Gallery at the Benton County Historical Museum in Philomath, Or. The lecture is sponsored by Merrilyn Winters.
The lecture series complements the current museum exhibition, “Around the World from 80 Countries”.
The Merci Train was a train of 49 boxcars, delivered to the US after WW II, filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude, from at least that many French citizens, in appreciation for the 700 box cars of relief goods that the Americans sent to France during the war. Each of the 48 states received a gift-laden box car.
There is a website devoted to the topic: Merci Train artifacts from the Society’s collections will be on display.
John Irving is the retired Executive Director of the Oregon State University Foundation, a position he held from 1987 until his retirement in 1999. John joined the Foundation staff in 1970 and served in a number of different rolls during his tenure there. Irving is a 1963 graduate of Oregon State University, with a dual degree in Business and in Agriculture (Food Technology). His wife, Sue Ann, is a 1967 OSU graduate in Pharmacy. Both of their boys graduated from OSU, and their oldest grandson is currently a sophomore in the OSU College of Business.
Bob McElroy retired from the Salem Public Schools where he was an electronics teacher and department head. His wife, Sharon, retired as the office manager for South Salem High School. In recent years, Bob and Sharon have adopted OSU and have become major supporters of the College of Pharmacy.
The Irvings and McElroys have traveled to over 40 countries together since they became friends on a Panama Canal cruise in 2001. Both couples moved to Hillsboro in 2004 and live in condos, two doors apart. They first learned about the 1949 Merci Train during a visit to the Old Capital Museum in Jackson, Mississippi in 2004. Since that time, they’ve visited 36 of the remaining 43 boxcars and have become knowledgeable about the cars and the gifts that accompanied the cars when they arrived in the U.S. from France.
The lecture is free to Historical Society members and OSU students with current I.D.; there is a $5 admission fee for non-members.
A complete list of the lectures in the series can be seen on the Historical Society’s website:
The Benton County Historical Society, a 501 c (3) non-profit corporation, owns and operates the Benton County Historical Museum. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm featuring art and history exhibitions. Admission is always free. For more information please visit the museum website www.bentoncounty or telephone 541-929-6230.

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