Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs staff members are mourning the loss of Jim Schilling who passed away on Jan. 5, 2023. Schilling was a beloved volunteer at the Johnson Victrola Museum from 2011 to 2019.

Following is a tribute to Schilling, written in 2019 by Jackie Collins, former historical interpreter at the Johnson Victrola Museum, on the occasion of Schilling’s “retirement” from volunteer service at the museum.

We miss Jim Days

I know that I speak for all the historical interpreters who work at the Johnson Victrola Museum—for Susan Emory, Chris Hall, Gavin Malone, Steven Mumford, Site Supervisor Nena Todd and myself—when I say that we truly miss “Jim days”—our self-described name for Thursdays, the day of the week when our beloved volunteer Jim Schilling worked at the site. After nine years of service, Jim recently “retired” from the museum where he enjoyed conducting tours and participating in a variety of museum-related events. He was an integral member of the Johnson Victrola Museum family and will be greatly missed.

Photo of Johnson Victrola Museum staff
Johnson Victrola Museum staff on Dec. 11, 2017 when Jim Schilling was awarded an Extra Mile Award by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. From left: Susan Emory, Chris Hall, Jackie Collins, Schilling, Nena Todd and Steven Mumford

Of course, Jim didn’t really “retire” from the museum. His actual retirement came in 2006 after a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Air Force including a stint in Vietnam from 1967 to ’68. I first met Jim in 2011 at the old Dover Public Library where I was staffing a booth looking to recruit volunteers to work at the museum. It was a rainy day and I believe Jim was the only person who talked with me about serving. It was the beginning of a friendship that I cherish to this day.

Jim was no ordinary volunteer. His outgoing and friendly personality and his sense of humor quickly won over the museum’s staff and visitors alike. Extremely reliable, Jim liked to work when the museum first opened in the morning noting that “it would get his day started in a good way.” He was always eager to learn and quickly picked up all the interpretive information necessary to conduct lively tours of the entire museum.

One of my favorite memories of Jim was that he liked to keep the grounds of the museum looking attractive. As he would say, “We need to make a good first impression.” To that end, Jim would head out with a large bag and a “grabber” tool that he used to pick up litter. Not content to simply clean the immediate surroundings of the museum and its parking lot, Jim took it upon himself to beautify the entire block. He would then take an often very large bag of refuse home where he would dispose of it.

Photo of 2015 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards winners
Volunteer staff of the Johnson Victrola Museum honored at the 2015 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards ceremony. From left: volunteers Howard Fulcher, Arnold Leftwich and Jim Schilling; and Gov. Jack Markell

Over the course of his career at the museum, Jim logged well over 1,000 volunteer hours. His efforts were acknowledged on Oct. 6, 2015 when he and four other Johnson Victrola Museum volunteers—Howard Fulcher, Laura Herbin, Arnold Leftwich and David Perlmutter—were awarded an Outstanding Volunteer Award by Gov. Jack Markell. As Markell noted in reference to all those honored at the ceremony, “These volunteers recognize that it’s not about them. It’s about the people they serve.” I can’t think of a better description of Jim. He cared deeply about his community and gave generously of himself to make it a better place.