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Muriel Harms: A Friendly Face at the Museum

February 23, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Muriel Harms lives by the simple belief that staying busy and doing something every day that's nice for another person are the keys to a long and happy life.

The popular security monitor at the Middlebury Museum of Art will soon turn 91 years of age and is showing no signs of slowing down. She still works part time at the Museum and part time in the Public Safety Office, and always brings in a plate full of cookies for her adoring colleagues.

“Muriel is a wonder,” says Donn Marcus, the museum security team leader. “With her purity of heart, her generous spirit, and astonishingly quick mind, she makes all of us strive to be better people every day.”

Originally from Hudson, N.Y., Harms trained as an R.N. at Hudson City Hospital (now Columbia Memorial) and became an operating room nurse. In the 1960s she moved with her late husband, Charles Harms, to Pulp Mill Bridge Road in Weybridge and raised three sons and two daughters there. (She now has 12 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.)

In Middlebury, Harms was the primary nurse for Dr. B.J. Andrews, and also assisted the medical practices of Drs. Collier, Roomet, and Dennison.

One day Harms’ neighbor asked her if she would be interested in answering the phones at Public Safety on weekends. That was about 50 years ago, when Public Safety was located in the basement of Carr Hall. “It was very quiet then,” she recalls. “Not like it is today. I would work with a doctor or at the hospital during the week, and then work for the College on weekends.”

That was the start of a very long and fruitful relationship, one that continues to this day.

“I have always loved art and anything having to do with artists. I enjoy speaking with everyone who comes into the Museum, and it’s fun to learn about the exhibitions at the same time I am helping others,” she says. “But sometimes I have to tell people that they can’t bring drinks into the Museum or touch the artwork. It’s all part of the job.”

Harms remembers when the Museum was located in the Johnson Building and was called the Johnson Gallery. In 1992, it moved into its present quarters in the Center for the Arts and was renamed the Museum of Art. “When we moved to the CFA, it was wonderful to suddenly have all this space,” she says. The relocation enabled the Museum to expand its collection, display more art, and launch an extensive education program for the community.

“I am always amazed that more people don’t visit the Museum because it is such a great learning experience,” she observes.

Among her long list of admirers is Richard Saunders, the Walter Cerf Distinguished College Professor and director of the Museum. “Muriel is a great co-worker and a model for the rest of us,” Saunders says. “It’s always good to be reminded what an active senior can do.”

4 Comments

I am rather biased but my Mom is a wonderful person!

by Timothy Harms (not verified)

I "Fifth-the comment above" (you guessed it, third son and #5 child). Also, I second the comment about her being a 'model for the rest of us'. :)

by Robert Harms (not verified)

I am privileged to have Muriel as my Mother in law. She is a beautiful person and such an amazing role model! I have been married to #1Son, Paul, for forty three years and Muriel never fails to amaze me with her creativity, kindness and generous spirit. Her readiness to learn something new, understand and be able to teach keep her young!

by Betsy Harms (not verified)

It's all true! Rarely do you find a person as even-tempered, kind and soft-spoken as Muriel. She's related (I think) to the Energizer Bunny!

by Martha Baldwin (not verified)

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