SHAWNEE, Oklahoma -- A priest established Mabee-Gerrer Museum back in 1919, bringing countless works of art and even a mummy to the city of Shawnee. Museum Director Dane Pollei says Father Gregory Gerrer was no ordinary man.
"He was a fairly good musician, he played clarinet in one of the Wild West shows for a number of years. Both he and his brother worked on a mail ship up in Vancouver."
Father Gerrer did not take the most traditional route to becoming a priest because he couldn't afford the tuition. But after a meeting with one of the local Benedictine monks, he took up the challenge and thrived. His artistic talent did not go unnoticed.
"Father Gerrer was sent to Europe to be ordained as a priest," said Pollei. "Then he was sent to Italy to study art, art history, and painting restoration."
In 1904, Father Gerrer was commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Pius X. The painting was well-received and Gerrer's work became famous. With the help of the monastery, Gerrer began to buy and trade art all over the world, resulting in the museum's wide-ranging collection.