Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Feud erupts on naming of West Pasco Historical museum

NEW PORT RICHEY — The anonymous donor stepped up in the nick of time.

In the last couple years, the West Pasco Historical Society had seen its operating balance dwindle to $1,000. It had secured grants from the city to refurbish its museum building near Sims Park but didn't have its own money to put up.

Then, in August a year ago, a large pledge arrived out of nowhere and saved the day. The very next month, society members voted unanimously to name the building after the donor — without even knowing who he was.

The big unveiling came in February: Dr. Rao Musunuru, a well-known local cardiologist, was the man behind the money.

And now the society, having completed its face-lift and added new exhibits, is eager to slap his name on the museum. In addition — and at the doctor's request — the library wing is set to be named for the society's first president, who died this year.

Except the society, according to one early member, already named the library after someone else.

"I just don't like them rewriting history," said Frances Mallett, who is 91 and a longtime preservationist.

• • •

Since it opened in 1983, the historical society museum has not changed. Same exhibits, same artifacts.

But with Musunuru's gift, an undisclosed amount, the society was able to hire a curatorial consultant, who helped cull the collection and discard items of little historical value, said Bob Hubach, the society's current president.

All the existing exhibits have been redone.

"We've made them tell a better story," he said.

In addition, the museum acquired two "once in a lifetime" collections.

One comprises items that belonged to Dr. Edwin Brookman, a local physician and mayor of New Port Richey from 1944 to 1952. His medical instruments, desk and chair are part of the display.

The other comes from the estate of Elizabeth MacManus, late mother of University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. The "Lutz-Land O'Lakes Olden Days Collection of Elizabeth Riegler MacManus" includes furniture, clothing, photographs and documents.

"That won't happen again," Hubach said about the acquisition of the two collections.

At the ribbon cutting scheduled for Sept. 10, the sign out front will say West Pasco Historical Society — Rao Musunuru M.D. Museum and Library.

The library wing, which is connected to the museum, will be named for Julie Obenreder. In addition to her founding work for the historical society, she was one of the area's first obstetrics nurses and is remembered for delivering African-American babies in the area when all the hospitals were white-only. She was 98 when she died in March.

• • •

Back to the feud.

Mallett, in a letter published this month in the Pasco Times and in a subsequent interview, complained about the naming of the museum for Musunuru who also has a CARES activity center bearing his name. In her view, the museum shouldn't be named for any one individual. Not when so many people, Mallett included, devoted untold time and energy to the society.

"I sure don't want my name on anything," Mallett said. "We volunteered out of the goodness of our hearts. We don't want anything named after us."

Hubach said Musunuru wanted the naming because of the recognition his name carries.

"His reason to us was that because he is so well-known in the area, he feels that his association with the historical society can only benefit us by other people realizing the importance of history and possibly becoming a sponsor," Hubach said. "He felt that it could only help our financial cause."

The volunteer-run society has an annual operating budget of about $3,000, Hubach said, and it struggles just to make that.

As for the library, Mallett says it is already named for Jessie Hyde, a longtime museum librarian.

Hubach counters that a niece of Hyde, who served on the society board, says that's not the case.

"It was never named for anyone," Hubach said. "So that was a completely false statement."

What does Mallett say about that?

"I personally bought the sign with her name on it," she said. "We had a ceremony and had it placed up there, over the library door."

She doesn't know what year that was, or what became of it.

The hand-carved sign, it seems, was lost to history.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at or on Twitter at @mmoorheadtimes.

>>if you go

Grand reopening

The museum's grand re-opening and open house will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at the museum, 6431 Circle Blvd. There will be food, entertainment and a first look at the refurbished exhibits. A celebration dinner will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave. Dinner tickets are $30. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For reservations, call Bob Hubach at (727) 847-0680.

Feud erupts on naming of West Pasco Historical museum 08/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  2. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.

  3. Editorial: Once more, homeowners are let down by state housing agency


    Once upon a time, the federal government created a program called the Hardest Hit Fund. Its goal was admirable, and its mission important. The fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the economy. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington erred in …

    The Hardest Hit Fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington trusted Florida to get that money into the hands of people who needed it most.
  4. Editorial: Lessons from Hurricane Irma


    Two weeks later, Florida is still recovering from Hurricane Irma. But with federal, state and local officials still on the ground, and the experience fresh, now is a good time to start assessing what went right, what went wrong and how Florida can better prepare for the next one.


    More than 6 million of Florida’s 10 million residential and business customers lost power, including about 80 percent of Duke Energy’s customers in Pinellas.
  5. Back in bargaining, Hillsborough school district and its teachers are $50 million apart


    It started off nice and friendly. Gretchen Saunders, chief business officer for the Hillsborough County Public Schools, passed candy around the room. Negotiators for the district and the teachers' union commended one another for their good work during Hurricane Irma. The union thanked the district for paying everybody a …

    This a breakdown of what the school district says the teachers' union requests would cost if granted. The union rejects many of these numbers.