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Buchta leaves $250,000 to Prairie Village Museum

By Staff | Apr 22, 2016

A portrait taken of Victor Buchta last year to document is centenarian status. (Ashley Berg/PCT)

Prairie Village Museum in Rugby has received a $250,000 gift from the estate of the late Victor Buchta. A longtime Harlow-area farmer and custom combiner, Buchta was 101 years old when he died on Dec. 22 in Rugby.

“This gift is the largest, single cash contribution ever made to Prairie Village Museum,” said Roger Sitter, president of the Geographical Center Historical Society, which operates the museum. “The gift was unexpected and we are amazed at Mr. Buchta’s generosity.”

Buchta spent 12 years working and volunteering at the museum, so Sitter said it’s not surprising Buchta’s vision for developing the museum as expressed in his will aligns with the historical society’s goals to improve the museum’s appearance and amenities.

“With 30 structures to take care of and artifacts numbering in the tens-of-thousands,” Sitter said, “it’s daunting, sometimes, to think of all the work that needs to be done. Mr. Buchta’s gift will allow us to make improvements that will impact our ability to attract visitors, our capacity to serve the community, and our capability to care for the collections entrusted to us.”

Buchta grew up near Harlow, one of 10 children raised by Andrew and Mary (Parolek) Buchta. He worked on the family farm until he finished school and began custom combining, a job that took him between Oklahoma and North Dakota many times. He was 40 years old when he married Clara Freehauh in Valley City. The couple farmed near Harlow from 1954 until 1975, when they moved to Rugby. Although Buchta retired from farming, he continued to do some custom combining in his later years. The Buchtas had no children. Clara died in 2005.

In addition to volunteering at the museum, Buchta donated several items to the museum’s collections, including three home-medicine books dating from 1892 to 1943.

“Mr. Buchta was obviously very fond of the museum. He knew with the right kind of support what this place could become,” said Cathy Jelsing, Museum executive director. “The trust he has placed in the historical society and his belief in Prairie Village Museum has inspired us all.”

Buchta’s gift was officially announced at the Geographical Center Historical Society annual meeting last week. Details of how the funds will be utilized will be determined over the next several months.

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