1. Who are you?
I’m Lois Jean Wolf. I’m 72 years old. I’m the Director at the Edison Birthplace. I was born in Pearl River, NY and spent (like Tom E.) my first 7 years in Nyack, NY just N of NY City, on the west side of the Hudson R. I went to Baldwin-Wallace University in the sciences, graduated with a major in Physics and minors in Math and Astronomy. I was the treasurer and first vice-president of my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. I’ve lived in Milan for 46 years. I have two daughters. My husband was an electrical engineer with NASA and died in 1982.
2. What’s your favorite color?
Yellow-gold is my favorite color.
3. How did you get involved with the Birthplace?
When my husband died, my two daughters were 6 & 8. I had never lived by myself, having gotten married right after college in 1968, so finding a full-time job again was a challenge. I am also a teacher by training and worked for five years after college at Sandusky HS and the Planetarium. After my husband died, I worked for a few years at Edison Elementary in Milan, teaching Math & Science enrichment, Language Arts and 4th grade science. Then, taught Geometry at Oberlin HS for one year, did a lot of subbing and decided that I needed to take a step back from the classroom. I became the Collections Registrar for the Milan (Historical) Museum for 15 years, immersing myself in Milan History and 19th century artifacts. I created a historic reenactment based on a person who actually lived in Milan, Mary Wilbor Barney, and did presentations for schools and community groups for 10 years, talking about her personal history and the history of Milan. I became the Director of the Sidney Frohman Planetarium in Sandusky in 2001 and have been there for 17 years. I had left the Milan Museum in 2005 and was asked to be Director of the Edison Birthplace Museum in 2009. Both jobs are part time. My knowledge of Milan history and of how to deal with collections of artifacts helped me in my Birthplace job, but I had never been in charge of a group of employees before, so I approached my job with a little trepidation.
4. Are you related to Edison?
Ha! I am not related to Edison in a place where half the Board of Trustees are Edison descendants.
5. What do you do for the Birthplace?
I am the Director of the Birthplace. My duties vary from searching for grants, keeping track of the Birthplace’s finances, cleaning toilets and ordering new stuff for the Gift Shop and much more!
6. How do you like working at the Birthplace? Is the staff nice and friendly?
I feel humbled to be a representative and cheer leader for the Man of the Millennium, the Wizard of Menlo Park, the Inventor of the 20th century. I am always in awe of being close to or touching something that Thomas Edison or his family used. To know the intimate story of this great man. To have contacts with other people who also tell the story of Edison at other sites around the country. To meet people from all over the world who stop and see the house where Edison was born; who have respect and interest in his world-changing work. I have the greatest, supportive staff! They work hard as guides, giving 45 minute tours of each room in the Birthplace home. They are savy and know how to handle tourists. We all work well together; we are always searching for information about Edison’s work and his family to share with each other and tell our visitors. We laugh together, we cry together and to the last of us, feel the extraordinary honor of working to tell about the life and work of this great man.
7. What’s your boss like? Really… tell us. Ha!
My boss……..hmmmm…I knew Robert Wheeler as a friend before I came to the Birthplace, so I felt very comfortable working with him. We talk, we disagree, I holler at him and he remains calm. He’s very supportive of me and if he knows I’m going through a hard time, will do something to help me. How to characterize the great great grand nephew of Thomas Edison? He is the farmer who loves his donkey Jake and fights so hard to preserve his land from the NEXUS pipeline, and then goes traveling the world with his theremin in the avant-garage band Pere Ubu….. Who does all that????
8. Edison or Tesla?
Are you kidding?? There was no rivalry between the two. They respected each other’s work. It’s only the 21st century’s mis-interpretation of history that pits them against each other…. ask the family. However……Edison!
9. Tell us about your life.
I live in Milan with my two cats, Dot and Dash. I have one sister who is 8 yrs older, who lives in the Catskills of NY along with her 4 children and their families. I have been on the Board since 1993 of a non-profit, the Norwalk Clothing Bank. This year, I’m serving as president. We give out free clothing and some household goods to people in need in Huron County and some adjacent areas. We have essential services and are all-volunteer. I have two very smart daughters in their forties. Amanda, who lives in Lakewood, OH with her better half, Dennis, who is the manager of digital and graphic design at the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, a long-distance bicyclist, tutors two refugees from Congo, owner and foster mom to many kitties, and the mom of an extraordinarily well-balanced young man, my grandson, 13 1/2 year-old Victor (Boog) Cottrell. Meg lives in Chicago, is a tour guide at the Museum of Science and Industry, kitties lover also and a tireless worker for the rights of people. We 3 are science nerds and Star Trekkies..
10. Best memory of working at the Birthplace.
There are so many great ones. Mainly talking to people from all over the world who have a respect for Thomas Edison. One interesting story: The Board was meeting at the Birthplace Office one night and the outside light was on. In the middle of the meeting, a soft-spoken black man came into the gift shop and was embarrassed that he had interrupted something, but he was traveling from NY to LA and saw our sign on the Turnpike. He was interested in Edison and bought several books. Both Robert and I talked to him and Robert asked him what he did; to which he replied, musician. He finally told his stage name, KRS-ONE, who may not be familiar to any of you, but he is one of the pioneers in rap music (both Robert and I googled him). It was a very neat encounter.