POWNAL A conversation about an old revolver has led to the
Museum of Black World War II History getting its first
African-American board member, Bruce Bird, the museum's
director, said. Bird said he first met Mabel Jorgensen, of
Stamford, Conn., in July. She was on her way back
home from a vacation in Stowe and had what she
believed to be an Air Force revolver.
Jorgensen said she had heard about the museum from
an article she read in the New York Times and wanted
to donate the weapon to Bird's museum.
As it turned out, the revolver with the letters U.S. stamped
on it was a civilian revolver, but the two began talking all the
same, and Jorgensen learned there were no African-Americans on
the museum's board of directors. She said Bird appointed her on
Jorgensen said she has a long history of organizing jazz
concerts for fundraisers, and plans to use those skills to
benefit the museum. "I know a lot of people with money, and I'm very good at
getting it," she said.
Her fundraisers are typically jazz concerts, which she began
organizing while being treated for breast cancer at the Bennett
Cancer Center at the Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. She said
she was sitting in the center's atrium one day and thought it
would make a nice venue for patients to hear music.
Jorgensen, a singer and lover of classical music, said she
was introduced to jazz by her late husband Roy "RBJ" Jorgensen, a band manager who
worked with the director of the Count Basie Orchestra. She said
she knew a lot of jazz musicians through her husband and was a
fan of classic jazz, which she said isn't heard as much anymore.
She said after her thought in the atrium, she called the
hospital about hosting concerts there, but heard nothing back
for a period of time. In November 1998, her husband passed away.
After his death, the hospital called her back about the concerts
but she said at first she didn't want to do them without her
husband. After thinking about it, she decided it was what her husband
would have wanted, and went ahead organizing the concert. She
would go on to work with First Night celebrations and other
fundraisers, as well as serve on the board of the Oratorical
Society of New York City.
Jorgensen said she doesn't talk about her age, but has two
children, a son and a daughter. She said her son works in the
school system and her daughter was a real estate broker.
Jorgensen herself worked in the health industry as a doctor's
assistant and now works part-time for AllState Insurance.
Her interest in black history began early in school, she
said. She said black history was not discussed when she was
being educated and only came up in passing or as a historical
oddity while learning about wars. She said black history courses
should be offered before the college level.
She said her interest in the Pownal museum was partly due to
its resemblance to her house. She said when people entered her
home, pictures of influential blacks adorned the walls, with
African American females on one side, and males on the other. Jorgensen said she wanted to help the museum because
children, even black children, did not understand the role of
African Americans in history.
Bird said he began the museum as a retirement project two
years ago. He said the museum's largest expense is the heating
bill. He said he typically has to purchase 2,000 gallons of
heating oil per year, and the last quote he had for a price was
$3.20 per gallon. Bird said the museum runs mainly on small
donations and the difference between the bills and the museum's
income comes out of his own finances.
While a venue and performers still have to be found, Bird
said he hoped to hold the benefit concerts in May.
"(Mabel) knows what she's doing, and I have no knowledge in
this area, so I'm letting her do it," Bird said.
Contact Keith Whitcomb at