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Rex Allen Museum in Willcox needs 40K for building maintenance to stay open

Posted at 4:58 PM, Apr 30, 2024

WILLCOX, Ariz. (KGUN) — 'Arizona’s Cowboy' Rex Allen, was known for his voice: as a singer, actor and his voiceover work. But in Cochise County, the man is most remembered for being a proud Willcox native.

The town created the Rex Allen Museum in 1989 to honor the local celebrity. The museum gives visitors a trip down memory lane, as people who pass through often recall memories of the famous cowboy in Willcox and around the world.

Allen was born on a ranch six miles from Willcox, leaving stories for local cowboys to tell.

“He had problems with his eyes when he was growing up, and he needed eye surgery and, and the people Willcox came together and and paid for his eye surgery,” said President of the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum, John Shaver.

Allen’s commitment to returning home, despite his fame, led to a museum dedicated to his work.

“He's just always called called Willcox his hometown and appreciated Willcox, and so we've always appreciated him,” Shaver said.

Now the museum dedicated to the famous cowboy is in jeopardy. Recent leaks uncovered the historic building needs a new roof. Shaver says it's going to cost roughly $25,000 for the roof to be replaced. He said the leaks started a few months ago, after the early rains.

Lisa Engel, volunteer at the museum, says the leaks are progressively getting worse and become an inconvenience for visitors.

"We all know if rain is coming...one of us volunteers need to come down here (and) get the buckets out and monitor how how it goes," she said.

The repairs will cost more than the museum's current budget.

"A big cost like this, that's double or triple of what we normally have on hand, (it) is kind of scary for,” Shaver said.

He says they have to raise roughly $40,000 to fix the roof and the outside wall that’s breaking; both, unexpected charges for the volunteer-run museum. Shaver says most of the income for the museum comes from their annual car show fundraiser, admission costs and the museum gift shop.

“We've got some challenges ahead of us with building maintenance," Engel said."We are coming up on costs that this museum cannot handle on its own.”

The museum is relying on donations and grants to cover the costs, but Shaver says they need most of the funds in hand before any work can begin.

“This museum, again, represents people coming together. so we are, again, looking for that sense of community to come together and help this museum stay open,” Engel said.

If they don’t find the funds, then they’ll have to close the doors and remove the exhibits from the building, out of fear more damage will happen this monsoon.

“I'm sure that there's a lot of people that would be very sad to see this closed down we can't make it happen ourselves but we're optimistic that we're going to get that goal,” Shaver said.

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Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing alexis.ramanjulu@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook.