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Birkner Doll Exhibit Dedication

December 2, 2006

Melba Cook Birkner Doll Collection Exhibit

Dedication on Saturday

By Janet Hobizal

Wharton County Historical Museum was the recipient of the Melba Cook Birkner Antique Doll collection, Saturday December 2, 2007. Over 350 dolls and $25,000.00 was donated to the museum by Otha Wyatt "Skeet" Birkner. Months of preparation of having the dolls appraised, photographed and packed, was done by Don and J.K. Birkner who hosted the dedication.

County Commissioner of Matagorda In order for the museum to accept the collection there had to be a Wharton County connection as the Birkner are from Matagorda County. Mr. Birkner served in the 58th, 59th and 60th sessions of the Texas House Of Representatives for Wharton County from 1963 to 1967. He then served as commissioner of Matagorda County for two decades, and as appointee of four Texas governors to the Houston-Galveston Area Council on Governments. Mr. Birkner was also instrumental in crafting legislation in areas of wildlife conservation and special needs programs.. His contributions were so significant in authorizing funding for the 1968 Worlds Fair in Texas, that he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from St. Mary's University.

Melba Cook Birkner, his wife was the consummate partner with her husband in all political endeavors and maintained contacts with Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Nellie Connelly and Barbara Jordon. Her career for many years was as administrative assistant to the principals of Van Vleck elementary and middle schools. She was a beloved role model and mentor to thousands of impressionable young students. Mrs. Birkner was uniquely gifted as a doll fashion designer, doll creator and doll collector. She lovingly crafted this important collection over a period of seven decades.

Included in the exhibit are some of her original dolls she received as a child as well as original J.D. Kestners with original box. A doll that was found in pieces on a trash heap in Galveston after the 1900 storm, and restored and appraised by Antiques Road Show in 2006, an original Shirley Temple, as well as many other antique dolls. All the reproduction dolls clothing were made by hand using antique fabric and lace by Mrs. Birkner.

There were representatives from three different doll collectors associations present at the dedication including four members of the Bonnie Belle Doll Club of Bay City in which Melba Birkner organized years ago. Also present were five members of 1st Houston Doll Club. President of Doll Collectors of Houston, Patti Daniels who worked with Janet Hobizal, who was in charge of the exhibit, and organizing the collection, as a consultant.

Also attending the dedication were over 267 guests including 76 Birkner family members, people came from Oklahoma, Missouri, and from all over Texas. Special guests from Wharton County included Jeanie Merka, Billy Jones, Mr. Charles Davis, Marilyn and A.C. Shelton, Myrtis Outlar and Debbi Dimmick.

Two Former members of Texas House Of Representatives Present Former State Representative Tom Uher from Bay City was one of the speakers at the dedication, Mr. Uher took over Mr. Birkners legislative seat when he resigned to become Matagorda County Commissioner. Mr. Uher served in the Texas Legislature for 35 years being the longest in Texas history. During that time he rose to serve in the second highest position in the House of Representatives as Deputy Speaker. He and the Birkners remained friends throughout their lives.

Reverend Dr. Ralph Underwood from Utopia United Methodist Church was also a guest speaker. The Birkners were actively involved in their community and their church. Dr. Underwood highlighted the many years of community leadership and friendship the Birkners shared.

Mr. Birkner said they went to Bay City Museum and offered the collection there, but was told the collection was more suited for an historical museum and referred them to the Wharton County Historical Museum. Last year the Birkners and Marvin Albrecht, Director of the museum began working on this endeavor. "It is such a large collection that it took almost a year to make all the preparations, get the doll room ready and make all the arrangements to have the collection cataloged and brought here." There is also a catalog of the collection that will be published in June that the museum offer." Albrecht said.

The creation of this doll collection was Melba Cook Birkners gift to future generations and thanks to her devoted husband he once again is looking out for the interest of Wharton County and making this important collection available to the public.

Photos From The Dedication

Attendees waiting for the dedication to begin by looking at the Christmas Village Display

Friends and Family Viewing the Doll Room

Friends and Family Viewing the Doll Room

Friends and Family Viewing the Doll Room

The Birkner Family/JK Birkner standing to right, cataloged the dolls

Some Of The Birkner Children and Grandchildren/ Don Birkner sitting to The left, photographed each doll for the catalog

"Skeet" Birkner (Center) and Family and Friends

Granchildren of Melba and Skeet Birkner

Marvin Albrecht, The Museum Director, And Doll Dedication Guests Around The Annual Christmas Village Display

Guests Signing In At The Front Desk For The Dedication

Guests Signing In At The Front Desk For The Dedication

Guests listening to Master Of Ceremonies, Don Birkner And Watching Slides of Melba Cook Birkners Life

The Many Guests Who Attended The Melba Cook Birkner Doll Exhibit Dedication

Former State Representative Tom Uher Was One Of The Speakers At The Dedication

Dr. Ralph Underwood from Utopia United Methodist Church

Mr. "Skeet" Birkner Saying A Few Words to the Guests

JK Birkner closing the Ceremony

Don and JK Birkner, Janet Hobizal,Museum Archivist and Head Of The Doll Exhibit and Marvin Albrecht, Museum Director with Skeet Birkner Cutting The Ribbon On The Doll Room

Don, JK Birkner and Marvin Albrecht

Don and JK Birkner with Janet Hobizal


The Wonderful Banquet Table Put On By Shane Odom and His Catering Service "Sodexho Catering" out of The Wharton County Junior College

Skeet Birkner and Family Member in The Doll Room

Marvin Albrecht and Skeet Birkner With His Generous Gift To The Museum in the Doll Room

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