By Laura Hay
Who would have thought, during the spring of 1978, when Emmett Eldred and Bill Wheeler opened their first Eldred Wheeler store, on Main Street of Osterville, that their passion for furniture design would result in a booming a world-renowned business?
I recently saw their glorious authentically-designed and handcrafted furniture, replicating 18th Century America Country high-style, and completely understand why people purchase multiple pieces. This is the type of distinguished furniture you want to pass down from generation to generation.
It did not take long before they opened a second store on Main Street in Hingham, with additional stores opened in Wellesley as well as Connecticut, Arizona, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Texas. The pieces remain highly sought-after and collected. All this stemmed from a little creative passion.
South Shore Conservatory (SSC) knows a lot about passion! More than 40 years after starting Eldred Wheeler (EW), Bill Wheeler has donated one of his personal EW pieces, a tiger maple bonnet top secretary created especially for him, to support South Shore Conservatory’s passion for providing access to education in the arts for all. According to Bill, when he and Emmet began to expand Eldred Wheeler, they brought in many young people, who grew and developed in the art of furniture making. As he learned more about SSC and the programs that serve the entire South Shore, Bill said, “I loved learning about how the students develop under the guidance of the exceptional faculty and develop their skills, beyond just their musicianship, to become global citizens of our community.”
After Bill, a Duxbury resident, attended SSC’s Duxbury Music Festival, he asked to learn more about SSC and the role it plays in the lives of many throughout the year, not just in the summer. He learned about how our Tuition Assistance provides support for those who might not otherwise be able to afford lessons, how our ImagineARTS program provides an arts-based literacy curriculum for kindergarten students in Brockton, and how SSC offers extraordinary free and low-cost performances in Hingham, Duxbury, and throughout the South Shore. In short, Bill learned there is so much more going on than he could have imagined.
As SSC prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Bill wanted to be sure to be part of the lasting legacy of the organization. Initially, he had planned to leave this piece to SSC through the Encore Society as part of his estate plans. Last summer, however, he decided that he wanted to find a new way to ensure his donation would have the biggest impact on the needs of the largest community arts-school in Massachusetts.
This spring, Bill introduced SSC to Peter Smith of The Plymouth Exchange and Paul Dobson of The Sandwich Antiques Center. Peter and Paul, co-hosts of WATD 95.9’s number one hit show, The Antiques Airshow, joined Bill in creating a path for donors to support SSC in new ways. These new friendships resulted in the establishment of SSC’s “Special Gifts Program,” an exciting new opportunity for individuals to donate items of value, to be appraised and sold by, with proceeds supporting the programs of South Shore Conservatory. Through their extensive networks, Peter and Paul will provide a resource for those friends of SSC who wish to find new ways for Making Music Changing Lives.
Learn more about creative ways to give to SSC, visit https://sscmusic.org/give/.
Laura Hay is South Shore Conservatory’s Director, Capital Campaign and Major Gifts.