Frank Gilyard's legacy will live on, family says

Frank Gilyard's legacy will live on, family says

READING, Pa. - A Berks County man who spent his life making sure the past would never be forgotten has passed away. Frank Gilyard died in the hospital Thursday. He was taken there after suffering a heart attack while driving and getting into an accident. His son said his dad just dropped off a delivery at their church's food pantry.

"He walked his life serving and that's the way that he went," said Van Gilyard.

81-year-old Frank Gilyard was a leader in Berks County.

"My dad had a saying you have to remember where you came from what our ancestors went through," said Van Gilyard, "They came on the slave ship but they made it to the space ship."

Van Gilyard is one of Frank and Mildred Gilyard's five children. He is a tour guide at the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum founded by his dad.

"Get as much information about Berks County and this African American history so that our story could be told," explained Gilyard.

The AME Bethel Church on North 10th Street in Reading was a stop on the Underground Railroad, which is one of the reasons why Frank Gilyard wanted it to be the place he had his museum. He was at the museum Tuesday night planning the 10th Anniversary breakfast that's scheduled for February 16, 2013.

"As far as the museum, we're just going to keep his dream and vision alive," said board member Nonnie Singleton, "We're going to make it happen."

Singleton said he'll miss his colleague and dear friend.

"What a historian," said Singleton, "Frank knew everybody and everybody knew Frank."

Gilyard's museum is not about him. But, growing up he saw the ugliness of racism first hand. In 1977, his Muhlenberg Township home was firebombed. And in the 1990s his son said it continued to be a target.

"Shortly, before he came home it exploded and sent metal shards into the side of the house," said Gilyard, "If he had been coming home at that time they would have ripped right through him."

Van Gilyard said he doesn't know what's in others' hearts and minds. But his dad was an example for others.

"My dad's legacy already exists," said Gilyard, "Not only with the museum, but with the lives he has touched."

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