Superior man to lead Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
John Gidley has worked part time at the Bong Center for six years.
SUPERIOR — John Gidley has been named the new executive director of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center.
The Superior native, who has served as a part-time educational and outreach coordinator at the center for the past six years, stepped into his new role Thursday, Feb. 10, according to a news release.
“I am very excited to broaden my role and continue to show the region what a great museum and educational center we have here,” Gidley said.
The position attracted candidates from throughout the country, according to search committee chairman Dave Podratz. Gidley was not only a local option, but a known quantity.
“He knows the center; we know him. Sometimes the best candidate’s right under your nose,” Podratz said.
During his time at the center, Gidley helped develop and lead several programs, including the annual “Escape the Bong” escape room fundraiser, which is taking place this weekend. He helms the Junior Curator program that enlists area middle school students to spend a week at the center collecting oral histories from veterans, and the Bong Squadron summer tour guide program for area high school students.
Gidley has also helped develop and market the center’s Traveling Trunks program, which sends trunks filled with items and artifacts related to various military themes, to classrooms and organizations.
“During the search and interview process, the support shown for John by the volunteers and staff was amazing. We are really excited that John will be joining us full time," said Bong Center Chairman Terry Lundberg. “There is something to be said for the best candidate being someone you already know.”
Gidley holds a degree in secondary education from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a history and broad area social studies degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Over the last 15 years, he has served as a multiple distribution depot manager for Dakota News, Inc., and as regional sales manager for Valley News Company. He is a published author and longtime area official, coach and organizer for youth sports in the Twin Ports.
The last two executive directors stayed with the center for roughly two years before moving on to helm Minnesota attractions. Hayes Scriven led the center from 2017-2019, when he moved into the position of site manager and live-in keeper for Split Rock Lighthouse.
“That was his dream job,” Podratz said.
He was followed by Dustin Heckman, who left in 2021 to serve as the director of Duluth’s Glensheen Mansion.
They were both phenomenal leaders who did great work for the center, Podratz said.
“It's not the kind of role people stay in forever when they're younger, you know. People like to move up, maybe, to a little bit bigger place," Podratz said. "We're a great attraction, but we're not a really, really big organization."
Prior to Scriven, the center was led for 10 years by Bob Fuhrman. During his time as executive director, the center changed its name to embrace all post-World War II veterans.
Gidley is passionate about the center’s mission, and his track record with the organization gives officials hope he will be in the position for the long-term.
“Hopefully John will be there a little bit longer,” Podratz said.
He also encouraged people to stop by and see the changing exhibits.
"If you've been there before and it's been a little while, come visit again," Podratz said. "There's always something new there, so come on back."
This story was updated at 1:55 p.m. Feb. 15 with a different photo of John Gidley. It was originally posted at 6:30 a.m. Feb. 15.