Monuments Man Horace Apgar 1923-2014
We are all saddened to learn that Monuments Man Horace Apgar has died. Our long held hope was to
see him standing aside the other Monuments officers at Congress in 2015 to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. We have done everything in our power to not only obtain this richly earned recognition for the Monuments Men and women, but to see that the medal is created and presented as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen soon enough for Horace to receive. But I take some comfort in knowing that Horace at least knew that the award had been approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Knowing something of his humble and taciturn manner, I am sure he was more excited about this than he let on.
I think back with excitement to the car service dropping me off at his home in Oklahoma City on December 4, 2006. I would later stop in Kansas City to meet Monuments Man James Reeds and his wife, Hedy. I had no idea at the time that within seven months the two of them would meet in Washington, DC on the occasion of our ceremony at the United States Senate to honor passage of the Congressional Resolutions, the first time our nation formally recognized the service of these brave men and women of thirteen nations. That moment occurred on June 6, 2007, the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landings. The day before we arranged for a bus to take us to the World War Two Memorial. It was the first time each of us had visited it. My dad, a Marine Corps veteran of the Pacific Theater, joined us. I can’t remember a more interesting day as I stood in the shadows and listened to the group of them share their war stories. Anyone seeing them would have thought they were all longtime friends; such is the nature of that “Greatest Generation.”
I remember our discussion in Oklahoma City and Horace telling me that he thought his work as a Monuments officer was important because “it helped the various countries feel that their history wasn’t destroyed, that all of these [art] collections were put back into service…they had the satisfaction of retrieving their heritage. I think that probably it was almost as important as seeing the power restored and lights come back on.” As I came to know Horace more and more over the intervening years, I realized he had quite a knack for understatement. Only then could I realize the power of his observation, one I heard echoed by others who served alongside in the course of my work.
Horace always struck me as an incredibly decent man who built a life for himself centered around his love of music and the arts. I enjoyed his wry sense of humor and appreciated his kind remarks about our efforts. His passing brings the number of Monuments Men to five: four men, all American, and one British woman. Rest assured we will continue to do all we can to continue honoring these heroes of civilization and preserving their legacy by putting it to its fullest and best use.