Carol and Larry Killian are true Bradford boosters, but they were neither born nor raised in the city.
The Lebanon Valley couple has adopted Bradford as its honorary hometown and Pitt-Bradford as its honorary alma mater. Recently, they showed their fondness for the university and its new pillar for downtown - the Marilyn Horne Museum - with a generous gift.
The Killians' gift sponsored the exhibit of replica costumes for various Marilyn Horne roles and interactive listening stations where visitors can hear the world-famous opera singer talk about her performances.
However, they had never even seen Bradford in person until Carol Killian retired from her teaching career.
Her in-person introduction to the city began with a retirement joke. For many years, she had seen Bradford mentioned on her evening weather report as the coldest spot in Pennsylvania. She would joke with her fellow teachers that when she retired, she was going to visit Bradford.
At her retirement party, someone gave her tourist information for Bradford. “This looks pretty nice,” she thought, and decided to visit Bradford after all. A friend went with her.
They liked Bradford. Just before leaving, they were standing on Jackson Avenue when “a proper lady dressed for church with white gloves approached them and asked if they were looking for beautiful homes,” Larry Killian said. The women said yes and took the woman's information, promising to call if they returned.
Carol returned and called the stranger, who turned out to be Naomi Carlson, a spunky Swedish septuagenarian who was retired and earning her associate's degree at Pitt-Bradford.
This time Carlson showed up in sneakers with hair tucked up under a baseball cap. “That was the real Naomi,” Larry Killian said. “She and Carol became good friends.”
Carol started visiting Bradford with her new beau, Larry, and the two were married at the Mountain Laurel Inn in Bradford. They even moved to Bradford and lived here five years before returning to the Lebanon Valley for health reasons.
Carlson introduced the Killians to the people, places and history of the area.
“Bradford was like a step back into our youth because Bradford has a Main Street, and when you leave town, you're in the forest. So many places these days are one suburban development after another,” Larry Killian said.
Carlson also introduced the Killians to Pitt-Bradford, where they immediately felt at home.
“You go to an event at Pitt-Bradford, and you feel like you belong,” he said. “We quickly became attached to the university because of the people there and what it does for the town.”
The Killians followed Carlson's example and became a donor to Pitt-Bradford, supporting first a scholarship in honor of their families, then the museum.
Although their friend Carlson died in 2015, they returned to Bradford in May for the dedication of the Marilyn Horne Museum and hope to visit it again this fall.
The 3,400 square-foot, state-of-the-art Marilyn Horne Museum features artifacts, lavish costumes, interactive touchscreen exhibits, and a theater space that recreates the look and feel of an 18th-century Italian opera house.
Born in Bradford in 1934, Horne has been called “the greatest singer in the world” by Opera News and has performed for presidents and princes around the world. The idea for the museum came about when she donated her personal and foundation archives to the University of Pittsburgh.
The museum, located on Marilyn Horne Way in downtown Bradford, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free.
Additional naming opportunities for the museum remain. To make a donation, contact Jill Ballard, executive director of institutional advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-362-5091.