They remember him as a humble handyman.
For years, Karl Harla tooled away as one of the Northern Mariposa County History Center’s most dedicated volunteers. He quietly tended the roses on the property. Carefully guided important financial decisions. Thoughtfully fixed whatever came his way.
The Coulterville man passed away in July after 80 years of life.
But his legacy will live on.
Last Thursday, members of Harla’s family visited the history center to deliver $100,000 Harla bequeathed to the establishment. That huge sum of money comes when the history center needed it most; those dollars will be used to further the organization’s development.
“Karl, like many here today, recognized the importance of (the) Northern Mariposa County History Center to our community and local — as well as international — visitors,” said Judy Stafford, president of the history center. “Nobody asked Karl to tend to the roses. He took care of them from his heart.”
Supporting established plans
Helen (Hallinan) Bauman, a longtime history center volunteer, explained that plans for the center’s future had been established by a steering committee even before the team caught wind of Harla’s gift.
All three of the big, concurrent priorities the group determined will be addressed through the recent influx of funds.
A few years ago, for example, a family relinquished ownership of part of an artifact-filled room attached to the existing history center. Work had already begun to restore and bring that space to life. Known as the Barrett Room, completing an in-depth rehabilitation of that area is one of the center’s big priorities.
Building a new onsite space for the center’s growing collection is also on the docket. Piles of local treasures were housed inside the Barrett Room, and so when the center inherited that room, donations had to be paused due to a lack of storage area.
Developing the few acres of donated land that sit adjacent to the Northern Mariposa County History Center, which is located on Highway 49 in Coulterville, was also determined to be a priority. Outdoor landscaping projects are on the radar.
All of these endeavors will help push the facility forward.
Still, funding hurdles initially presented major challenges.
Harla’s donation changed everything.
“I just started crying,” Bauman said of her reaction to hearing about the $100,000. “I can believe Karl would do that for the museum because he truly loved it. But that amount was certainly not in my world at all.”
An outpouring of thanks
The new collection facility will be named the “Karl Harla Collections Building.” A garden trellis lined with roses and featuring a bench will also be dedicated to the longtime volunteer in the center’s garden.
During a speech inside the venue, Stafford thanked the man’s family members — who requested to remain anonymous — for delivering the big gift.
“Our dream that is possible through your generous donation will allow visitors to stop at our oasis to rest and have a better understanding of what life was like many years ago,” she said. “With the Miwuk Nation, the gold rush era and ranching.”
The NMCHC was established as a nonprofit organization in 1976, with the history center opening to the public in 1980. It has been closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and looks forward to opening its doors once it is deemed safe to do so.