Fraser's part-time job as a crop duster pilot while in high school years paved the way for a four-year stint in the Air Force, where he flew everything from F-4D Phantoms to C-130 cargo planes. For 26 more years he served in the Air Force Reserve while pursuing a career in hospital management.
Currently, he also teaches business and economics part-time at Carroll Community College and in Towson University's graduate program in business administration.
Not surprisingly, the vision and ambition Fraser brings to his new job extends beyond the museum's four walls. Working with the Sykesville Business Association and Wells, he is in the process of decorating the display windows of vacant storefronts on Sykesville's Main Street with historic pictures, antiques and similar items gleaned from the attic.
As far as Fraser is concerned, redecorating the empty Main Street storefronts is also just a start.
He sees all sorts of possibilities when he rides around Sykesville — especially at South Branch Park, an open space just across the Patapsco River from Main Street, which the town leases from Howard County.
The park includes the old 6,000-square-foot apple butter factory building, which is currently unused.
""This is just me talking, but I would like to see that building, which was actually a canning factory and is still in really good shape, be turned into something like the Torpedo Factory, in Alexandria, Va. We could rent stalls out to artists and have a little museum display," he said.
"We could also hold events down there, and have classes and exhibits and even a river walk. It could be a destination that would bring a lot of people to the town."
He's also working with Sykesville's Town Council to create a museum foundation, which he says is a crucial step in obtaining additional funding and expanding the museum's programs.
"I went looking for donations from some of our local companies," he recalled. "They basically told me they couldn't give the museum money directly, but they could give money to a foundation.
"Setting up a foundation is basically a legal and accounting process," he said. "We've been working with the town's attorneys and the Town Council on how to structure the board and similar details like that. It will be a way to ensure the museum's survivability down the road."
Stepping into history
The Sykesville Gate House Museum of History, 7283 Cooper Drive, Sykesville, is open Thursdays and Fridays, 1 to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. There is no admission charge, though donations are welcome. More information, a complete listing up upcoming programs and the ArtiFACTS newsletter are available at sykesville.net/gatehouse. Phone number: 410-549-5150.
On Sunday, July 29, the museum will host "Sir Knight," 2 to 3 p.m., with a reenactor displaying his shield, lance and armor, and discussing his life as a crusader. Free; no registration required.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. the museum will present a free program called "Bugs," where children and adults will have a chance to "reach out and touch some live insects and find out what makes a bug a bug."
Other upcoming programs include a September presentation with an army soldier talking about his time in Afghanistan; and in October the museum will host a presentation on the sinking of the Titanic.
Later in the fall the museum will present a basic genealogy class called Genealogy 101. "We will have a genealogical expert coming in, but since not everybody's computer literate, we're going to keep the class as basic and simple as we can," Mark Fraser said.