Dr. Harold F. Daum, a former Sedalia doctor and the founder of the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection, died Monday in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the age of 92.
Daum was the second radiologist to join Bothwell Regional Health Center, working there from 1959 until his retirement in 1984, according to “Bothwell Regional Health Center: A Lifetime of Caring.”
According to his obituary, Daum was born July 13, 1923, in Crete, Nebraska. He graduated from Crete High School in 1941 and attended Doane College. He was a World War II U.S. Army veteran and upon his return he attended the University of Nebraska Medical Center where he earned his medical degree. He practiced medicine in Shelby, Nebraska, for a brief time, followed by his residency in radiology in Kansas City.
Dr. Joe Bennett, a local ophthalmologist, said Daum did X-rays for him since opening his opthamology practice in Sedalia in 1966 until Daum’s retirement.
“He’d come in at any time of night if I needed him; he was certainly superb,” Bennett said of Daum. “… He was absolutely great, a wonderful individual to work with. … One of the greatest guys I ever knew in the medical practice.”
While Daum spent his career helping others medically, he may be most known for his generosity to the art community in West Central Missouri. It was Daum who donated his personal collection of roughly 200 paintings and ceramics in 1999 to start the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art at State Fair Community College.
Tom Piche, director of the Daum Museum since 2008, worked with Daum and the acquisitions committee to add to the growing art collection.
“The core of the collection was based on works he had collected starting in the 1970s, so he had a very good grasp of the character of the museum’s permanent collection,” Piche said. “He was very invested in making sure it grew and in a way that enhanced his original holdings. He was a very informed connoisseur of art and especially art as it pertained to his collection.”
According to information from SFCC, the original collection included paintings by renowned artists such as Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Poons and Gene Davis, and abstract sculptural ceramics by Peter Voulkos, Jim Leedy, Jun Kaneko and Ken Ferguson.
Doug Freed, former director of the Daum Museum from 1999 to 2008 and former SFCC art instructor, knew Daum since 1969 when Freed and his wife moved in next door to Daum. Since then, Freed helped Daum amass his impressive personal collection and helped with the design and opening of the museum.
“I worked very intimately with Hal collecting art for many years — 40 years,” Freed said. “He started collecting art on a nationally significant basis in the 1970s, very important paintings. Some of the pieces he collected during the ’70s and ’80s are some of our most valuable paintings in the museum. It goes way further back before the museum was started.
“… It was absolutely incredible,” Freed said of helping Daum with his art collection. “It was a great gift to me to be able to do that. I’d been an exhibiting artist all those years. It was a great thing for me because I was looking and seeing as I saw things in galleries … I was his spotter basically. I would bring things to his attention. He was so astute, he would study them. His knowledge of contemporary art grew every year, he subscribed to all the major art magazines.”
Freed said Daum is considered one of the premier art collectors in Missouri and the Midwest. With more than 2,000 pieces in the Daum Museum collection, “a large percentage of those are from (Daum’s) own collection,” Freed said, with pieces spanning from 1968 to present.
Both Freed and Piche said Daum wasn’t one to ask for recognition, but rather wanted to share his love of art with the community without having to travel to Kansas City or St. Louis.
“The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art is in many ways a unique venue for a community the size of Sedalia and not really just Sedalia but for West Central Missouri,” Piche said. “I think that his legacy is that he will be introducing generations of children to art, especially those who might not have had easy access to art. He’s enabled them to have an introduction at a very early age to some of the best art being made anywhere.”
The Daum Museum has garnered national attention, going far beyond the city limits of Sedalia, with articles appearing in major newspapers across the country when the museum first opened in 2002. Not only has the museum offered an opportunity to view international artwork, but it has also served as a “magnet” for other donors, Freed said.
“It’s hard to equate what he’s done for this community,” Freed said. “He’s one of the city’s greatest benefactors, when it comes to doing things for the community. It’s all art-related, that was his focus; without Daum the museum would not exist. And it’s been a major thing to attract other gifts in the community to the college. It’s been a magnet for giving and he’s certainly one of the great examples for that.”
Last month, Daum received the Award of Distinction from the Missouri Community College Association for his donations to SFCC and the museum. According to information from SFCC, he donated his personal art collection, $2.25 million for the museum’s construction and $500,000 in matching funds to create an acquisitions endowment for future purchases. His gifts are valued at more than $5 million.
Daum, a trained botanist, also had a love of natural art — he was a member of the American Hemerocallis Society, which is comprised of people who love and grow day lilies.
Freed said Daum, a “premier grower of day lilies,” had about 15,000 day lilies growing at his home at any given time, with 5,000 individual unique lilies in his “mother bed” that he would rotate each year. National tours from the society frequently included stops at Daum’s gardens, which included varieties he created himself. Those new varieties were donated to various floral organizations across Missouri.
“I was walking through his garden about 20 years ago, a big bus from Oklahoma City came to see his garden,” Freed said. “… We were walking through his day lilies and I said something to this woman, who was high up in the society. I said, ‘I don’t think Hal has ever registered a single lily.’ She said, ‘no he hasn’t.’ I said, ‘I guess he figured they weren’t good enough to register.’
“She stopped and looked at me she said, ‘every plant in this garden is registerable.’ That was quite something for me to know. He just never took the time to do that. He wasn’t interested in recognition, he wasn’t in any way. He was so private. It was purely for his own enjoyment and to share it with the world.”
No funeral services are planned. A gathering of close friends will be hosted at a later date in Sedalia. Memorials are suggested to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.