Tonawanda News — David Eilers, the great-great grandson of Rudolph Wurlitzer, presented a bronze plaque that hung for years in the Wurlitzer company’s New York City showroom to the North Tonawanda History Museum on Thursday evening.
Growing up, Eilers felt proud to tell his friends in a town near Seattle that the mighty Wurlitzer organ at their favorite pizza parlor was built by his great, great grandfather. But it wasn’t until 1992, at the age of 28, when he took initiative to learn the depth of his family’s history.
A historian who sells antique Jeeps online, Eilers, who authored two historical books, created a family website. He listed the Eilers and Wurlitzers who were part of his lineage, and posted what pictures and information of them he had. This way, anyone doing research on the Wurlitzer family could contact him, and he could gather information from them, too.
In his research, he discovered there was a small museum “somewhere out there in New York” that was trying to put together a Wurlitzer display. Donna Zellner Neal, the executive director of the North Tonawanda History Museum, was awestruck when Eilers showed up at her museum in 2011.
“(My wife and I) drove up and walked in unannounced and peaked around and liked what we saw,” Eilers said. “And so I think almost on our way out we said: ‘Oh yeah, we’re related to the Wurlitzers.’ Well, that’s all we had to say, and Donna brought us back in and gave us the full tour.”
He promised Neal to provide her with as much information as he had on his family. Their ultimate goal is to create a Wurlitzer showroom. Thus far, Eilers has donated his time, the bronze plaque and a family history to the North Tonawanda History Museum. He said in the future, if there’s progress with the showroom, he would be open to monetary donations.