Louisiana Traveler - Weapons collection

DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - What was once a storage room is now home to a display of World War I and World War II era weapons. The 27 rifles and handguns were donated by DeRidder collector Velmer Smith.

"I have a passion for DeRidder's history and the area history," said Smith. "It's just sort of like home. Things that I have owned and enjoyed and have enriched my life, I want them to stay here. I want them to be of some assistance in the future."

One of the weapons on display is a Browning M1911-A. It was standard issue during World War II. The collection includes a broom handle Mauser, which was Winston Churchill's preferred weapon. There's also an Italian Carcana, similar to the rifle that killed President John F. Kennedy.

"I think this place was the right place to bring it to, since this is the first USO built in the United States," said Carlos Archield with the Beauregard Parish Police, which owns the building. "We appreciate everything she has done."

Smith could have sold the items and made a fortune. Instead, she added the weapons collection to the War Room Museum, which she also donated.

"It takes a person that believes in where they live and believes in what they do," said Sandra Rich, director of the civic center. "She has that heart."

The display was designed and built by Robert Lilly, who admires Smith for her generosity.

"That was to me the whole reason I wanted to do this," said Lilly. "It gave me something to help her guns live on."

The weapons collection room and library will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. An open house will be held Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

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