Gordon Farmer had lifelong penchant for the past

Gordon Farmer looks over an old vehicle during a 1985 interview.

Gordon Farmer was a lifelong advocate for pieces of the past.

The engineer, entrepreneur, businessman and World War II veteran – who died Friday at the age of 91 – was also a nationally known collector featured in an episode of The History Channel’s American Pickers series.

In particular, the North Augusta man had a fondness for local history – and couldn’t bear to see things torn down, thrown away or destroyed.

“The man had an incredible eye – and he had a knack for just knowing what was historically significant,” said Nancy Glaser, the executive director of the Augusta Museum of History, where Farmer was a board member for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was also a hardworking businessman. In 1946, after serving as a B-17 navigator during World War II, the Georgia Tech graduate created the Augusta Concrete Block Company, which evolved into one of the region’s most successful block manufacturers.

Decades later, the company’s many large warehouses offered Farmer the space to store and preserve vast collections of bicycles, cars, railroad relics, advertising pieces and other items.

“When buildings were being torn down, he’d try to take pieces and preserve that part of the history,” Glaser said. “He’s going to be incredibly missed in the community.”

Farmer was also willing to share his treasures.

“He gave us a 1928 fire engine,” she said. “And the 1875 cotton gin that’s on display in the (museum’s) textile area is something else he gave to us.”

As a museum board member in the 1990s, he helped plan and raise money for the new building.

Steam engines and mechanical devices – such as clocks, scales, scientific instruments and jukeboxes – were among his favorite things.

In June 2010, he was featured on American Pickers, in an episode aptly titled “Gordon’s Gold Mine,” which – he later told an Augusta Chronicle reporter – generated hundreds of calls from fellow collectors all over the country.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. today at Grace United Methodist Church.

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