Bill Homrighausen doesn't wear his Marilyn Monroe tie everyday.
"Only for special occasions," the 92-year-old said on a recent morning at his home in DeWitt, Iowa.
His bright blue tie, patterned with the many faces of Marilyn, fit the occasion.
Figge Art Museum executive director Tim Schiffer had come by to have a look at Homrighausen's extensive collection dedicated to the '50s icon.
Schiffer’s mission was to select a sample of items to display during the Figge’s upcoming “Valentine’s Dinner with Marilyn” on Feb. 10. Proceeds from the special themed event will raise money for a new endowment fund established by Homrighausen and his wife, Shirley Davis, to support the Figge’s publications.
As the collector put it, Schiffer was there "to see the museum.”
Some of the miniature Marilyn museum — including a framed black and white photo of Marilyn above the couch in the living room — was visible from the front door. Stacks of Marilyn Monroe-themed calendars, books, CD's and photos covered Homrighausen's dining room table. Magnets adorned with photos of the actress and model filled the refrigerator. Going up the stairs to the home's second floor, dozens of framed photos and posters line the walls. Even Homrighausen’s business card is printed with a Marilyn Monroe smile.
He started collecting in the ‘70s and was “amazed” by the variety of memorabilia he found. Examples include sets of playing cards, clocks, a cigarette lighter, coffee mugs, nesting dolls, a mouse pad, stamps, notepads and a few more neckties.
"She was probably one of the most photographed people in the world," Homrighausen said. "How you could make that many books about someone who lived such a short life and not have any duplicates … it’s quite something.”
Looking through a sample of photos, Schiffer agreed.
"She's such a visual icon. I mean, even Andy Warhol painted her," Schiffer said, referring to the American pop artist. "She represents glamour and that time period."
Homrighausen said he’s interested in selling a portion or all of his collection.
He’s also interested in “leaving a legacy.” Hence, the William D. and Shirley J. Homrighausen Endowment.
Giving back isn’t new to the man who is known as “Mr. Dewitt” in his community.
Last year, Bill and Shirley Homrighausen started an endowment fund at the LincolnWay Community Foundation in Dubuque to support students pursuing careers in journalism, a field they both have experience in.
After working for Iowa Mutual Insurance for 42 years, Bill Homrighausen penned over 100 columns for the DeWitt Observer, which were later gathered in a book titled, “They Call Me Mr. DeWitt — A Treasury of Recollections.”
Shirley wrote for the Quad-City Times for 51 years and later contributed to the North Scott Press and the DeWitt Observer.
The couple has also made several donations to the Central Community Historical Society and Museum in DeWitt.
“Art is a passion of ours,” Homrighausen said.
Homrighausen said he’s looking forward to showing off another one of his passions at the Valentine’s dinner, which features a themed menu, complimentary glass of champagne and custom wine or cocktail flight.
He can’t remember what piece launched his Marilyn Monroe collection, but said each comes with a story. He tracked down some books and stumbled over others while on vacation in Europe. A friend brought him back a set of Marilyn-themed playing cards found at a truck stop outside of Chicago.
"This took 40 years to assemble," he said. "If I started now, I wouldn't know where to find two books about her.”
Over the years, Homrighausen has also collected miniature cars and shoes and autographed baseballs. But his Marilyn stash is the largest.
"The fun is in the hunt," he said. "You never know what you're going to find."