Douglas C. Bumgardner, 87, passed away March 9 at the Hubbard Hospice House in Charleston. His late wife Rena used to joke that he had three college degrees but ended up a “junk man.” Although she complained about the constant clutter, she lovingly understood that he was much more than a “junk man.”
The son of Stanley and Macel Craigo Bumgardner, Doug was born in 1927 at his grandmother’s boarding house in Charleston. He grew up with his younger siblings Tom and June on the West Side, in South Ruffner, and in Kanawha City. He showed an early knack for business by selling the Charleston Daily Mail on street corners at age 11. Doug attended Watts and McWiggan grade schools, Thomas Jefferson and Chamberlain junior high schools, and Charleston High School, graduating in 1946.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Alderson-Broaddus College and was one of the school’s first two philosophy majors. After serving in the Army for two years, he earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary and a master’s degree in history from Marshall College (now University). During these years, he worked in a wide range of jobs. He waited tables, sold books and Bibles door to door, built houses, dug ditches, loaded boxcars, painted guardrails on the West Virginia Turnpike, laid railroad tracks, and filled Pepsi bottles. He also worked as a minister and choir director at Emmanuel and Tyler Mountain Baptist churches, served as principal of Parsons Elementary, and taught in one-room schools at Grandview Ridge and Kanawha Two Mile.
In 1959, he settled into a longer-term job at Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston). Even there, he was a jack of all trades. During his 12 years at the school, he taught philosophy and sociology courses, coached the men’s golf team, and served as dean of men, director of community services, and director of the student union. During the 1960s, he opened up the college’s Riggleman Hall to the community, featuring emerging folk musicians and foreign films.
And he still had time to start a family. In 1953, he married Rena Thompson at the Charleston Baptist Temple. They would remain members of the church for the rest of their lives. They were married for 56 years until her death in 2009. In 1965, he became a father. Doug and Rena named their son after their two fathers: Stanley Albert. He took great pride in Stan’s accomplishments, always encouraging him to pursue the things he loved. Doug often took time from his busy schedule to attend Stan’s recitals and inspired Stan’s love of history. In 2002, he became a grandfather. He was extremely proud and supportive of Guy’s creativity, enthusiasm for life, and piano playing. Put simply, Doug was always there when his family needed him most. He was also the family photographer, which explains why the family had to go back 50 years to find a good photo of him.
Even for those who knew Doug, a lot of the story might seem new up to this point because he will always be remembered best for one endeavor: the Kanawha Coin Shop. He opened the business in 1962 on Charleston’s East End beside the State Theatre. The shop moved several times before settling into its current Fife Street (now Brawley Walkway) location in 1977. He actually started the shop to keep his father busy in retirement. For the business’s first 11 years, Doug worked primarily at nights and on weekends while maintaining his other full-time jobs. When his dad retired for good in 1973, Doug went into the coin business full time.
The Kanawha Coin Shop became the passion of his life. He liked to say, “I turned a hobby into a business.” He loved the thrill of finding a rare coin or antique while building a reputation of integrity with his customers. He helped found and support coin clubs in Charleston, Beckley, Logan, and Parkersburg, and visited schools to get young people excited about coin collecting. He often gave children free coins to get them started in the hobby. He was typically at the shop six days a week, unless there was a weekend coin show. He maintained this busy schedule until the day before his first stroke in mid-February.
The shop was much more than a business to him and his customers. He gave the place the feeling of a general store, where the regulars could swap stories and bad jokes. And Doug was the ringleader of this daily show, holding court and telling incredibly corny puns. Per his wishes, the shop will continue on, but it and Downtown Charleston will never be the same again.
Doug was a beloved fixture in Charleston. He made an immediate impression on everyone he met and will have a lasting impact on his family and hundreds of friends. In fact, the shop’s employees and customers all became part of an extended family. Their lives are much better for having known Doug.
He was preceded in death by his wife Rena, sister June, and brother Tom, who passed away just a month ago. He is survived by his son Stan and grandson Guy, both of Charleston; sister-in-law Betty Canterbury Bumgardner and nephew Jeff (Susan) of Red Sulphur Springs; niece Myra Bumgardner of Winston-Salem, N.C.; nephew Barry Burger (Terri) of Dunbar; and nephew Scott Burger (Missy) of Charleston. Scott also manages the coin shop.
A visitation and celebration of Doug’s life will be held at Barlow-Bonsall Funeral Home in Charleston on March 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. Doug and Rena were lifelong supporters of community music in Charleston. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in their memory to Fund for the Arts, 803 Quarrier Street, Suite 100, Charleston, WV 25301.
Given Doug’s sense of humor, it seems fitting to end his obituary with a joke, which he passed along to the newspaper back in 1964. A coin collector told his psychiatrist that he kept having recurring dreams about rare 1909-S VDB pennies. When he asked the doctor if he could help him, the psychiatrist replied, “Yes, but first, tell me where I can get my hands on some of these pennies?”
And that was Doug Bumgardner. He thoroughly loved life, always tried to put a smile on people’s faces, and helped make the world brighter for everyone.