Historians of the Brighton Central School District know that in 1926 Aubrey D. Donley was the first principal of the K-12 building that is now TCMS and that Donley was a longstanding Superintendent of the District including in 1940 when the new High School on Winton Road opened.
See also Catherine Zukosky’s “Down Memory Lane with Brighton Schools” from Historic Brighton News,Volume 8. Fall 2007, Number 4
Few know that Donley was also a renowned numismatist. Probably no one knows that on September 24th, 1935 — a still unsolved case that baffled authorities — safe robbers attempted to break into the Brighton High School money box kept in Donley’s office. Despite hours of battering by the burglars, including with a baseball bat, the safe proved impregnable. The police found no fingerprints nor discovered how the intruders entered the building. Nor was anything actually stolen. (As a sign of the times, the article describes Brighton as “rural Monroe County.”
Delving further into the archives, I found reports of Donley’s impressive coin collection. In 1937, Two years after the incident, Donley, an “ardent numismatist,” displayed his collection of 47 commemorative half dollar pieces in the school library.
We also know that Donley was active in the Rochester Numismatic Association.
I asked local numismatist Dean Tucker, BHS ’81, to assess the value of the half-dollars displayed in the library. Dean says commemorative coins are a niche market with some value but are mainly collected for pleasure rather than profit. Most likely, the coins were a minor part of Donley’s overall collection.
While it is problematic to speculate on a long lost and unsolved case, the detective in me wonders if inside the safe were portions of Donley’s rare coin collection. The newspaper accounts make the attempted crime sound like an inside job: nothing else was stolen and how the would-be thieves entered the building is unknown.
Donley lived down the street from the school on Monroe Avenue. Perhaps he moved portions of his collection into the office box for safe keeping. Maybe someone knew the coins were in the office.We’ll never know who tried breaking into the safe or what exactly they were after. Luckily, as the Democrat and Chronicle wrote of the money box: