As families and generations grow older and inevitably die, the history of those individuals is often lost. Recording the history for others, including an entire community has been a passion of Jeff Page for years.
Page, who grew up in Otterville and along with his wife Megan are the owners of Heckart Funeral Home, is committed to telling the stories of some residents of the Otterville community who are no longer living. A cemetery walk is scheduled Sunday at the IOOF Cemetery in Otterville to tell those stories.
“This is about the fifth time we've done the cemetery walk,” Page explained. “I came up with the idea as a creative way to raise funds for cemetery maintenance, but more so to honor the immense history that is found in those grounds.”
This year's walk will feature:
Elmer Fowler. Fowler was a longtime feed store owner who employed many Otterville residents over the years.
George & Beulah Burnett. The couple are described as two fixtures in the Otterville community who operated Burnett's Grocery Store.
Rev. Farrie Cole, who was known as Otterville's "community pastor" who was the go-to for weddings and funerals in the community.
Frank Streit was instrumental in helping to build the manufacturing plants on Clinton Road.
Mary Streit Neumeyer was the first female real estate agent in Sedalia.
Page shared the stories of past honorees Sarah Amanda Wear and Donald Elbert Blakesley to provide a small sense of the information presented during the event.
Sarah Amanda Wear was born in 1819 in Glasgow, Kentucky. It was her marriage at the age of 18 to William Gault Wear, a commercial traveler, that brought the couple to Otterville. Together the couple had a son, James Hutcheson Wear.
“James became a dry goods merchant in St. Louis,” Page said. “He married Nancy Eliza Holliday and later they had a daughter named Lucretia (Loulie) Wear.
“While living in St. Louis, Loulie married a stock and bond broker from St. Louis by the name of George Herbert Walker,” Page continued. “If the name sounds familiar it should… George Herbert Walker and Loulie Wear had a daughter named Dorothy Walker. Dorothy married Prescott Sheldon Bush and together they became the parents of would be President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush and grandparents to George H.W Bush.”
While some of the deceased have stories of success, others are of a more tragic note according to Page.
Donald Elbert Blakesley’s parents Ted and Anna (George) Blakesley owned a grocery store in downtown Otterville. After graduation, Donald began working in Sedalia at Schulze Baking Company as a truck driver.
According to Page the young man had both a ‘passion and interest in flying’.
“Two days after he completed his flight training, Donald and his cousin decided to borrow a plane thinking it would be fun to see their house and the town from the top,” Page said. “They took a low flight over the house. From above they could see and waved to Donald’s daughter.”
Blakesly and his cousin possibly flew too low to the ground. Less than 150 yards from the house, the plane plummeted nose down.
Ted Blakesly told the Sedalia Democrat at the time, “I heard the plane as if it were flying low…It was a horrific scene.”
Ted Blakesly was the first on the scene, followed shortly by several neighbor ladies who had heard the crash. He quickly loosened the seat belts and pulled them out away from the plane in case it would catch fire. The cousins were still alive but unconscious. Both would be pronounced dead within minutes.
Page said the event was “a terrible tragedy, both for the family and the Otterville community.
Other residents whose stories have been told include:
George Clark Harlan was the the first casualty from Otterville in WWI.
Jesse Straten who is credited with bringing electricity to Otterville.
Melvin Conrad served the community as a notable blacksmith in the area.
Dr. Robert Fogle was Otterville’s community doctor for many years.
“We try to think of people who had a significant impact on Otterville history,” Page who writes the biographies of those honored remarked. “Each year it gets more difficult to find the information, so we rely on ideas from families who wish to remember their loved ones.’
The Otterville Cemetery Walk is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the IOOF Cemetery in Otterville. Donations will be accepted to go toward cemetery maintenance