John Reed McDonald – 2019 Inductee

(On this date, September 27, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the last of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)

In order to appreciate the following story, one needs to consider these facts about craft beer and microbreweries in America:

  • Craft brewers are small brewers, as opposed to large well-known American brands such as Anheuser-Busch, Coors, or Miller.
  • The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
  • Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
  • Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events.
  • Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, being largely independent of outside corporate ownership.
  • Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
  • The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

McDonald John May 2012 closeupIn the latter 1970s interest in local specialized beers, or craft beers, emerged in America.  Long an European tradition, craft breweries became popular in the 1980s as microbreweries and brewpubs sprang up across the country.  Only a very few ever managed to stay in business for any length of time.  That is what makes John McDonald’s story all the more remarkable.

John Reed McDonald was born in 1953 in Osborne, Osborne County, Kansas.  Sandwiched between siblings Carrie and William, John was the second of the three children of Bill Ray and Mary Jean (Hoffman) McDonald.  He grew up in Osborne and considered himself to be, as he puts it, “an average study, more interested in social endeavors and hunting quail than in books or formal learning.”  John and his friends did all the things normal boys did in those days – played PeeWee baseball, joined the Boy Scouts, and was a member of the football, basketball, and golf teams in junior high and high school.

McDonald John PeeWee baseball 29 July 1965 Osb Co Farmer pg 4 with x
Osborne PeeWee baseball team, July 1965.  John McDonald can be seen kneeling in the front row.
McDonald John Scout photo Osb Co Farmer 3 August 1967 page 1
John McDonald (with the “X”) working with fellow Boy Scouts to clean away storm debris. “Osborne County Farmer” newspaper, August 3, 1967.
McDonald John Osb Co Farmer 19 Sept 1968 pg 11
MEET A BULLDOG – John McDonald, Osborne High School Bulldog football team, “Osborne County Farmer” newspaper, September 19, 1968.
McDonald John Golf 1970 Swan Song pg 82 with x
John McDonald (right) as a member of the Osborne High School Bulldog golf team, 1970.


And drank beer.

John’s father indeed made, as John would later put it, “a little home brew which you know was more of a conversation piece than something good to drink.”  In fact adding a little tomato juice to it helped to get the potent stuff down.

“I grew up in a small rural town in Kansas.  Growing up in that small town, we drank beer.  The whole age thing wasn’t a big deal.  So by the time I went off to college in the ‘70s, drinking beer wasn’t really a big deal.  It was just part of life.” – John McDonald, as quoted in the story John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing,, November 22, 2010.

In the summer following his junior year of high school John’s family moved to Wichita, Kansas.  After high school graduation he followed in the family tradition and enrolled in the University of Kansas.  “It’s interesting because when I was at KU I really didn’t drink a whole lot of beer,” McDonald later recalled. “I had already gotten that out of my system growing up in Western Kansas and I knew I was going to flunk out of school if I partied too much.”

John graduated from college in 1976 with a fine arts degree and was awarded the Lockwood Scholarship for his promise in the visual arts.  John then spent several years traveling widely across Central and South America and taught for a time in Ecuador.  When he returned to the United States John bought a home in Kansas City, Missouri and started his own construction business, earning a living for the next fifteen years as a carpenter and cabinetmaker.  He became well known as a hard worker and a dedicated craftsman.  In the early 1980s John married Anne L. Blumer.  The couple has three children, Boulevard, Jake, and Piper.

It was when he and his wife won raffle tickets for a trip to Europe in 1984 that John’s eyes were opened to the vast number of beers available and the traditions small European brewers embraced.  John and his wife traveled extensively throughout the great beer-making regions of Europe, and he fell in love with the idea of small breweries making flavorful beers in a variety of styles for a local or regional market.

“I just fell love with English ales,” he later recalled. “Then when we were in Paris, I stumbled across a Belgian beer bar.  My wife would go to museums and I would go back to that bar every day. They had 400 different bottled beers from all of these different breweries.  I was just like, ‘Wow, this is crazy interesting.’”

Returning to Kansas City, John took up homebrewing in his woodshop and was soon fascinated with the small brewery phenomenon that was then sweeping America, with microbreweries suddenly popping up all around the country.  John decided that his interest in brewing was more serious than just a hobby and he put his career as a carpenter on hold.

“There was this guy that I was in art school with at college who ended up in the wine business.  I was always enamored of the wine business, but he kept telling me that I ought to open a brewery. You couldn’t start a winery in Kansas City, but you could open a brewery.” – John McDonald.

It also occurred to him that having a degree in Fine Arts was beneficial as a business owner.  The same qualities that made John a sought-after-carpenter made him a natural at brewing beer.  He was a process kind of person, and making beer isn’t that different from painting and carpentry.

In the mid-eighties John started looking into starting a craft brewery, one that made spec. He visited a lot of breweries in the central Midwest, gathering ideas and making plans. John had a friend who was a writer and he helped him write the business plan. Raising the money needed to get going wasn’t easy.  People kept wondering how he could possibly try to compete with that big brewery across the state in St. Louis.  No, he kept telling them, he wanted to produce an entirely different kind of beer on a much smaller scale.  For four years John met with dozens of bankers and a lot of disappointment.  He even sold his house to raise money.  By 1988 John had raised about $850,000 in capitalization, just enough money to start the brewery.  By then he was living and working in an old brick building on Kansas City’s Southwest Boulevard that had once housed the laundry for the Santa Fe Railroad. John moved his carpentry shop to a corner and began to build a brewery, using second-hand equipment that included a vintage 35-barrel Bavarian brewhouse.  The first keg of Boulevard Pale Ale Beer was pro­duced in November 1989.

The story of Boulevard’s first sale is now legendary in Kansas City business circles: how on November 17, 1989, the first keg of Boulevard beer was sold to Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen, located just a few blocks from the brewery.  John McDonald personally delivered that half-barrel of Pale Ale in his pickup truck.  A handful of reg­u­lars looked on in amuse­ment as the young upstart tapped the strange new brew.  John’s product would do well at Ponak’s.  But it was often tough going elsewhere.

“It was grim in the early days in the Midwest trying to sell a better beer. I remember once I went into this bar called the Twin City Tavern. It was a real classic tavern. I went in at like eleven in the morning and there were three guys in there all drinking their twelve-oz pilsner, probably Busch. No head on the beer, because that would be cheating them out of some of the beer. So our sales guy said, ‘You know what, guys, I’m gonna buy you a beer. This guy makes this beer just five or six blocks from here. He’s working his ass off. He’s out here delivering beer at eleven in the morning. You should try one of his beers.’  So the bartender poured them all a Pale Ale. It looked great.  Had a nice head on it.  One of the guys wouldn’t even try it.  The other two guys took a little sip and then pushed the beer back across the bar to the owner.  And then they didn’t say anything.  So I went and picked up my little half-barrel keg.  There were probably 20 full Busch kegs there.  And as I was walking out the door one of the guys looked at me and said, ‘Young man, that is absolutely the worst beer I have ever had in my life.’  I ran out of there thinking, ‘What have I done?  I’m gonna go broke.’” – John McDonald, John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing.

When Boulevard Beer opened its doors it instantly became the largest brewery in Kansas City.  For the first year the brewery only produced draft beer.  After a lot more cajoling and pleading for money, a small loan was finally secured to install a used bottling line so Boulevard could start bottling its own product.

McDonald John Manhattan Mercury 3 June 1990 Page 39
John McDonald starts to get some press. “Manhattan Mercury” (Kansas) newspaper, June 3, 1990.

The original business plan called for someday selling 6,000 barrels a year.  By the third year sales passed 7,000 barrels, and continued to climb.  For the timing was perfect.  Boulevard was at the fore­front of America’s taste switch­ing from homogenous-tasting nation­ally dis­trib­uted brews to Pre-prohibition style craft beers with a local identity.

When John built the brewery deep in the heart of a century-old urban neighborhood, he hadn’t worried about outgrowing it. But it had happened, and a new brewhouse was needed.  This time around finding financing for the project was not a problem.  In 2006 a $25 million expansion brought a new building with a 150-barrel brewhouse, packaging halls, offices and hospitality spaces.  The addition of the new brewhouse increased the annual brewing capacity from about 140,000 barrels a year to almost 700,000 barrels a year.

Boulevard Brewery
Boulevard Brewery, Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri.
Boulevard Brewery night exterior
Boulevard Brewery at night. The operation runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Almost from inception, Boulevard has consistently been among the region’s fastest-growing companies.  Boulevard grew in double digits every year since opening in 1989.  The regional specialty brewery enjoys a strong reputation and an enviable market presence in its limited territory.  Revenues for 2009, at $26.3 million, were up nearly 12-fold from 1994.  About 35 percent of its sales are in the Kansas City market and 90 percent within a five-state area.  One Boulevard beer, their unfiltered wheat, is the company’s most prolific product and accounts for more than 60 percent of their business.

John McDonald’s success has not gone unnoticed.  In 2008 he was inducted into the Greater Kansas City Business Hall of Fame. And in 2012 Boulevard Brewing Co. was named the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.  At the time it was noted that Boulevard controlled more than 5 percent of the Kansas City-area beer market, with 40 percent of its beer being sold locally. Boulevard reported 2011 revenue of $32.01 million, up 11.2 percent from 2010.  In presenting the award Jim Heeter, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, observed the following: “John exemplifies the three qualities needed by every successful entrepreneur — passion for what he wanted to accomplish, extreme attention to detail and remarkable perseverance.  Plus, John is someone who does a lot for the community in which he lives.”

John, along with other Boulevard colleagues, founded Ripple Glass in 2009 as a response to Kansas Citians throwing away some 150 million pounds of glass annually, 10 million of which were Boulevard bottles.  They built a $4 million state-of-the-art processing facility that took glass recycling from around 3,000 tons a year to up to 18,000 tons a year.  Since then, Ripple Glass has transformed the way Kansas City recycles: in just six years, Ripple Glass converted Kansas City’s glass recycling rate from just 3% to over 20%.  All of Boulevard’s beer is now bottled with recycled glass.

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A Letter from Boulevard Brewing founder, John McDonald

(Kansas City, Missouri) – Boulevard Brewing Company founder, John McDonald released a statement on Thursday regarding the sale of his majority stake in the company to Duvel Moortgat.

October 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

Almost 30 years ago, I was fortunate to spend time traveling around Europe with my wife, Anne Blumer. In each city I visited, one of my favorite adventures was trying different beers. I sipped bitter ales in England, spent my days in Munich drinking pilsners and wheat beers, but it was in Paris, in a Belgian beer bar, that I truly fell in love.

I will never forget the day. I walked into the pub, ordered a Belgian ale, and experienced what I can only describe as an epiphany. The beer was brilliant in color, with intensely floral aromas and a flavor bursting with joyous complexity. I went back day after day, sampling a wide array of amazing beers, and was hooked for life.

Last winter my wife and I returned to that same Parisian pub, and the memory of that long-ago experience flooded my senses. It has been many years since that fateful encounter started me on the path to brewing my own beer and founding Boulevard Brewing Company. At the outset, my goal was to make a beer as extraordinary as the Belgian ales I had so fortuitously discovered. With the help of my parents Bill and Mary and my wife Anne, Boulevard has grown into one of the largest craft breweries in the country, and my dream has become a reality. While I always say I don’t have a favorite Boulevard beer, I must admit that some of the Belgian ales in our lineup are as exciting to me as those beers I first tasted in Paris all those years ago.

I have long felt as though I have three children: Boulevard, born in 1989, Jake, in 1990, and Piper, in 1992. I’m not getting any younger, and the long-term future of the brewery has weighed on my mind for the past several years. After long discussions with my family, we determined that we wanted to find a way to take Boulevard to the next level while retaining its essence, its people, its personality – all the characteristics that make our beer and our brewery so important to Kansas City and the Midwest.

I am honored and humbled to announce that I have chosen Duvel Moortgat as the long-term partner for Boulevard. An independent, family-owned craft brewer spanning four generations, Duvel Moortgat produces world-class beers at several breweries in Belgium, and owns and operates Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. They bring to us an unparalleled depth of experience, strong resources, and an unwavering devotion to quality. Duvel Moortgat is committed to our people, to the expansion of our Kansas City brewery, and to growing Boulevard brands throughout the US and abroad. After spending a lot of time getting to know the company and its people, I am confident this is the right decision. We share the same values, respect each other’s achievements, and have the same obsession for exceptional beers.

Be assured that this is not goodbye. Although Boulevard is combining with Duvel Moortgat, I will remain closely involved, with a continuing stake in the business and a seat on the board. My commitment to sustainability initiatives will continue, as will Boulevard’s support of Ripple Glass, the glass recycling company I co-founded.

For now, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for making the last 24 years an amazing journey for me and the entire Boulevard family. We will continue to work hard to produce great beers, and to give back to the community. Ultimately, I am determined to make Kansas City even more proud of its hometown brewery, and our dedicated supporters delighted to raise a glass of Boulevard beer.

Cheers, John McDonald

Posted by Adam Nason

October 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

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McDonald John 2012 with oak barrels of beer
John McDonald, founder and board member, Boulevard Brewing Company.

Boulevard Brewing Company is now the largest craft brewery in the Midwest and the 12th largest craft brewery in the United States.  It employees 125 people and is known both for its quality of product and its commitment to being an environmentally friendly company.  In 2017 its products were sold in 41 states and the District of Columbia, along with a global distribution in the following countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Outside of Boulevard and Ripple Glass, John has managed to keep himself otherwise occupied.  He has led in the redevelopment of Kansas City’s East Bottoms area and serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Kansas City Chamber Of Commerce.

John McDonald has come a long way from his days growing up in Osborne County, Kansas, and we look forward to watching his life’s tale continue to unfold, only now as a member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

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Boulevard Beer logo


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Boulevard Vamos Mexican Lager

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Boulevard Smooth-Fuzz

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Boulevard Silver Anniversary Ale

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Boulevard dark sour ale

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Boulevard 30th-Anniversary-Ale

2010 Dec 2 Boulevard Beer factory photo

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Osborne County Farmer newspaper, October 26, 1961; July 29, 1965; August 26, 1965; November 4, 1965; June 30, 1966; November 3, 1966; July 6, 1967; August 3, 1967; September 28, 1967; November 30, 1967; June 27, 1968; July 25, 1968; September 19, 1968; December 18, 1969; May 7, 1970.

Osborne High School, Osborne, Kansas, Swan Song Yearbook, 1968.

Osborne High School, Osborne, Kansas, Swan Song Yearbook, 1969.

Osborne High School, Osborne, Kansas, Swan Song Yearbook, 1970.

“Grin and beer it: Boulevard Brewing stays true to its vision in tough times, good times”. Champions of Business, June 3, 2007.

“Boulevard Brewery releases Pilsner lager”, University Daily Kansan, August 25, 2009. Twd8VZHO.dpuf

“Boulevard Brewing Co.”,, November 2010.

Agnew, Michael, “John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing”. November 22, 2010., “K.C.’s Boulevard Brewery comes of age”, The Booze Beat, December 2, 2010.

“Bob’s 47 and the story of Boulevard beer”., May 6, 2011.

“Cradle of Entrepreneurs Re-cap: John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing Goes for Regionalism, Sustainability”., Thursday, August 4, 2011.

Johnson, Julie, “Pull Up a Stool with John McDonald Boulevard Brewing Co.”.  All About Beer Magazine, May 2012, Volume 33, Number 2.

“Boulevard Brewing wins Small Business of the Year from Greater Kansas City Chamber”,, May 23, 2012.

 Palosaari, Ben, “Boulevard hires new CEO; founder John McDonald stays put, teases Chocolate Ale’s 2014 return.”  This Week’s Pitch, Wednesday, September 12, 2012.

Nason, Adam, “A Letter from Boulevard Brewing founder, John McDonald”., October 17, 2013.


Staff, “Boulevard Brewing Co. and Duvel Moortgat USA to Combine.” All About Beer Magazine, October 17, 2013.

Strom, Stephanie, “An Ale Admired, Now Owned”.  New York Times, October 17, 2013.

“Profile: John McDonald”.



Gerald Jean Beisner – 2019 Inductee

(On this date, September 9, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the fourth of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)

Beisner, Colonel (Ret.) Gerald Jean (Jerry) b

The Beisner family of southwest Osborne County can note with justifiable pride that there are now two members of the Beisner family honored in the Osborne County Hall of Fame, as 2002 inductee Louis Beisner is joined by military ace Gerald Jean “Jerry” Beisner, the newest honoree in the Hall’s Class of 2019.

Gerald, known as “Jerry”, and his twin sister, Geraldine, were born on September 30, 1923 in Salina, Kansas to Otto Louis Beisner and Nora Belle (Hogan) Beisner.  Their mother died in childbirth, and the infant twins remained in the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph at the hospital in Salina for a few months before being brought to Natoma, Kansas, in 1924.  There Gerald was reared by his mother’s brother, William Patrick “Pat” Hogan, and Geraldine was reared in the home of her father’s sister, Alvena (Mrs. Henry) Pruter.

Beisner Otto & Nora Belle Hogan parents of Gerald
Otto and Nora Belle (Hogan) Beisner, parents of Gerald Jean Beisner.  Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Beisner.
Hogan Home 1908 Gerald Beisner's uncle NE of Natoma FINAL
The Pat and Rose Hogan home northeast of Natoma, Kansas, as it looked in 1908.   They were already raising seven children of their own here when they took in Pat’s nephew, Gerald Beisner.
Beisner Geraldine Phillip & Gerald photo from Mark Marzec
Geraldine, Phillip, and Gerald Beisner.  Photo courtesy of Mark Manzec.

Jerry attended elementary school in Natoma and graduated in 1942 from Maur Hill High School in Atchison, Kansas.  He enrolled in Brown Mackie Business College in Salina prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army on April 1, 1943.  At the time of his enlistment Jerry was described as being five feet seven inches in height with brown eyes and hair, and weighing 150 pounds.  He was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps.  While training in Pensacola, Florida, Jerry met the love of his life, Bessie Melva Parrish.  They were married April 4, 1946, at Salt Lake City, Utah, and remained married for 62 years.  Together they raised four daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Bridget, and Arianne.

Beisner Gerald J WWI Enlistment Page 1

Beisner Gerald J WWI Enlistment Page 2
Gerald Beisner’s World War II registration card.

Jerry served throughout the remainder of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War.  Jerry was a combat pilot, assistant operations officer and later assigned to 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, part of the 35th Fighter Group.  He was a Wing Director of Operations at MacDill Air Force Base and Tactical Air Command Chief of Safety at Langley Air Force Base in addition to countless other assignments.

Jerry served in Korea from October 1950 to March 1951, and in January 1952 he served as adjutant with the 120th Fighter Bomber Squadron.  He flew 127 combat missions in the Korean War.

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“A surprise visit from Captain G. J. Beisner gladdened his Salina relatives and friends on the weekend of March 28th.  He flew to Salina from Clovis Air Base, New Mexico, where he has been stationed with his family for more than a year with the exception of two months spent in Georgia at Woody Air Base where he attended school. Clovis is twenty-five miles distant from Portales, where Jerry and his family live.  In addition to his flying and his duties as an adjutant, he is taking a post graduate course at the University of Portales by attending evening classes.  Jerry now flies the newer type of Jet – the F-86 – but he flew to Salina in a P-51.  Well decorated with service honors, he remains the same modest, self-effacing youth known to his Natoma friends.” – Natoma Independent, April 16, 1953.

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In November 1956 Major Gerald J. Beisner became commander of the 355th Fighter Squadron, a position he held until September 1957.   In November 1965 Jerry entered a new phase of his career when he was sent to Vietnam as commander of the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the second Phantom II F-4C jet squadron to be assigned there.  He flew 202 combat missions in the new jet, of which 35 were over North Vietnam.

Beisner Gerald C O 558 TFS climbs out of F-4 First Squadron to arrive in Vietnam Nov 1965 a
Arrival at CRAB L/C.  Gerald Beisner (left, in plane), commander of the 558 TFS [Tactical Fighter Squadron],  getting out of  an F-4 with Lt. Charles T. Jaglinski, GIB (right, standing). The 558 TFS was the first squadron of camouflaged fighters to arrive in Vietnam, in November 1965.  Photo courtesy of
Beisner Gerald Lt Col Commander 558 TFS Photo Oct 66 front 5th from left photo by George Devorshak
 The 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Photo taken in October 1966 in Vietnam.  In front row, 5th from left with the red “X”, is Lt. Colonel Gerald Beisner, Commander.  Photo by George Devorshak.

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“Lt. Col. Gerald J. Beisner, husband of the former Bess Parrish of Thomasville, has attained the rank of Colonel with the U. S. Air Force and has been assigned duty as director of operations and training for the 4453d Combat Crew Training Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona.

“A native of Salina, Kansas, Gerald enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and has amassed over 4,500 hours flying time, 662 of which were in combat and nearly all logged in fighter aircraft.

“Colonel Beisner is in Tucson with his wife, three of their daughters, Mary, Bridget, and Arianne [Tinker Bell].  A fourth daughter, Elizabeth, is attending Mercer University, Macon.

“Mrs. Beisner and her children lived in Thomasville while her husband was in Vietnam.” – Thomasville Times-Enterprise, August 19, 1967.

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In the course of his 30 years in the U.S. Air Force Jerry earned the following medals and honors:

Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism with Oak Leaf Cluster

Air Medal with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters

Legion of Merit

Bronze Star

World War II Victory Medal

Combat Readiness Medal

Good Conduct Medal

Japanese Occupation Medal

Four stars for Korean service

Stripes indicating more than 100 missions in Korea

Sigmund Rhea Korean Presidential Unit Citation

U. N. Service Medal

Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1974, Jerry founded the market research firm Beisner Research Associates in Macon, Georgia, and continued in that business for approximately 30 years. In addition to his distinguished career, Jerry’s love and devotion to his wife, family and friends stand out as his greatest accomplishment.  Jerry loved his family and took great joy and pride in his daughters and grandchildren.  He was diligent in staying in touch with his much loved extended family of brothers and sisters, calling and visiting them and their families across the country.  He particularly adored his grandchildren and enjoyed being an active part of their lives following his retirement, taking them on vacations, helping with homework, teaching them to drive, and creating many cherished memories.

Jerry was blessed with a wonderful personality and keen sense of humor. He was gregarious, outgoing, eternally optimistic, and kind hearted. He will be dearly missed by his family and friends. The family wishes to express thanks for the many kind expressions of sympathy and the exceptional caregivers who assisted him in recent years.

Gerald Jean Beisner passed away on May 16, 2018, at his home in Macon, Georgia.

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Mary Ann Beisner, Natoma, Kansas

Clovis News-Journal, January 21, 1952, Page 2

Natoma Independent, Natoma, Kansas, April 16, 1953, Page 1

Thomasville Times-Enterprise, Thomasville, Georgia, August 19, 1967, Page 8 Utah, Select Marriage Index, 1887-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. 

US World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946


Vinnorma (Shaw) McKenzie – 2019 Inductee

(On this date, August 19, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the third of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)

Shaw Elmer Franklin Vinnorma & Ida
The Shaw family of Downs, Kansas.  From left: Railroad engineer Elmer Shaw, son Franklin, daughter Vinnorma, and wife Ida.

Her unusual name, and then her talent, drew attention to her all of her life.  Vinnorma Shaw was born on September 27, 1890 in Downs, Osborne County, Kansas, to railroad engineer Elmer McKee Shaw and his wife Ida Vinnorma (Rudy) Shaw. The arrival of her younger brother, Franklin B. Shaw, four years later completed the family circle.  While still quite young “Norma” proved to have an innate gift for sketching and other artwork, and over the years her rising talent drew the interest of the entire community.

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“Vinnorma Shaw has demonstrated that she has much natural ability as an artist and her parents contemplate sending her to an art school when she completes her work in the Downs High School.  By all means, she should be encouraged with her drawing, for it is not only possible, but probable, that in a few years she will gain an enviable reputation as an artist, and command a good salary on the Chautauqua platform, should she desire that class of work.” – Downs Times, May 27, 1909.

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And so it was that after Vinnorma graduated Downs High School she enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she continued to excel in her studies and was duly invited to participate in the 1911 Lincoln Park Chautauqua, held just a few miles to the east of Downs.

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Vinnorma Shaw, Artist

“It is with no small degree and pride that we introduce this young lady for evening program at Lincoln Park, Wednesday, August 9th.  She is a Kansas girl who has developed a decided talent for crayon work, and for the last year has been in Chicago attending the Art Institute preparing to make this line of work a profession.  Many of our patrons have seen and heard Miss Shaw before she took up this work seriously, and they will no doubt be pleased to have an opportunity to congratulate her upon her advancement.  She has received several Honorable Mentions from the Art Institute for her work in both drawing and painting, and is exceptional serious and conscientious in her work on the platform.” – Osborne County News, August 5, 1911.

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Honor for Miss Vinnorma Shaw.

“Downs can well feel proud of the high success attained by one of our fairest young ladies, Miss Vinnorma Shaw, the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Shaw.

“In June Miss Shaw completed a three years’ course at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and graduate with high honors.  She then remained in Chicago and took up special work in the art line, just returning to her home here last Friday.

“The last of this week the young lady will go to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she has accepted a splendid position as instructor in the Manual Training high school of that place, one of the very best schools in the country. This position was secured on meritorious work, as the officials who employed Miss Vinnorma went to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and personally investigated with a view to securing an exceptionally good instructor, and we are sure they have made no mistake.  Miss Shaw’s work in drawing and art, and the high grades in her studies, coupled with her pleasing personality, proved a powerful magnet.  She had many other good offers but this seemed the most attractive and pays a high salary.

“We are very glad, indeed, to note the young lady’s progress and we trust she will continue till she reaches the highest pinnacle of fame. This is an age of efficiency and, it is pleasing to note that honest and hard work efforts are appreciated.” – Downs Times, September 3, 1914.

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She makes Art Pay in Chicago

“A Kansas girl who is attaining success in advertising poster work and commercial art is Miss Vinnorma Shaw, of Downs, Kansas. Miss Shaw has been teaching art in the [Technical] high school of Indianapolis. Indiana, but as a side line she does all the designing and poster work for the stationery find advertisements of the Missouri State Fair.

“Miss Shaw is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Shaw, of Downs, and is a graduate of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Chicago Institute and the Fine Arts School of Yale. She also holds a Master’s degree from Yale.

“During [World War I] she designed posters for the American Red Cross, and added not a little money to its treasury from the sale of several of her paintings. Miss Shaw has been doing the mechanical drawings for the Winchester Rifle Company, and has handled the Missouri fair work for two years. The Montana State Fair association has asked her for some posters.  She does the art work for several theatrical associations in the East, and for some time has done all the drawings for the Stafford Engraving Company of Indianapolis.

“Although she is at present making a specialty of poster work and artistic advertising, Miss Shaw’s exhibits of landscapes and portraits in New York and Chicago have won favorable criticisms. Miss Shaw’s secret ambition, which she admits reluctantly, is to illustrate a ‘Best Seller’.  Already Miss Shaw has broken into the magazine field, and has designed covers for ‘The Imprint’ and ‘The Horseman’, a sporting monthly.” – Topeka Daily Capital, August 15, 1920.

*  *  *  *  *  *

“Miss Vinnorma Shaw of Downs, who has won fame in New York art circles because of her ability as an artist, will be married at the home of her parents in Downs Saturday to John McKenzie of Michigan.  Miss Shaw has for a number of years been the instructor of art in the Indianapolis Ind., high schools, and continued her work in designing and painting besides.  She [has] designed all the advertising matter for the Missouri State Fair for several seasons.” – Osborne County Farmer, July 7, 1921.

*  *  *  *  *  *


“An unusually interesting home wedding was that which occurred at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Shaw at eight o’clock on Saturday evening, July 9th, when the only daughter of the household, Miss Vinnorma Shaw, plighted her troth to Mr. John Harrison McKenzie. Only about sixty of the relatives and close friends of the bride were present, and the weather being very warm, the guests were seated on the lawn; and there in God’s out-of-doors, just as the setting sun had spread a glow of purple and gold over the western sky, the beautiful, sacred ceremony took place. [State] Representative Charles Mann, his wife accompanying him on the piano, sang the tender song, ‘I Love You,’ as the bridal party came down the stairs and stationed themselves against a lattice of vines and flowers. The bride, always beautiful, was charming in her gown of charmeuse satin and georgette crepe with decorations of iridescent pearl; while caught back from her face with a wreath of white roses was the filmy bridal veil. She carried a huge shower bouquet of bride’s roses, lilies of the valley and Maiden hair fern.  The bride was attended by her cousin, Miss Gladys Bottorff, gowned in rose taffeta and carrying pink tea roses. The groom, who met his bride at the improvised altar, wore a suit of white serge and was attended by the bride’s brother, Mr. Frank Shaw. The beautiful ring ceremony was used, and the solemn and beautiful service was read by the Rev. A. S. Hale, of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

“The festivities attendant upon the close of the ceremony were interrupted by the receipt of telegrams from the groom’s mother at Port Huron and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Lindley, of San Diego, California, offering long-distance felicitations to the contracting parties.

“The guests much enjoyed the delicious refreshments served by the Misses Violet Cushing, Margaret Tamm and Aveline Heshion, young neighbor girls who enjoyed the honor of assisting in this happy occasion.  The gifts from Downs and from abroad were exceedingly numerous, costly and beautiful.

“No finer girl has ever gone out from Downs than Miss Vinnorma Shaw.  She has made for herself an enviable record . . . During the war she designed posters for the American Red Cross, and added not a little money to its treasury from the sale of several of her paintings . . . Her exhibits of landscapes and portraits in New York and Chicago have won favorable criticism. She has also broken into the magazine field and has designed covers for some of the popular American magazines. But all the aforementioned are simply side lines. Her real job for the past six years has been teaching art in the high schools of Indianapolis, Indiana.

The groom, also, is not without his accomplishments.  He rose to the rank of captain in the World War, and is leader of the Boy Scout activities in his home town.  He is also identified with the Y.M.C.A. and in the Business Men’s Club of Port Huron.  The coming year he will teach mathematics, electrical science and athletics in the schools of Port Huron half of his time, and the remainder he will be busy representing the Toledo Scales Company.

“Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie left that night for the East. They will take a furnished cottage at Edison Beach, on Lake Huron for awhile, and in October will go to housekeeping in their own home at Port Huron, Michigan.

“Out of town guests at the wedding were: Mrs. Chas. Hoverfield, Indianapolis; Mr. and Mrs. Irvin Myers, Orange, Calif.; R. C. Young, Baltimore, Md.; Frank Shaw, Buffalo, Wyoming; Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Kaup, Portis; Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Mann, Osborne; Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Beatty, Osborne.” – The Downs News & The Downs Times, July 14, 1921.

*  *  *  *  *  *


Designs Poster for Missouri State Fair

(By Journal Correspondent)

“DOWNS, July 23.—Mrs. J. H. McKenzie, who until less than a month ago was Miss Vinnorma Shaw, is the designer of the beautiful poster that is being used to advertise the Missouri State Fair on its fiftieth anniversary. The porter combines, in striking effect, the spirits of the earliest Missouri and the modern hundred years-old commonwealth. The foreground of the poster is occupied by three figures. The foremost of the group is an Indian, seated and covered with a blanket of bright orange. Standing beside him is a Missouri pioneer, whose dull coon skin cap and leather suit speak the life of hardship and self-dependence which he leads. A woman, representing Missouri, is pointing out to the pioneer and the Indian a vision of the future Missouri, one in which characteristic buildings of the modern day are the central figures. Mrs. McKenzie has gained national fame as an artist, and her parents as well as the people of Downs are proud of her achievements. She became Mrs. John McKenzie August 9th and is now a resident of Port Huron, Michigan, where her husband is one of the teachers in the high school and is active in the business life of the city as well.” – Salina Evening Journal, July 23, 1921.

* * * * * *

Local Interest Adds Appeal To Michigan Art Exhibit Shown Here

“No previous art exhibition held during the past year by the Port Huron Art Association offers so much local interest as the one now open to the public in the public library, where 25 oil paintings lent by the Michigan Artists association are hung.

“Michigan is a picturesque state and her artists have found subjects of interest and beauty within her borders. The present exhibition also offers variety, much color and several pictures that border upon the modern method used with restraint and good taste.

“‘Sunshine and Shadow,’ by Mrs. Vinnorma McKenzie of this city is naturally attracting the major portion of interest. Mrs. McKenzie was formerly supervisor of art in the city schools and is widely known. Three of her canvasses were recently exhibited in Detroit and received much favorable comment.

“Her subject in the portrait on exhibition here is one of interest and character. It is a study of a doctor, she says, when he is off duty and is enjoying the out of doors. The figure is nearly life size against a background of trees and expresses, relaxation of manner with particularly keen expression of face. There is vivid color in the broad sun hat and blue shirt, the strong hands and green foliage.” – The Herald Times, Port Huron, Michigan, 14 March 1929.

*  *  *  *  *  *

On July 9, 1932, John Norman – or “Jack”, as he was most often called – was born in Port Huron, the only child of John and Vinnorma McKenzie.  Throughout the 1930s Vinnorma continued to teach in the local public schools and held private art classes at home.  She was considered a master in easel painting, printmaking, and graphic design and in the medium of lithography, and was admitted into the National Association of Women Artists.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Former Downs Girl Now Famous Artist

“At Port Huron, Michigan, all during at Port Huron, Michigan, all during December, Mrs. Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie, famous artist, is showing her collection of paintings in an art exhibit at the Port Huron Public Library.  The showing opened December 5th and tea was served to 300 friends from 2 to 5pm in the hall where 48 of her canvasses were being shown.

“Mrs. McKenzie, whose maiden name was Vinnorma Shaw, was born in Downs.  She received the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts of Yale University, where she worked under Sergeant Kendall.  She has also studied at the New York Art Students Summer School at Woodstock, N.Y., and at the Chicago Alumni Summer School of Painting at Saugatuck, Michigan.  The past summer she has spent at Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she painted under the direction of Umberto Romano, a foremost classic modernist.  She has taught art in the Technical High School [at] Indianapolis [Indiana].  She has exhibited in New York, Indianapolis, Detroit, and in many of the larger cities in Michigan.  She holds memberships in the American Artists Professional League, Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, and the American Federation of Arts.

“Port Huron daily newspapers gave Mrs. McKenzie’s opening exhibit much space and the citizens of that city crowded to see the exhibits many of which were sold at fancy figures.  Osborne County people and especially her old schoolmates in Downs will be much pleased to hear of her success in the world of art.  Mrs. McKenzie’s mother, Mrs. Ida M. Shaw, is at Port Huron to visit with her daughter and attend the art exhibit.” – Osborne County Farmer, December 30, 1937.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Hundreds at Exhibit and Fellowship Tea

“Apparently the fellowship fund for women, supported by the National Association of University Women is the richer today for the benefit coffee sponsored Thursday in Public Library hall by the Port Huron branch of the association.

“Early in the afternoon a good number had already arrived, toured the hall where Vinnorma McKenzie had hung 71 of her paintings, lithographs and water colors, drunk their tea and departed; and folks kept arriving right through the evening hours, until time to close the library for the night.  There were about 300 in all.  Perhaps it’s not too much for a layman to say that Port Huron is richer, too, for the exhibit.

“It has been some years since Mrs. McKenzie has shown her pictures publicly here and in the meantime she has been winning honors among Michigan painters and has extended her technique both in oils and water color. Her paintings filled the walls and two or three screens about the room and the fragrance or steaming tea from the tea table plus a lot of chatter made a pleasant hubbub of the occasion.

“Mrs. Andrew Murphy, a charter member of the Port Huron branch, Miss Ellen L. Kean, state fellowship chairman, and past presidents of the local branch. Mrs. Albert Fenner, Miss Marjorie Muhlitner, and Miss Blanche Peters poured.  Miss Norene Bushaw, AAUW president here, received with Mrs. McKenzie, and Mrs. Lillian Forbes and Miss Jean Thompson and a large committee assisted. The exhibit will be open to the public until Jan. 15.” – The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, December 29, 1944.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Mrs. McKenzie Will Exhibit Paintings in New York Gallery

“Mrs. Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie, local artist, and Mrs. Agnes M. Lindemann, Grosse Pointe artist, will leave Sunday for New York to exhibit their paintings, in the Argent Galleries.  The exhibition will formally open Tuesday with a tea, and continue through May 22.  Both artists will show 18 oils and eight watercolors each.

“Mrs. McKenzie is a member of the National Society of Women Artists, the Michigan Academy of Arts, Science, and Letters, and the Michigan Water Color society. She was a student of Umberto Ronano, Gloucester, Mass., and Yauso Kuniyoshi, Woodstock, N.Y.

“‘Picnic,’ a recent painting of Mrs. McKenzie’s has received acclaim as one of her best oils. It was exhibited at the Michigan’s Artists show in the Institute of Art, Detroit, and through special invitation was included in the ‘Detroit By Detroiter’s Show’ held at the Women’s City Club, Detroit.

“Another painting, ‘Memories’, is on display now in the Detroit Society of Women Painters show in the Scarab Club, Detroit.

“Mrs. McKenzie’s latest show in Port Huron was in December, 1947.  She and Mrs. Lindemann previously exhibited their paintings together in 1946 in the Scarab Club.

“‘Christ and the Penitent Thief,’ ‘Sun Through The Clouds’ and ‘Boats Moving Under a Bridge,’ all in abstract, and ‘Northwest Blow,’ ‘Sarnia Bay,’ ‘Emily’ and ‘Old Pot Belly,’ are some of the paintings Mrs. McKenzie will show in New York.” – The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, May 7, 1948.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It was a year after the New York show when Vinnorma, back working and teaching in Port Huron, began to feel unusually tired and weak.  Her husband John, now the dean at Port Huron Junior College, felt that she had been working too hard and suggested that he take some time off and they spend a few weeks together at their summer home on Lake Huron just north of Sarnia in Ontario, Canada.  But the change of scenery did not help and Vinnorma became worse.  She was taken to the nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sarnia, where she died within a few hours of her arrival.  She was 58 years old.  Her cause of death was diagnosed as leukemia.  A shocked and saddened Port Huron community joined Vinnorma’s family in mourning the beloved artist at her funeral in the First Presbyterian Church and later at a burial service in Port Huron’s Lakeside Cemetery.

At the time of her death Vinnorma was a member of the First Presbyterian Church; the auxiliary to Charles A. Hammond Post No. 8, American Legion; Port Huron Musicale; the Detroit Museum of Art Founders Society; the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors; the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters; the Michigan Watercolor Society, American Association of University Women, National Association of Women Artists, and American Artists Professional League.

*  *  *  *  *  *


Twenty Years Later . . . A Dream Comes True

“When leukemia claimed the life of artist Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie, she took an unfulfilled dream with her to the grave.

“Today, nearly twenty years later, her works and influence live on in Port Huron and her dream of a permanent art center for the community is a reality.

“Next weekend a retrospective exhibition of her work will open in the St. Clair County Museum of Arts and History, Sixth Street, where her oil painting ‘Girl in Bohemian Costume’ hung for many years when the building housed the old library.

“The Kansas-born artist’s son, John N. McKenzie, owns the largest single collection of her work in both oil and water colors, but the pictures to be displayed have been borrowed from many Port Huron homes.

“The Museum Board of Trustees feels that the exhibition will be a tribute, not only to the artistry of Vinnorma McKenzie, but also to her influence in promoting art appreciation here. Many of her former pupils have continued painting as an avocation and have won honors in area exhibitions.

“The McKenzie exhibit will be held from September 7-22. A members’ preview and reception is scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, September 6, with the Women’s Association of the First Presbyterian Church as hostesses.” – The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, August 30, 1968.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie continues to be an inspiration to artists from all over the Great Lakes region.  Both the St. Clair County Museum of Arts and History and the St. Clair County Community College Library have displays of her works.

McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw tombstone 2 Lakeside Cem
Grave of Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie in Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron, Michigan.

*  *  *  *  *  *

A few of the paintings of Vinnorma Shaw McKenzie:

McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Light on Lilacs
“Light on Lilacs”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Boats
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Zinnias


McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Steamer Horuhic
“Steamer Horuhic”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Bend of the River
“Bend of the River”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Boat Passing Under Bridge
“Boat Passing Under Bridge”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Autumn at Klaineth Moor
“Autumn at Klaineth Manor”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Melting Snow
“Melting Snow”
McKenzie Vinnorma Shaw Melting Snow signature
Artist’s signature

*  *  *  *  *  *


Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (Active before 1945), compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian, University of Kansas, August 2006

Who Was Who in American Art. Compiled from the original thirty-four volumes of American Art Annual: Who’s Who in Art, Biographies of American Artists Active from 1898-1947. Edited by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985

Who Was Who in American Art. 400 years of artists in America. Second edition. Three volumes. Edited by Peter Hastings Falk. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999

Who’s Who in American Art. 18th edition, 1989-1990. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1989. The Necrology is located at the back of the volume

Who’s Who in American Art. 19th edition, 1991-1992. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker, 1990. The Necrology begins on page 1387

Who’s Who in American Art. 20th edition, 1993-1994. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker, 1993. The Necrology begins on page 1455. (WhoAmA20N)

The Downs News & The Downs Times (Downs, Kansas), July 14, 1921, Page 1

Downs Times (Downs, Kansas), May 27, 1909, Page 5; September 3, 1914, Page 1

Osborne County News (Osborne, Kansas), August 5, 1911, Page 5

Osborne County Farmer (Osborne, Kansas), July 7, 1921, Page 1; December 30, 1937, Page 1

Salina Evening Journal (Salina, Kansas), July 23, 1921, Page 9

Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas), August 15, 1920, Page 19

Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), July 20, 1949, pg 23

The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), May 26, 1940, Page 2

The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), March 14, 1929, Page 2; December 29, 1944, Page 56; May 7, 1948, Page 24; July 19, 1949, Page 1; August 30, 1968, Page 19; August 31, 1969, Page 5


Willis Acton Pyle – 2019 Inductee

(On this date, August 26, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the second of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)

Pyle Willis color photo

It was over five miles north to the nearest post office at Bellaire and over eight miles northeast to Lebanon, the nearest town of any size, from the farmhome of Benjamin Harrison Pyle and his wife, Maudine “Maude” Mae (Acton) Pyle, in Crystal Plains Township of southeastern Smith County, Kansas.  But being farmers they were used to having to travel a distance for the weekly mail and supplies.  Then in 1914 a new complication arose after Maude became pregnant with their second child.  The impending birth prompted the need to travel some ten miles to the south to the nearest doctor, where on September 3, 1914, son Willis Acton Pyle was born just over the county line in Portis, Osborne County, Kansas.  Their daughter, Lorraine Farrel Pyle, had been born the previous year.

When Willis was two years old the family moved to the small town of Bethune, in Kit Carson County, Colorado, where they lived in a sod house.  The Pyle’s third child, Denver Dell Pyle, was born in Bethune on May 11, 1920.  Willis became a local celebrity when his first drawings were showcased in Cora’s Restaurant in Bethune.  In the early 1930s the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where Willis attended school and graduated from Boulder Prep High School.  He then worked a year in a grocery store before he entered the University of Colorado as an art major. While there Willis served as art editor of the college’s satirical magazine, Colorado Dodo, and worked an advertising illustrator for the Denver clothing store Gano-Downs.

In 1937 Willis saw a bulletin board with a big poster of Pluto with the words: “Draw me and earn $25,000 a year”.  Now, $25,000 was quite a large sum in 1937, so Willis sent his samples, covers, and cartoons to the Disney Studio.  He received a letter saying he wasn’t yet skilled enough to sit right down and start working in production, but he was offered a job in the Traffic Department carrying art supplies to the animators at $16.00 a week, if he was willing to attend evening art classes in its art studio.  The 23-year old Willis dropped out of his senior year at university and moved to Hollywood, California, where he found a room within walking distance of the studio and starting work at Disney in November 1937.  His schooling included classes with Rico Le Brun (“one of the great draughtsman of our age”, Willis later recalled), Donald Graham and Gene Fleury.  Every day Willis went to his classes and tackled assignments like animating a bouncing ball or a flag waving on a flagpole.  Later assignments involved animating a character walking, running, or jumping, sometimes to a soundtrack.  Willis worked hard and in less than three years he was finally given the chance to sit down at an animation table and start doing production work.  His excellent draftsmanship landed him in the 1940 musical fantasy Pinocchio unit assisting one of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men, the top animator Milt Kahl, who was also Pinocchio’s designer.

Pyle Willis at Disney
Willis Pyle at work for Walt Disney Studios.  Courtesy the Disney Corporation.

“Willis made drawings in between Kahl’s main pose drawings, cleaned up them up, and added details.  Kahl was ‘a ‘tough master,’ he recalls, ‘who’d grab a piece of film out of the moviola [a projector] cause he didn’t like it.  And it’d be his own work!’”

“Easy-going Willis, however, did a great job on the very first scene Kahl handed him: Jiminy Cricket, late on his first day at work as Pinocchio’s conscience, dressing on the run, a scene that is a Milt Kahl tour de force of personality, clarity of action and superb timing.  ‘He complimented me after I did it,’ Willis remembers proudly. ‘That’s the thing that got me in good with Milt.  We got along great!’” – from John Canemaker, “Happy Birthday Marge Champion and Willis Pyle,”, September 2, 2010.

Milt Kahl was responsible for the final design, going for a “cute boy” look rather than the “wooden puppet” persona of two previous incarnations that Disney believed would not elicit sympathy from audiences.  Willis then brought Pinocchio to life with his pencil drawings – making him walk and talk, and giving him different facial expressions – that were passed on to the artists in the inking and painting department.

“‘The character had to act – raise his eyebrows, turn and jump, and react to other characters,’ Pyle said.  ‘And the way you could do it was by looking at yourself in a mirror to see what that expression looked like.’” –, June 21, 2016.


Pyle Willis pinocchio sketch b
A sketch of Pinocchio by Willis Pyle. Courtesy the Disney Corporation.

Willis continued to work for Disney Studios as an assistant animator.  He drew the cupids for the mythological setting of the Pastoral Symphony scene in Fantasia (1940), and in Bambi (1942) he drew the white-tailed deer of the title, his girlfriend, Faline, Flower, the skunk, and Thumper, the rabbit.

Pyle Willis
A dapper Willis Pyle.

In 1941 Disney workers went on strike in a dispute over differentiations in staff pay and benefits.  While Willis had no personal beef with Disney (he was then making $40.00 a week), he joined the strike because, “All my friends were on strike, and I couldn’t pass them in the picket line!”  When the strike ended Willis returned to finish Bambi and then worked for Walter Lantz’s studio drawing Woody Woodpecker cartoons for about six months.  During this same period he went to night school to study celestial navigation and was set to take a job with American Airlines, when Willis was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps on November 6, 1942.  As he entered World War II the 28-year old Private Pyle stood 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 137 pounds.

Willis spent the war years in military service with other Disney alumnae in the First Motion Picture Unit film unit at the Hal Roach Studio in Culver City, California, animating training and propaganda films such as Flathatting, a brilliant John Hubley-directed short released in 1946.

After the war Willis married Virginia M. Morrison in West Riverside, California, on October 27, 1946.  He then joined United Productions of America (UPA) as an animator and also worked as a fashion illustrator for the magazines Vogue and Harper’s.  He was animator for the Oscar-nominated cartoon shorts The Magic Flute (1949) and Ragtime Bear (1949), the first film to feature the near-sighted, accident-prone Mr. Magoo.  He also was chief animator for the animated short Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950), which brought a Dr. Seuss story to the big screen for the first time, and included Pyle’s sequence of the title character performing sound effects for a nationwide radio audience.  The cartoon won an Academy Award in 1951 for Best Animated Short Film.

Pyle Willis Early sketches by (A&S’37) for first Mr. Magoo film Ragtime Bear (1949) aka Strike Up the Banjo
Sketches by Willis Pyle for the 1949 short Ragtime Bear, a.k.a. Strike Up the Band, the first cartoon featuring Mr. Magoo.


In 1950 the Mr. and Mrs. Willis Pyle moved to New York City.  There he formed his own studio, Willis Pyle Productions. For 30 years, Willis worked alone as an animator and rented a studio from the Abbey Victoria Hotel, located near the Rockefeller Center.

“I was offered [full-time studio] jobs, but I wanted to get up from my desk and go to the Museum of Modern Art at three o’clock in the afternoon if I wanted to, or go to Macy’s and buy a tie.” – Willis Pyle.

Willis created numerous television commercials over the next three decades.  He also worked as an animator on such productions as Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter (1972), Really Rosie (1975), Chicken Soup with Rice (1975), Noah’s Animals (1976), Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977), the Emmy Award-winning Halloween is Grinch Night (1978), A Family Circus Christmas (1979), and several Charlie Brown animated specials.

Meanwhile Willis’ younger brother, Denver Pyle, was making a name for himself as well. As an actor he had a long film and TV career, with memorable roles on television in The Andy Griffith Show, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and as Uncle Jesse in The Dukes of Hazzard.

Willis retired from animation at the age of 68 but briefly returned to work on the 1989 television series This is America, Charlie Brown.  Willis then became a leading painter of watercolors and oils, and exhibited for many years at Manhattan’s Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery while taking art classes at the Art Students League, the National Academy and the Brooklyn Academy.

In his later years Willis traveled between a house in East Hampton, Long Island, another in Los Angeles, and a penthouse on New York’s upper west side.  He kept a brown 1972 Mercedes sedan in the Hamptons, where he would stay in the spring and fall.  When at his home in Seal Beach, Southern California, he tooled around on special occasions in a 1969 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.  For his 85th birthday on September 3, 1999, Willis gave himself a present: an 1872 Steinway upright piano with rosewood finish, so that he could learn to play the piano.

Willis was a respected member of the Society of Illustrators and was a member of the Dutch Treat Club in New York City, an invitation-only club for artists and writers, which honored him in 2007 with a life-time achievement medal.  In 1987 he was the recipient of a Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Award, known as the “Golden Award.”  Willis gave a portion of his archives and papers to the Lilly Library at Indiana University in  Bloomington, Indiana.

After 47 years of marriage Willis’ wife Virginia passed away in April 1994 at the age of 72.  Willis himself died at his penthouse apartment on Broadway in Manhattan, New York City, on June 2, 2016, at the age of 101.

The only man to professionally draw Pinocchio, Woody Woodpecker, Mr. Magoo, and Charlie Brown, Willis Acton Pyle joins fellow Portis animator Melvin “Tubby” Miller as a honored member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.




*  *  *  *  *  *


Lentz, Harris M. III, Obituaries in the Performing Arts 2016 (McFarland Publishing, 2017, 456 pages; Page 320)

1920 US Census Kit Carson County, Colorado

1930 US Census Kit Carson County, Colorado

California County Birth Marriage & Death Records 1849-1980

Early sketches by (A&S’37) for first Mr. Magoo film Ragtime Bear (1949) aka Strike Up the Banjo

National Archives and Records Administration. Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; ARC: 1263923. World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.



Edward R. Roche – 2019 Inductee

(On this date, August 25, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)

2nd U.S. Cavalry battle flag 1860

The latest inductee into the Osborne County Hall of Fame is perhaps the one member that we know the least about.  His is the oldest known Euro-American burial within the confines of Osborne County and he is the oldest military veteran buried in the county as well, far from his native home.


Edward R. Roche was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1845/1846, the exact date unknown.  That was the period of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, and over the next five years there was great suffering and hardship on the Emerald Ise.  When only six years old, and any known family, the young Edward joined 273 other passengers in sailing for the United States aboard the clipper ship “Fidelia”.  Launched in 1845 and owned by the Black Ball Line, the “Fidelia” left Liverpool, England, and after a voyage of 45 days arrived in New York City, New York, on August 5, 1851.


Roche Edward painting Fidelia by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen 1850-1921
Painting of the clipper ship Fidelia, by artist Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921). 

Roche Edward Fidelia Ship List 5 August 1851 short view
Photo of a portion of the ship’s passenger manifest for the “Fidelia”, with a large black “X” at extreme left beside Edward’s name. Courtesy of the Famine Irish Entry Project, 1846-1851, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration.


What is next known about Edward is his enlistment as a private at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on March 16, 1866, for a period of three years in Company I of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry.  Roche’s enlistment record described him as being 20 years old with a height of 5 foot, 7.5 inches tall, having gray eyes and a fair complexion, and his birthplace given as County Tipperary, Ireland.


Nearly five years earlier U.S. Deputy Surveyors D. E. Ballard and E. C. Manning were given the task to ascertain and officially set the boundaries for what was later named Osborne County, Kansas.  The pair had commenced the survey the county on September 8, 1862, but all surveying activity was halted in 1863 due to Indian incursions in the area.  It was not until 1866 when the pair were allowed to take up their work again. According to the official records at Fort Riley, Kansas, Private Roche and others of Company I were assigned to escort duty for the surveyors in the summer of 1866. The surveying party are believed to have been somewhere in the lower Twin Creek valley, near the South Fork Solomon River, when they were attacked by Indians on July 21, 1866.  Private Edward Roche was the lone soldier killed in action during the fray.  The surveying party buried Private Roche atop a prominent nearby knoll near where the four corners of today’s Penn, Hancock, Corinth, and Bloom Townships meet in east-central Osborne County.  A stone was placed there to mark Roche’s remains and afterwards his grave became a well-known landmark to the area’s early Euro-American settlers.  On May 15, 1868, the survey of Osborne County was officially completed.


In 1879 the Osborne City Cemetery was opened and Roche’s remains was reinterred in Section D, Lot 37 of the cemetery, an area commonly referred to as the “soldier’s lot” and specifically set aside for military veterans.  A government military marker was ordered for his grave and unfortunately arrived with his name incorrectly engraved as Edmund Roach.  It has marked his grave for over 140 years.


Though over fourteen decades have passed, the memory and sacrifice of this young Irishman will not be forgotten by those living where he has lain in peace for so long.  We salute Edward R. Roche and accord him a hallowed place among the honored in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.


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“Black Ball Clipper Fidelia leaving New York, 1852”, painting by Henry Scott (1911-2005).

“The Packet Fidelia,” painting by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921).

Enlistment Records, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Company I, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, March 16, 1866.

Famine Irish Entry Project, 1846-1851, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration. List of Hostile Actions with Plains Indians 1835-1891 by Sjoerd Bakker (eBook, 2019).

The Western Ocean Packets, by Basil Lubbock (Dover Publications: June 1, 1988, 192 pages).

Osborne County Farmer, July 22, 1880, Page One; November 26, 1931, Page One.



Eugene Alleyn Van Gundy – 2018 Inductee

(On this date, November 16, 2018, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the second of the three members of the OCHF Class of 2018.)

Van Gundy Eugene photoEugene was born to 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee Bliss Albro and Pearl Josephine (Nelson) Van Gundy at Osborne, Kansas on November 18, 1921. He graduated from high school in Osborne, Kansas in 1939.  Eugene then attended John Brown University for two years and transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.  Eugene registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, and was described as being six feet in height, weighing 175 pounds, with eyes and hair color being brown.  He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in May 1942 and entered World War II as an aviator.

By July 1943 Eugene was assigned to the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron and had earned the rank of First Lieutenant.  In April 1944 First Lieutenant Van Gundy was assigned to Air Regulating Squadron 3, Personnel Group, Marfair, West Coast, Mcad, at Miramar Air Force Base in San Diego, California.  By April 1946 he had attained the rank of Captain.  In July 1950 Captain Van Gundy was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 236, Marine Air Squadron Training Command, at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.  He was soon after sent to Korea.

Eugene flew in both World War II and in the Korean War, completing over 180 missions.  For his valor as a pilot Eugene earned four Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and numerous other awards and honors.

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“It was not until September 23, 1951, that an F7F achieved the type’s second – and last – aerial victory. Major Eugene Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas Ullom picked up a PO-2 coming into Kempo [Air Base], but too late to get anything airborne in time for an intercept . . . Lowering his flaps to the maximum setting, Van Gundy eased up behind the Mule, which was not expecting any pursuit. A few miles north of Seoul, a fusillade of 20mm rounds converged on the frail machine resulting in its immediate disintegration. It was an outstanding kill for VMF(N)-513 and a portent of things to come when the unit received its Douglas F3D Skyknights later in the war.” – “F7F Tigercat”, Flypast Magazine, June 2018.

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On September 23, 1951, an F7F-3N Tigercat of the “Flying Nightmares,” VMF(N)-513, flown by Major Eugene A. Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas H. Ullom, was aloft searching for a “Bedcheck Charlie” Polikarpov PO-2 biplane and made radar contact.  The Tigercat pilot purposely went down to minimum speed to avoid overshooting the slower biplane.  At a range of about 500 feet, Van Gundy made visual contact and fired about 100 rounds of 20mm ammunition at it.  The Polikarpov burst into flames instantly and was seen burning on the ground as the F7F-3N returned to base.” – Robert F. Dorr, “The Lore of the Corps: F7F Tigercat was terror of night skies in Korea”, in the Marine Corps Times of April 26, 2004.

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“Major Eugene A Van Gundy, U. S. Marines, is reported among the wounded in the Korean War.  His wife lives in Osborne.” – Salina Journal, January 20, 1952.

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“Major Eugene A. Van Gundy, Osborne, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Marine Corps in Korea.  He received the decoration for shooting down an enemy plane at night, an unusual accomplishment of the Korean War.  This marks the fifth time Major Van Gundy has been decorated.  He previously had been awarded four Air Medals. His wife Betty, son Rodney, and parents Mr. and Mrs. Bliss A. Van Gundy, all reside in Osborne.” – Osborne County Farmer, July 3, 1952.

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Eugene was first married to Betty Rae Fallis in 1944.  They had three sons, Rodney, Martin, and Thomas.  He then married Geneva Marie Stiner on March 5, 1965 in Elk City, Oklahoma.  With Geneva Eugene had three daughters, Billie, Sherri, and Doryce.

At the end of the 1950s Eugene left the Marine Corps and took a job with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), spending a great deal of time in Europe.  While there he spent nine years working with the development of the Concorde supersonic aircraft and was one of the first Americans to pilot it.

After retirement from the FAA Eugene and his family settled in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ardmore and of the Military Officers Association of America. Eugene’s hobbies were camping, cabinet making, wood working, traveling, eating (especially ice cream and M&M’s) and numerous family activities. He loved animals, especially horses and birds, and was known for his infectious humor.

Retired USMC Colonel Eugene Alleyn Van Gundy passed away on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at Ardmore, Oklahoma.  He was laid to rest in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Ardmore, Oklahoma, with full military honors.  Eugene joins his father Bliss Van Gundy with an honored place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

VanGundy Eugene A tombstone photo


Natoma Independent, May 21, 1942; April 16, 1953.

Osborne County Farmer, July 3, 1952., Page 42.

Fortitudine, Volume 32, Number 4, 2007, Marine Night Fighter Aerial Victories in Korea by CMSgt. David P. Anderson, USAF, Air National Guard History Office.

The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 398.

U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1893-1958. Microfilm Publication T977, 460 rolls. ARC ID: 922159. Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Record Group 127; National Archives in Washington, D.C., April 26, 2004: “The Lore of the Corps: F7F Tigercat was terror of night skies in Korea”, by Robert F. Dorr.


Arabelia Ann (Cowell) Thompson & Lucy Arabella (Cowell) Thompson – 2018 Inductees

(On this date, November 15, 2018, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the three members of the OCHF Class of 2018.)

Thompson Bell & Arabelia circa 1870 crtsy Darlene Johnson
Lucy and Arabelia (Cowell) Thompson. Date unknown. Photo courtesy Darlene Johnson.

When we consider the stereotypical negative reception that a female medical doctor practicing her profession endured from most patients – and, sadly, yes, her fellow colleagues as well – in Kansas during the latter 19th Century, one generally pauses to admire the courage and resolve of such trained professionals whenever we come across them in our history.  We more than paused when we discovered that not one, but two such doctors – sisters – who were active medical practitioners and who lived and worked in Osborne County during the homesteading period of 1870-1910.  It is with great pleasure that Arabelia and Lucy (Cowell) Thompson, the sisters who married brothers, take their special place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

In the year 1846 22-year old Christopher Columbus Cowell joyously married Rebecca Harmon in Pennsylvania.  The couple would raise four children: son Madison and daughters Arabelia, Lucy, and Mary.  Arabelia Anna Cowell was born January 3, 1850 in Tunkhannock Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.  The next year the family moved to Rock Creek Township, Carroll County, Illinois, where Lucy Arabella Cowell was born November 11, 1851.

By 1870 the Cowell family was living in Elkhorn Grove Township, Carroll County, Illinois.  Both Arabelia and Lucy attended Mount Carroll Seminary (later called Shimer College) in nearly Mount Carroll, Illinois and in 1872 graduated from Hahnemann Medical College at Chicago, Illinois, with degrees in homeopathic medicine.

The Hahnemann Medical College opened in 1860 and became coeducational in 1871.  During this time period in our national history there were perfectly legal medical institutions who trained practitioners in alternative medical practices to what was taught in what we would label the “regular” medical colleges. Homeopathy was the most popular alternative, especially among well-educated segments of society.  The homeopathic theory of medicine held that drugs should be tested to determine their effects, that a drug which causes specific symptoms in a well person should be used in diluted form to treat those same symptoms in an unwell person, and that by utilizing these methods over time the body can be trained to heal itself.  Except for the emphasis upon homeopathic therapeutics, instruction at Hahnemann resembled that found in Chicago’s “regular” medical schools.

Immediately after graduation Arabelia and Lucy Cowell settled in Sterling, Whiteside County, Illinois, where they opened a joint medical practice.

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“We would call the attention of the public of Sterling and vicinity, to the advertisement of the Misses Drs. Cowell, in another column of this paper. These young ladies have prepared themselves for the practice of their profession by an extensive and thorough course of study, graduating at the last annual commencement of the Hahnemann Medical College, of Chicago, with the highest honors of their class. We would recommend those in need of medical advice or treatment, to give the Drs. Cowell a call. Special attention is given by them to diseases incident to those of their own sex, though they are prepared to treat all classes of disease. Office over Machamer & Gable’s Confectionery store, on Mulberry Street.” – Sterling Standard, Sterling, Illinois, May 16, 1872, Page 1.

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Thompson Lucy Arabella Cowell adv Sterling Standard Sterling Illinois 16 May 1872 Pg5
Thompson sisters’ advertisement in the Sterling Standard of May 16, 1872.

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On November 17, 1873 Lucy Arabella Cowell married Mayo Clare Thompson in Elkhorn Grove Township, Carroll County, Illinois. Mayo was born October 10, 1850 in Cornish, Maine. He lived in Dane County, Wisconsin in 1860, and by 1870 in Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa.  After their marriage Mayo and Lucy moved to Reinbeck, Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa.  There they had two children, Mary Rebecca and Sydney Roy.

Meanwhile, Mayo’s older brother Curtis Austin Thompson was getting to know Lucy’s older sister Arabelia.  Curtis was born April 7, 1846 in Cor­nish, Maine.  He met Arabelia Anna Cowell in 1873 at his brother’s wedding.  From 1873 to 1876 Curtis had a government position at Washington, D.C.  Finally on August 18, 1876 he married Arabelia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The next year they moved to Fairfield County, Grundy County, Iowa, where they had two children, Lewis William and Sarah Pauline.  In 1879 they moved to Reinbeck, Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa, where Arabelia opened a practice and Curtis operated a creamery.   While there the couple’s third child was born, Ray Harmon.

1879 was the year that Mayo and Lucy bought a partially-proved up homestead claim located in Section 35 of Independence Township, Osborne County, Kansas, some eleven miles southwest of the county seat of Osborne City, and moved west from Reinbeck.  Their first home was a log house. Later Mayo built two frame houses and a large barn.  On the homestead Mayo hunted deer, antelope and, buffalo.  In later years he hunted prairie chickens, quail, ducks, and geese. Some of these were salted, packed in barrels and shipped east.  Lucy opened her medical practice and often watched over the patients of other physicians in the area whenever they were away.  In September 1881 Mayo finished “proving up” the claim and used it as the foundation of what would become the 1,182-acre Thompson Ranch.

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Thompson Mayo homestead claim Osb Co Farmer Sept 15 1881 Pg 3
Official notice of Mayo Thompson finalizing his homestead claim, published in the Osborne County Farmer newspaper of September 15, 1881.
1880s Thompson Ranch Independence Twp Osb Co KS
The Thompson Ranch headquarters as it appeared in the early 1880s.  Photo courtesy Susan Arron.

In 1882 Curtis and Arabelia Thompson moved their family to Independence Township, Osborne County, Kansas, onto an adjoining farm next to Mayo and Lucy. The brothers pooled their land to form the growing ranch as the wives resumed their medical practice via horse and buggy, both being referred to as “Dr. Mrs. Thompson”. Things were fine until August 1883, when Lucy contracted pneumonia from a patient she was caring for.

“Mrs. Dr. Thompson of Covert is reported as seriously ill. Dr. VanScoyoc has been in attendance.” – Osborne County News, August 16, 1883.

“Mrs. Dr. Thompson of Bristow, the lady who had charge of Dr. VanScoyoc’s practice during his absence in Colorado, died very suddenly on Sunday morning.” – Osborne County Farmer, August 23, 1883.

Lucy Arabella Thompson died on August 19, 1883.  The mother of two was buried in the nearby Bristow Cemetery.

Curtis and Arabelia lived on the ranch for another ten years. Curtis devoted his time to raising livestock and was one of the first people to introduce alfalfa to Kansas.  Their fourth child, Lee Austin, was born on the ranch in October 1883. Then came three more children, Phoebe, Edward Wayne, and Prentice Madison.  In the spring of 1892 Curtis and Arabelia moved to the town of Osborne, Kansas, both to give their children better school advantages and Arabelia the chance to practice her profession in an urban setting.  Their final child, a son, was born the next year but lived only a short time.  They continued to operate the ranch until 1905, when it was sold.

Thompson Arabelia in her buggy
Arabelia Thompson. Date and place unknown.  Photo courtesy Darlene Johnson.

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Thompson Arabelia Adv Osb Co Farmer 24 May 1894 pg 5

Dr. Arabelia Anna Thompson’s advertisement in the Osborne County Farmer newspaper of May 24, 1894.

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Osborne County Doctors Meet.

“The Osborne County Medical Society met in Osborne on January 9, Dr. T. O. Felix, vice-president, presiding. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved. Drs. Armstrong, Dillon, Chilcott, T. O. and T. B. Felix, Walker, Thompson and Henshall present. The advisability of erecting and maintaining a hospital in Osborne to be known as the Osborne County Hospital, to be incorporated and open to all patients, physicians and surgeons was introduced and discussed. A committee was appointed to investigate its feasibility and report its findings to the next regular meeting of the society. The secretary was instructed to send the record of this meeting to each newspaper in the county. A paper “Quacks and Their Ways”, was read by Dr. Armstrong and discussed by the society. Dr. B. F. Chilcott was elected president of the society for 1906; Dr. T. O. Felix, vice-president; Dr. E. O. Henshall, secretary; Dr. A. A. Thompson, treasurer; and Dr. J. H. Walker, member of board of censors for three years. No further business appearing the society was adjourned to meet in Osborne on the 2nd Tuesday in February, 1906. E. O. Henshall, secretary.” – Downs Times, January 18, 1906.

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In 1901 Curtis Thompson and his son Lewis bought a machine and blacksmith shop in Osborne. They operated it until February 8, 1908, when it was destroyed by fire, and they did not rebuild.

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Fire Causes Loss of Three Thousand Dollars.

No Insurance.

“Thursday evening shortly before 11 o’clock the fire alarm bell summoned the department to the machine shops of C. A. Thompson & Son, on South Street, which had been discovered to be ablaze. That is hardly the right term. The whole interior of the building was a roaring mass of flames, which had not then broken through the roof. A fiercer fire has not occurred in this city in several years, but fortunately the damage was confined to the building in which it started. Surrounding buildings were very damp, having been crusted with ice the previous day, and the roofs were wet with melting snow, or there would have been a different story to tell. The fiercest fire was located near the business office, where a quantity of mixed paint and lubricating oil was stored, adding to the difficulty of extinguishing the fire. The alarm was not turned in until the fire had gained considerable headway, the shops being so located that even nearby residents would hardly notice it, and the time of night being when most of our people had gone to bed. The fire department responded promptly to the call, as did also a big crowd of spectators. A breeze from the northwest prevented the alarm bell from being heard in the western arid northern parts of the city and many of our people did not learn till next morning that there had been a fire. It was about 4 a.m. Friday before the firemen thought it safe to leave the ruins. The, contents of the shop, including a buggy belonging to C. H. Nicholas, a gasoline engine owned by B. P. Walker, and a separator and all necessary machinery for making repairs, were either consumed by the fire or so badly warped and twisted as to be practically worthless. The loss is estimated to be something like $3,000, with no insurance. We understand that the shops will not be rebuilt.” – Osborne County Farmer, February 20, 1908.

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In 1910 Curtis and Arabelia moved to West Arvada in Jefferson County, Colorado to live with their son Lee.  In July 1910 Arabelia made a trip to Waterloo, Iowa to deliver her grandson, Frederick Yoxall Thompson, son of Ray. The next year Curtis and Arabelia went to live with their son Lewis in Ontario, San Bernardino County, California, and in 1914 they moved to Orange, Orange County, California.  It was there that Arabelia Anna (Cowell) Thompson died on November 22, 1915.  She was laid to rest in Fairhaven Memorial Park at Santa Ana, Orange County, California.

Thompson Arabelia Ann family Arabelia at far left
The Arabelia and Curtis Thompson family.  The children are (in no particular order): Lewis, Sarah, Ray, Lee, Phoebe, Edward, and Prentice.  Photo courtesy Susan Arron.


Judy Thompson, Telluride, Colorado.

Downs Times, January 18, 1906.

 Osborne County Farmer, September 15, 1881; August 23, 1883; May 24, 1894; February 20, 1908.

Osborne County News, August 16, 1883.

 Sterling Standard, May 16, 1872.

Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society, The People Came (1977), ppgs. 186-188.

Thompson Family Genealogy, prepared by Curtis Austin Thompson and Ray Harmon Thompson.  Unpublished.

1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d., Year: 1860; Census Place: Rock Creek, Carroll, Illinois; Roll: M653_159; Page: 918.

1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d., Year: 1870; Census Place: Elkhorn Grove, Carroll, Illinois; Roll: M593_191; Page: 108B., “Medical Education”.