Snapshot of History
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BY MIKE AVITT
I was visiting with a friend of mine about the Mount Ayr High School Hall of Fame nomination process and I learned my friend has not been to an induction ceremony. I have been in attendance on two occasions and enjoyed both. This week I’ll share some info on possible future inductees.
Luke Hart was born in or near Maloy in 1880. I’m sure Mr. Hart attended local schools but I don’t think Maloy had a high school in the 1890s. At any rate, Hart got a law degree at the University of Missouri and began to practice law in St. Louis. Being Catholic, he joined the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization, and worked his way up the ranks, becoming Supreme Knight in 1953. In 1954, with Hart leading the charge, the Knights of Columbus (and other organizations) petitioned President Dwight Eisenhower and other political leaders to introduce a bill adopting the phrase “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. This was done and President Eisenhower signed it into law on June 14, 1954. Luke remained close to the Ringgold County community as he was the guest speaker at the 1946 Ringgold County Old Timers Reunion.
Gerald Downie graduated from high school in Mount Ayr in 1922 and became a doctor. In 1932, he and his wife went to Asia, mostly China, and served as Methodist Missionaries for at least two decades. Dr. Downie finished his career at Kankakee, Illinois. Gerald was a brother to Aileen Beaman who was my neighbor about 1974.
Melvin H. Obermeier taught at Tingley, Beaconsfield, and Shannon City before coming to Mount Ayr in 1959. He was superintendent at Tingley and maybe some others but will mostly be remembered as a superior girls’ basketball coach. He lead the Tingley girls to the state tournament in 1952, 1954, and 1957. He is also credited with re-establishing girls’ basketball at Mount Ayr in 1959. Mount Ayr High School had abandoned girls’ basketball about 20 years earlier.
Vera Dickens graduated from Diagonal High School in 1914 and later taught at Diagonal and Mount Ayr. She furthered her education and became Ringgold County Superintendent of Schools in 1933. She held this position for 31 years. And keep this in mind, when Miss Dickens started as Superintendent of Ringgold County Schools, there were more than 100 town and rural schools in operation! She was honored in December 1965 for her life achievements. Her father’s name was Val Halla Dickens, one of my favorite Ringgold County names.
I want to mention there is limited seating at the Mount Ayr Hall of Fame induction ceremony so don’t be tardy. Last year I sat at a table with three of my former teachers from Mount Ayr High School. It was reminiscent of detention but I was allowed to talk and I got fed so I soon got over it.