Saturday, May 23, 2015

A flag for Charley Todd

Don Garrett (left), Lois Vogel and Dave Amos kindly provided the flag last evening that will mark Charley Todd's grave over the Memorial Day weekend.

No one in Chariton knew much about Charley Todd, other than the facts that he seemed to be about 50, had served in France during World War I, worked hard, always was cheerful and was devoted to his faithful dog, Queenie.

According to a report on the front page of The Chariton Leader of October 26, 1937, he had arrived in town about five years earlier.

To make a living, Charley did odd jobs for business and professional men around the square. Eva Walls, who operated an apartment house on West Court Avenue, allowed Charley and Queenie to sleep in the basement. In return, he fired the furnace --- keeping residents warm during colder months.

Tragically, a fire broke out near that furnace very early on the morning of Saturday, October 23 --- and although the building was scarcely damaged, the smoke it generated proved fatal to both man and dog.

When firefighters finally were able to enter the basement, they found Charley on the floor, where he apparently had collapsed while trying to escape, and Queenie on the bed.

The Leader's columnist, identified only as "D.A.N.," noted on another page of the Oct. 26 edition  that "Lawrence Stoko and I saw Charley Todd and Queenie late Friday night, only a few hours before they died from suffocation in a smoke-filled basement. After seeing the manner in which Todd beamed with pride when Stoko patted Queenie and termed her a fine dog, I can understand how neither would desert the other."

Someone knew that Charley had a brother, Ike, who lived at Vinton --- but he couldn't be located. So on Sunday afternoon, members of Carl L. Caviness Post No. 102, American Legion, took charge of the remains and Charley was buried with military honors in the G.A.R. plot at the Chariton Cemetery.

A week later, Ike Todd --- who said he had been traveling in South Dakota when authorities tried to contact him in Vinton a week earlier --- came to Chariton to learn the details of his brother's death and to look for a service revolver and valuable watch, which he thought Charlie should have had.

Sheriff Miles Mason informed him, however, that nothing like that had turned up; that Charley's only belongings had consisted of clothing, a few trinkets and a dollar watch. So Ike went home and that was that. But authorities did learn that Charley's full name was Charles Noble Todd.


Nearly 80 years later, Charley's is the only unmarked grave in the G.A.R. section. 

When Don Garrett and others pulled up in front of the shelter house Friday evening --- where Alyse, Joe and I were working --- with a pickup load of flags to be placed at veteran graves, I asked to borrow one, walked over to Charley's grave and planted it.

I'm fairly sure I was the only one who knew then exactly where Charley was buried, or for that matter that he was buried here at all. But you know, too, now --- in that space that seems to be vacant, but isn't, between the graves of fellow World War I veterans Clarence Johnson and Clarence Askren.


norm prince said...

Is it possible for someone in the area to seek a government issued stone for Charley, as he was a veteran ??

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Norm --- Yes, if we could sort out the unit he served with, but public World War I records are scarce. I've tried to figure it out using online sources, but couldn't. And I'm doubting that such family as he had even knew. Frank