Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Marine's uniform and an old sorrow

It took a couple of hours Tuesday to stuff shirts while redeploying a few of the 100 or more military uniforms that are part of the Lucas County Historical Society collection.

Most of these uniforms hang, but some are displayed on wooden forms built by Bob Ulrich to a pattern adapted by Ed Sellers several years ago for the Russell Museum. The forms work very well and are beautifully crafted, but in order for the uniform jackets to hang properly, the shirts underneath them have to be stuffed with fabric to create the shape of a chest. Probably more information than anyone really wanted to know.

We started talking as I was working about this U.S. Marine Corps dress uniform jacket and hat, in pristine condition. It was worn by a young man named Richard E. Lewis and donated to the historical society during 1968 by his mother, Marie Hardy.

Marie and her second husband, Lyle, were friends of my parents --- but for some reason I don't remember the tragedy that indirectly brought this uniform into the museum collection even though I was 11 at the time. My parents talked about it at various times, but apparently I wasn't paying attention when it occurred.


Richard, born during 1933 near Russell, was the son of Marie (Johnson) and her first husband, Clifford Lewis. Clifford died during 1938, when Richard was 5 and his older sister, Betty, was 10. Five years later, in 1943, Marie married Lyle Hardy and moved with her children to the Hardy farm two miles south of Russell.

A member of the Russell High School class of 1952, Richard enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during January of 1953. Honorably discharged during January of 1956 after service in California, Japan and Korea, he moved to Des Moines and went to work as a salesman for the Seven-Up Bottling Co.

At some point, Richard fell in love with a young woman named Teresa Coleman, some four years his junior. Her family lived near Weller, a tiny place just over the county line east in Monroe County that was focused on St. Mary's Church --- a church and a parish that no longer exist.

Richard, who had joined Russell's First Baptist Church after his mother's second marriage, began instruction during January of 1957 at St. Augustin Catholic Church in Des Moines and was confirmed there on May 19 of that year. A month later, on June 22, 1957, he and Teresa were married at St. Mary's Church in Weller.

Less than two weeks later, on July 4, 1957, Richard and Teresa joined friends Jack Coady and Marjean Dyhrkopp on an outing to Lake Ahquabi State Park, south of Indianola. Early that evening, they rented a boat and set out onto the lake. At about 5 p.m., near the west shore, Richard inexplicably fell from the boat and drowned in some 20 feet of water.

According to a report in The Des Moines Register of July 5, the two young women were seated in the front of the boat and Coady, in the rear, operating the outboard motor. Richard was in the center seat. No one saw him fall.

Richard could not swim and Jack could swim only a little. Jack attempted to reach Richard with an oar and when that failed, jumped in. He was unable to hold on to his friend, however, and remain afloat himself. The body was recovered the next day.

Johnny Woodman brought Richard's remains to his funeral home in Russell and the funeral Mass was held in Weller on Saturday with burial at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Melrose following.

Marie and Lyle Hardy retired and moved into Russell from the farm during 1971. He died at age 75 during February of 1976. Marie continued to live in Russell until 1987, when she moved to Chariton where she died on December 29, 1991, age 87. Both are buried in the Russell Cemetery.

1 comment:

Carol Coulson said...

Remember this sad event well. Richard's father was my great uncle, so guess that made us second cousins. His father Clifford Lewis died of appendicitis at age 38. Lyle & Marie were such nice people. Ran across a fun story recently while working on some family history. Lyle was origingally a cowboy from South Dakota. Evidently he showed up at Virgil Lewis's (Marie's brother in law) Cedar township farm looking for work, saddle in hand. Virgil hired him and I guess the rest is history. He was a good father to Richard and Betty.