Thursday, October 20, 2016

George Fancher & Miss Daisy Dukes

This is kind of a sad tombstone tale, involving as it does middle-aged romance and a death bed marriage. But it also involves a real Daisy Dukes, one of the reasons it caught my attention in the first place. (Yes, I know that the Dukes of Hazard Daisy didn't have an "s" on the end of her surname; nor, I suspect, did our Daisy look much like, let alone behave like, the fictional Daisy.)

George Fancher, who is buried here with his wife, Daisy, and mother, Maria, was a New York native, born during 1864 in Delaware County, where his father --- Charles S. Fancher --- died during 1870 when George was only six years old. When he was about 11, his mother, Maria, moved west to Osceola, where her eldest daughter and son-in-law had settled, bringing her younger daughter, Charlotte, and young George along. 

As a young man, George entered the law office of renowned Chariton attorney Theodore M. Stuart to learn the arts and mysteries of the legal profession and eventually was admitted to the Iowa bar. He moved his mother and sister, Charlotte, to Chariton during that process.

Rather than establishing a general law practice, George became interested in real estate and entered into a partnership that operated an abstract, title and loan company that was the ancestor of today's Chariton Abstract Co., LLC, which continues to operate upstairs on the north side of the square.

There are some indications in Chariton newspapers that George was a bit of a wild child in his younger years, socializing (and occasionally getting into trouble with) the cream of Chariton's young manhood. 

In 1888, for example, he sought the office of justice of the peace and defeated the incumbent, the venerable E.L. Kendall, an honored Union veteran. The editor of The Chariton Democrat fumed editorially, dismissing George as "a rattling, rollicking, harem-scarem boy who has no more use for the office than a turkey-cock has for a duck-pond."

George settled down however and into what must have seemed to many confirmed bachelorhood, sharing a home on West Braden Avenue with his mother. He became a valued member of the Hook & Ladder Company of the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department and was initiated into a variety of fraternal organizations --- Masonic, Mystic Shrine, Knights of Pythias and Knights Templar.

Maria Fancher died during 1906, when George was 42, leaving him alone in the home they had shared and at some point thereafter, romance blossomed between George and his associate at the abstract and title company, Miss Daisy Dukes.

Daisy, born in Chariton during 1872, was in her mid- to late 30s at the time, a daughter of Harrison L. and Lucy (Wilson) Dukes. Daisy had graduated from Chariton High School, then during 1894 from a conservatory of music affiliated with Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant. But after that, she became the principal companion of her widowed father. He died during 1907, the year after George's mother died, and both perhaps were at loose ends.

George and Daisy, he at 47 and she at 39, were making plans to marry during the summer of 1911 when disaster struck. On or about June 9, George suffered an attack of appendicitis, the appendix ruptured and peritonitis set in. 

He was taken to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines for surgery, but the outcome was doubtful. As a result George and Daisy were married in his hospital room on June 13, the evening before surgery was scheduled. 

The surgery went as well as could be expected, but the infection by this time was so advanced that George could not recover and he died on June 19. Daisy brought her new husband's remains home for burial near his mother in a west central section of the Chariton Cemetery.

After that, Daisy took the helm of the abstract and title company and operated in successfully for a dozen years --- until she was successfully wooed by the twice-widowed Philip Rockey, some 14 years her senior and cashier of the Russell Bank. They were married during November of 1923.

Daisy moved to Russell, switched her affiliation from Baptist to Presbyterian and became principal pianist for her new husband's church and apparently lived contentendly with him for the next 20 years, until his death at age 85 on Oct. 11, 1943.

After Philip's death, Daisy invited Miss Jennie Haywood to share her home and the two lived companionably until Daisy's death on Sept. 4, 1956. Her remains were brought to the Chariton Cemetery for burial beside George, her husband of only a few days some 45 years before.

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