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Barth - Dorothy "Dotti"
Betts - David Sr.
Clemens - Melvin "Mel"
Connell - Ralph
Foltz - Thelma
Godfrey - Jack
Kibbey - William L.
Kitzmiller - Helen & Jack
She always came to every open house event armed with a homemade dish of food and a smile. I never saw her without that smile. She was a talented artist and quilter, as well as an excellent cook. We referred to her as one of the “Food Ladies.” We could always depend on her.
I was always stationed in the lower level, and she never passed by on her way upstairs without taking the time out to chat with me. I will miss this kind and considerate lady. ~Mary Turner Stoots, President, RTHS
From Shannon Barth:
We lost an amazing woman and grandmother this morning. I remember her singing “You Are My Sunshine” to me when I was little. We would have ice cream and cookies, play piano, dance around the living room, and play games. She loved painting and thankfully, I have some paintings of hers. We had so many great memories at all the family pig roasts every fall. She had a heart of gold and would always do anything she could to help. Even though she was afraid of horses, she would still come and watch me show from time to time. We love you so much. Sadly, due to Covid restrictions, we could not be with you, but you will now be with us is in some way forever.
Dorothy "Dotti" (Westerman) Barth 1936-2020
Dorothy “Dotti” Westerman Barth, age 83, of Reynoldsburg, passed away unexpectedly Monday, August 31, 2020. She was born October 27, 1936 in Granite City, Illinois, was a graduate of Marietta High School, a longtime and active member of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church and Summit Station Methodist Church. She was also a valuable member of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society and Beta Sigma Phi. Dot was an avid and talented painter and quilter.
She is preceded in death by her parents Irene (Oster) and William Westerman, brother Charles and his wife Toy Westerman, sister Lavinia and her husband Charles Immel, sister-in-law Linda Westerman, brother-in-law Joe Riffle, grandson in-law Dave Thomas.
She is survived by her husband of 56 years, Richard “Dick” Barth; sons Kyle (Jodie) Barth and Steven (Kristie) Barth; grandchildren Shannon and Shelly Barth, Brooke Thomas, and Brandi (Bill) Haubert; great-grandchildren Domenic Barth, Dylan and Logan Seaman, Zane, Mason, and Reanna Thomas; siblings Byron Westerman and Isabel Riffle.
Her family will receive friends Thursday from 10am to Noon at the Cotner Funeral Home, 7369 E. Main Street, Reynoldsburg where her service will follow at 12:00 p.m. with Pastor Maxine Smith-Pierce officiating.
There will also be a time to receive friends on Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., with a service to follow at 12:00 p.m., at the Roberts Funeral Home, 27880 State Route 7, Marietta, Ohio with her interment to conclude at East Lawn Cemetery. Memorial Donations may be made to the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society, PO BOX 144, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dorothy "Dotti" (Westerman) Barth, please visit the floral store at https://www.cotnerfuneralhome.com/obituary/Dorothy-Barth/sympathy
We had a wonderful mother
One who never really grew old
Her smile was made of sunshine
And her heart was solid gold
Her eyes were bright as shining stars
And in her cheeks fair roses you see
We had a wonderful mother
And that’s the way it will always be.
David was a long-time member of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society. He attended several events; always accompanied by his beautiful and dedicated daughter. RTHS sends our deepest sympathies to the family of this kind man. ~ Mary Turner Stoots
David E. Betts, Sr., 88, of Amanda, Ohio, passed away peacefully on September 12, 2019 at Fairfield Medical Center, surrounded by his loving family and close friends. David was born April 12, 1931 in Columbus, Ohio, to the late George B. Betts and Elizabeth (Allspaugh) Betts. Mr. Betts was a 1949 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School and retired from Pizza Systems, Inc. and Pizza Automation, Inc., both of which he was a founder.
He was an avid gardener, outdoorsman, and loved a good game of golf. He enjoyed playing cards, telling a good joke, and stories about his youth.
Mr. Betts served in the United States Marine Corps in a Field Artillery unit Base Camp Lejeune, NC from August 20, 1951, until being honorably discharged on August 19, 1953.
He is survived by his son, David E. (Melinda) Betts, Jr; daughter, Debbie (Eric) Roush; grandchildren, Katherine Betts, Michael (Amanda) Betts, and Chloe Betts; great-grandchildren, Aidan, Brooke, Harper and Jackson; nephews, Clinton Tolbert, Bradley Tolbert, Judd Betts and Patrick Betts; and sister-in-law, Cathy Tolbert.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Anne Betts; brother, Joe Betts; and brother-in-law, Ralph Tolbert.
A special thank you to Jonah and Debbie Staten, Debbie K. Sirback, and Jessica Noyes for their kindness and loving care in helping David Sr. along with his children to be able to stay in his home in the final years of his life.
Burial has taken place in Glen Rest Memorial Estates, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Funeral arrangements have been handled by the FRANK E. SMITH FUNERAL HOME.
Donations can be made in memory of David to the Amanda Fire Dept. 211 North Johns St Amanda, OH 43102 or Amanda UMC Food Bank PO Box 368 Amanda, OH 43102, or the charity of your choice.
David E. Betts - RHS Class of 1949
Melvin "Mel" Clemens, 88, of Reynoldsburg, passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on June 3, 2020. He was born on December 2, 1931 in Columbus, Ohio to Emerald and Lillian Clemens. Mel graduated from Mifflin High School where he was an outstanding athlete and earned a scholarship to Cincinnati where he played football and was a member of the SAE fraternity.
He has been a resident of Reynoldsburg since 1951 and was a longtime City Servant. Mel has lived a life of service. He began by serving his country in the United States Marine Corp. Then he brought that same attitude of service to his community. He then served on what was known as the Village Council when he was 28 years old, before the village of Reynoldsburg became a city. He served two years as a village councilman, nine years as an at-large City Council member and the last 18 years as Ward 4 City Council representative. He also served 16 years on the Truro Township Board of Trustees and 11 years as the city's safety service director. He has represented many things in our city including the grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade in 2017. He loved to serve others but always said that his one problem was that he was always right.
He and Nancy were also longtime members of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, and worked together to run the Reynoldsburg Teen Center for many years. Mel settled in Reynoldsburg because he met his wife, Nancy, a graduate of Reynoldsburg High School, at a weekly square dance. He always said, "Nancy is the reason I stayed in Reynoldsburg." That first dance was in 1949. They were married for 56 years and had five children. Nancy died May 17, 2008 and Mel has been missing her ever since. Most importantly he will be remembered as a devoted husband, loving father, and joyful grandfather. The joy of his life was his family.
Mel is preceded in death by the love of his life Nancy Carol Clemens, his parents and brother Sonny. He is survived by children, Vicki and Phil Westfall, Cheri and Rex Cramer, Candi Clemens (Tom Murray), Melodi (Jon) Slater, and Shane (Jennifer) Clemens; brother, Emerald "Scout" Clemens; grandchildren, Marc (Janice) Westfall, Chrissy (CC) Snyder, Stephanie Westfall, Jaimee (Jason) Hoy, Josh (Beth) Horacek, Sunny (Steve) Osborne, Adrienne (Adam) Woodard, Jack (Andrea) Cramer, Wade (Lisa) Cramer, Jon III (Rachael), Andrew (Lydia), and Samantha (Joe) Harding, Maddison, Nicholas, Faith, and Colt Clemens; numerous great-grandchildren; good friend, Eric Louys; many more extended family and friends.
His family will receive friends on Friday, July 10, from 1-3 and 5-8pm at Cotner Funeral Home, 7369 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg, where his service will be held on Saturday, July 11, at 10am. Graveside service to follow at Glen Rest Memorial Estates, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Donations in Mel's memory may be made to Truro Township Fire Department, P.O. 647, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068. Messages may be sent to his family by visiting www.cotnerfuneralhome.com
To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Columbus Dispatch from Jun. 5 to Jun. 7, 2020.
A whole lot of people knew Ralph Connell -- went to school with him, worked with him on committees or in his store, fished with him, knew him as officer in many organizations, or as a brother Mason or fellow Methodist, knew his wife Jean [Hamilton] and daughters Charity and Sarah. Some even knew his parents Nelle [Osborn] and Elzy Connell; bought a milk bucket, or seeds from the bin, or had keys made or glass cut to size, or pipe cut and threaded, or screen doors repaired at Ralph's famous store (Connell Hardware, oldest continuous business in The Burg, home of the Hot Stove League, whose newspaper story was syndicated throughout the United States). His Breakfast Buddies kidded him about not wanting to pay for his second cuppa coffee -- but Ralph respected money and knew when to spend and when not to. Ralph gave: his time, his attention, his awareness of history, his good sense in touchy situations, his genuine joy of living. He knew all his regular customers and many who were casual drop-ins. He knew his suppliers and his merchandise: exactly where it was, what to substitute if the substitute was better, when and where he'd get more if he was out when you needed it.
From age 23 until he died in it, his hardware store was a stable part of his life --- and the town's.
In 1997, when the hardware celebrated its 125th anniversary, Ralph threw a party there in the store, and had souvenir books printed to hand out. He wrote a lot of the book. Somewhat shortened, the words in quotes are Ralph’s.
"As soon as I was old enough to work, Dad had me dusting shelves and sweeping the floor in the store. I was always out to make a quick buck. One of the first things I did was pick blackberries. I got 10 cents a quart, and had no trouble selling them. In the mowing season I had four lawns for sure to mow every week. I could get three done in one day. The Methodist Church lawn would bring me 25₵, the other two 70₵. With my 95₵ I'd go to Garry Wiswell's Red & White Store and get me a quart of chocolate milk for a dime.
"I had a bank account from about the age of five. When my parents sold my baby things they put the money for me in the Pataskala Banking Company, where they had their account. After I was old enough to earn money, almost every week I'd give Elzy a dollar or two, and he'd deposit it in my account. When I was in the service, I sent home half my pay ("Twenty-One Dollars a Day Once a Month" - remember that song?) and Dad deposited that for me.
"We didn't always work. We did a lot of fishing. When I was a boy, Blacklick Creek was rated as one of the better bass streams in Ohio. We caught a lot of bass, rock bass, bluegills, and suckers at the mouth of French Run where it flowed into Blacklick Creek. Kenny ["Paddlefoot" or "Paddle"] Van Schoyck and I were Blacklick Creek fishing buddies. From there we went to Canada--Saskatchewan or Ontario-- or northern Minnesota, for many years. I went to one fishing camp for 50 years under the same man who managed it. He was in his nineties the last time I saw him.
"There were three good swimming holes. In two of them you could 'skinny dip.' These were High Banks, in Blacklick Creek just south of Livingston Avenue, and Five Rocks, about two blocks north of Main Street. There were five boulders in that hole. The third swimming hole, pretty close to Rose Hill Road and just south of Broad Street, required a bathing suit.
"I also recall Tom Moky. His name was Looker ["Loker"], but we called it Moky. Tom lived in a shack by Blacklick Creek. He would offer us boys candy mints that he carried in his pockets. Mom told me not to eat anything he gave me because it was dirty. Of course, I ate them anyway.
"Dad had an old flatbed truck. Once a year he would put rails on it and haul a lot of the Methodist kids to Summerland Beach at Buckeye Lake for a picnic. Later he had a small 1929 Ford pickup truck. I have gone to Brice with him many times to get fencing, barbed wire, chicken feed, and other items from the Motz-Cook Grain Company [another long-lasting business].
"Another memory is of the watch repair business in our hardware. Rolla Graham had one corner set up in the back. Here he did his watch repair work for several years. He lived behind the Reynoldsburg Bank in a pretty little house that overlooked French Run.
"I had a black and tan hound dog named 'Spot,' who got to be a town legend. Then, there were no restrictions on letting a dog run loose. Spot would stay around the store during school days, sleeping near the potbellied stove. So all of our hardware customers got to know him. [Bryant] Mickey Slack had a filling station at the comer of Main and North Lancaster, diagonally across the street from the hardware. Mickey had a little white terrier. Some of the loafers would hold Spot until I'd get across the street on my bike, headed home. Then when the traffic was clear, they'd turn Spot loose. Of course, he would come tearing after me. Spot and the terrier would tangle, but that was short-lived. That was a ritual we went through many times.
"My dog was smarter than some people crossing the street. I've seen him go out to the curb and look both ways, and if there was a car coming, he'd go back and sit on the sidewalk. Pretty soon he would go out again, and if all was clear, across he would go. "As near as we could tell, he lived to be about 19 years old. I had him most of my growing-up days. When I came home from military service, my folks still had him.
"Spot finally got crippled in the hind-quarters. One day some boys found him, stuck helpless in a hole down by French Run. They picked him up and carried him to the hardware store. Rather than see him get into a position like this again and not be found, I took him to our veterinarian, Dr. E.W. Porter, and had him put to sleep. We made a wood coffin and buried him in our back yard. "That is the story of Spot and his hardware days.
"When I graduated from Reynoldsburg High School in 1943, World War II was being fought, and high school graduates were at the ripe age for military service. I entered the US Coast Guard, took boot camp training at Curtis Bay, Maryland, then went to Hatteras Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There we were on shore patrol on horseback. One time I had ridden five miles from headquarters, and I dismounted. The horse turned right around and galloped back without me. It was a long walk back to base.
"The old saying is that you should never volunteer for anything while in service. But I had a chance to go to Hawaii, so off I went, cross-country by train to San Francisco. The president of the Union Pacific Railroad happened to be in his own private car going west, and he invited me and three other men to have dinner with him. That was pretty nice.
"In Oahu, our quarters were in a big civilian building two stories high and as long as an ocean liner. Our dormitory rooms were on the second floor, while on the main floor were a recreation hall, a mail room, a pool table, a writing room, and some offices. In the evening they showed movies.
"My job at first was supervising the loading of ammunition on ships to be sent to the fighting zones. Sometimes we would go to the ammunition depot at Pearl Harbor and "crib" the ammunition, which meant loading it on shelves in exact order following a list.
"Here again, after a few months I volunteered for another position, as maintenance man in our quarters. This position eventually gave me a lot of free time, after I had done my duties. After traveling around the island of Oahu, and swimming many times at the beach on Waikiki, near the famous Diamond Head, I was getting bored.
"I saw an ad in the paper, for a packer in the Theodore Davies Wholesale Grocery House in Honolulu. I worked there until V-J (Victory over Japan) Day. Soon after that I was on my way home, through the Panama Canal to New York. There I got my Honorable Discharge and a train ticket back to Columbus.
"After I got home, I enrolled in business school. Then in 1948 my dad died. I was 23 and hadn't finished school, and I wondered if I was ready yet, but I thought I'd try managing the hardware store. I suppose I made a few mistakes I don't remember, but one mistake I didn't make was to move to Reynoldsburg Center, when that shopping center was being built. I was approached, and good business was practically guaranteed-- but the rent was $1000 a month plus a percentage of my gross income. Then a man Dad and I had known for a long time, S. L. Hall, owner of Smith Brothers Hardware [wholesale], talked me into staying where I was. He gave me good sound advice, and I've always been grateful for it.
"One of the major changes in this business has been from bulk to blister packaging. If you want two screws, you don't want to buy a package of nine. And as one customer pointed out, I can give you the right screws on the first try. I handle everything in bulk that I can, but for some things, like turpentine and spray products, people have to buy container and all.
"The Columbus Dispatch delivery man would throw the bundles of papers in front of our store. There the paperboys would fold them and get ready to run their routes. All went well in good weather. However, in winter, or on rainy afternoons, I'd let them come into the front of the store to do their work. You know boys are bound to get rowdy, but I could generally settle them down. A few times in the winter I'd have to run the whole bunch out. After an afternoon or two in the cold I'd let them back in. I'm glad I wasn't too hard on them, because most of them grew up to become our loyal customers."
Ralph never lost his sense of fun. A Little Weekly reporter (probably the inimitable Doral Chenoweth), learning that as a boy Ralph had walked the handrail of the footbridge across French Run, persuaded 38-year-old Ralph to do it again.
Connell Hardware was begun in 1872, when Ralph’s grandfather Ezra Samuel Osborn at age 23 established E. S. Osborn, a tin shop where he made spouting, funnels, buckets, cups, lunch pails and more, and repaired household utensils that had sprung a leak. He made seamed metal roofing on the job. Ezra was a big man, nice-looking, and well liked -- and served as mayor for several years. His sons Howard, Claude, and Walter entered the tinning business and branched out to carry hardware, heating stoves and cookstoves, pumps, horse harness and collars, and farm implements. After Ezra died in 1908, the brothers moved the store's location twice. Howard became founder/ president of the Reynoldsburg Bank. Walter earned a substantial $300 monthly as production manager for Ralston Steel Car Company. Claude, at age 29, was The Burg's youngest mayor; he later worked in the Columbus Post Office and, like Ezra, wrote poetry. Nelle was their sister.
In 1922, 50 years after establishment of the tin shop, Nelle and her husband, Elzy Connell, took over the business. It went against tradition for a lady to even enter a hardware store, but everybody knew Nelle, so that made it all right.
On Saturdays everybody came to town to do business, visit, get a haircut or play cards at the Masonic Hall -- and wound up at the Connell home, which was connected to the store, enjoying food they had brought, as well as one another's company. When Ralph was still little enough to want his baby bottle, he hid it behind his back so nobody would see it and tease him. He was told that as babies he and Jean played together, but neither one remembered doing so.
In 1934 Nelle and Elzy moved to Mason Hall, and the hardware never was moved again.
"Mason Hall," built in 1883, using brick from the local Dysart & Henderlick "tile mill," is probably the oldest business building in The Burg. Several kinds of merchants have had their quarters on the ground floor: two or three general stores, a bank, a Christian bookstore and Western Union office, an art school, grocery stores, a post office, a bakery, the local Chamber of Commerce. On the second floor (and up 16 stairs but in constant use anyway), "Mason’s Opera House" sheltered dances, high school graduations, minstrel shows, Chautauqua shows, Lyceum courses, debates, basketball games, a duckpin bowling alley, a teen center, offices, shuffleboard courts, a furniture storage warehouse, and for 18 years at $1 a year, the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society's first Museum. Nathaniel N. Mason probably did not expect his building to last 136 years constantly in use.
Refurbished, "The Mason Block" is now occupied by Vick's Pizza, another long-term business.
Other stories about Ralph: A local boy, later a businessman himself, stole a can of airplane paint from Connell Hardware. Discovering it, the boy's mother marched the boy back to the store. The boy admitted his theft to Ralph, who said to the mother, "I know it's up front and a temptation to kids." Then, instead of taking back the paint and bawling out the boy, he said, "Well, you've already got the paint. Why don't you pay me for it on payments?" They worked out a plan. The boy got to keep the paint, he made his payments over several weeks, and got a lesson he remembered.
Another little boy was in the store with his father, and he took some nails out of the open bins. In another instance of old-time honesty, the father found out and took the boy back to the store. Ralph told the boy to return the nails to the bin. Then he said, "Some other time when you're in here, if you want a few nails, ask me for them, and I'll give you some."
Ralph and [Owen) Buck Adams had a sort-of barter agreement. Buck bought his hardware at Connell; Ralph's family liked Dairy Queen treats. Both kept track, but nobody paid until settling-up time. Then, whoever owed the most grouched and grumbled and paid the difference. So each one got something "free." The arrangement went on and on.
Ralph went to the store early one morning as usual, and sat down in a chair. When he did not show up for breakfast with the guys, Dick Barth called Jean, who then called the emergency squad. Sitting alone in one of his favorite places, Ralph had gone ahead without us. He was 82 years 3 days old.
For several years afterward, George "Cody" Lemaster operated the store, with the help of Willard Carl. Cody became ill and died in May, 2013. Carl took over temporarily; but the store closed in August 2013. The contents were auctioned in September 2013. Under only two names, Connell Hardware had been in business 141 years. Ralph had worked in it six long days a week (even went down and opened up on Sunday if you told him you had to have something), drove to Columbus and Brice for supplies, dealt with wholesalers, customers, and loafers by the stove, rang up sales on a tall old cash register (actually, two) whose drawer popped out and went ding! with every sale, organized, swept out, and for 59 years did everything you have to do to manage a business. And a large elderly building.
"I like the work, Ralph said. "This is the only job I ever had after military service. I would hardly know how to retire.”
Editor’s Note: I was a Sweet Adeline for 35+ years. Thanks to Ralph Connell, I usually ranked number one in ticket sales for our annual show. He always bought an advertisement for $25.00, then I would give him two free tickets to the show. In exchange, he would go to the Senior Center and sell enough tickets (at a senior discount) to bring two or three busloads of patrons to the Ohio Theatre. Whenever I came in the hardware store, he would tell all the guys, “Mary sang ‘Bill Bailey’ at the Ohio Theatre all by herself!” The next time I sing Bill Bailey, Ralph it will be for you … ~Mary Turner Stoots
Don and Thelma Foltz moved to Reynoldsburg in 1950. They opened the jewelry store in October 1953, and for the next 37 years, it was the only jewelry store in town. We bought all of our class rings, cufflinks, anniversary presents, charms, Mother’s Day presents, watches, wedding rings, and much more from Don and Thelma.
Thelma’s daughter, Dianne, worked in the store for 20 years. She is also a registered jeweler, certified gemologist, and has a certificate in Jewelry Design. Jerry is a US Army Veteran who served in Vietnam. He retired as Chief of the Reynoldsburg Truro Fire Department in December of 2011.
Thelma Jean Foltz, 91, of Reynoldsburg, passed away on March 5, 2020. She was born in Baltimore Ohio on May 25, 1928 to Otis and Gusta (Whittington) Harrison. She loved quilting and was a member of both the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society and the Pickerington Senior Center.
She is preceded in death by her parents and husband Don Foltz. She is survived by daughter, Dianne (Greg) Hoffman; son, Jerry (Linda) Foltz; grandchildren, Dr. Kevin Raduege, Jerry, Jr, Kelley, Kimberly, and Adam Foltz; four great-grandchildren.
Her family will receive friends on Monday, March 9, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Cotner Funeral Home, 7369 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg, where her funeral service will be held at 11:30 a.m. A private graveside service will be held. Messages may be sent to her family by visiting www.cotnerfuneralhome.com.
Many of us remember Jack Godfrey as partner-owner of The Little Weekly, The Burg's sometimes slightly scandalous and unfailingly interesting hometown newspaper. Jack's partner was Doral Chenoweth. Both photographers-writers-reporters were escapees from a larger Columbus newspaper. The local paper that they published filled a big gap for those of us who enjoy unexpected humor, social news, and the miscellany that fills our everyday lives but might have passed unremarked without those two to put it into print for us.
Jack moved his family here in 1956. He and his wife Irene served their town in many ways. Fifty-year members of the United Methodist Church, they were traveling volunteers for Special Olympics, began the Civitan Club, and were instrumental in starting Meals on Wheels here and the Life Center at Wesley Ridge. It was Jack who set up an entire print shop at their church. Jack was Senior King of the 1996-1997 Tomato Festival, a position he did not seem pleased to find himself in. Irene was a bank teller at their marriage, worked in The Burg's village offices in 1957, a few years later became one of Bank One's first female officers. They got things done.
We would not usually think of Jack as a WWII radio operator and gunner in the US Air Force, or as a prisoner of war. His plane, a B-24 Liberator four-engine heavy bomber, was shot down on its 18th successful mission, within an hour after his crew had successfully blown up a large oil refinery in Pardubice (Par-du-BEET-see), Czechoslovakia. The smoke from the hit rose 8,000 to 10,000 feet. All ten of the crew were taken prisoner by the Germans. All survived to meet annually until ill health or death prevented it. At his last reunion, Jack was 85.
Jack was injured by shrapnel in both legs, but never received more than offhand medical attention even after German doctors examined him. He suffered from severe pain and swelling that on their famous 500-mile, 80-day (February 8 to May 2) forced march to freedom often compelled him to ride on a wagon pulled by other prisoners. These conditions not only endured for the remainder of his life, but created additional problems for him.
John J. Godfrey was born in Skaneateles, NY, March 24, 1921. He enlisted in the Air Force in May 1942, was taken into active service that October at Fort Hayes, Columbus, and rose to Technical Sergeant at discharge October 1945. He married Irene Langel July 10, 1944. They had been married 64 years, 2 days, when he died July 12, 2008. Their two daughters are Pamela and Margi.
Wanting them to understand how glamourless war could be, Jack wrote about his experiences for his six grandchildren. Here, taken from his own words, is the rest of the story.
From Fort Hayes Jack was sent to Nashville, TN. There he passed several tests and qualified for pilot training. At primary flight school he trained in a Stearman PT-17s, a biplane. (Biplanes, mainly early 20th century use, had a pair of major wings, generally one above the other, connected by struts.) "Loads of fun to fly," said Jack. "Easy as riding a bicycle," said the instructor. Jack soloed after 8½ hours of dual time, flew about 52 more hours solo time. Flying solo was "a tremendous experience, looping, tail-spinning, and the various maneuvers one had to learn to pass the flight tests." Stationed briefly in Courtland, AL, Jack had six hours of dual flights and three check rides -- and was eliminated from pilot training. He was sent to Greensboro NC, then to Sioux Falls, SD, for training as a radio operator. Six hours every day he listened to the "dit-dahs" and knew he never wanted to hear that again.
There his oldest brother, whom he had never seen, visited him. AND Irene came also. "What a great boost to morale that was . . . ." Jack had intensive gunnery training at Harlingen, TX, and spent "one of the most miserable Christmas days of my life" out on the range when a terrific nor' wester came through. Along with related subjects they learned to take the 50-caliber machine gun apart and reassemble it, sometimes blindfolded. They had training on a 30-caliber machine gun mounted in a rear cockpit. Target: a tube being towed by a B-26 bomber, usually being flown by a WASP "lady pilot." Some of the wilder gunners hit the tow planes, by accident or design was not confessed.
After a 10-day furlough home to see his family, and Irene, Jack took the train to Salt Lake City. There he was assigned to Crew 3430. Jack was radio operator and second waist gunner.
Assigned to B-24 combat training at Casper, WY, the crew got a lot more ground school and a heavy flight schedule, many flights being cross-country, so the navigator could learn more about his job. Plus, gunnery practice in the mountains from turret and waist positions. The commanding officer ordered that anyone shooting at elk would be court-martialed. Jack said his records showed 104 hours' flight time at Casper.
Not all was ground school and flying. On June 10, 1944, Jack Godfrey and Irene Langel were married in the Casper Base Chapel. Irene stayed for 10 days, then returned to Newark. Jack' s next station would be overseas. First the crew was sent to Topeka, KS, to pick up a new B-24J, the latest model of the big bomber. The airman in charge who signed two separate receipts, one for the B-24J and another for four Pratt & Whitney engines, said, "I sure hope they put these things together before we leave!"
A mere few hours' flight to calibrate their instruments and become accustomed to the new plane and the crew was told to head out to go "over there." Once in the air, an officer opened the sealed orders to discover they were headed for Italy. But first they went to Bangor, ME; to Gander Bay, Newfoundland; to the Azores Islands; to Marrakech, Africa; Oran in northern Africa; then across the Mediterranean Sea to Joia, southern Italy. For a couple of days, for the first time, they lived in tents, then took off for Venosa (anciently, Venusia), Italy. They were to stay in Venosa a while.
Their B-24 was assigned to the hard-stand formerly occupied by Flak-Shak 11. It had been terminally damaged on a mission but got home and was retired for use as parts to repair other 24s. Generally, a replacement crew was assigned to an old plane. The ground crew chief pleaded with the commanding officer to let him keep the new 24 and Jack' s crew had the grand good luck of being assigned to it.
They flew several practice missions around southern Italy to give their pilots some experience flying in the close formations necessary for bombing missions. For their first combat mission, the crew was separated and flew with an experienced crew. On August 2, Jack and Bob Rector, engineer and waist gunner, flew to Genoa, Italy -- and got their first bath. The briefing officer (who told the crews what to expect when they flew over the target) said there would be no enemy fighters aloft, and only low and inaccurate flak (antiaircraft fire).
Odds one out of two ain't so hot. No fighters (correct there), but headed home the No. 2 engine (inboard, left wing) took flak in a direct, crippling hit. The propeller was turning erratically, and the pilot could not turn the blades straight into the wind. Rector managed it; but with one engine dead they had to drop back from the formation, and they were losing altitude. Another B-24 came back with them to offer protection. Their pilot was worried about some mountains they could not avoid and had to clear on the way home to the base. He gave the remaining engines full throttle, clearing the mountain by a couple hundred feet. Jack thought of a gunner instructor's words: the life expectancy of a gunner in combat is about 15 minutes.
From August 2 through August 24 the crew as a unit flew mission after mission, bombing sites in France, Roumania, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Length of the shortest mission (Yugoslavia) was 4 hours 25 minutes, the longest (Germany) 8 hours, 45 minutes. One time the cloud cover was too thick to see the target, so the colonel in charge ordered the group back to the base, WITH 10,500 pounds of bombs still in the bomb bay. Jack commented, "Going in to land and seeing those bombs hanging a mere five to six feet from you is a very scary experience."
For the mission to Pardubice Jack's crew started as an extra plane to complete the formation in case one had to drop out. One B-24 crashed on takeoff, so the crew moved into his space -- into their last mission. About an hour after their successful mission, a flight of 12 to 16 German fighting planes, in less than five minutes , shot down four B-24s. US bomber gunners knocked out four German planes, but Jack' s was in shambles: two engines on fire, a broken oxygen bottle whose flames were directly on the rubber hoses of the fuel transfer system, a hole under the waist window where Jack's machine gun was located, the tail turret a disaster area of broken plastic and burning hydraulic fluid . Jack tried to contact the pilot, but the intercom system had been destroyed.
Another man managed to get the escape hatch door open and dived out. Rector jumped out the window on Jack' s side. Jack got his parachute on but thought of the man in the ball turret -- which just then was wrenched open, the man came out, and Jack jumped. He saw eight parachutes, only finding out later that they were from other shot-down US planes.
As he was descending to earth, one of the F-190s that shot the planes down circled him several times. It was known that some German soldiers would shoot at parachuting airmen, and Jack was fearful that this could be his fate. The pilot circled close one last time -- gave him a salute, and flew on. One more bullet dodged. But Jack wasn't exactly trouble-free. Both his knees were bleeding heavily. He tried to stop the flow of blood by pressing his thigh higher up, but that cut off circulation to his arms -- and the ground was coming fast toward him.
When he lit (the jolt, he said, was about that of jumping out a second-story window) he snatched and rolled up his parachute and hid it and hid himself a distance away. A man he had seen walking toward him came back but didn't find him. Jack hid and walked and rested briefly all night, during daylight reading his New Testament, which comforted him greatly. Having heard on his radio command-frequency station that the Allies had captured Roumania, he began walking toward that country. Deer, crashing around in the underbrush, raised the hair on his neck until he discovered what they were. He had a map but did not realize how far it was. The map was in his escape kit, fastened to his parachute harness. The kit included the radio and map, hardtack cubes (caramel-type squares) money, a plastic water bag, and water purifying tablets . All he had to eat for more than a day was those cubes. Then he stumbled on a cabbage field, cut off a cabbage with his pocket knife, and at last had a sort-of meal.
The next man he encountered saw him. Jack showed him his map and tried to find out more, but there was a huge language barrier. Finally, Jack pointed to his bleeding legs and the man said, "Ja, kum." At the house two German soldiers arrested Jack and took him to jail, but fed him something warm and filling that could have been soup. He slept. From there he was taken to a youth camp then a hospital in Budweis (yes, the place of origin of the beer), Czechoslovakia, where he was given a tetanus shot -- and some black bread that gave him hives. A kind youth brought him some white bread and warned him to keep it hidden. The bumps left.
Eventually Jack landed at an interrogation center at Wetzler, Germany. It was called Flea Center because of its fleas, lice, and other hungry cooties that ganged up to attach themselves to all. He was questioned intensely, about anything he might know. But Jack, following Geneva Convention requirements, answered only his name, rank, and serial number. He and many others were transported out in Forty and Eights -- train boxcars designed to hold 40 men or eight horses. (In a Bill Maiden's WWII Willie and Joe cartoon, one says, "They oughta hire a homme to clean up after them chevauxes.") At least 60 men were crammed standing into Jack's car, with no food or water, and a pail in the comer -- if anyone could get to it -- as a toilet.
In Berlin they heard air raid sirens, but the target was far away. The cars took the men to Gross Tychow, now part of Poland. Their camp was known as Stalag Luft IV. (stalag [German] = prisoner of war camp; Luft = location. So, Prisoner of War Location IV.) It was extremely cold, mountainous country, flu and pneumonia and hostile wound country, at the level of Norway and Sweden. The men were forced to run, with dogs at their heels and guards eager with their bayonets and rifle butts, the four miles from the railroad station to the camp. This camp, designed for 6400 men, was never finished because of Allied air raids, even though the Germans worked at it whenever they could.
It was not -- was never intended to be -- a decent place. Jack and others lived in tents for three weeks, then were moved inside a newly finished compound. There were ten barracks buildings, five on each side with two latrines total, and an administration building at one end. The camp was sited in a forest clearing about 1½ miles square, with two 10-foot barbed wire fences around it. Additionally, a 10-foot fence and a corridor surrounded each compound. Guard towers, the guards armed with machine guns, stood at each end and in the center. No one was allowed near the fence. The machine guns were a strong deterrent.
Rooms held 20 men, each of whom was given a few inches of straw to make himself a "bed," and one blanket. Men slept, shivering, with their clothes on. Room ventilation was poor, there were no bathing facilities, and scarcely any water anyway. A center open space was meant for exercise and games -- except that sports equipment had been confiscated. Though POWs were not forced to work, they were otherwise treated harshly. The single window was boarded over each afternoon at dusk and the single outside door was locked. Each compound held about 2500 men, to make 10,000 total. Considering its never-completed condition and its intended capacity, you could call it crowded.
They were not given enough fuel to keep a fire going in the one potbellied stove. It did have a cleanout door, and when he was outside every man carried whatever would burn back into the barracks, and hid it. A supply wagon came around now and then. A prisoner gleaned whatever fell off the wagon plus some that didn't. When the secret stash of fuel and food was sufficient, the prisoners created a souplike concoction and boiled it in a pound-sized Klim dried milk can over a fire on the cleanout door. They were cautious with fire, for if guards saw smoke, they came barrelling in, doused the fire, seized the soup, and threatened to take the stove.
Regular German rations, averaging 850 calories, were black bread, fake coffee, and a watery mixture of vegetables. Red Cross parcels (often withheld, then divided between two men) held powdered milk, coffee, sugar, Spam or sardines, three packs of cigarettes (a vital trade item), an enriched chocolate bar, and always, prunes. Average daily calories: 1200, suitable for weight loss and persistent hunger. Needed daily calories: 3500. Men talked about, dreamed about, yearned after, food. Jack saved and roasted kernels from prune pits which, when mixed together with saved chocolate, provided a snack. Irene sent him packages and letters, but none reached him.
A sense of humor never deserted them. The POWs frequently arranged to foul up the twice-daily roll call. One man pretended to have a dog, leading it on a leash and making it sit beside him in the formation. Guards frequently entered the rooms, looking, thieving, looking. Jack said to one, "Hey, Joe, how about some Schnapps for Christmas?" Surprisingly the guard answered in English, "You wouldn't want Schnapps. Seagram's Seven and 7-Up would be much better." He talked with the men for several minutes. He had lived in northern Michigan for years, and upon his return to Germany in the late 1930s to visit family, the Nazis gave him no choice but to be in their army.
In early January 1945, artillery fire and the appearance of old tri-motored planes told them that Russians were coming. On February 6, the POWs were marched out of camp in groups of 500, wearing what they could and carrying selected belongings. The men were to march 18-20 miles that day -- into a blizzard, into the worst German winter in more than 50 years. After about 15 miles they found a barn and slept there, exhausted, freezing, desperately miserable. It was the same for two weeks, then they had to sleep in a new-cut forest with no protection from the extreme cold and wet. They were afraid to take off their shoes because their frostbitten feet might swell too much to get the shoes back on. They had eaten the rations from the stalag and were existing on a little black bread and sometimes a potato given them by their captors.
For 80 days they marched, losing a daily average of 37 men, every day like the last. Jack fainted, and the guards put him and another man on the "sick wagon," pulled by POWs. They rode for a few hours then, seeing other POWs worse off, got down from the wagon and grabbed the back of it, letting it pull them. Water was scarce and had to be boiled, or you got dysentery. One crewman lost three pairs of pants because he couldn't make it to the outdoor latrine in time.
Near the end of March their guards changed, younger Nazi men being posted to military duty elsewhere, men 60 and older trying to keep up but ending by riding the wagon most of the time. In a small village, whose people seemed to be celebrating, they learned of the death of President Roosevelt. In mid-April they saw a freight train, then a flight of American P-47s that strafed the train to bits and waggled wings overhead to let the marchers know who they were. The men were waving and yelling at the planes, and when someone started to yell, "All is Kaput. Hitler is Kaput," soon every man joined in. In a day or two they saw American soldiers and military police, and ran to greet them. At the end of the march, captors and captives alike had trouble standing, or moving at all. They were starved, cold, injured, dull-minded with exhaustion and depression -- and yet relieved and happy to be at the end of their war.
A chance conversation with a man who lived near Jack' s sister in Cleveland led to picture-taking and to a later visit to Jack at home with the presentation of the pictures. A raid on a warehouse -- which they got to on bicycles " borrowed" at gunpoint -- yielded tasty food for many. A poultry yard raid brought them a dinner of roast goose and dumplings. Men from another division caught them and said they wished they were eating that well. The crew traded a visit to the delousing chamber and some new clothes for a similar meal for their benefactors.
The crew went by train to Lucky Strike, a huge area at Le Havre, France. There they and their B-24 pilot all surprised one another by being alive. Free to go home, Jack boarded the S S Admiral Benson, a liner that had been converted to a troop ship. Three hours out of port they heard gunfire. The gunners were busy disabling some mines in the shipping lanes. This took time, but it was done, and the ship was underway again. Five days later they arrived in New York Harbor. From there they were sent to Camp Dix, NJ, then to Camp Atterbury, IN. From Atterbury he called Irene.
8,000 men started marching. 5,000 finished. Jack Godfrey came home.
From the 50th Reunion for RHS Class of 1965 - Commemorative Book of 2015:
Bill served with the US Air Force for six years (1965-1971) as a Crew Chief B5 and KC-135. He then spent 30 years with A.E.P. as meter electrician, wireman, and tester. During that time he was Union Officer for 25 years and 10 years as Union Business Manager.
Bill has been retired for 15 years and he sometimes likes retirement and sometimes he doesn’t. He has a son, Andy (45) who is married to Tiffany with two children (Bill’s grandchildren), Baylee (20) and Paris (12). Bill’s daughter, Andrea Benedetto (40) has three children (Bill’s grandkids); Ryan (23 who was in the Army for five years) and his wife Amanda, Hunter (12) and Shane (6). Bill has a boxer dog named Sassy Sue who is 10 years old. Bill is a member of St. Pius X Church, 4-S Club, Knights of Columbus (4th Degree member), AmVets, and VFW.
Bill says, “I have been very blessed mostly. I served our country, married twice with two children and five grandchildren. I always had a job and an income, for that I was truly blessed. I lost my second wife, Pam, in 2010 due to her death. We enjoyed our life together for 40 years in May 2010. I have had 12 surgeries on my right knee and leg, and I am confined to a wheelchair because I cannot stand. I was confined to a bed for three years until the V.A. got me a home-based team and got me able to start moving. Because of being confined to a bed, my weight got close to 500 lbs. and now I’m about 375 lbs. I am also learning how to drive again. The V.A. on March 25, 2015 awarded me the very first Award of Wellness Warrior Wall of Fame Recipient. I have lost both of my parents, two brothers (Mike and Roger) and my wife, Pam. I still feel very blessed that I am still here as we prepare ourselves to enjoy this reunion and remember all our classmates we have lost and the ones that are ill. There is always someone worse off than you. Enjoy life. It is really too short not to, and it is too often taken for granted. – Bill Kibbey”
William L. Kibbey, age 72, passed away at home on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. He was born in Columbus, Ohio on December 25, 1946 to the late Frederick and Dorothy (Curtis) Kibbey.
Bill graduated from Reynoldsburg High School in 1965 and proudly served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era. He was an electrician with IBEW Local 1466, lifetime member of St. Pius X Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the Eagles, and the VFW. Bill was also an avid Buckeye fan.
In addition to his parents, Bill was preceded in death by his wife Pamela and brothers Michael and Roger. Left to cherish his memory are his son, William A. (Tiffany); daughter, Andrea Benedetto; five grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; sister, Rachel; brothers, Mark (Margaret) and Ted (Kay); brother-in-law, Ron Betz (Richard); several nieces and nephews and beloved dog, Chevy.
Family received friends at Schoedinger East Chapel, 5360 E. Livingston Ave, where Bill's sister, Rachel led the Rosary at 7:30 pm. Mass of Christian Burial was held at 10 am Saturday, September 28, 2019 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1051 Waggoner Rd. Interment followed at Glen Rest Memorial Estate. Contributions may be made in Bill's memory to a charity of choice.
Twenty-two civic-minded residents from the ‘Burg met at Graham Road School on April 30, 1975, to explore setting up an historical society in town. RTHS has grown steadily since then, and now, forty years later, maintains three buildings on its spacious Jackson Street lot.
The guiding light in those early years was an elementary school teacher, Audrey Hammond, but the light that shown the brightest for the entire forty years, the last of the twenty-two meeting attendees, so far as we know, was Helen Kitzmiller.
Helen and Jack met at the old Red Barn, a dancing establishment, which was located just south of the present-day post office, and they danced together for the next 59 years.
Helen was a joiner, having been a member of several clubs and organizations in town, but her first love was always RTHS. “I think Mom immersed herself in the Society’s work to make up for the sadness she felt at my leaving,” Jack and Helen’s daughter Cindy recalls. “I was a military wife and left for Germany just as the Society was born.”
And immerse she did, from the beginning, and it never wavered. Helen was the principal fundraiser for our organization, from the time the museum was atop Connell Hardware, until we moved into our own quarters on Jackson. One of her earliest triumphs was to get a $10,000 donation from the president of Nationwide Insurance. It was hard to turn down Helen. When the Center was being moved and then renovated in the mid ‘90’s, and we needed a sink or a support beam, for example, it was Helen who knew where to get one—for free. Her motto was “Ask and you shall receive,” borrowing a verse from the Bible, another love of her life.
Helen never drove, but she was a go-getter and covered a lot of ground. She organized soirees, flea markets, raffles, parties of every kind, and occasionally, when we needed a little extra, passed around her pink piggy bank, coaxing everyone to shake out the change in their pockets. Helen was a fundraiser like no other. She even parlayed her interest in aprons for the treasury. She became known as the “Apron Lady,” and gave talks around central Ohio, always returning whatever gratuities she earned to the Society. Once she proposed that we contact a number of famous people to see if they would donate a personal belonging that we could auction. And, the centerpiece would be a bow tie from Gordon Gee! It never entered her mind that she would not get that tie from the OSU President.
Helen was one of our last phone committee members. If we didn’t have enough volunteers to work on a project, she would get on the phone with her RTHS directory in hand, seeking helpers. When the Board wanted to pave the parking lot, for instance, and quoted a price, Helen spoke up, “Why don’t we hold off on that. I bet if I call around I can get a better deal.”
She and Jack were always present at Board meetings, and she did not sit quietly. Once, when it was time to nominate a new slate of officers, I, as many others in the room, looked down when asked if we would serve. All eyes eventually swung over to Helen, and she exclaimed, in her gentle but firm voice, “Well, I guess there’s no one else who is willing to run, so I’ll be an officer yet again, but I think it’s about time the younger members stepped up.” That’s what needed to be said, and the next year, others did step up, including this author, who was startled into action.
Helen cared. It’s as simple as that. She cared that the Society prosper and be a good steward for the hundreds of items entrusted to it. She felt that the community should know about our work and that we, in return, should give back.
As one looks over archived newspaper clippings from the past forty years, one sees Helen’s face, more than any other. We still find notes from Helen attached to objects in our collection, such as: “How can we use this?” “Needs to be catalogued,” “Send a thank you note for this.”
She was our ambassador, ready to hand out a RTHS card to anyone she met. This paid off handsomely, for example, when several years ago, the Society was sent a truckload of valuable historical items from the estate of an out-of-towner. Everyone wondered how we were so lucky, since we did not know the deceased. A family member happened to mention that her mother had met Helen just one time, received a card, and was so impressed, that she wanted her things to go to RTHS.
Memories of Helen are plentiful - saying grace before our big meals, sitting by the table at the pig roast, selling the ice cream she arranged for Culvers to donate, standing by the jewelry tree, which she made, attending the Christmas dinners, hoping someone would top the highest bid, moving up and down the card party tables, arranging silent auction items and door prizes, placing canned goods carefully into boxes as part of our annual “April Showers for Helping Hands” Open House, which she started, and handing out “goodie bags” full of advertising products that she had collected to our guests: funeral home mints, bank pencils, pens and notepads, hotel shampoo and soap samples, and various other promotions from area businesses. She filled whole closets with these handy items that didn’t cost a cent.
Just as 2015 will be remembered as the 40th Anniversary of RTHS, 2014 will be remembered as the year we lost both Jack, in mid-September, (see the November Courier,) and then Helen, at the end of November. Their lives are gone, but they leave so many traces behind.