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Archive for the ‘Historical Events post-1954’ Category

On this day 62 years ago, Ralph Lloyd Jones, Hazel’s uncle, was taking his family out to the Macon lake to celebrate his oldest daughter’s birthday. Shirley Jones was turning 22 years old on this day.

In the car was the entire Jones family: Ralph and his wife, Ruth, their three children, Shirley, Margaret, and Ralph, Jr., and also my mother, Hazel. (Ruth Jones is Hazel’s aunt, Mildred’s sister.)

The Jones family lived north of Bevier, just north of Ruth’s parents, out in the country. They had a cake and were carrying along birthday party provisions, including a knife with which to cut the cake.

Ralph, Jr., Shirley, and Margaret Jones

As they approached the turn-off to the lake, Ralph made the fatal mistake of turning left, from the wrong lane, into the path of a tanker semi that was trying to pass them.

The tanker broadsided the Jones vehicle, killing Ralph instantly, and injuring his five passengers, though not critically, thank goodness. This was well before the time of required seatbelts in vehicles. The knife meant for cutting the cake was responsible for some of the injuries, as it flew around on impact. Ralph was only 46 years old.

The next day, the local paper had three large photos of the accident on the front page, along with this article:

Ralph L. Jones of Bevier Dies in Collision Here

Ralph Lloyd Jones, 46, of Bevier was killed instantly, the Patrol said, when the car which he was driving was involved in an accident with a gasoline transport. The accident occurred at 5:30 p.m. yesterday in front of the Bowzer Service Station on Route 36 west of Macon.

Jones, driving a ’49 model sedan was east bound and attempted a left turn off the highway in front of the gasoline transport, driven by Arbie Hogan of Kennett, Mo., which was trying to pass. The truck apparently hit the Jones car in the side, the Patrol said.

Mrs. Ruth Jones, Mrs. Hazel Pagliai, Miss Shirley Jones, Miss Margaret Jones, and Ralph Jones, Jr., were all passengers in the Jones car, and were all taken to  . . . . (this part of the article is illegible — it’s a really old newspaper!) . . . the Edwards Funeral Home in Bevier, where it will remain until  . . . . (another illegible part) . . .

Funeral services will be held at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow at the First Baptist Church in Bevier, conducted by the pastor, the Rev. Esra Coppin. Burial will be in the Richardsdale Cemetery.

Mr. Jones was born Feb. 11, 1911, the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Jones of North Bevier.

He was married to Miss Ruth Rector of Bevier, who survives. In addition to his wife he leaves three children, Shirley of Macon and Margaret and Ralph Lloyd, Jr., both of the home; two sisters, Mrs. Elmer Thomas of New Cambria and Miss Jennie Jones of Bevier; and five brothers, Daniel E. of Moline, Ill., Dewey of Brookfield, and David L., George R., and Thomas W., all of Bevier.

It’s so sad and tragic when a silly mistake ends a life, and changes the course of so many other lives. And still, it could have been so much worse.

And to have your birthday permanently marked with such a tragic event would make it hard to celebrate in future years. Poor Shirley.

Ruth did eventually remarry; I’m not sure exactly how much later, and the man she married was Dale’s uncle, Alexander Louis Britt! Alex was a barber and a painter (as in house painting), and they lived in a little house in Macon before moving to a different neighborhood in Macon upon Alex’s retirement.

Today, the scene of the accident looks like this:

Exits have been changed to make driving safer, and local traffic is routed on outer roads to avoid the highway altogether. Left turns, from any lane, are no longer allowed in this area.

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A few years ago, I was sitting in my cousin, Deno’s kitchen, and we were having completely random conversations, and during the course of this, he said: “Yeah, like Lowell Lee when he went nuts and killed his family. He’s my cousin, you know.”

First of all, I had never heard of Lowell Lee Andrews, and had never heard of this crime anywhere, either. And at that moment my brain sorta froze in time, and Deno carried on with an entirely new subject.

When my tongue managed to start working again, I said: “Wait! Wait! Back up. Back. UP! WHAT did you say?”

He repeated the part about Lowell Lee, and my mouth just hung open. Deno’s mother happened to be standing there as well, and asked: “Who are you talking about?” Deno said: “Oh, you know, Lowell Lee Andrews.”

Aunt Betty said: “Oh, yes. Such a horrible thing. I never could figure that out. He was just the sweetest, quietest little boy. Always so nice and polite.” Deno pipes up, “Oh, Ma, you think everyone’s the sweetest thing you ever met.” I couldn’t even laugh — I was still processing.

So I made them tell me the story.

William and Opal Andrews lived on a farm outside the town of Wolcott, Kansas, in the 1950s. They had two children, Lowell Lee, and Jennie Marie. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1958, Lowell Lee was home with his family, on break from Kansas University, where he was a student.

While his family was in the living room watching TV, Lowell was upstairs in his bedroom reading, ironically, “The Brothers Karamazov”.

When he finished the book, he shaved and got dressed nicely, loaded up two guns, walked downstairs, and shot his 20-year-old sister, Jennie, right between the eyes. As his mother started toward him, he shot her as well. Six times. Then he shot his father twice.

William did not die immediately, so as he was crawling toward the kitchen, Lowell Lee reloaded, and shot his father 15 more times.

Then he opened a window, ransacked the house to make it look like a burglary, and got in his car and drove back to KU to his boarding room, one hour away in Lawrence, KS. Now mind you, the weather was snowy and icy and cold, so this was a pretty treacherous drive to make. On the way there, he disassembled the guns, and stopped to throw them into the Kansas River.

At his boarding house, he chatted with his landlady, telling her that he had come back to retrieve his typewriter so he could work on homework. Then he WENT TO A MOVIE!!! He went. To a. Movie. That’s some craziness right there, huh?

After the movie, he drove back home, fed the dog, and called the police to report a robbery. When the police arrived, they found Lowell sitting on the porch, petting the dog, and asked him what was up. He just pointed toward the house, and said: “In there.”

In there, they found the gruesome scene, and questioned Lowell, who maintained it was a burglary. His absence of distress was highly suspicious, but it was not until they called in the family’s pastor that Lowell confessed to the crimes and was arrested. He showed absolutely no emotion or remorse.

When asked about funeral arrangements, he told authorities, “I don’t care what you do with them.”

“I don’t care what you do with them.” How cold is that?

Given that most of the Andrews family relatives lived up in this area where I live now, they brought the bodies back “home” and buried them in the Mt. Salem Cemetery in Excello, Missouri, just down the road from where Aunt Betty (Andrews) grew up.

andrews3

Lowell lived on death row at the Lansing Prison for the next four years. He was fellow inmates with Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the killers of the Clutter family, another famous mass murder in Kansas. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book “In Cold Blood”, it’s about the murder of the Clutter family, and towards the end, Lowell Lee is mentioned in the book and the movie. They called him “Andy”.

On November 30, 1962, Lowell Lee ate his last meal — fried chicken. He declined to deliver any last words, and was hung until dead. It is said that due to his size, he hung for quite a while before dying. As Deno put it, “They had trouble hangin’ him cos he was a big boy.”

And here’s the part I cannot bring myself to understand:

andrews2front

They brought him here and buried him next to the family members he so brutally murdered!

andrews2

And they engraved his tombstone with “Son”.

llandrews

I cannot understand this part. Deno said: “Yeah, I remember Grandma saying that same thing — whatever family member was in charge of that sure screwed up. I wouldna wanted him buried next to me!”

Down the road about a mile west of the cemetery, stands the house where Betty Andrews grew up.

bettyshouse

Her father raised cattle on a 1000-acre farm, but sold out and moved into town to work for the highway department when Deno was just a little boy.

andrewsfarm

And I’m still flabbergasted about the entire story. I took all these pictures yesterday. I made Deno go with me, and we drove there to visit the cemetery and look at the old farmplace.

The house where the murders took place in Kansas is no longer there. A lot of the family who were living at the time, are now dead and gone. Aunt Betty will be 86 years old next March. I asked my dad if he remembered this happening, and he said: “Yeh. There was somethin’ bad wrong with that boy for him to do somethin’ like that.”

So there you have it — one of the most interesting skeletons I’ll ever find in my closet, I’ll wager!

And while My Cowboy is easily the funniest person I know, the men in my family are pretty funny, and Deno runs a very, very close second to My Cowboy in the humor department, so to lighten things up after that horrific tale, I’ll leave you with a few Deno quotes from our trip yesterday:

“Their hair-dos are very unbecoming.”

“A lesser man woulda been crushed.”

“I didn’t realize . . . you are ate up.”

“I think I look extinguished.”

“I almost told her to put on some clothes, but I was too busy watchin’ her.”

“He had a silver spoon stuck up his ass before he was ever born.”

“You’re gettin’ the hang o’ this drivin’ thing!”

“Someone came here with more dollars than sense.”

“I was real religious for about an hour and a half.”

“Man! Life’s complicated if ya get ta thinkin’ about it.”

“I’m one of the elder cousins in the family now.”

“See, even you don’t give me the respect I deserve.”

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