"The Fairfield Ledger"
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Front Page and Page 7
Genealogy research helps return 1931 Batavia HS ring
By Diane Vance
Ledger staff writer
Fairfield's Richard Thompson used his experience and skills in genealogy research to reunite a 1931 class ring with the original owner's son.
The search started with an inquiry from Earl Hem in California. He'd found the class ring among his mother's possessions and last month decided to try to find the original owner's descendants and return the ring.
Engraved with the initials MLB inside, with the year 1931, the letter B on a shield on the outside and Batavia under it, Hem knew it was from Batavia High School.
"I was born on a farm between Eldon and Troy," said Hem. "I attended a one-room schoolhouse in Floris. My mom stayed living in the country with a Selma mailing address and did her banking in Libertyville. She's passed now.
"It's a mystery as to how she had the ring. She found it, but I don't remember if she told me where. And Glenn once asked his mother about it, but she didn't say."
Glenn is Paul Glenn Cremer of Ottumwa, in possession of the 1931 class ring as of a week ago.
"I knew the ring existed because my mother told me," said Cremer. "She passed away Sept. 4, 1996. She didn't tell me where it was or what had happened to it."
Hem, who served seven years in the Navy, then settled in southern California upon discharge, began his recent search to find the owner by calling Batavia City Hall. Someone there recommended calling Cardinal School District.
"A woman at the school district did what research she could, but the 1931 yearbook was not available. Then I connected with Fairfield Public Library and the genealogy society."
Thompson, a Fairfield resident since 1973 and genealogy researcher for Jefferson County, received Hem's April 21 correspondence to the library.
"I didn't even know there had been a Batavia High School," said Thompson. "I began researching The Fairfield Ledger on microfiche at the library, hoping the Class of 1931 had its names published. Then I realized I could look at the Batavia News, and went through that instead. Interspersed through the copies of the Batavia News on the microfiche also were copies of Batavia High School's own newspaper, The Warrior. And the Class of 1931 was published in a May issue of The Warrior. A Mildred Brown was one of the 14 graduates that year."
Thompson next turned to the library's family group sheets on file for tracing ancestry.
"It was sheer luck that I found a family sheet for a Brown family that lived in Batavia and had a daughter Mildred," he said. "The parents were also buried in Batavia, it noted, but there was little information about Mildred.
"Then I found her dad's obituary and it named a survivor as a daughter, Mildred Cremer in Agency. I went to the phone book, dialed the first Cremer listed and asked if they knew of a Mildred Cremer who had married Paul. This was a cousin, who told me Mildred's son, Paul Glenn, lived in Ottumwa."
Cremer contacted Hem in Spring Valley, Calif., and Hem mailed the ring to Ottumwa.
"Now, I have the ring to go with my mother's high school graduation picture," said Cremer. "I was very surprised to be contacted about the ring and learn someone had found it and traced it to me.
"It's nice to have, and I'll keep it now for my children."
Cremer, too, grew up on a farm 10 miles outside of Agency. He first attended Agency High School.
"I think we were the first class to graduate from Cardinal Community School in 1960," he said.
Thompson emphasizes the value of filling out family group sheets and family trees.
"If the Browns hadn't had a family group sheet, I would have been stopped," he said.
He first became involved in searching family history in 2007 when his wife's nephew was going to travel to Canada and needed family names to get a passport. Then he began searching his own family roots, "and it mushroomed," he said.
Hem in California would like to know "the rest of the story," he said.
"I'm interested to know where the ring's been and how it got to my mother," he said. "All I know is it was not passed on to Glenn by his mother. It looks as if it was worn maybe 10 years, but doesn't have so much wear that's it's been worn the last 80 years or so.
"It's nice to close this one loop, returning the ring to an original family member, because that kind of thing doesn't happen very often. But I'm curious and can think of all kinds of possibilities," said Hem.
Cremer, in a letter thanking Hem and Thompson for their efforts in finding the ring's owner, filled-in some background information about his mother.
"Her parents, Ellen Melton Brown and Andrew Burr Brown, were originally from Jonesboro, Ark. Andrew was a section foreman for the CB&Q Railroad Co. Several of her brothers followed their father in working for the railroad. Mildred was the last born of eight children, born in Lockridge, July 5, 1913.
"After high school, Mildred attended Parsons College in Fairfield, as well as Ottumwa Heights College and Drake University in Des Moines.
"She taught in country schools, occasionally riding a horse to school.
"She and my father were married in Lancaster, Mo., as teachers could not be married at the time.
"She was my first-grade teacher at Round Point School, a country school between Ottumwa and Agency.
"She continued her own education, lacking only a thesis to earn a Ph.D. She was a psychologist and remedial reading specialist. She taught in the Ottumwa school system until her retirement at the age of 65. Then she moved to Haines, Ark., and taught 13 more years."