May 7, 1996
A trip to Washington, D.C., last week with a group of some 40 Oklahoma business and professional people provided several eye opening experiences along with an opportunity to renew old acquaintances with a few friends of long standing. I'll be writing more about this subject as time goes on, but today's column deals with a few incidental bits of intelligence that may be of interest to you.
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Laverne Weber and his wife, Merlene, are in the process of moving to their home southwest of Perry from Arlington, Va., in the D.C. area. General Weber bought the home here a few years ago but his plans for retirement were sidetracked by a call to head up the U.S. national guard bureau after his distinguished record of service as Oklahoma adjutant general. That stint is now over and the Webers are excited about the prospects of becoming permanent parts of this community. General and Mrs. Weber joined a segment of our group for dinner while we were in Washington and all of us relished the opportunity to greet them once again.
The unexpected death last year of the general's brother, Bill Weber, has taken away some of the edge from Laverne and Merlene's arrival here, but they are pleased nonetheless at the prospects for a happy retirement. Bill's wife, Joy, is still an active part of this community. The general is recovering nicely from surgery to repair part of the damage sustained in a fall some time ago, and he appears fit as a fiddle. We join in welcoming the Webers to this friendly part of the world.
Dr. Harry Barnes was a new acquaintance to me and to Jack Dolezal on this trip, but he is an old friend of Don Livesay and Bob Kasper, two other members of the Perry contingent. We're claiming Don and his wife, Jo Ellyn, even though their home is in Oklahoma City, because they spend a great deal of time here with Jo Ellyn's mother, Lydia Dolezal, who has been going through a period of poor health. Don retired last August after a distinguished career as a field grade officer with the Oklahoma national guard.
Dr. Barnes is a retired Ardmore dentist and a veteran of two wars with Oklahoma national guard units. He served in Europe during World War II with the 45th Infantry division and was with the 45th when it was called up for the Korean police action. During that latter engagement he became a good friend of Dave Matthews and Bob Kasper, Perry attorneys who were with the 45th in Korea.
When Dave became Oklahoma's adjutant general several years ago, Dr. Barnes was chosen as his vice adjutant. One summer in the 1960s, when the McAlester. prison riot erupted, the Oklahoma national guard was scheduled for summer maneuvers in Colorado. Matthews was ordered to go with the main body to Colorado and Dr. Barnes was directed to head up the national guard, highway patrol and other forces attempting to quell the prisoners.
Ordinarily in such a crisis, virtually the entire guard would have been dispatched to McAlester, but Dr. Barnes was left with only about 1,000 men coming from the guard, one patrol, prison guards and local police. He succeeded in bringing the uprising to a conclusion with the limited resources available, and he tells an interesting first-person story about the whole event. The colorful dentist now divides his time between a home on the Blue River and his place in Durant.
Pendelton Woods, a friend of many years, also was with the group. Pen retired only last week as a key executive of the Enterprise Square operation at Oklahoma Christian College. Several years earlier he retired from the OG&E public affairs office. He also is a veteran of World War II, during which he was captured by the Germans and held for several months as prisoner of war. He also was involved with the 45th during the Korean engagement and dispatched several stories to this newspaper about our area men in service.
For many years, Pen was responsible for the oral history project undertaken by the Enterprise Square organization and the Oklahoma Historical Society. He made at least two expeditions to Perry to record history as it was described in their own words by some of our pioneer citizens. Those tapes are now on file in the OHS archives in Oklahoma City, and duplicate copies are available if local historical groups are interested. Our Cherokee Strip Museum would be a good repository for the tapes with local interest.
We'll be sharing some more notes and quotes from this trip in subsequent columns. For the most part, it was a fascinating and educational time. You cannot experience the tradition and history of Washington without a feeling of both pride and humility.