July 3, 1996
Perry knew Dave Matthews as a jovial young attorney who could spin a yarn with the best of them. He came here fresh out of Navy service after World War II and quickly became an integral part of this community. He helped reorganize the Oklahoma National Guard, served as commander of the local unit, went with the 45th Division to Korea, then came back to Perry to resume the practice of law and quickly began ascending into the upper ranks of the guard. He became a brigadier general in 1965 and commanded the 45th Division from 1968 to 1970. In 1971 Gov. David Hall appointed him Oklahoma adjutant general and he served in that post until 1975. Federal recognition as a major general came in 1972.
Apart from his military duties, Dave served Perry and Noble county in many civic functions. He was a staunch Baptist and filled many roles for the local church. He was president of the Perry Rotary club in 1970-71 and moved it to new heights in membership and service. Dave knew how to delegate authority. He and banker Kenny Coldiron owned cattle and kept them on their "ranch" northwest of town. Initially, he told Kenny, they would take turns in feeding the cattle Kenny would take a year, then Dave would do it. After some 20 years of performing the daily chore by himself, Kenny asked Dave when it would be HIS turn. Dave just chuckled.
Dave and his family, now residents of Edmond and Norman, have been gone from this community for several years, but his death last Sunday afternoon at Presbyterian Hospital in Oklahoma City leaves a void here. He made a lasting and favorable impression on many folks. Final services were held this morning at the First Christian church of Edmond. Our condolences to the Matthews family.
Retired lumber czar Glenn Yahn continues to recuperate at his home with a broken shoulder and four broken ribs, the result of a recent fall. There's a lot of pain, as you might imagine, which makes it tough for him to enjoy all the humorous get-well cards friends are sending. "It hurts worse when I laugh, Glenn says, but he still appreciates the kind thoughts.
Esther Clark was one of the first to call after the Henry Armstrong columns appeared the other day. She will be 96 this month, and she vividly remembers the day in 1909 when Mr. Armstrong was executed by hanging in the Noble county courthouse park. He was convicted earlier that year of murdering Isaac Fell, a young farmer, a few days before Christmas in 1908.
"We were neighbors of the Fell family," Esther relates, "and we were horrified at what happened to him." Such a crime so close to home left a decidedly indelible impression on her young mind. "We talked about it and it made us fearful that something of the sort could happen to someone else, or one of us," Mrs. Clark says. Her parents were Henry and Etta Isham and her father later became Noble county sheriff. The Fells and Ishams were neighbors in the rural Bliss/Marland area on the Otoe reservation:
The story of the slaying and subsequent execution is not pleasant to relive, Mrs. Clark said, but she was glad to read about it for one reason: It affirmed some details that she remembered but that were not perfectly clear in her mind. She's happy to have her memory validated by the facts from old newspapers and other reliable, sources.
Bill Feken is another long-time Noble county resident with his own memories of that era. His father, Folkert Feken, was selected to serve on the district court jury that heard evidence in the Armstrong murder trial and returned the guilty verdict. "We lived 12 miles northwest of Perry," Mr. Feken remembers, "out in the Polo district. My father had to get up pretty early every morning for about a week or ten days to be in the jury box by 9 a.m. With a team of horses and a spring wagon for transportation, it was not easy to do." Bill, who was eight years old at the time of the trial, also remembers the old wooden county jail was at ground level on the south side of the courthouse park, just a little south of the present bandstand. He said passersby could easily see Mr. Armstrong in his cell.
Congratulations to the enterprising merchants, property owners or who ever cleansed the downtown area of weeds and grass in the sidewalks last week. Just drive around the square and check it out. They are all gone, and doesn't it look better? Now let's all work at keeping downtown and the residential area looking lived-in and cared-for.
I had an opportunity to visit briefly the other day with George Rice, the former Perryan who now lives in Long Beach, Calif., and he spoke proudly of his plans for an antique car showroom in the two-story brick building at the south end of the west side of the square. George is dividing his time between his home in Perry and Long Beach right now, but he plans to make this his permanent home.
Crews are working on sprucing up the building and he hopes to have it ready for viewers within a few weeks. George graduated from high school here but has been away from Perry for a number of years. Like many before him, he's seen enough of the rest of the world and has decided that he wants to be part of a community like this. Welcome back!
No need to drive out of town for your Fourth of July celebration. Another patriotic afternoon and evening are scheduled right here on Thursday, courtesy the Chamber of Commerce. It begins at 4 p.m. in the courthouse park and it's all free. You'll see Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Boys and Girls and others paying tribute to our flag, a patriotic address, singers, dancers, games and contests, including watermelon decorating and pie eating. Later, events are planned at Lake Perry, southwest of town. For an old-fashioned salute to the anniversary of our nation's Independence, come to the court house park and Lake Perry on Thursday and join in the fun.