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March 16, 2005

Remembering former Perryans

One of the sad responsibilities of this job seems to be commenting on the death of some former Perry residents. Many times they have been gone from here for long periods of time, and quite often they have few or no family members still living in this area. Several instances have occurred within the past few days. One was Beverly McQuiston Sloan, who passed away the other day in a care center near Oklahoma City. Another was Raymond Bechtold, who died in McKinney, Texas. Among the others were the lady known as Gertrude Norman when she taught school in this county years ago. Another was Vernon K. DeBord, son of the V.K. DeBord, prominent in farming circles for many years. Some of you remember one or all of them, I am sure, but day by day I am learning that many people in this once tight-knit little community do not recall having known any of them. V.K. DeBord was widely known as a member of the original World War II rationing board in Noble county. Gertrude was a shining example of the quality teachers who served rural and urban schools here for years. All of these were people who contributed greatly to our lifestyle.

Beverly came from the Laird family, who once were very prominent figures on our landscape. S.E. Laird, her grandfather, was pointed out as the first county agent here, and Mr. and Mrs. Laird had several descendants. A few still reside in this area, but their surnames have changed through marriages. Mr. and Mrs. S.E. Laird had children and grandchildren who were prominent in the development of this area. Beverly's mother was the former Kathryn Laird, a daughter of the S.E. Lairds. For a time the Lairds operated Laird's Lake Amusement park, on the north side of Perry where several stylish homes now stand. I won't try to identify all of the kinfolk, for there truly were many of them and I would surely leave some of them out. Same with Beverly's husband, Wilbur Sloan, who survives. He was a wrestler at PHS, and was better known by his nickname, "Wick" Sloan.

Beverly's mother, the late Kathryn McQuiston, was the organist for many years at the First Presbyterian church. She was the wife of the late Keith McQuiston, who migrated here from the Sumner community and for years was the voice and face of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. in the Perry area. After retiring from ONG, Keith took on a part-time job as bookkeeper at The Perry Daily Journal, where I was still working. One of Kathryn's sisters was Marjorie Bowles, who was the wife of Perry postmaster and rural mail carrier Ed Bowles.

Another part of the Laird family was a prominent medical physician in the Dallas area, with offices in Irving, Texas. He was Dr. Paul Craig Laird, who was in my graduating class at Perry High School in 1941. Paul passed away a few years ago. As I mentioned earlier, many of the Laird family have already passed away. Dr. Laird's uncle was Carl Laird, Sr., a pharmacist, who worked in our family drug store for many years and later had a store of his own on the east side of the square with his brother, Paul, the father of Dr. Laird.

Raymond was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Bechtold. He had two brothers, Jack, who was in that 1941 graduating class, and Robert, the youngest son. An uncle, John Bechtold, farmed south of Perry. The three younger Bechtold brothers were athletic and very interesting people. Raymond was a Ditch Witch dealer in Arizona for a while, and he and his wife, Bettye, operated the Tamac Pottery Plant for a time before that. Raymond's mother, Gladys, I believe was a sister of Henry Tate, operator of the Annex Movie Theater here. Both of these families, the Lairds and the Bechtolds, were interesting people. A good movie script could be written about both of them.

The Lairds and the Bechtolds were fairly large families, populated by people who were prominent in the growth and development of this little spot on the prairie, and my purpose here is just to make sure that you know about some of them. We are sorry for the loss of Beverly, Raymond, Vernon and Gertrude, and all the members of their families.