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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matters: Special Links

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Today I want to tell you of some special links connecting Cherokee County with this Cedar Rapids area. I find them quite remarkable.

As we are often seated more or less randomly at dinner, it's possible to meet different residents quite regularly. Often my dining companions have never heard of Marcus. So I was pleasantly surprised recently when a gentleman said, "Oh, yes, a long time ago I was well acquainted with that town. I spent many weeks there in the 1950's."

It seems he was with a company that installed swimming pools. I gathered he may have been a part owner of the firm. First, he had spent several weeks in town evaluating the various possible pool sites. I'm not sure, but I believe what was once Sjostrom Park, there on E. Cedar Street, was one of them and several locations on the Radcliffe property, were other possibilities.

After aiding in selecting one of the Radcliffe sites and helping negotiate its purchase, he played a major role in designing the pool. Then he came to live in Marcus while supervising the entire installation. I didn't think to ask, but don't you imagine he probably lived in the old Marcus Hotel?

Such warm evocations of times long past! Mary Ellen Kelly's great column, "Kelly's Korner," was then a feature each week in the Marcus News. I distinctly recall her writing of the pool's dedication, and featuring Ann, our then five-year-old "bathing beauty" in the piece. That's one of her many columns which have found faded immortality in my files!

More recently, I have come to know Carol and Richard Burr, from Sioux Rapids. I met her first and we agreed we had to sit down together and find out who we knew, in common. When I ran into both of them a few days later, he started the conversation by asking if I ever knew Claude Gray! For any long-time Marcusite that, of course, is a given.

Mr. Burr then stated that Claude was originally from Sioux Rapids, which I had known. Many years ago Claude had told us that he had come to Marcus to work for a Mr. Archie Thompson, a friend from Sioux Rapids, who had purchased the Chevrolet garage a few years earlier. It turns out that Thompson was Dick Burr's uncle. Following the purchase of the garage, the uncle had built a nice home for his family on the lot just south of the garage. That, of course, is where Margaret and Yogi Rohwer now live. I expect their abstract records that very fact.

I explained that my late husband and Claude's wife, Clara, were distant Dorr cousins and that the Gray's adopted daughter, Nancy Nelson, her husband Roger, and son, Brian, were doing their utmost, particularly through the Historical Society, to preserve their heritage. Claude's truck, which they have lovingly restored, is an integral part of every parade and celebration that take place in our entire area.

Then Mrs. Burr told me she was a native of Hinton, and that her maiden name was Held. Of course, anyone with the slightest knowledge of that area is aware of that famed family of purebred cattle breeders. It seems her forefathers came to the confluence of the Missouri and Floyd Rivers before Iowa had even achieved statehood. The settlement there, from which Sioux City developed, consisted of six sod houses at that time. Engaging stories followed of the amazing, wide-spread accomplishments of the Held family. And so the special links continue to be revealed. I love hearing about them all and I hope you do too!