Sidewalk project bearing graduate names comes full circle

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Cassville’s historic sidewalks bearing the names of graduates from approximately 1922 to 1971, which sat along Main Street and were removed by residents and alumni in August due to a MoDOT right-of-way issue that would have demolished them, found their final resting place, where they can be preserved and remembered for all posterity, on the grounds of the Barry County Museum in Cassville. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Concrete pieces of history find final resting place at Barry County Museum

Historic sidewalks bearing the names of Cassville High School graduates from approximately 1922-1971 have finally found a resting place.

This week, a group of alumni and residents worked to carefully move the concrete slabs one more time to give them a final home.

In August, the sidewalks were remove by volunteers on their own time and with their own machinery, with the permission of the school, to be preserved from destruction by a MoDOT-mandated project to replace right-of-way sidewalks along Main Street. At the time, they were placed at the back of the Cassville Primary School parking lot until a determination could be made for a suitable location to lay them to rest.

Last week, the sidewalk sections were relocated to the grounds of the Barry County Museum, where they now rest along the creek bank.

“They are laid out in numerical order along the creek,” said Corky Stehlik, owner of Barry County Ready Mix who spearheaded the project. “The school was good enough to let us pull the old ones up. Although we were rushed for time [on that project], we got them out and stored them at the school for awhile, and now have moved them out to the museum. They may not all be in whole pieces, but [at least they’re] not buried in a field somewhere. The good thing is that everybody’s happy now.”

Stehlik expressed special thanks to Cody Epperly for furnishing his machinery and offering his expertise on placing the sidewalks, along with careful handling of the historic pieces, which was no easy task as many sections were laid in different decades, resulting in different thicknesses.

“I really want to give Cody a lot of praise, and for caring about it enough to work all week on it,” Stehlik said. “He also furnished two or three his employees to help. For years, his granddad poured the sidewalks and furnished the stencils. He’s got a lot of family members’ names on the sidewalks, so he’s really had an interest in it and has done a marvelous job.”

Kathy White, museum director, said it was befitting that the historic sidewalks will permanently rest near the museum, where so much Barry County history is housed and where they will be available for alumni to view.

“That’s why this facility is in operation, for preservation and to represent the history of Barry County, in any way we can do it,” White said. “We want to be there for the community. Some alumni didn’t want the sidewalks destroyed, so we offered the space behind the creek. I have to give Corky, Cody and their crew credit because they did some puzzles, as some sections were in two or more pieces. And they’re in chronological order. When they got to the really old ones, there were a lot in several pieces. But they put the pieces on the ground [as best they could] to see what they could come up with.”

The project was a little more personal for Epperly, who, along with himself, had several family members graduate from Cassville whose names are etched in the stones.

“There’s a lot of family there,” he said. “My granddad [Quentin Epperly] laid a lot of the sidewalk. He and his wife and my mom, dad and siblings’ names are all there. But, my granddad did a lot of the later years of the sidewalks and the stenciling. Back then, they’d give you time when the sidewalk was ready, and if you wanted to put your name in yourself, they’d let you, or others did, like my granddad. He had served on school board a little bit, too. When the stencils would get worn, he’d go and buy a new set of stencils for the school. He was very proud of being able to graduate, as he had to quit a couple years to be able to afford to live and go to school.”

Stehlik and Epperly plan to pour concrete walkways in between the sidewalks after they’ve had time to settle.

“They are still available for viewing,” Stehlik said. “We will put a little space in between them, because they’re all different thicknesses. They were made over a 35-year time period, so there are transitions between each year.”

Epperly anticipates the sidewalks may take up to a year to settle into the ground.

“We separated them about a foot because they’re poured in different years and they didn’t set their depths the same,” Epperly said. “Through the 1960s, they were pretty similar. Otherwise, nothing was uniform from year to year, so we’ve got high and low footings or one side deeper than the other.”

Epperly said he felt proud to be part of the project that has helped preserve pieces of the sidewalks for all posterity, along with pieces of history — including his own.

“I’m glad Corky called me,” he said. “It was neat to be able to do it, and I’m really happy that Jerry Watley let us use the land at the museum.”

Also helping with the project were: GW Lyons, Brady Blisard, Forest Robertson, Eli Stehlik, Wyatt Stehlik, Lennis Periman and Kent Stephenson.

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