Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Killer Tornado, A Kentucky Derby Winner and A Prominent Businessman Are All Remembered In Kansas City

What do a killer tornado, a Kentucky Derby winner, and the first Chairman of the Jackson County Sports Authority have in common?  They all have memorials located right here in Kansas City.

The Ruskin Heights Tornado Memorial

On May 20, 1957, at approximately 7:50 p.m., an F5 tornado ripped through the Kansas City metropolitan area.  Thirty-nine people died and 531 were injured.

The tornado’s path was approximately 71 miles long and at times more than half-a-mile wide.    It devastated areas of Hickman Mills and Ruskin, killing 25 people in that area alone.

Besides loss of life, property damage was horrific.  The Hickman Mills Bank at 107th and U.S. 71 Hwy lost its south wall and had to be protected by the National Guard.  Ruskin High School along with more than 100 nearby homes and a busy shopping center took a direct hit, and cars on 71 Hwy were tossed in all directions.

Although it happened more than 50 years ago, the tornado is still one of the worst twisters to ever hit the Kansas City area.  The memorial to this tragedy is on Blue Ridge Blvd at the turnoff to Ruskin High School. 

Dedicated on May 18, 1958, this tall brick structure includes the names of those who perished along with a plaque outlining the path of the deadly twister, a reminder of a dark day in Kansas City weather history.

Video of the Aftermath of Killer Tornados Across The Heartland

Memorial and Gravesite of Lawrin – Winner of the 1938 Kentucky Derby

Located right in the middle of a cul-de-sac at 59 LeMans Ct. in Prairie Village is an unusual memorial and the burial site of Lawrin - the 1938 Kentucky Derby winner and only Kansas-bred horse to ever win the great race.  Buried beside Lawrin is his sire, Insco, who also was an experienced racehorse.

The well-kept graves are surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence, and the “mini-cemetery” even includes a nice informational board with several photos of the majestic Lawrin on the day of his Derby win.

The jockey riding Lawrin that day was none other than Eddie Arcaro, who went on to win four more Kentucky Derby victories.  It was Arcaro who skillfully urged Lawrin across the finish line when the horse started to tire and drift toward the middle of the track with only an eight of a mile left to go.

Lawrin’s memorial site was originally the site of Woolford Farms, which was owned by Herbert Woolf (of the Woolf Bros. clothing store).  Woolf sold the farm in 1955, the year Lawrin died.  The land today is now part of a gated residential community with an unusual memorial to a horse that briefly made Kansas City the talk of the country.

Video of Lawrin Winning the 1938 Kentucky Derby

The Dutton Brookfield Memorial

The Dutton Brookfield Memorial has a prime real estate space in Kansas City - on Blue Ridge Cutoff overlooking Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums.  

Dutton Brookfield was the chairman of the Jackson County Sports Authority in 1966 when he helped successfully convince Kansas City to approve a $43 million plan to build new baseball and football stadiums – which went on to become the Truman Sports Complex.  Brookfield claimed he took the job because “They came to me and said I was the only one who could get it done.”   He was right.

Brookfield was born in Kansas City and graduated from the University of Missouri.  In 1955 when his father passed, Brookfield took over the Unitog Co., which manufactures work uniforms.  

He also ran unsuccessfully for mayor twice – in 1963 and 1971 - and was a former president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Sadly, Brookfield died in 1979 from burns/complications he suffered in a tragic house fire.  He was visiting his summer home in Minnesota when a fire broke out in the kitchen.  Brookfield was severely burned.  His wife was also injured.  Henry Bloch (of H & R Block) and his wife, who were staying with the Brookfields at the time, escaped injury.

Today, Brookfield’s memorial proudly watches over the sports complex he helped create for Kansas City, a perfect place for his memory to enjoy the city that he guided and loved.

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