Final preparations are underway for the 80th anniversary commemoration on Saturday, June 10, of the Smoyer-Wathen shootings in Boone County.
Community volunteers are planning a fitting remembrance of Sheriff Lawrence Smoyer and Constable William Wathen, who were shot by unknown assailants June 17, 1937, in the rural area north of Akron.
Sheriff Lawrence Smoyer and Constable William Wathen were shot in the line of duty, looking for a suspicious vehicle in the Akron area.
The commemoration will include special displays on both lawmen, and their gravesites in Rosehill Cemetery will be marked.
The opening event will be dedication of a new Smoyer-Wathen Memorial stone on the east side of Boone County Courthouse lawn at 11 a.m., with Pastor Ray Avidano giving the invocation and benediction.
Speakers will include District 41 State Sen. Tom Briese, Boone County Sheriff Denny Johnson, and Seward County Sheriff Joe Yocum. An American Legion/ VFW Honor Guard will present the colors. They will also fire a gun salute and present Taps.
The community-sponsored Smoyer-Wathen Monument, which recognizes all Boone County officers, will be unveiled. Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the Knights of Columbus Hall, Fifth and Church Streets.
Community response to the memorial fund drive has been outstanding, according to the monument committee. Donations are still being accepted at the Cornerstone Bank in Albion, or donors can mark an envelope and give it to an event volunteer. Funds will be used for maintenance and education of both the monument on the courthouse grounds and the monument at the site of the shootings.
Afternoon presentation, an overview of events surrounding the shootings, will begin at 1 p.m. at the Casey building on the fairgrounds. Mary Jane Noble will lead the discussion. Relatives Roberta Duffy (granddaughter of Lawrence Smoyer) and Dorald Robinson (grandson of William Wathen) will share their thoughts. A poem, “Sandhill Tragedy,” written by Irene Young Christensen at the age of 13 (niece of William Wathen) will be read.
Local musician Pat Boilesen will perform her original song about the event, “The 17th of June,” which she wrote in honor of the 80th anniversary.
Sheriff Joe Yocum of Seward County will give an update of his ongoing investigation of these unsolved murders.
There will be a general social time until 3:30 p.m., and some of the visiting Smoyer and Wathen family members from other states will attend.
From 4 to 7 p.m., the Akron Presbyterian Church and Akron community will have a free-will offering roast beef dinner at the Boone County District #60 schoolhouse.
To help ensure enough food, those planning to attend are strongly encouraged to RSVP by calling 402-741-2386, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In case of inclement weather, the roast beef dinner will be moved to the Casey building on the fairgrounds.
They will also give directions and transportation for those interested in seeing the actual site where the shootings occurred. If traveling to the site between 4 and 7 p.m. on June 10, come to the District #60 school and join the caravan at set times to help everyone get safely up the one-lane road. A trolley ride will also be provided for those who would like to ride.