By Mike Pound
I spoke with Carol Perkins only one time, and that was with a group of other reporters. So it’s not as if we were close friends or anything, but even in that brief encounter, I knew that I liked her.
It was back in the mid- to late 1980s. Carol — widow of the late Marlin Perkins — was in Carthage to announce that a statue of Marlin, who was born and raised in Carthage, had been commissioned and would be placed in Municipal Park.
After Carol spoke a bit, she took questions from the local media. I had recently read that there was talk of ending the St. Louis Zoo’s long-standing free admission policy, and I asked Carol about that.
For those of you who don’t know, Marlin was a well-known explorer and conservationist who gained worldwide fame as the host of the long-running TV series “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” He also was the longtime director of the St. Louis Zoo. The free admission policy was something Marlin had been adamant about. He wanted everyone to have access to the zoo.
Carol gave me a stern look and said, “That will never happen.”
She was right. Admission to the St. Louis Zoo is still free.
Carol Perkins, who was 95, died over the weekend at her home in Clayton. Family members said she had been in declining health for a number of years.
On Thursday, I was chatting with Sue Vandergriff about Marlin, who died in 1986, when I mentioned Carol’s death. Sue hadn’t heard of Carol’s passing and expressed sadness at the news. Sue is a bit of a Carthage history buff, and Marlin was a big part of Carthage history.
We were talking about Marlin because he is one of the first 24 people to be placed in the Hall of Carthage Heroes. The idea for the hall was first raised by members of the Carthage Historic Preservation group. Everyone agreed that the idea was a good one, but they also agreed that no one had time to make it happen.
But not long ago, Carthage resident Bill Putnam revived the idea and decided that Sue would be the perfect person to head up the Hall of Carthage Heroes committee. Members of the committee sifted through hundreds of candidates for inclusion into the hall and eventually settled on 24 names.
“For the first group, we needed to go back to the beginning of Carthage,” Sue said.
Sue said inductees do not have to have been born in Carthage, nor do they have to have lived in the town for a certain number of years to be considered for the Hall of Carthage Heroes.
“You have to have had a significant impact on the town of Carthage and be someone people — particularly children — would want to emulate,” she said.
Sue, who did much of the research for the Hall of Carthage Heroes, said each inductee will be featured on tiles being prepared by Images in Tile. Each tile will feature a likeness of the inductee and will include biographical information. Once all 24 tiles are complete, they will be mounted on a wall at the Fair Acres Family YMCA.
“We started with 24 people, and after that we will add 12 a year,” Sue said.
Installation of the tiles will begin in early December. Later in the month, a reception will be held to showcase the first class of the Hall of Carthage Heroes.
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