The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 12, 2010

‘Storyteller’ leaves legacy of area historic documents

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Marvin VanGilder thought of himself as a storyteller.

“He had a wonderful storytelling voice; one you would want to listen to,” said Ron Petersen Sr., the owner of KDMO radio station in Carthage, where VanGilder’s stories have broadcast for 31 years. They’re so popular, in fact, that they still air at 7:55 a.m. weekdays.

VanGilder died Sunday night at the age of 83. He is remembered for his contributions to local history preservation and the Jasper County Archives, to Carthage civic organizations and events, to radio and to newspapers.

Whether it was “The Big Blast at the State Line” about a fireworks accident or “The Farm Hand Who Saw Stars” about the life of astronomer Harlow Shapley, VanGilder’s life’s work was documenting local history.

In addition to the radio program scripts, VanGilder wrote books. One, a comprehensive history of Jasper County, was published in 1995 to coincide with the county’s 100th anniversary observance.

His “Big Blast” and “Farm Hand” stories are among the 700 scripts he wrote for his “Moments for Remembering” radio show. The stories were from throughout the region.

“Primarily he did a great job with his ability to write and voice his own scripts,” said Petersen, who counts himself as a personal friend of VanGilder’s as well as a professional. Even though the programs recount happenings of the past, “the programs are very timely. He had a special talent in that way,” Petersen said.

VanGilder said himself in a 1984 story that appeared in the Globe that “I like to think of myself as a writer of history. A storyteller.”

VanGilder, born Sept. 24, 1926, in Lamar, had a varied career. He attended Drury College in Springfield where he was drawn to radio when the college established the first campus radio station in the nation. He became a licensed minister in 1946 after working as a student pastor during college.

He taught English, history and music for a number of years in area schools and then took a job as a disc jockey and sportscaster at KDMO in the mid-1950s, where he was promoted to news director. He later was the editor of the Carthage Press newspaper.

He served on the Carthage Board of Education and also on the boards of a number of civic organizations including the Red Cross and United Way.

VanGilder’s work “meant an awful lot because he served Carthage in so many ways,” said Mayor Mike Harris. “He will be sorely missed.”

Much of VanGilder’s interest in history and Carthage focused on the Battle of Carthage, fought on July 5, 1861, and believed to be one, if not the first, of the earliest ground battles in the Civil War.

He worked with other local historians and history re-enactors to help establish the Battle of Carthage Civil War Park and he started an annual Vesper Ceremony there on the battle anniversary. This year his failing health prevented him from conducting or attending the ceremony and other volunteers took it up on his behalf.

Harris commended VanGilder’s efforts in documenting the area’s history and establishing the Vesper Ceremony.

VanGilder maintained and researched many of the sole sources of information he used for his history pieces. His book on county history, “Jasper County: The First 200 Years,” contains a substantial account of the Carthage battle.

Preservation and public access to his materials was the reason the Jasper County Commission created the Jasper County Archives, according to Steve Weldon, the archivist.

VanGilder was a champion of local history, Weldon said. “He deserves a great deal of credit for all he did for the community.”

Arrangements are to be announced by Knell Mortuary.

Radio feature

Listen to “A Moment for Remembering,” Marvin VanGilder’s longtime radio feature that explores the history of Southwest Missouri, weekdays at 7:55 a.m. on KDMO 1490-AM.

Text Only
Local News
  • Last two safe room projects up for Joplin School Board approval

    The Joplin Board of Education during its meeting tonight will consider more than $2.4 million in bid packages for safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.

    April 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Mosaic pieces together purpose

    Today I want to tell you about a man named John — a man I never knew existed until last week. And yet he’s making a difference in my community. He is an individual served by Mosaic of Southeast Kansas, which also, I learned, is making a difference.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage Historic Preservation to re-create trolley era

    Recapturing history is difficult, but recapturing history without a building, an artifact or a singular focal point is even harder. To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, Carthage Historic Preservation wants to recapture an era and an experience that have been gone from the city for almost 80 years: the era of the trolley (or tram) cars that provided public transportation.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Candidates for associate judge address GOP group

    The response was all but unanimous among four candidates seeking two Jasper County associate circuit judge positions. Asked to cite the biggest obstacle to justice in Jasper County, three of the four said the most prevalent challenge is getting the needed time on a busy court docket.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Money to area lawmakers slows down but doesn’t stop

    With the Legislature back in session, the flow of campaign cash to local candidates has slowed. But in this election year, the money did not completely stop. All members of the local delegation to the Missouri General Assembly are on the ballot this year, but only two lawmakers are facing opposition.

    April 20, 2014

  • Joplin City Council to hear baseball plan details

    Proposed redevelopment plans for Joe Becker Stadium will be discussed with the Joplin City Council in a work session at the end of its regular meeting tonight. The WLD Suarez partnership has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that succeeds the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.

    April 20, 2014

  • 041814 EPA projects5_72.jpg Contaminated mine tailings could be used on west bypass

    About 500 acres of former mining land at Wildwood Ranch have been reclaimed by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings in the form of chat and waste rock have been consolidated in a surface repository that someday could be part of the roadbed for a limited-access highway that transportation planners hope to build on the west side of Joplin.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

Must Read


The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, following Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine. Do you think we should deploy these troops?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter