In Memoriam May 2019

Jean Banks

Jean M. Banks, 82, of Sandwich, Ill., died March 7, 2019.

She was born Jan. 10, 1937, in Decatur, Ill., the daughter of William and Louise (Grathwohl) Schalla. She married Lester E. Banks on Dec. 26, 1970, in Moline, Ill.

Mrs. Banks started out her nursing career in 1958 in the Quad Cities, then continued her career at Copley Hospital in Aurora, Ill., with her final place of work being a transplant nurse at Met Life, from which she retired in 1992.

She was a member of Moline Lutheran Church and later became a member of the United Methodist Church of Sandwich. She was a member of the Speedy Fillies Organization.

Mrs. Banks enjoyed watching horse racing and Hallmark movies. She was a creative painter, enjoyed reading a good book, and had a great love for Christmas, which led to her collecting Santa Clauses. She made sure her Sandwich Fair toothpick holder collection was always up to date. She was a longtime owner of Standardbreds. Her greatest love of all was the time she spent with her family and her dog Sophie, who will miss her tremendously.

She is survived by her husband, Les; children, Rodney (Leesa), Jay (Linda) Leonard, Scott, Gay (George) Leonard-Jahad, Rhonda (Lonnie) Newton, Frank (MaryBeth), Jody (Ronda) Leonard and Raymond; brother, William (Julie) Schalla; brother-in-law, Dwight (Teri); grandchildren, Glenn, Catie, Bekky, Andy, Jared, Leslie, Randee, Sheila, John, Cassandra, Julia and Becky; great-grandchildren, Garett, Emit, Wyette, Haily, Tyler, Kayla, Annah, Ryan, Ruthee, Payton, Haley, McKenna, Robbie, MaryJo, Frankie, Sammie, Gavin, Elsie and Charlotte; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents; and daughter, Patty. Memorial contributions may be directed to Divine Hospice and Palliative Care, LLC in Yorkville, Ill. (www.divine-hospice.com).

 

Harry “Bill” Braden

Harry W. “Bill” Braden, 87, of Morton, Ill., formerly of Las Vegas, Nev., died March 11, 2019, at his home.

He was born June 8, 1931, in Chicago, Ill., to Harold and Vera Braden. He married Patty Lou Wright on Sept. 24, 1950, in Brownstown, Ill.

Mr. Braden served in the U.S. Army, where he received the Korean Service Medal, with two bronze stars, for his years of service during the Korean War in the A Company of the 453rd Engineer Construction Battalion.

He also had a lifelong love of horses and worked as a Standardbred trainer and driver in Illinois. He and his wife, Patty, raced Standardbreds throughout the country, coast-to-coast. He also was an assistant trainer for Delvin Miller and was proud to have trained Meadow Skipper and raced Darn Safe. He worked for Hayes Fair Acres and won the 1963 Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes with Dandy Date. He and Patty loved experiencing the success of his brother-in-law Bill Wright’s Hambletonian horses, Dreamaster and Classic Photo.

He was a member of the USTA, Masonic Lodge and Morton VFW Post 5921.

Mr. Braden is survived by a brother-in-law, Bill (Maddy) Wright; three beloved nephews, Lindsay Wright, Craig (Tammy) Wright and Kevin (Wendy) Wright; two great-nephews, Jordan Wright and Alex Wright; and two great-nieces, Taylor Wright and Megan Wright, whom he dearly loved.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Patty, on May 31, 2010; and by one brother and four sisters.

Memorial contributions may be made to OSF Financial Assistance, c/o OSF HealthCare, 800 N.E. Glen Oak Ave., Peoria, IL 61603. Checks may be made payable to Sister Diane Marie McGrew with “OSF Financial Assistance” written in the memo.

 

Wilbur Kirkwood

Wilbur D. Kirkwood, 86, of Townsend, Del., died March 18, 2019.

Mr. Kirkwood—or “Will,” as he preferred to be called—was born on Aug. 15, 1932, in Bel Air, Md. He graduated from Dublin High School in 1949 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1951. He served aboard the USS Midway, which is now docked and serving as a museum in San Diego.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1954, Mr. Kirkwood moved to Delaware where he worked at Delaware Power and Light at the Edgemoor and Delaware City power plants for 12 years. He sold insurance for Mass Mutual and Sun Life and worked in real estate with Nick Gentile. Never wanting to be bored with life, Mr. Kirkwood began training and driving Standardbreds in the early 1970s, racing at Dover Downs as well as Harrington, Ocean City, Rosecroft and Liberty Bell raceways.

For 10 years, Mr. Kirkwood worked for St. Andrew’s School, teaching students how to build sets for school productions. He found his greatest joy working on the family horse farm.

Throughout his life, Mr. Kirkwood was a tireless and selfless volunteer in many organizations. He was the president of the Middletown Jaycees and served as the Delaware State president.

During his term as state president in 1968, he led the Delaware Jaycees to fifth in the nation. In 1972, he founded the Middletown Chamber of Commerce and served as the charter president for many years. The chamber honors him each year by awarding a deserving member the Will Kirkwood President’s Award.

During the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Kirkwood was very active in the Middletown Pony Club where his daughters rode and showed horses. He helped organize and announce horse shows and helped with building jumps and fences for riding competitions.

As a longtime member of the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend Rotary Club, Mr. Kirkwood served as the president from 1979-1980 and held many other roles within the organization. He was a member of the Sgt. William Lloyd Nelson VFW Post 3792 and served as quartermaster and then commander for six years.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Kirkwood joined the Coast Guard auxiliary and served as flotilla captain. He served as a board member for many years for the MOT Senior Center and the Everett Theatre. He was very active in ACT, Inc., the group responsible for revitalizing the theater in the early 1980s.

Mr. Kirkwood served as the master of ceremonies for many groups and shared his humor with everyone. As a horseman, he was a member of the USTA.

Mr. Kirkwood is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Charlotte; his children, Sharon (Bob) Wyatt, Stephanie (Doug) Wright and Rene Nolan; his grandchildren, Sharon (Ramon), Amy (Drew), Lyndsey (Nate), Alison (Chris), Samantha, Sara, Jena and Zach; his great-grandchildren, Alex, Matthew, Weston, Cody and Paxton; and his brother, Edwin. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin L. and Estelle M.; his sister, Laura Jane Morone; and his daughter, Natalie.

Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Mr. Kirkwood’s daughter Natalie to Easterseals, Camp Fairlee Manor, 61 Corporate Circle, New Castle, DE 19720.

 

Barry Langley

Barry W. Langley, 33, died suddenly at home on March 6, 2019, due to heart issues.

He was a member of the American Indian Coushatta Tribe in Louisiana. Prior to graduation at Lebanon High School, he was on the wrestling and tennis teams.

Mr. Langley was a well-known Standardbred trainer in the states of Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, New York and New Jersey for the last 15 years. He made many friends throughout his travels, but his Ohio friends, especially Aaron Merriman and Josh Sutton, were closest to him. Most remember him as the kindest and most caring friend. Standing 6’5″, he was also known as “The Chief” and the “Gentle Giant.” He started more than 2,200 horses over his training career, which began in 2004, with 374 winners and $1,899,828 in purse earnings.

He was a member of the USTA and the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association.

He was preceded in death by his grandfathers, Doug Stovall and Chief Alvin Langley; and a great-grandmother, Vivian White. He is survived by his father, Barry (Ethel) Freeze; mother, Lois Stovall (Marilyn Langley); beloved daughter, Lucy Jean; life partner, Jessica Duval; siblings, Jeremy (Katie Walker), Dylan Pittman, Heather Garza and Daniel Battise; stepbrothers and sisters, Rachelle Doss, Jimmy Coomer and Crystal Lowerty; uncle, William (Mariane) Freeze; aunt, Margie (Gene) Bustle; nieces, Allison, Jesse and Myra; and many more cousins.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Barry Langley Fund on behalf of Lucy Jean Langley at any Lebanon Citizens National Bank or at 50 North Broadway, Lebanon, OH 45036.

 

Donato Latessa

Donato “Don” Pasquale Latessa, 92, died Feb. 19, 2019, in Pompano Beach, Fla.

He was surrounded by his cherished family; wife, Victoria (Fatica); son, Nathaniel (Emily); and daughter, Alexandra Latessa-Vorvolakos (Vasilios).

Mr. Latessa was born in 1926 in Collinwood, Ohio, into a family of eight children. All are deceased except for his youngest brother, Gerald (Angela), who lives in Florida. His first wife of 37 years, Laverne Mencini, preceded him in death. He leaves behind his loving wife, Victoria, to whom he was married 32 years.

Mr. Latessa led an incredible life. In his senior year of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served his country for two years in the Philippines. After discharge, he worked at multiple jobs while he attended Fenn College of Engineering. He went on to purchase the company he worked for, Regal Diamond Grinding Wheel.

In 1956, he patented a flexible abrasive grinding wheel. He further expanded his business and developed Finishers Supply Company. At 46 years old, he sold his companies and went into horse racing.

Mr. Latessa served on the board of directors at the Painesville (Ohio) Fairgrounds for many years. He was the owner, trainer and driver of many Standardbreds before becoming a judge at multiple tracks, including The Meadowlands, Rosecroft, Delmarva Downs and Garden State Park. In 1989, he presided over the only two-horse dead heat in the history of the Hambletonian. He was highly respected and admired by all who knew him through business, racing, family, friends and life.

Mr. Latessa embraced life. He was an avid sportsman and enjoyed bowling, hunting, fishing and golfing. As a horseman, he cared for and drove his own Standardbreds. He was a pilot and loved to fly his airplanes. He also loved to sing, dance, read, cook and learn anything new. Most of all, he loved and cherished his wife, children and grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (www.stjude.org).

 

Lawrence Marsh

Lawrence E. “Larry” Marsh, 86, died peacefully in his home in Safford, Ariz., on Feb. 16, 2019.

Mr. Marsh was the creator of the first Arlington Million, co-founder of Hollywood Park Racetrack in Los Angeles, and a member of the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Son of the late Ernest S. Marsh and Agnes LaLonde Marsh and loving brother of Jack, Peggy (Lambert), Neva Jo (Schiltz) and Colleen (McCarthy), he is survived by 14 adoring nieces and nephews, their many children, and their children’s children.

His love for his family was only rivaled by his deep love for animals. He raised many award-winning horses and dogs throughout his lifetime and devoted extensive time to rescuing and re-homing animals due to natural disasters.

Possessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Marsh began his working career as a cook at Evanston (Ill.) Hospital in Illinois at age 13 before attending the University of Colorado, where he studied marketing. After graduating, a stint in the U.S. Navy and a short while working as an engineer on the Santa Fe Railway, he embarked on a decorated and trailblazing career as a Hall of Fame horseman.

He was lauded as “the man who really changed the face of” and “the finest thing ever to happen in the history of” Illinois racing (John Berry, “Illinois Sulky News,” Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1967). During his tenure in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, he impacted nearly every aspect of the business.

Working as a lobbyist and director of racing and racing secretary for Arlington Park and Washington Park, he was also founder of Marsh Stud, a state-of-the-art breeding and training facility that was home to celebrated horses Poplar Byrd, Egyptian Dancer, Nevele Dancer and more. His passion for the industry took him to California, where he co-founded the Hollywood Park Racetrack and served as a USTA director.

A man of endless curiosity, unsurmountable drive, and impressive vision, Mr. Marsh will forever be remembered by those that loved him for his passion, beautiful voice, laugh that could light up any room, and the love and generosity he brought to his family and friends.

Memorial contributions may be made to Illinois Equine Humane Center, 47W635 Beith Rd., Maple Park, IL 60151 or PAWS, P.O. Box 1037, Lynn-wood, WA 98046.

 

Thomas Meehan

Thomas J. Meehan II, 76, of Browns Mills, N.J., and formerly of Columbus, N.J., died March 24, 2019, at Samaritan Hospice in Mount Holly, N.J.

He was born in Long Island, N.Y., to the late Thomas and Rose Meehan on Dec. 3, 1942. Mr. Meehan grew up in Queens and later moved to New Jersey where he pursued his love of Standardbreds. He worked as a trainer and driver and later went on to own and operate T & C Stables.

Mr. Meehan was a true horseman and loved animals. Throughout his life, he also bred Great Danes and Corgis and owned several macaws. Mr. Meehan also enjoyed gambling and playing pool, bridge and poker, but his greatest pastime was spending time with his family. He loved hosting family gatherings, caring for his wife and being with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend who will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

Mr. Meehan is survived by his adored wife, Cynthia; son, Thomas J. Meehan III; stepson, Lawrence Wells; stepdaughter, Karen Wells; daughter-in-law, Rita Nacchio; six grandchildren, Nicholas Wells (fiancé Cure McKenzie), Chrystal, Shawn, Samantha Wells, Rachel Ralston and Christopher Ralston; two great-grandchildren, Adrian Wells and Dominic Bilyeu; first wife and friend, Roseann Meehan; and dear friends, Bob and Clara Koty, Jeanne and Nick Tomlinson, Joann and Marvin Maker, Robert and Marie Hutson and Lee Chambers, along with many others.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Rose Meehan (nee Frank); and by his stepdaughter, Nadine Wells.

Memorial contributions may be made in Mr. Meehan’s memory to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, 42 Arneytown-Hornerstown Rd., Cream Ridge, NJ 08514 (www.adoptahorse.org).

 

Eugene Oldford

Eugene D. “Gene” Oldford, 86, died Feb. 26, 2019, at Blue Water Hospice Home in Michigan.

He was a harness racing breeder, owner and administrator, and was inducted into the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame in 2013.

Mr. Oldford was a longtime member of the MHHA board of directors, past president of Harness Horsemen International, and member of the USTA. He received the 2014 HHI Person of the Year Award, as well as multiple honors from MHHA, including Board Member of the Year and Owner of the Year, plus an Appreciation Award.

Among his favorite horses was Godiva Hall, a multiple stakes-winner and world record-setting female trotter, in the mid-2000s. Other top horses included pacers Billmar Scooter and Park Avenue. His current group of horses included stakes winners Two AM and Chin Chin Hall, a 3-year-old trotter who is eligible to this year’s Hambletonian.

His son, Stephen, is a USTA director and amateur driving champion.

Mr. Oldford was born to parents Stephen and Clara (Hallett) Oldford on July 28, 1932, in Detroit. He graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1950 and attended St. Clair County Jr. College and the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Panama.

Along with his brother, Bill, he acquired Huron Tool and Manufacturing, now Huron Inc., in Lexington, from their father Stephen in 1958. The company was sold to U.S. Industries in 1968. In 1973, he founded Oldford and Associates, an automotive manufacturer’s representative sales firm, where he continued to work until his unexpected death. He was also co-founder of Black River Manufacturing, Port Huron, along with partners Jarold Hawks and Isaac Lang Jr.

Always active in his community, Mr. Oldford served in various leadership roles on the Worth Township Board, Boy Scouts of America, Jaycees, Croswell-Lexington Little League, Masonic Lodge and Trinity Episcopal Church.

Over the years, he gave generously to his community, establishing the Stephen and Clara Oldford Scholarship fund to assist students attending St. Clair County Community College.

Mr. Oldford is survived by his three children, Stephen (Gale), Susan Zappa and Laurie. He was blessed with five loving grandchildren, Michelle (Manny) Chavez, Troy (Kelly), Kara, Joey Zappa and Vincent; and three great-grandchildren, Alex Chavez, Bensen Chavez and Brooklyn. He is also survived by special friend, Nancy Edmonson; brother, William; sister-in-law, Jill Meyers; niece, Kathy (Gwen) Johansen; and nephews, Will (Ann Marie) and Douglas (Amy) Gough. He was preceded in death by Sandra S., Barbara L. Edwards and Joseph R. Zappa.

Mr. Oldford was a loving and generous man who made friends wherever he went. He deeply loved his family and friends and lived a very active and full life.

Memorials contributions may be made to Project Blessing at Trinity Episcopal Church (www.trinitylexington.org/project-blessing), Blue Water Hospice (www.vnabwh.com), the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame (www.harnessmuseum.com) or New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program (www.horseadoption.com).

 

Edward Rohr

Edward R. Rohr III, 72, lovingly known to all as “Bamps,” died March 18, 2019, at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough, Maine, after a brief battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his loving family.

Mr. Rohr was born in Exeter, N.H., on Sept. 8, 1946, the son of Edward “Rudy” Rohr II and Eleanor Jewell Rohr. He graduated from Exeter High School in 1964. He then started cooking at Weeks Restaurant until he entered the U.S. Army in 1966, where he served as a private in Germany for three years.

While serving, he was a kitchen supervisor and participated in the Army band, receiving a National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. When he returned home, he worked for Oyster River School District as the Food Service Director for eight years.

In April of 1980, he opened the Rohr Family Restaurant in Exeter, N.H., which he ran with his brother, David, for 17 years. He then moved on to become a head baker for the Rockingham County Complex in Brentwood, N.H., for 13 years.

Throughout his entire life, Mr. Rohr’s biggest passion was harness racing. He grew up frequenting racetracks with his father and continued on the tradition with his children. In 1989, the dream of owning his own racehorse came true when he purchased the mare Knightly Blue Girl. He genuinely loved the sport, and he passed that love on to his children as well. He was very proud of all his children and the work ethic he instilled in them. In recent years, he could always be found at the track rooting on his grandson, who is working on becoming a professional Standardbred driver, which was another dream come true for him.

The family would like to thank Mercy Hospital staff and Gosnell Memorial Hospice House staff for their kindness and loving care of Mr. Rohr.

He is survived by his children, Douglass (Rebecca), Gretchen Athearn (Mark) and Heidi Rohr Nickerson (Jimmy); six grandchildren, Heath DeButts, Matthew Athearn, Kyle Athearn, Hunter, Haley, and Emery Nickerson; nephew, Adam (Jaclyn); niece, Amanda (daughter Kylie); and best friend, Don Harmon (Joan). He was preceded in death by his parents and brother.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association Scholarship Fund, c/o Donna Dubois, P.O. Box 436, Augusta, ME 04332.

 

Kirk Sparks

Kirk A. Sparks, 47, died on March 11, 2019.

He was born Jan. 31, 1972, to the late Oakley L. and Virgie M. (Coffman) Sparks. He was born in Marion, Ohio, and graduated from Pleasant High School. He married Cary D. Williams on April 24, 1999, at Grace Baptist Church in Marion by Rev. Bill Middleton.

Mr. Sparks loved training horses with his dad, Oakley, and worked as a trainer off and on for 27-plus years.

If Mr. Sparks was known by one thing, it was the love he had for his kids—he doted on them. He was so proud of their academic and sports accomplishments. He also taught them the value of hard work. In his spare time, he loved to hunt and fish, but regularly had his kids going with him.

Mr. Sparks is survived by his wife, Cary D. (Williams); son, Mason A.; daughter, Laine M.; brother, Oakley L. (Tina); as well as many friends and coworkers. He was preceded in death by his parents, Oakley and Virgie.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the charity of one’s choice. HB

 

Please send obituaries to In Memoriam, Hoof Beats, 6130 S. Sunbury Rd., Westerville, OH 43081-9309. You can also send them by email to news@ustrotting.com, or by fax to 844.229.1338 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or 614.224.4575 (outside the U.S. and Canada). Obituaries are subject to editing for clarity and space.

 

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