For many people, the 50th anniversary of an event is a happy affair.
But for the family of William Stender, and the others involved, what happened May 15, 1963 was indeed a tragic event.
Stender was serving as a part-time policeman for the City of Miller. He was the victim of a two-car accident at the corner of East First St. and Third Avenue East at about 10:15 p.m.
According to the Press account May 23, 1963, Police officer Dean Morford was driving the police car, in which Stender was a passenger, traveling east on First Street. The other car, driven by Terry Johnson, was traveling south on East Third Avenue.
Stender was killed as a result of the impact. One of the seven youths was in the other car received serious injuries.
Although Stender may not be a familiar name in Hand County today, the family had close ties until about the mid-20th century.
Stender himself was born January 3, 1896 in Howell Township, to Adolph and Dora Stender. He lived his entire life in the county except when he was in the service in World War II.
He married Nellie Shaw in 1924, and they lived south of Miller until 1952, when they moved in to town.
He was a carpenter by trade and specialized in finish work. He was a co-janitor at the Hand County Courthouse from 1959 until 1961.
He joined the Miller Police Department March 31, 1963…and had only received two paychecks from the City before his death.
His funeral was held at Trinity Lutheran Church, Miller, and he was buried in the GAR Cemetery.
According to Sharon, William and Nellie had only one child, Willard. Willard served in the Navy, then worked at a creamery in Miller. In 1954, he moved to Leavenworth, Wash. and later Yakima and then Olympia, Wash.
Willard had four children, Judy, Sherry, Billy and Timmy. Willard’s granddaughter remembers, “Grandpa’s dad’s death made a significant impact. Daddy changed. He left with black hair (for S.D.) and came back with gray hair. He was so sad after that.”
The oldest child, Judy, was ready to graduate…and Grandpa didn’t get to see that.
The granddaughter, Sherry (Sharon) took driver’s ed, and couldn’t bear to watch films of accidents.
So, says Megiveron, the tragedy had widespread, long-lasting results.
And to add to the tragedy, Nellie was on her way to Washington, riding with Sam and Verlyn Miller, of Huron to see a new great-grandchild, and spend Christmas, seven months after William Stender’s death. The vehicle was hit by a truck near Missoula, Mont., on December 7, and Nellie was killed.
Nellie was a sister of George Shaw of South Hand, Edward Shaw of Ree Heights, Mrs. Fred Bingham of Miller, and a brother, Charles, of Oregon.
“They (William and Nellie) both died instantly,” said Megiveron.
According to Deputy Police Chief, Wayne Ames, hopes are to have a memorial plaque installed at City Hall in honor of William Stender. Fifty years after the fact, it would be a good time to honor a man who lived his life in Hand County, and died in service to his community.