Tag Archives: Lincoln High School

Entire Richard Rickman Family Killed in 1960 Plane Crash in Chicago

As he prepared his six-seat Beechcraft C35 Bonanza airplane for takeoff, Richard E. Rickman asked airport manager John Stedman if he should take the most direct route, across expansive Lake Michigan to Detroit. Stedman cautioned against it, telling the pilot to fly east across Wisconsin to the lake, then hug the shore and make his way over to Michigan. This approach would presumably be safer, and provide great views for Rickman, his wife and four children.

It was just after the dinner hour on Labor Day 1960. The Rickman family packed themselves into the aircraft at Alexander Field in Wisconsin Rapids, ready to make the flight home to Detroit. The family had been to Drummond, Wis., to visit Helen Rickman’s parents, then flew to the Rapids to visit other relatives.

Richard, the son of a longtime shoe-store proprietor, grew up in Wisconsin Rapids. He was a descendant of pioneer resident Matthias Hanneman, who came to Wisconsin in 1866 from Pomerania. A factory representative for the Ogden Manufacturing Co., Rickman married the former Helen Anderson in December 1949 and they later moved to Michigan. Their first child, Richard Edward, was born in Lansing in May 1953. Robert John was born in Lansing in March 1955. Catherine Helen was born in Detroit in June 1956; and Patricia Ann joined the family in Detroit in September 1957.

The Richard E. Rickman family, shown in a 1960 newspaper photograph. Left to right are Richard, 7; Patricia, 3; Richard Sr., 35; Robert, 5; Helen, 34; and Catherine, 4.
The Richard E. Rickman family, shown in a 1960 newspaper photograph. Left to right are Richard, 7; Patricia, 3; Richard Sr., 35; Robert, 5; Helen, 34; and Catherine, 4.

The final day of the Rickmans’ visit was spent at the airfield. Rickman gave plane rides to his sister, Elvira Pluke, her husband Nolan and their five children. Rickman primarily used the single-engine aircraft for business trips. The family had recently flown to California in the plane, and then used it for the Labor Day weekend visit.

The wheels of the Beechcraft left the ground of Alexander Field at 6:30 p.m. The Rickman family flew along the western shore of Lake Michigan. They were treated to an incredible view of the Chicago skyline as the aircraft flew less an a mile offshore. The first sign of trouble came near 7:30 p.m., when Rickman issued distress calls that were heard by ships and aircraft as far north as Milwaukee. Rickman radioed Meigs Field in downtown Chicago and asked permission to make an emergency landing because the plane’s engine was cutting out.

Officials at Meigs Field gave Rickman permission for an emergency landing. He veered the aircraft out over the lake and circled to attempt a landing. Witnesses at nearby Oak Street Beach saw sparks trailing from the airplane. The 185-horsepower Continental engine caught fire and became enveloped in smoke. Suddenly, the 25-foot-long airplane turned straight down and plunged headlong into the lake. Hundreds of horrified beach-goers saw a blinding explosion as the plane hit the water.

The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune carried the horrifying news on September 6, 1960.
The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune carried the horrifying news on September 6, 1960.

William J. Cempleman saw the fiery crash from aboard the yacht Playtime. “The whole lake looked afire. Flames soared twenty-five to thirty feet,” Cempleman said. “When we got to the scene, a big circle of water was flaming. All we could see was an airplane wheel floating.” As the Playtime circled the crash site, Cempleman saw the charred body of little Catherine Rickman, 4, floating about 15 feet from the flames. Newspapers across America later published a dramatic Associated Press photograph of a police marine officer carrying the lifeless body of Catherine to shore. Resuscitation efforts failed.

Lifeguard Bill Zimmerman with a door from the doomed Beechcraft C35 Bonanza. (Chicago Tribune)
Lifeguard Bill Zimmerman with a door from the doomed Beechcraft C35 Bonanza piloted by Richard E. Rickman. (Chicago Tribune)

Police and Coast Guard vessels searched the waters off Oak Street Beach into the night. Divers used underwater lights to aid in the search, but found no trace of the aircraft or the other members of the Rickman family. Divers resume the search on September 6, but did not locate the wreckage or the other victims until September 7. Diver Jeff Daxe, a commercial pilot, was the first to reach the bodies. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that one body was found 50 feet from the fuselage, while the other four were inside the wreckage. After the victims were recovered and taken to Burnham Harbor, it was discovered that Richard Rickman’s watch stopped at 7:38 p.m. 

The impact sheared off both wings, but only one was found. The engine and propeller were found some distance from the rest of the wreckage in about 30 feet of water. Two weeks after the crash, the Civil Aeronautics Board issued a preliminary opinion that engine failure had caused the crash. In late October the CAB confirmed that opinion, but said the engine would be sent back to the manufacturer for testing. It’s unknown if that ever happened.

The six members of the Rickman family were memorialized at a funeral service on Saturday, September 10, 1960 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids. They were buried at Forest Hill Cemetery.

The six members of the Richard E. Rickman family are buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Wisconsin Rapids.
The six members of the Richard E. Rickman family are buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Wisconsin Rapids. (Photo courtesy of Ben Chitek)

Richard Edwin Rickman was born on April 27, 1926, the youngest child of Edwin and Renata (Rathke) Rickman. Edwin John Rickman was the son of Christian Wilhelm Ludwig Theodor and Amelia Bertha Emilie Auguste (Hannemann) Rickman. Amelia’s father was August Friedrich Hanneman, the son of family patriarch Matthias Hannemann. Richard Rickman graduated from Lincoln High School in 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1943. He served more than three years in the Navy during World War II and was discharged as an ensign in September 1960. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in business administration.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Eye on the Past: 1914 Wisconsin Debate Team

“The victory is not always with the strong.” Thus was the conclusion of the editors of the Ahdahwagam yearbook at Grand Rapids Lincoln High School, in recounting the 1914 performance of the school’s debate team versus nearby Marshfield.

The best Lincoln High School had to offer.
The debate team represented the best Lincoln High School had to offer.

The young men were fully prepared and valiently presented their assigned negative proposition. The question at hand, the editors reasoned, simply lent itself more easily to the affirmative: “Resolved, that the policy of fixing a minimum wage by state boards is desirable.” Marshfield won the judges’ nod on this day. “It was merely on of those times when fortune turns her wheel, then closes her eyes, letting it stay where it may.”

The young men pictured in the image, the yearbook stated, were among the very best the school had developed. Participants in forensics tended to also be those involved in other worthy extracurricular pursuits, such as athletics, music and culture. “This is what every well-organized high school should stand for,” the yearbook read, “and we are proud of the boys who represented us in debate.” Indeed, several of them went on to serve their country as soldiers in World War I. The debate team lineup:

Top Row
  • Carlton Frederick Stamm (1896-1988)
  • Leon Francis Foley (1894-1978)
  • Karl L. Zimmerman
Middle Row
  • Victor A. Bornick (1893-1954)
  • Bert W. Wells (coach, 1887-1969)
  • Myron D. Hill (1896-1957)
Bottom Row
  • Charles Harold Babcock (1895-1971)
  • Raymond Cole Mullen (1895-1944)
  • Neil Edward Nash (1894-1976)

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Grand Rapids Nabs 1918 Basketball Championship

It was a basketball season for the ages at Grand Rapids Lincoln High School. After a 14-1 season, the team stormed into the 14th annual Wisconsin state basketball tournament held March 20-22, 1918 at Lawrence College in Appleton. By defeating Columbus (32-25), Marinette (34-25) and Wausau (27-15), Grand Rapids secured its first Wisconsin state championship. Three Rapids players made the All-State team.

Three members of the squad were named All-State after winning the championship.
Three members of the squad were named All-State after winning the championship.
In the team photo, back row:
  • William Smith (1900-1991)
  • Arthur H. Plahmer (1899-1984)
  • Coach Elmer J. Abrahamson (1891-1978)
  • Roy T. “Cap” Normington (1899-1960)
  • Raymond A. “Jock” Johnston (1900-1977)
In the front row:
  • Arthur “Worry” Kluge (1898-1974)
  • Stanley S. “Pudge” Stark (1900-1979)
  • Walter F. “Kaiser” Fritz (1898-1964)

Stark was the team captain and scoring champion with 205 points. He was named a forward on the All-State team. The other All-State honorees were Plahmer (center) and Smith (guard). The only defeat of the season came at the hands of Nekoosa during sectionals play. The season high score was achieved January 18, 1918 with a 64-12 drubbing of Wautoma. A week later, that same Wautoma team nearly knocked off Rapids before falling 18-16.

The irony of the 1917-1918 season is that the school year started with  no basketball coach on the payroll at Lincoln High School. In short order, the services of Elmer J. Abrahamson were secured for the season. A 1915 graduate of Lawrence College, Abrahamson was a star college athlete in basketball, track and the pentathlon. Abrahamson only stayed for the championship season. He went on to a long teaching career in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He died in 1978.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

When a Movie was More Than Just a Movie

When was the last time your visit to the Cineplex included live entertainment? (The bratty 5-year-old in front of you throwing popcorn at his brother does not count.) The movie theater was once about much more than movies, and the price of admission included live performances, newsreels, comedy shorts and more. For years our own Ruby V. Hanneman was a featured performer at some of Wisconsin Rapids finest cinemas, and her name appeared in ads right alongside Silent Era stars of the day like Neal Hart, Ricardo Cortez, Doris Kenyon and Jack Holt.

Ruby Treutel Hanneman was the musical attraction during the showing of The Spaniard.
Ruby Treutel Hanneman was the musical attraction during the showing of The Spaniard in October 1925.

Ruby often appeared at the Ideal Theatre at 220 E. Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids. She sang a “musical novelty” at two shows on Halloween night 1925. The main attraction was The Thundering Herd, a movie based on the 1925 novel by Zane Grey. (Zane Grey happened to be a favorite author of Carl F. Hanneman and his son David, but we digress.) Seats that night were just 10 cents or 25 cents, half off the typical ticket prices.

On Thanksgiving 1925, Ruby sang for the audience at Paramount Pictures In the Name of Love, starring Ricardo Cortez and Greta Nissen. Ruby sang two numbers, “Lonesome, That’s All,” and “In the Garden of Tomorrow.” The 15 cent and 35 cent admission also included the Wisconsin Rapids Quintette, newsreels and a Will Rogers comedy.

Ruby Treutel sang as a prologue to The Dressmaker from Paris.
Ruby Treutel sang as a prologue to The Dressmaker from Paris.

Ruby got perhaps her most prominent billing for the October 17, 1925 showing of The Spaniard. Her name was most prominent in the ad in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune. “Added Attraction, Mrs. Ruby Hanneman in a Musical Novelty, Pleasethe ad read. On Aug. 25, 1925 she appeared at the New Palace Theater singing, “I Wonder What’s Become of Sally.” The feature film that night was Born Rich starring Bert Lytell and Claire Windsor.

Ruby V. Treutel dressed for her lead role in the musical 'Sylvia' in 1922.
Ruby V. Treutel dressed for her lead role in the operetta ‘Sylvia’ in 1922.

By the time she starred at the New Palace and the Ideal, Ruby was a veteran singer. According to the April 4, 1921 edition of the Daily Tribune, Ruby Treutel “brought down the applause of the house time after time” for her performance in the play “The Fire Prince” at Daly’s Theater. Ruby was 17 at the time.

Now known as Mrs. Carl Hanneman, Ruby sang before the showing of Zane Grey's "The Thundering Herd."
Now known as Mrs. Carl Hanneman, Ruby sang before the showing of Zane Grey’s “The Thundering Herd.”

When she graduated from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids in 1922, Ruby had years of experience in music and drama. She played the female lead in the operetta Sylvia during her senior year. She was also president of the Glee Club. Under her senior class portrait in the yearbook The Ahdawagam read the motto, “Music hath charms and so does she.”

©2014 The Hanneman Archive