Standing guard in Our Neighborhood

There are times when life just has to be put in perspective. Yes, today is windy … but the sun is shining and 54 degrees is not so bad for April in Iowa.

The front page of the Daily Freeman for August 8, 1963, has a main story about 20 to 30 men robbing a train in England and getting away with, perhaps, more than a million pounds. It was to be known as The Great Train Robbery and history was made.

The same day’s front page contains a smaller article about a new planned enforcement of automobile safety rules, by the Webster City police, to include maintenance of private vehicles and a reminder that Second Street was a two-lane street.

Personally, I’d rather be living here than in the unbelievable confusion and consternation that possessed England that summer.

Bernard “Ding” Edwards was born on April 8, 1902, in Webster City. He grew up here with his parents and a sister. In 1927, Ding’s father, Ezra Edwards, accidentally shot and killed himself while cleaning a pistol used to defend the grocery store he owned in town. Ezra left behind a wife, daughter and son Bernard.

An advertisement in a 1937 Daily Freeman-Journal shows Bernard as the manager of a small freight line service here in Webster City. A year later Edwards was hired by the city, though an exact position is not mentioned.

Bernard became a police officer in Webster City in 1940 and by 1950 was advanced to the position of acting chief of police, becoming chief shortly after.

There are several articles in the newspaper archives that show his attention to detail on the job. In August of 1950, as one example, two men were arrested for driving a vehicle with altered license plates. Because these men were both deaf mutes, it took much time and effort to locate three Webster City residents who were used to interpret during their questioning.

An additional several hours were needed to get confessions from the two that they had, indeed, stolen the car in Springfield, Massachusetts, and altered the plates on their way west. Both were turned over to federal officials for crossing state lines in a stolen vehicle.

Not at all a normal traffic stop, to be sure.

In total, “Ding” Edwards served the residents in Webster City for 26 years before his retirement in 1964, an event covered on the front page of The Daily Freeman-Journal, not quite a year following the story of the Great Train Robbery … and the new enforcement of vehicle maintenance in Webster City.

Following his retirement, Edwards and his wife, Laurene, continued to live here in town. They moved to Story City in 1972; not long after their move, Ding’s health started to deteriorate until he was hospitalized for a time in Ames. He had returned home for a few days when he needed to be taken by ambulance back to Mary Greeley Hospital; he passed away before arriving there.

He and Laurene had been married for 56 years at the time of his passing. Now they both reside in Our Neighborhood, helping to make it a place I feel very safe to visit.

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


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