An American Treasure

| November/December 1993

R.R. 2, Box 1055, Arcola, Illinois 61910

The year was 1943 and the great wages of world war were being fought in a deadlock battle for supremacy. A young 18 year old son of a farmer from Murdock, Illinois, answered the call to arms and exchanged a field straw hat for a navy seaman's cap and headed out to sea on the U.S.S. Stanley DD-478, DES destroyer ship. Patrolling the sea from advanced destroyer repair bases from Australia to Subic Bay, this young man was a shipmate with approximately 350 sailors who all knew one another's job. Invasions that this young sailor participated in ranged from New Britain to Okinawa. With the war behind him and a whole future ahead of him, this war veteran now returned in 1945 to farm with his father, while remaining in the Naval Reserves until 1969. Also, after the war, the bonds of marriage between this now young farmer and Wanda Meyer took place and a fine family consisting of two daughters and one son followed. Having gained steam experience on the destroyer and having been raised with farm steam engines, this now worldly man purchased a U.S. 16 HP Reeves engine in 1951. The Reeves was exhibited at the Pontiac Thresherman's Show, the Pinckneyville show, private demonstrations for neighbors at the farm site, and the annual Douglas County Historical Festival, Arcola, Illinois.

Not just satisfied with full size steam engines, interest began to shift to models. In 1979 a one-half scale, 65 HP Case model steam engine was purchased from Tom Terning, Valley Center, Kansas. To go along with the one-half scale Case, a 32 inch, one-half scale Keck Gonnerman thresher was built for threshing exhibitions. 1979 was a busy year for this enterprising farmer because an original 22 HP Advance Rumely became available for purchase. This engine was taken completely apart and all machine work performed by this proven machinist/combination farmer. In 1981, a one-half scale Ann Arbor baler was built, wood wheels and all, by this man who had baled many a day with his father, Floyd. In 1984, with the unselfish assistance of Tom Terning, a one-half scale of the 22 HP Advance Rumely began to take shape. After several calls to Tom Terning discussing different aspects of the engine in progress, it was finally completed and rolled out of the shop, picture perfect to the last detail. In 1986, a one-half scale B-4 Minneapolis Moline corn sheller was built to go along with the one-half scale Advance Rumely engine.

Today, this fellow historian is semi-retired from farming and works for the Douglas County Sheriff's office. He is presently building a one-half scale model sawmill and a radio controlled ship similar to the 10.5 ft. long C-3 cargo ship converted into a troop transport ship that he built right after the war.

The man I am writing about fought for our country in WW II, began preserving history from the war years until now, donated his spare time to his family and others who needed guidance and assistance, and today protects the good people of Douglas County against any encroachment of possible crime or bodily harm. I am proud to say that I am an acquaintance and friend of this man who has enriched my life and that of my family. Mr. Russell Helm of Murdock, Illinois, is truly an 'American Treasure.'


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