The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

2012.05.16 Indy 500 time recalls unusual old stories

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

The Indianapolis 500 is fertile ground for interesting and sometimes tragic stories, not all taking place at the racetrack itself. The careers and deaths of drivers Norman Batten and Earl DeVore are prime examples.

Both drivers first participated in the race in 1925. DeVore started the race in 15th spot and drove to a 13th place finish. Batten had a slightly more interesting story.

Not qualifying for a starting spot, Batten was called on to drive in relief of Pete DePaolo, who, although leading the race, was suffering from blistered hands caused by vibrations from the rough track surface.  Batten kept the car in contention, and after DePaolo had a break to rest and get his hands bandaged, the car was turned back over to Pete for the end of the race. 

The average speed for the race-winning duo was over 101 miles per hour, the first time the 100 mph barrier was broken. However, since Batten drove only in the middle portion of the race, he received no credit as a co-winner. That requires a driver to either start or finish the race in the car.

In both 1924 and 1941, two drivers shared the Indy 500 winning car (and credit). A situation like Batten’s also occurred in the first “500” in 1911, when Cyrus Patschke drove in relief mid-race for winner Ray Harroun. Patschke actually was the one who put the car into the lead, but Harroun got all the credit.

In 1926, Batten finally qualified for the race, starting 16th and finishing a rain-shortened event in seventh place. This time, it was DeVore who failed to qualify.

Both drivers made the field in 1927, with DeVore starting 15th and racing all the way to second place. Yet 30th place Norman Batten was the hero of the race.

On lap 24, Batten’s fuel tank split and his car was soon engulfed in flames. Nearing the pit entrance, Batten chose to stay on the track rather than steer the blazing race car onto a pit road full of people and fuel tanks. The brave driver stood up on his seat to get as far away from the fire as possible and steered the car down the front stretch the entire length of the pits. 

After finally passing the exit of pit road, Batten drove the car into an unoccupied area in the infield and bailed out. The courageous Batten suffered relatively minor burns.

Batten scored a career-high finish in a self-owned car in 1928 while DeVore wound up in 18th place. This time, Batten’s car started leaking oil which splattered on his right leg and foot. Rather than give up, he continued on, suffering burns for the second straight year, but ultimately finishing in fifth place. Neither he or DeVore could know at the time it would be their last time at Indianapolis or what fate had in store for them.

After the end of the 1928 racing season, Batten and DeVore decided to take their families on a trip to Europe. It would cost both men their lives.

They booked passage on the S.S. Vestris, which encountered a storm, then began sinking after its ballast shifted. A few crewmen tried to help passengers, but the most cowardly of them grabbed lifeboats and saved themselves, leaving passengers on their own.

Accounts from survivors said that Batten assisted at least a dozen passengers into lifeboats before sharks attacked and killed him. Meanwhile, DeVore helped his wife and son Billy, as well as Batten’s wife Marian, into lifeboats, then began helping other passengers. Like Batten, DeVore was attacked and eaten by the sharks as crewmen in a nearby lifeboat refused pleas to save him.  

Six months later, as the 1929 Indy 500 neared, Marian Batten entered her late husband’s car in the race as a memorial. Qualified and driven by Wes Crawford, it finished in 15th place. 

 Nine years after his father’s death, DeVore’s son Billy qualified for the 1937 Indy 500, finishing in seventh place. He also raced in the next five scheduled 500’s, before missing the 1947 event. He made his final “500” field the following year.

Car owner Pat Clancy entered a six-wheeled car for the 1948 “500,” featuring two rear axles with four wheels. Extra wheels provided more traction in turns, but increased drag on the straightaways, making the six-wheeler slower than conventional cars.

But Billy DeVore took on the strange, balky racer, qualifying in 20th spot and driving to 12th place on race day. DeVore finally retired in the early 1950’s, ending the saga of the Batten and DeVore families at Indianapolis.

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