The Hutchinson News, September 18, 2004.
Reunion of a lifetimeBy Clara Kilbourn
COLDWATER - For Richard "Rick" L. Beeley, his Marine sword was more than just a part of a dress uniform.
As a Vietnam combat pilot with 120 missions to his credit, Beeley's sword, with his name etched in silver lettering on one side and the Marine Corps name engraved along the blade, was a prized possession - to be treasured for a lifetime.
But that was not to be.
After he retired from the service, Beeley moved home to his family's Comanche County ranch. Several weeks later he realized his sword was missing; it had been accounted for in the moving van load inventory.
"I had already signed off on the load, and it was too late to try to do anything about it, but that was the only place it could have gone," Beeley said.
Through the years he talked about the loss to his wife, Margo. After her death and his marriage to Sherry, she heard the story, too.
"Basically, I gave up on ever seeing it again," Beeley said.
A phone call to Kansas in late May from a Dallas collector changed all that.
Erick Speck, 50, of Grapevine, Texas, had purchased a Marine sword at a Dallas gun show inscribed with the name of Richard L. Beeley. An aficionado of swords and other military memorabilia, Speck searched the Internet and found two Richard Beeleys, one in Massachusetts and another in Kansas.
The first call to Kansas was answered by Beeley's son, who didn't understand the message. Speck tried the East Coast Beeley, who hadn't been in the armed services. He made the third call, this time again to Kansas.
"I thought it might be their grandfather's sword," Speck said.
They had a bad connection, but Beeley called Speck back within 20 minutes.
"He was elated when I told him I'd like for him to have it back," Speck recalled.
Speck's story of how he acquired the sword: For years he'd searched for a Marine sword, and Beeley's was in mint condition. The dealer's selling price was $400. Speck offered $300 to no avail. He wrote the check for $400.
Speck knew the pride of a Marine for his sword, as much or even more than a Super Bowl player for his ring. He always would have wondered what had happened to the owner. He'd even checked the names on the Vietnam Wall.
Through midsummer, the two men exchanged letters, phone calls and photos.
Speck, who refuels planes at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, told Beeley the sword was his, for the same amount of $400 he'd paid.
Beeley didn't hesitate.
He made the trip to Dallas, picked up the tab for a steak dinner, and the two men cut a celebration cake using the sword as a knife.
This week Speck made a trip to Kansas to see the sword and visit his newfound friend.
"I feel good about this," Speck said. "It's hard to explain. A sword is a personal thing. To have your sword for a Marine is one of the best things you can own. It signifies everything."
What happened was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, they agreed.
"It's good to having it hanging on the wall," Beeley said. "I'm enjoying seeing it."
"The CallAir was manufactured in 1969 by Aero Commander. It has a Lycoming engine, model i0540, G1C5, and weighs 1600 lbs. This one-passenger aircraft was used for crop dusting, and was purchased by James S. Wanesek of Wanasek Aerial Spraying in Fort Scott, Kansas. It was later sold to brothers M.G. and Arthur L. Sanders of Valley Center, Kansas, who, in 1979, sold it to Richard L. Beeley of Coldwater, Kansas. Beeley used the CallAir as a cropdusting plane for 25 years and donated it (to the Mid-America Air Museum) in 2004 upon his retirement." -- Mid-America Air Museum display placard.
List of Veterans from Comanche County, Kansas
Sectional Map County, Kansas, circa 1886. Rick Beeley has flown over Comanche County, Kansas, for many years and is familiar with many of the old roads and routes in the county which are still visible from the air. This map shows stage coach routes in the county.
Crown Hill Cemetery. Two photos by Rick Beeley show the ruts of the old road from Wilmore to Coldwater which passes through the cemetery just east of Coldwater, Kansas.
TIGER 1953: The Wilmore School Yearbook, 1952-1953
Images of all 32 pages of the year book: Wilmore students, Seniors to First Graders, Administration members and Activities. (Includes a photo of "Ricky" Beeley.)
TIGER: The Wilmore School Yearbook 1958 - 1959
Images of all 23 pages of photographs of Wilmore students, Seniors to First Graders, Board of Education, Faculty and other school staff members. (Includes a photo of "Ricky" Beeley.)
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