Wilmont Remembers: Special edition included in today’s paperWILMONT — Fifty years ago this week, a two-car, head-on crash on Minnesota 266 in Reading killed nine people, including six Wilmont residents on their way home from working the night shift at Campbell’s Soup Co. in Worthington.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WILMONT — Fifty years ago this week, a two-car, head-on crash on Minnesota 266 in Reading killed nine people, including six Wilmont residents on their way home from working the night shift at Campbell’s Soup Co. in Worthington.
The crash remains the largest tragedy in Nobles County history, and it forever impacted the residents of Wilmont who lost relatives, friends and neighbors. In all, 38 children, ages 1 to 39, were left without one or both parents.
Included in today’s edition of the Daily Globe is a special tribute in remembrance of the nine people who died. Interviews were conducted with children and siblings of the victims, when available, and information was compiled from newspaper accounts published at the time of the crash. The edition also includes columns from Ray Crippen and Lew Hudson, who reported on the tragedy, and an interview with then-deputy sheriff Jim Rotschafer.
The crash occurred at approximately 2:50 a.m. on Aug. 13, 20 minutes after the night shift ended at Campbell’s Soup.
Seven Wilmont residents were in a Ford car driven by John Voss, age 41. Passengers included his wife, Lola Voss, 39, sister-in-law Martha Voss, 49, Alice Schroer, 39, Agnes Gerber, 57, Dagney Bunkers, 43, and Elaine Lueck, 36, who was the crash’s sole survivor.
In the other vehicle were three people: driver Robert Buchman, 21, who had just a month earlier returned home after a five-year stint in the Navy; Worthington’s Dorothy Buckner, 21, whose husband was in Germany serving in the Army; and 17-year-old John Clark, who dreamed of becoming a journalist.
The trio had met up at a Worthington tavern earlier in the evening, and historical accounts say they had stopped at taverns in Round Lake and Reading, where they met up with a patron who needed a ride home to Wilmont. Buchman was offered $1 to give the man a ride. After he was dropped off, the trio headed back toward Worthington.
They had made it as far as the curve northwest of Reading before crashing head-on with the Voss car.
The community came together to help the families affected by the crash, but many in Wilmont said there was really no time to grieve. There were no counselors to help the children, the spouses and community residents with their grief. As several members of the committee planning the commemoration have said, people went on with their lives and little was ever spoken about the tragedy.
On Saturday, Wilmont will remember the tragedy with a special 10:30 a.m. memorial Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Wilmont. Following the Mass, there will be a commemoration of the memorial marker on Wilmont’s Main Street at 11:45 a.m., and a 12:30 p.m. dinner at the Wilmont Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.