Hannibal Memories last a lifetime - Ben Pitney still misses classmate whose life was cut short in airplane crash

 

 

 

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Author: Mary Lou Montgomery, marylou.montgomery@courierpost.com

 

Kim Cox of Calgary, Canada, visited Hannibal for the first time in December 2013, as she united with the family of the father she never knew. Richard Treat , a Hannibal standout, played football at Hannibal High School, where he also excelled in athletics. He served as a military pilot during the Korean Conflict, and went down with his plane during a training mission in California in 1957. 

Kim, born after her father's death, moved to Canada with her mother's second husband, never meeting or being in contact with her natural father's family, which hailed from Hannibal. 

After a reunion in Hannibal with her aunt and cousin - Dolores Treat and her son Richard - the Courier-Post published their story on Dec. 11. 

Ben Pitney, who graduated with Richard Treat from Hannibal High School in 1951, came forward with memories of his good friend, whose life ended far too early. 

Back in high school, Pitney remembers an outing at Camp Oko Tipi, near Saverton, where the two boys camped. He said a tall tower stood at the camp's highest point, and that he and Treat snuck out of their cabin one night, hiked to the tower, then climbed to the top. 

"I don't know why we did this," Pitney said, "I think it was Rich's idea. We walked past Breezy Point cabin and the Sky High cabin. We weren't allowed to go up there during the day, so at night we thought nobody would know about it. 

"There was a boat going down the river. Rich had a search light flash light," and pointed it at the boat. "The boat was panning its search light back and forth, and put its light on us. 

"I wouldn't even mention some of the different pranks I can remember," Pitney said. 

" Richard had a lot of ideas, and was very bright. I really miss him." 

Another adventure between the two occurred on Route 168, along the river bluffs north of Hannibal. Richard Treat had access to military surplus 45-caliber pistols, plus ammunition. 

"His dad, Parker Treat . was the head of the old Missouri Home Guard. It disbanded. Richard was able to come up with some of their firearms and a lot of ammunition," Pitney said. 

Treat encouraged a group of boys to accompany him to the bluffs, where they shot offammunition. "Bang, bang, bang," Pitney described, the noise making his ears ring. "I shot four or five clips without ear protection," he said. To this day, Pitney suffers from tinnitus, a condition he traces back to that day spent with RichardTreat . 

Pitney described Treat as a big guy, with light brown hair, who was popular among his classmates. 

He had a lot of interests, including photography. "He had a place in the basement of their home on Garfield where he developed film," Pitney said. Once, during a fall festival, he took a photo of Pitney sitting atop a new tractor. "That would have been in 1949 or 1950," he said. Pitney shook his head when asked if he knew what became of that photo. 

The loss of Treat was tragic, Pitney said, a blow to his friends, family and the community. 

Class of 1951 

The Hannibal High School Class of 1951 celebrated their collective 80th birthdays this year, and members now get together monthly. Pitney believes that if Richardwas alive, he would be a part of those gatherings. 

"What holds us together (1951 classmates) is that we have a nice respect for one another. All we want to do is sit around and talk about our memories. 

Pitney's career 

Last year, Pitney was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. During his career, Pitney spent 35 years of coaching and four years as an athletic director. 

At HLG, Pitney played on the basketball team with junior college Hall of Famers Cotton Fitzsimmons and Ray Schumann. While attending HLG, Pitney twice helped the Trojans finish third in the nation before graduating from the then junior college and transferring to Truman State University. 

Pitney returned to Hannibal-LaGrange in 1966 as the head men's basketball coach. He accumulated a 79-56 record with the Trojans before leaving in 1971 to become the men's first assistant basketball coach at Truman State. 

After spending 23 seasons in Kirksville, Pitney retired from coaching and became the athletic director at Hannibal-LaGrange where he helped start the men's and women's soccer programs. He also helped establish Nichols Field, the HLGU softball field, Blackwell Field, and the soccer practice field, now known as Pitney Field. 

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