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Dr. Lucke looked over health concerns of Marion County

Dr. Lucke is pictured leaving the Maddox house on Hope Street in Hannibal in 1947. He had affixed a quarantine sign to the front door when young Tommy Maddox contracted scarlet fever. MADDOX FAMILY PHOTO


Hired in the spring of 1926 as Marion County’s new health officer, 36-year-old Dr. Eugene M. Lucke started a crusade which would continue throughout his lifetime: Improving health conditions in the county where he was born and raised.

The youngest son of H.A. and Louise Lucke was born in 1890, and educated in the schools of the county, attending primary grades at Todd School, and high school at the old Centenary Academy in Palmyra. Following his graduation from the academy, he taught for a short time at Stone Hill School (in 1908) before entering Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, where he graduated in 1911.

Communicable diseases

One of the first tasks that Dr. Lucke undertook as the county’s new health officer in 1926 was a educational program presented at schools and community halls throughout Marion County.

One such message was presented to the Palmyra Parent Teachers’ Association meeting at the high school during March 1926. He spent much time explaining how to prevent the spread of such diseases as diphtheria, scarlet fever and whooping cough. His goal was to keep epidemics to a minimum. That spring, he talked on this topic at the Fabius, Emerson, Philadelphia and Turner schools.


Typhoid fever was a serious threat to health during Dr. Lucke’s early tenure as chief health officer for the county. Keeping flies at bay was a major concern. Dr. Lucke told the Palmyra Spector in August 1929: “The greatest enemies our boys had to fight in the Spanish American war were flies. Flies spread typhoid germs, and typhoid fever played havoc with our troops. Palmyra should fight the fly pest, and a fine breeding place for them is your city spring branch into which much sewage empties. Your city is entitled to a much better sewage system than it has. Good health is the paramount issue of any city and it should be carefully looked after.”

Sanitary toilets

During the depression years, the WPA was established; a means of putting men to work on community improvement projects.

One such project that had a direct impact on Marion County was the installation of sanitary toilets at rural homes and schools.

Jean Otten Moore remembers when a WPA privy was installed at her family’s farm. “It was a one seater. It had a tissue holder and was ventilated,” she said. While it was still an outdoor toilet, it was much improved over the family’s old “out house.”

“It was a great improvement for many us because if you had one, a truck from a fertilizer company came and pumped it out regularly,” she said.

In later years, “Mother had an indoor bathroom with the septic tank in the yard.” But that was after Jean’s marriage to L. Dow Moore in the early 1940s.


A rabies scare in February 1938 prompted precautionary measures initiated by Dr. Lucke, who ordered a quarantine of all dogs in two county school districts: Providence and Rowe. All dogs in those areas were to be either immunized for rabies or quarantined. A dog known to have rabies had passed through the area, and subsequently bit stray dogs in the area and several head of livestock.

Scarlet fever

By the time Tommy Maddox of Hannibal turned two years old in 1947, Dr. Lucke had served the county as its chief health officer for some 21 years. And it was Dr. Lucke himself who visited the Maddox home on Hope Street that year, affixing a “quarantine” sign to the door. Tommy had contracted scarlet fever, and was to be shielded from others who could catch this dreaded disease.

Dairy inspection

Jean Otten Moore remembers Dr. Lucke and his inspection visits to her father’s dairy farm, located on what is now Route MM west of U.S. 61, which crosses north/south through Hannibal.

“We knew Dr. Lucke through the milk sanitation. My father took great pride in having the lowest bacteria count in the state,” she said.

Sue Hart of Hannibal also remembers Dr. Lucke’s visits. Her father was a railroad worker out of Brookfield, and lost his job during the depression. The family’s small farm was divided when Veteran’s Road was constructed, with Sue still owning and living on the southwest corner of Veterans Road and U.S. 36. Across what is now Veterans Road was the family’s barn. Sue remembers that Dr. Lucke approved the barn and small dairy operation, so the family could sell quarts of milk to customers as a means of making a living.

The members of the Marion County Cow Testing Association held a reorganization meeting at Palmyra in May 1926. W.W. Abright, Godfrey Kaden and Frank Otten (Jean’s father) were appointed members of a committee to assist the cow tester in making a port showing some of the accomplishments of the organization.


Dr. Lucke, who made frequent reports to the county, said that during the late months of 1946, the county had but one case of polio recorded. Two years later, Brenda Kay Richardson, 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Richardson of 301 North Hawkins in Hannibal, was recovering at the Elizabeth Kenny clinic for infantile paralysis at Centralia, Ill. Another Hannibal girl, Peggy Carenen, was also stricken with polio and treated at the Kenny clinic.

Some of the county’s leading citizens were associated with the Marion County Polio Chapter. In 1948, Elgin T. Fuller, Hannibal attorney, was elected chairman. Milton Cary of Palmyra had served in that capacity the previous year.

By the mid 1950s, effective vaccinations were made available to prevent polio. One such clinic was conducted on March 15 and 16, 1956 at the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal. Children accompanied by parents were registered in the magistrate courtroom, and the vaccinations were administered in the courthouse basement, where the health department was quartered.

Hubbard Street

Dr. Lucke and his wife, Mae, lived for many years at 2601 Hubbard, in a neighborhood of modest two-bed, one-bathroom houses. Across the street lived Jean Otten Moore’s uncle and aunt, Frank and Hazel Thomas.

Death calls

Dr. Eugene Milton Lucke’s wife, Mae, died in 1973, and his death followed on Feb. 27, 1974, at the age of 84. They are buried in Mrs. Lucke’s hometown, Licking, Texas County, Mo.

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