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Bright future dimmed by ominous act of war

Arvil Mefford poses with his family prior to service during World War II. To his right is daughter, Carol. To his left is his wife, Alberta Sparks Mefford, holding their son, Robert Mefford. On the piano behind Alberta are pictures of her brothers, Harry and Bud Sparks. Harry was killed Nov. 24, 1942 in an aircraft crash during flight training near Miami, Fla. Prior to his enlistment, Harry was a pressman for the Hannibal Courier-Post. Photo contributed by Robert Mefford.


Hannibal native, Pvt. Arvil Mefford, 35, who was wounded by artillery shelling while serving with the U.S. Army at Normandy during 1944, died of those wounds at an Army hospital on Sept. 9, 1944.

It would be four years before his remains would be returned to Hannibal for burial. His funeral was conducted at Immaculate Conception Church. He was laid to rest at St. Mary’s Cemetery, where his parents would later be interred.

To his family, Pvt. Mefford was a husband, a father, a son, a nephew, a son-in-law, a cousin and a brother.

To his community, he was 1930 graduate of Hannibal High School, a Catholic by faith, a solid citizen, an oil company attendant/manager and a sometimes solicitor for the Hannibal Courier-Post.

He was one of 72 Marion County, Missouri, men who died as the result of fighting during the Second World War.

But as a youth in Hannibal, his future appeared bright.

School royalty

Marjorie Ward and Arvil Mefford, in 1928 students at Hannibal High School which was then located at 1020 Broadway, were named queen and king of the school’s fall carnival on Friday, Nov. 16, 1928. Presumably held on the school grounds to the west of the three-story school building facing south toward Broadway, many spectators observed the ceremony, which was a time-honored tradition at the school.

Marjorie, born in 1911, was the youngest daughter of Bert Orlando Ward, a flagman for the CB&Q Railroad, and his wife, Lenora. They owned a home at 303 N. Sixth.

Arvil Mefford, born in 1909, would graduate from Hannibal High School in 1930. He was the youngest of three children born to Robert Roy Mefford, an insurance agent for the Standard Life Association, and his wife, Bertha A. Hayes Mefford. Their long-time home was at 719 Sycamore, in South Hannibal.

Marjorie Ward went on to attend Arlington Hall College in Bristol, Va., and was married to William Mason Morris Jr., in 1933. When death came in 1993, she was living in Maryland.

Arvil Mefford attended college locally, and was married to Alberta Louise Sparks Sept. 29, 1934.

Three years later, Arvil was working two jobs, as a station attendant for John L. Klump at Klump Oil Company, 400 South Third St., and as a solicitor for the Hannibal Courier-Post, 300 Broadway, of which his father in law, E.L. Sparks Sr., was publisher. Arvil’s wife, Alberta, was also working at the newspaper office, as a clerk. They made their home at 217 N. Locust, to the north of Blessed Sacrament Church.

Alberta Sparks Mefford gave birth to the couple’s first child - a daughter, Carol Lou - circa 1938 - and to a son, Robert a few years later. They both survive.

Company D

Prior to his enlistment in the regular Army in December 1943, Mefford was a second lieutenant in Company D, Fourth Missouri Infantry of the State Guard, reserve militia.

Mefford was among a dozen members of Company D to go to St. Louis in January 1943 to attend a one-day session of the battalion school being conducted there. The list included Capt. George W. Farrell, First Lt. J.A. Ihrig (a former commanding officer of the Hannibal company); Major Harold Price, of battalion headquarters; and H. L. Freiling Jr., C.W. McIntyre (in command of Company D), Parker Treat and Morris Williams, Jerry Secker, Darrell Conboy, Joe Broemmer and Charles Creason.

Klump Oil Co.

The Klump station, located on land later used as a parking lot for the National Food Store, at the corner of Third and Collier, was a mechanic shop as well as a gas station.

The owner, John L. Klump, of Decatur, Ill., later of Jacksonville, Ill., owned a string of oil companies in Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri, including West Quincy. (Mr. Klump died in February 1950.)

In July 1938, R.H. (Rags) Butler and Arvil Mefford were working on a motor in a shed near the Hannibal station when a spark from the engine ignited some gasoline.

The Hannibal fire department, housed a little more than a block away, responded and quickly extinguished the blaze.

Unfortunately, Butler received painful burns on his head and both arms. Mefford was not injured.

Extended family

George T. Mefford, Arvil’s paternal grandfather, died in January 1929.

J. Will Mefford, former sheriff of Marion County, was Arvil’s uncle.

Arvil Mefford, a 1930 graduate of Hannibal High School, died Sept. 9, 1944 as a result of wounds received in France during World War II. Photo contributed by his son, Robert Mefford.

Arvil Mefford, a member of the Hannibal High School Class of 1930, is pictured with his classmates. Photo contributed by David Taylor, whose mother-in-law, Ann Wheelan Maupin was a member of the class.

The Klump Oil Company, where Arvil Mefford worked prior to serving during World War II, advertised in the Black and Red newspaper, Dec. 14, 1950.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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