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Ilasco memorial continues to pay homage to the past

Ilasco, Mo. began in the early 1900s as a company town for the Atlas Portland Cement Company, which later became Continental Cement Company. Each flag represents the nations where the employees emigrated from to settle the village â Romania, Slovakia, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Ukraine. The mural for Al's Tavern in Ilasco was restored during the summer of 2019 by Ray Harvey. Courier-Post file photo


A quest to remember the past was the launching point, 25 years ago, for what is now a lasting monument to the men, women and children who lived in the company town of Ilasco during the early years of the 20th Century.

The quest started with an interest by a few, in the spring of 1999, to place a marker explaining Ilasco’s unique history. The target location was a visible portion of the former town site, along Missouri Route 79 in Ralls County. Today, that movement has grown into a continuing effort to preserve the stories and artifacts from the past, as a means of educating future generations.

David and Sally Polc, who were instrumental in the establishment of the monument site, have stepped down from their dual role of leaders of the organization.

In their place is a new generation of supporters, including descendants of those whose worked at the Cement Plant and lived within this unique community.

Scott Tatman, son of Wayne Tatman, has long ties to the organization and serves as a board member. Back in 2000, he helped his father build the bell tower monument that is a focal point of the town memorial.

In 2000, “My father was retired, and he built a cardboard 3-D model of the monument in his garage. David (Polc) looked at it and said, ‘That’s what we want to do.’ That’s where the bell tower project got started,” Tatman said.

“My dad got sick, and my employer let me take two months off to help build the bell tower,” Tatman said. The bell tower was the first marker at the monument site. The bell in the tower was from the former Ilasco Lutheran Church, Tatman said.

Angela Brown, the board’s secretary and treasurer, joined the board three years ago. “I had always had an interest,” she said, but time to devote to the cause was a factor.

“When Sally and Dave approached me and told me it was time for them to pass the torch, I thought, ‘I’m going to make the time. I don’t want to see all their hard work and efforts” be in vain.

Brown’s great grandmother came to America in 1912.

Susie (Zsuzska) Chmelko Sector Haynes was from Dobrá Niva, Slovakia. Her father came here in 1911 to work at Cement Plant, Brown said. “He saved the money to send for my great grandmother, her mother and her brother to come here. Her dad died of consumption and her mother remarried; her English name was Susie.

“The people of Ilasco, they left a legacy; they came to Ilasco to find a better life in America.”

Brown explains that the Ilasco Area Historical Preservation Society has projects in the works. “Our goal is to continue to preserve that history and not let go of the hard work that Sally and Dave and others have put into it. They spearheaded it. They are modest of the fact that a humongous part of the organization’s progress) was them.

“The amount of history and knowledge that Sally and Dave have can’t be put into words,” Brown said. “No one will ever know what they know, but Sally and Dave are trying to pass it along to us so that it doesn’t die. I try to write down” what they tell me. “I don’t want to forget or lose that information.

“Dave lived there,” growing up, Brown said.  “He is so proud of his heritage; it is heartwarming, truly. He and Sally, they made it their life work to preserve all of this, papers, books, postcards, photos, payroll records from the cement plant, it is mind boggling.”

The IAHPS was organized and incorporated as a Missouri Non-profit organization on December 8, 2000, at which time a board of directors was established. Since that time, they have received considerable support from the Continental Cement Co.

“Dave and Sally started the movement,” Brown said. “They are so epic; Dave and Sally found a need for the memory of Ilasco to be carried on; and they along with a couple of other people, including Mr. Bill Northcutt, decided to do just that.

“They made great improvements in the Ilasco village; they are the ones who founded (or found the funding) for the memorial; they formed the board of directors, in order to continue doing these wonderful things as a non profit.”

One of Brown’s goals is to continue to remind people of the Ilasco memorial site. 

“Some don’t know you can go down there and have a picnic,” she said. I want people to know it is there, and we haven’t forgotten” the people who lived and worked in this area.

“It is out of love and respect that we continue to preserve this history and these memories,” she said.

Brent Babyak is is ILAHPS’s president, and Steven Viorel is vice president.

Board members are Dave Polc, Melinda Babyak Wright, Jacky Brothers Imhoff, Andrea Babyak Farr, Scott Tatman and Terri Wade Clark.

Ilasco, Mo., 1903. In the background is the cement plant, in the foreground is very early Ilasco with only a few small permanent dwellings, the rest tents. Contributed by Angela Brown.


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