· Guy Ankerholz (1904-1991)
It’s Monday, January 11, 1943, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Juanita, 32, and Guy Ankerholz, 38, are preparing to go to the Reno County Courthouse for the swearing in ceremony of the new sheriff, Steve Stapleton. Guy will be hanging up his star after having served nearly sixteen years: two terms as sheriff, after working for three sheriffs, Fay Brown, Ed Cunningham, and George Allison.
“Remember when we first met?” asked Juanita to Guy. “Pauline Gregg set me up for a date with Bill Sharp.”
“A double-date,” replied Guy. “It was January 1928, I was office clerk for Sheriff Fay Brown.
“We had a little problem,” reminded Juanita with a smirk. “Bill Sharp and I were in the convertible’s rumble-seat; you and Pauline were up front.”
“If my Whippet’s lights hadn’t malfunctioned, we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to talk so long while the garage man fixed it,” said Guy.
“You had a lot of nerve, kissing me on the cheek that night,” recalled Juanita.
“Guilty with extenuating circumstances,” said Guy. “It was love at first sight.”
“I remember what I said to my mother that night after you dropped me off, ‘Give me a pencil and paper! I need to write that guy’s name down. I can’t remember it!’”
“Do you recall your first driving lesson in the Whippet?” asked Guy.
“Bill Sharp was along, still in the rumble-seat,” answered Juanita with a smile.
“We were out by the Reformatory when you got behind the wheel,” recalled Guy. “You had both hands on the steering wheel and kept overcorrecting.”
I remember Bill’s words of encouragement,” said Juanita, “‘Hell, Juanita, keep it between the fence posts!’”
Six-year-old Guy began his formal education at Liberty School, District 130, one and-a-half mile from the Ankerholz home north of Sylvia.
When Guy started his third year of school, his life changed irreversibly. Guy remembered the period of time as a “misfortune.” He recalled how, in his family, the children always started the school year dressed in new clothes, including shoes and stockings. In those days the shoes had high tops with hooked islets for the shoe laces. Unfortunately, one of the islets turned up and scratched Guy’s shinbone above the right ankle.
After home remedies failed and the sore refused to heal, the doctor in Sylvia, Dr. W. H. Bauer, was visited. He diagnosed blood poisoning. The doctor lanced the abscess and as a result the infection entered the morrow of the bone.
Young Guy became very ill as he lay bedfast at home under the doctor’s care. As his health worsened, Guy’s father was advised to take him to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After weighing the distance and expense, his parents followed the doctor’s recommendation.
Eight-year-old Guy and his parents boarded a train in Sylvia and arrived in Rochester two days later, about the middle of December 1912. The doctors discovered the poison had advanced up the right leg, crossed over to the left hip, and decayed a portion of Guy’s hip socket. In medical terminology it was “chronic osteomyelitis.” A bone building medication was given and the patient put in traction to separate the hip joint.
Finally, on February 9, 1913, Guy’s ninth birthday, the Ankerholzes started home. In spite of the expert care at Mayo’s, Guy’s hips fused together in a sitting position. It changed his life.
Guy missed a year of school. At first he walked with crutches and eventually learned to do without them. Guy’s permanent physical handicap meant a period of adjustment. He was disappointed at the opportunities lost, but focused on the ambitions for the future. As a child growing up, he was yet to discover the many things at which he could excel with his abilities.
“Being physically handicapped meant that education was vitally important to my future,” said Guy. “After graduating from Reno County High School in Nickerson, I enrolled at Hutchinson’s Salt City Business College, taking shorthand, typing, and banking classes.
“I looked for employment in Hutchinson but was unsuccessful,” said Guy. “One interview I had was at the First National Bank with the banker, Mr. Meyer. He told me: ‘I wouldn’t recommend it. If your dad owned the bank it would be all right. If your dad doesn’t own it, you can’t get any place in the business.’ I was glad to get the advice. It helped me decide to explore other directions.
“Without a job, I returned to my parents’ farm where I engaged in farming, but due to my disability, it was difficult. I wanted a job less physically demanding, but where was I to find one?
“After dark the evening of August 28, 1927, I returned from work at the Ford Agency in Sylvia and found a strange car sitting in the yard. My father was talking to three men. I was surprised when my father asked me what I had done to bring the sheriff to see him. After a few nervous moments, my father, a Republican, introduced me to Democrat Sheriff Fay Brown, and two other men in the car who were office holders in the court house.
“Mr. Brown asked me if I would be interested in working for him. ‘Doing what?’ I inquired, surprised. ‘Surely you wouldn’t want me to arrest anyone,’ I said. The sheriff replied that he wanted me as a clerk in his office. I said I’d love to and started within days.
“I knew absolutely nothing about the duties required of the clerk’s position. After being sworn in as a deputy, thereby receiving my deputy sheriff ‘commission,’ I sought out assistance from the ex-clerk and new tax collector, Jim Springer, who was my adviser and guide.
“I’d do anything for Fay Brown because he had the guts to hire me. That changed my life,” said Guy. “I was unlearned in my early days as a clerk. A couple of weeks after being hired, Sheriff Brown, referring to a gentleman leaving his inner office, told me, ‘Give this man a commission.’ I was at the front desk where I got the checkbook out and said, ‘How much?’
“I learned the job well,” continued Guy. “My immediate duties were preparing process papers and serving tax collecting papers. After a few months on the job, I accepted the additional responsibilities of county truant officer. More duties were assigned when I became responsible for state drivers’ licenses. Another part of my work as clerk and deputy sheriff was serving as an auctioneer. This meant selling property which had been foreclosed in the district court. In the early 1930s there were many foreclosures, land sales, and personal tax sales.”
“We were married during Sheriff Brown’s first two-year term,” said Juanita. “After nine months of dating, we exchanged vows at Newton’s courthouse on November 24, 1928.
“DeNean arrived September 1, 1932, while you were Deputy Office Clerk for Ed Cunningham. Donald Lee was born December 26, 1935, while you served George Allison.”
“The campaign was stressful when I ran for sheriff in 1938. It was a crowded field. George Salmon, Sheriff Allison’s undersheriff, was one of the seven Republican candidates.”
“Your re-election in 1940 was an overwhelming victory,” said Juanita. “You won all 56 precincts.”
“I was pleased to serve two terms,” said Guy. “It was a political path hard to imagine if I hadn’t been scratched from an islet and lanced with a needle.”
Guy Ankerholz became a public leader and servant. He proved to himself and to others that his disability could not prevent him from attaining high personal goals. With a warm smile for everyone and a shrewd political mind, Guy Ankerholz’s life was a lesson in courage.
Resource: “Guy Ankerholz: A Lesson in Courage,” by Jim Potter, Legacy: The Journal of the Reno County Historical Society, Volume 4/Number 2, Spring 1992
Until next time, happy writing and reading.