Police officer killed on duty in 1932 finally gets headstone in Joplin
Dozens of Southwest Missouri law enforcement officials come to Joplin’s Forest Park Cemetery to honor a fellow officer and to dedicate a long-overdue grave stone. The police chief of Springfield, Missouri says Officer Charles Houser should have received his headstone right after he was buried in 1932. But times were different back then.
Today, the situation was made right.
Myrtle Coplen Pollock, 1886 to 1952. James Summers, 1876 to 1932. You may have not read of these people before, but the point is you can, and you just did, because of their headstones.
But up until today, nothing noticeable to the public marked the grave of police Officer Charles Lee Houser, killed in the line of duty in 1932.
“His parents were gone, all of his brothers were gone. Everybody else was buried around Springfield, and they probably didn’t have money,” says Sarah Capps Long, a relative of Houser.
Houser joined the Springfield, Missouri Police Department in 1929. He drove a paddy wagon. Before then, he was your normal, Average Joe bus driver. And Average Joe was exactly how Capps Long’s grandmother, seen in a picture with this story, described her relative “Charlie Houser,” also seen in the picture as a young boy.
“He would be raking the lawn and his wife was out there and because he was a police officer, he had to wear a tie. He got hot, and he took the tie off and he tied it around her arm, just to be funny. During that time, people didn’t drive, they would walk by the house. So the next day, all these women walked by and they were all wearing ties around their arms, because they thought it was in style! He started a women’s style in 1932! It makes him seem more human, other than just a name,” says Capps Long.
Houser, along with five other law enforcement officials, were killed in a shootout near Springfield. The “Young Brothers Massacre,” as it was called, made front page of the New York Times, and up until the terrorist attacks of September 11th, was the largest event involving loss of law enforcement lives in U.S. history.
Countless numbers of people walked over this hero’s grave without even realizing it.
But that will change, because of the Missouri Peace Officers Association paying for Houser’s headstone.
“Through time, I do a lot of historical research, all these officers get forgotten. It’s nice to have a permanent memorial to him so he is never forgotten,” says Corporal Rob Schroeder with the Springfield Police Department.
And never being forgotten is a true promise from this band of law enforcement brothers from all over Southwest Missouri.
“It kind of shows where I should put my flowers at, as opposed to here or there,” says Capps Long.
“Officer Charles Houser, 1903 to 1932. Killed in the line of duty.” Next time you see this headstone, pause for a brief moment, and be thankful that you already know he was a brave police officer.
Houser’s grave is in a plot where other relatives are buried. Many of them died from flu epidemics generations ago and don’t have headstones, either.