This Week


Swimmer Drowns at Sam’s Pond in Syracuse

A Syracuse, Kan. man drowned while swimming at Sam’s Pond on Tuesday afternoon Aug. 13, 2019. It took several hours for authorities to find his body.
Joaquin Vazquez Hernandez, age 23, was swimming with friends at Sam’s Pond, south of Syracuse when he began to struggle and could not save himself. According to Hamilton County Sheriff Mike Wilson, his friends could not make it to him in time. He drowned and local emergency services were called.
The Sheriff’s Office received the call at approximately 1:34 p.m. When they arrived Hernandez’s body could not be seen on the surface of the pond. They contacted the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to assist in the recovery. Area divers were also contacted to assist.
Law Enforcement from the KDWP brought a sonar-fitted boat to locate Hernandez’s body at the bottom of the swimming area, estimated to be 25 feet deep. His body was located and recovered at approximately 5:53 local time.
He was transported to the Hamilton County Hospital where the county coroner determined an autopsy would be performed in Garden City, Kan. At the time of press, it is unknown if alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident. Next of kin were notified and traveled to Syracuse, waiting at Sam’s Pond for the recovery.

Lyle Merlin Baker

Lyle Merlin Baker, 86, of Hays, Kan. passed away Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, at Hays Medical Center.
He was born Jan. 16, 1933, in Syracuse, Kan. to Paul and Doris (Clore) Baker. He grew up on a farm near Kendall, Kan. He graduated from Syracuse High School and received his bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University.
While in high school, he met his wife Janis Liggett. They were married July 12, 1952, at the Methodist Church in Syracuse.
He served in the army during the Korean War. His life career was in real estate and insurance before he retired.
He was a sport enthusiast playing football and basketball in high school and football for Garden City Community College. He played baseball in the summers.
He enjoyed watching ESPN and old westerns and spending time with his family. He was an avid Denver Broncos fan.
He is survived by his wife, Janis Baker of the home; a son, Scott Baker (Karen Baker) of Argonia, Kan.; two daughters Cindy Dickey and Debra Creamer both of Hays; two grandchildren, Chelsea Dickey ( Bill Werth) of Munjor, Kan. and Joshua Creamer (Phoenix Hobdell) of Hays; as well as nine great-grandchildren
He was preceeded in death by his parents, Paul and Doris Baker; a daughter, Shelby Baker; a sister, Joyce Maxey; and a grandson, Jordan Schreurs.
 A celebration of life will be held Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the First United Methodist church in Hays. A graveside service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, at 10 a.m. (MST) in Syracuse at the Syracuse cemetery.

Robert (Bob) Ray Willinger


Stockton, Mo. resident Robert (Bob) Ray Willinger, 80, went to be with the Lord on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 at Lake Stockton Healthcare Facility. He was born on Feb. 18, 1939 at Claflin, Kan. to William & Ruby Ruble Willinger.  Most of his life was spent in Southwest Kansas where he graduated in 1957 from Kendall High School.  After he graduated, he served 2 years in the US Army.  On July 3, 1959 he married Bonnie Marie Warner at Syracuse, Kan. For 40 years they made their home in Stanton County where he farmed & ranched.  To this union 5 children were born, Randy, Bryant, Robyn, Brett & Rebecca.  They were blessed to celebrate 60 years together.  Robert was a lifetime rancher/farmer.  In 2000 Bob & Bonnie retired and moved to Stockton where he continued to ranch.  Robert enjoyed sports, coaching, loved watching his grandkids and spending time with his family.

Survivors include: wife, Bonnie, Stockton; son Randy & Mary Willinger, Greenfield, Mo; son Bryant Willinger, Ark City, Kan.; daughter Robyn & Bret Kendrick, Johnson, Kan.; son, Brett & Melina Willinger,  Humansville, Mo.; daughter Rebecca Ridenour & Fred Carrillo, Grand Lake, Colo.; and son in law Chris Ridenour, Dodge City, Kan. Bob had 15 grandchildren & 13 great grandchildren. He also left behind two sisters, Roberta Stull, Garland, Texas, and Janet Ramsey, Holyrood, Kan.; and many nieces & nephews.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Fred & Ruby Gerstner; William Willinger; sister Gayle Hough, younger brother, Eugene Willinger; and brothers-in-law, Manuel Levens & Terry Stull.

Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019 at 10 a.m. at the Christian Church in Stockton.  Memorials may be sent to “Operation Smiles” in care of the Bland-Brumback Funeral Home at 306 South High Street Stockton, Missouri 65785.

Ava Loree Knobbe

Ava Loree Knobbe of Leoti, Kan. passed away peacefully on Monday, July 29, 2019 in Tribune, Kan. at the Greeley County Hospital. She was born Sept. 22, 1936 in Beaver, Okla. the daughter of C.O. “Pete” Wright and Lourena Fern (Ragan) Wright. They later moved to Boise City, Okla. where she attended Boise City High School and graduated in 1952. On Feb. 19, 1953, she married Ronald Compton, to this union three children were born.

In 1995, she married Vern Knobbe in Modesto, Calif. They spent several happy years together in California. They later moved to Leoti where Vern passed away in 2009.

Ava loved garage sales and enjoyed finding bargains to share with her friends and family. She collected fabrics with the intent to make quilts for her kids and grandkids. She will always be remembered for her quick wit, practical jokes and her infectious giggles. Ava will be dearly missed by all that knew her.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Pete and Lourena Wright; her spouse, Vern Knobbe; one brother, Dan Wright; a son Glen Compton; and one grandson, Brian Compton.

She is survived by a son, Gerald (& wife Amy) Compton of Randolph, Utah; a daughter, Janet Bocock of Greeley, Colo.; a brother, Dale Woods of Brighton, Colo.; sister-in-law, Gail Wright of Boise, Idaho; seven grandchildren; 16 Great Grandchildren; a niece & nephew; and many family members and friends.

Graveside Memorial Services will be held at a later date in Boise City. Condolences may be sent to

In-lieu-of-flowers memorial contributions may be payable to  Ava Knobbe Burial Fund, sent in care of Fellers Funeral Home & Monuments LLC, P.O. Box 1253, 401 N. Sumner, Syracuse, KS 67878. 620-384-5100.

Calvin Ivan Pope, Jr.

Calvin Ivan Pope, Jr., of Syracuse, Kan., passed away at the Hamilton County Hospital in Syracuse on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, at the age of 57. He was born on Oct. 12, 1961 in Phillipsburg, Kan., the Son of Calvin Ivan Pope, Sr. and Anna Florence (Kinslow) Pope.

Calvin grew up in Phillipsburg and attended Phillipsburg High School and later completed his education. He moved a number of times in his life but ultimately made his home in Syracuse where he resided for 32 years until his untimely passing.

He enjoyed camping, fishing, hunting, working on cars, racing cars, building demolition derby cars, and enjoyed collecting guns. 

His parents, Calvin, Sr. and Anna Pope, preceded him in death.

He is survived by five sons; four daughters; one brother; three sisters; several grandchildren; and many family members and friends.

 Graveside Memorial Services will be held at a later date. Condolences may be sent to

In-lieu-of-flowers memorial contributions may be payable to Calvin Pope, Jr. Memorial Fund, sent in care of Fellers Funeral Home & Monuments LLC, P.O. Box 1253, 401 N. Sumner, Syracuse, KS 67878. 620-384-5100.

Carolyn Rae Cruz


Funeral Services for Syracuse, Kan. resident Carolyn Cruz were held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 15, 2019 at Southern Baptist Church in Syracuse. Interment followed in Syracuse Cemetery. Visitation for Carolyn was held on Sunday, July 14, 2019 and 9:00 a.m. to service time on Monday at Southern Baptist Church in Syracuse.

Carolyn Rae Cruz was born on Feb. 17, 1957 to Henry E. and Eva Jane (Jantz) Schmidt in Wichita, Kan.. She lived in Derby, Kan. until the family moved to a farm North of Ulysses, Kan. in 1962. She attended Red Rock Country School in Grant County, Kansas until moving to Syracuse in 1970. There she graduated from Syracuse High School in 1975. She then moved to Garden City, Kan. where she worked as a nurse’s aide. She returned to Syracuse to help at the family business, Hank’s Dairy King, until the family sold the business. Carolyn married Tony Cruz, Jr. December 20, 1986. Due to her husband’s illness, she became a stay-at-home caregiver until his death in 2013. She then became a custodian at Syracuse High School until her health declined. She loved her dogs, enjoyed working in her yard, watching YouTube videos and Kansas Jayhawk Basketball. Carolyn passed away on July 10, 2019 at Hamilton County Hospital in Syracuse at the age of 62.

She is survived by her mother, Eva Jane Schmidt of Syracuse; daughter, Mindy Cruz of Syracuse; brother, Steve (Linda) Schmidt of Syracuse; sister, Robyn Schmidt of Lawrence, Kan.; she is also survived by Tony’s children, Kurtis (Irena) Cruz of Syracuse, Albert (Maria) Cruz of Garden City, Monica (Les) Miller of Dodge City, Kan.; and multiple nieces and nephews.
Carolyn was preceded in death by her husband, Tony Cruz, Jr. in 2013; father, Henry E. Schmidt in 1986; brother, Terril Schmidt in 2012; and Tony’s daughter, Michelle Cruz in 1985.

Memorial contributions may be made in Carolyn’s name in care of Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel, P.O. Box 950 Lamar, CO. 81052.
For more information or to leave online condolences, please visit

Roy Gene Stokes

Funeral Services for Holly, Colo. resident, Roy Stokes was held on Monday, July 8, 2019 at the Holly United Methodist Church with Pastor Kathy Leathers officiating.  Interment followed in the Holly Cemetery.  Visitation took place on Sunday, July 7, 2019 at Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel in Holly.
Roy Gene Stokes passed away, surrounded by his family on July 2, 2019 at his home in Holly at the age of 71. He was born on Aug. 10, 1947 in Red Cloud, Neb. to Opal Stokes.  After Roy’s mother passed away when he was only 8 years old, he was adopted by his grandfather, Frank Stokes. 
Roy learned at a very young age that he had to become a hard worker.  He began working as a grocery carry-out boy in high school.  He enjoyed woodworking and put his skills to use as a commercial and residential carpenter.  In 1971, Roy married Barbara Splitter and to this union, they were blessed with a daughter, Stephanie.  Barbara’s work led them to move to several locations including Benkelman, Neb., Fort Morgan, Colo., and Gering, Neb. until retiring back to Holly in 2015.  Roy had a passion for trains and a profound love for his grandchildren.  He attended the Holly United Methodist Church until his failing health kept him from doing so.
Roy is survived by his wife, Barbara Stokes of Holly; daughter, Stephanie Stokes of Cripple Creek, Colo.; five grandchildren; many brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, as well as many other relatives and a host of friends.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Opal Stokes and his adoptive father, Frank Stokes.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Holly United Methodist Church or Lamar Area Hospice in care of Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel, P.O. Box 950, Lamar, Colorado, 81052.
For more information or to leave online condolences, please visit

Peggy Joanne Brown

Memorial services for Holly, Colo. resident, Joanne Brown was held on Saturday, July 6, 2019 at Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel in Holly with Pastor Kurtis Klinghammer officiating.  Per Joanne’s request, cremation has taken place.
Peggy Joanne Brown, known affectionately to most as Joanne, was born March 25, 1940 in Monahans, Texas to Buck and Anna (Ellison) Horn. Joanne passed away June 30, 2019 at Holly Nursing Care Center at the age of 79.
Joanne is survived by her sister, Benne Sue (Otis) Cline of Holly; daughters, Danna (Jim) Krieg of Holly, Garilea (Chuck) Binegar of New Castle, Colo.; son, Todd (Carol) Brown of New Mexico; sister-in-law, Jeannie Buchanon of Granada, Colo.; close personal friend, George Sanchez of Holly; 13 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, three great-great grandchildren; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and many friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Buck and Anna Horn; brothers, Gary Jones and Randy Horn.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel in Joanne’s name, to P.O. Box 950 Lamar, CO. 81052.
For more information or to leave online condolences, please visit

Marilyn Gale (Rouse) Taft

Marilyn Gale Taft died Saturday, June 15, 2019 at Morton County Senior Care Center in Elkhart, Kan.

On Aug, 31, 1935, Marilyn Gale Taft was born to Vernon R. Rouse and Valeria Wehrman Rouse in Nelson, Neb. She lived in Leoti, Kan. and went to Wichita County Schools until she married Albert William Taft of Denver, Colo. on Dec. 24, 1951. The couple moved to Denver and Marilyn lived most fo the her life there. Al and Marilyn had two children. Sherrie Lynn Taft and Alan Wesley Taft completed their family.

Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Al; daughter, Sherrie; son, Alan; a sister, Dorothy Rouse Wilson; four brothers, Don, Raymond (Bud), Marvin, and Eugene Rouse.

Marilyn is survived by a sister-in-law, Bonnie Rouse, of Olathe, Kan.; nieces, Conda Simon, of Syracuse, Kan., and Phyllis Clark, of Glendale, Ariz.; nephews, Terry Rouse, of Olathe, Doug Rouse, of Eads, Colo., and Mark Rouse, of Texas.

No service will be held.

Memorials may be made to the Morton County Memory Care Center or St. Catherine Hospital Hospice in care of Fellers Funeral Home.

Arrangements made by Fellers Funeral Home, LLC, Po Box 1253, Syracuse, KS 67878.

Raymond G. Kitten

Raymond G. Kitten, 94, died Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at High Plains Retirement Village in Lakin, Kan.  He was born Oct. 10, 1924 in rural Kearny County, Kansas the son of Henry & Katherine M. (Brand) Kitten.

Raymond has been a lifetime resident of Kearny County, Kendall, Kan., and Lakin.  He attended rural country schools.  Raymond Served in the United States Army during the Korean War.  A lifetime farmer, Raymond was a member of the First Christian Church of Lakin where he chaired and served on the board, and served as an Elder.  He later attended the Church of Christ in Lakin, was a longtime member of the Kansas Farm Bureau and served as president of the board from 1973 to 1975, member of the Kearny County Extension Board, and a member of the Kearny County Senior Center.  Raymond enjoyed handyman work, carpentry, mechanics, and fixing up old vehicles and tractors.

On May 26, 1954, he married Eva Jo Cooper in Kendall.  She survives. Other survivors include two children Beth & husband Brent Norris of Glade, Kan., and Marvin & wife Stephanie Kitten of Overbrook, Kan.; and three grandchildren Erika Norris, Aden Kitten, & Xander Kitten.  Raymond is preceded in death by his parents; and five brothers Herb Kitten, Lawrence Kitten, Vernon Kitten, Ab Kitten, and Joe Kitten.

Funeral services were held on Saturday, June 22, 2019 at the Church of Christ in Lakin with Jarrod Spender officiating.  Burial will follow at the Lakin Cemetery with military graveside rites conducted by the Kansas Army National Guard and the American Legion Districk #8 Honor Guards. Friends called on Thursday and Friday at the Garnand Funeral Home in Lakin.  The family suggests memorials given to the Church of Christ or to the Kearny County Senior Center both in care of the funeral home.  Condolences may be given at

Arrangements by:  Garnand Funeral Home, 508 N. Main St., PO Box 91, Lakin, Ks. 67860, 620-355-7575

Betty Jean (Haynes) Pearce


Betty Jean (Haynes) Pearce was welcomed home to heaven on May 22, 2019. She was born Dec. 4, 1925 to Curtis (Mack) and Lois Haynes.
She lived most of her life in Stanton County, Kansas, where she married Ralph Pearce on June 30, 1942. She spent many years cooking at the Johnson High School, and Stanton County Senior Center, where she was famous for her cinnamon rolls. She also worked at Emery’s Drug Store and Jim Smith’s Pump Service, and she spent 10 very happy years employed at the Stanton County Library. 
She was an accomplished seamstress and made most of the family’s clothes when the kids were at home. She was a hard worker and always put her family first. She was a member of the Wesleyan Church for 63 years where she served in many capacities, including teaching, singing, and wherever she was needed. She taught Bible studies at the care home until shortly before her death. She had a strong, unwavering faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and was eagerly anticipating her homecoming. She will be greatly missed.
She is preceded in death by her parents; five siblings; one daughter (Jani Pearce); a grandson (JR Morava); a great grandson (Joshua Pearce); and a son-in-law, (Ben Hall). She is survived by five children, Dennis Pearce (Theda), Kae Bailey, Faye Hall, Penny Morava, and James Pearce; five grandchildren; 11 great grandchildren; four great-great grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in Johnson, Kan. at Fields’ Memorial Weslyan Church on Saturday, July 13, 2019, at 2 p.m.  Memorials may be made to the Stanton County Public Library.

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