Where Are They Now? With Dale Vanderpool


In 1940, the legendary “Babe” Ruth wrote in a magazine article, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”  This quote is so adequately personified in Dale Vanderpool, this month’s “Where Are They Now?” quest to find Hamilton County residents who have moved beyond the borders of the county line.   

Dale grew up in a small farm house north of the cemetery on Highway 27, attending Kindergarten through his Junior year at Syracuse.  Dale worked after school and on weekends for John Knopp at the sale barn, later known as the Syracuse Commission Company.  He returned to Missouri to finish his Senior in 1988 with his mother and maternal grandparents.  Having strong ties in Hamilton County, Dale returned to work at the sale barn from 1988 until 1991, when he started working at the service station for Syracuse Coop, but eventually moved to the fertilizer department.  In talking about his time in Syracuse, Dale smiled wide and said, “I was the very first person to be on the new golf course after it was built,” meaning the Tamarisk Golf Course.  As it happens, Dale was assigned to drive the truck that fertilized the new grass after the construction was completed on the greens.

While at Syracuse Coop, Dale started volunteering as a Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Daniel Levens, spending his weekends and evenings riding along and helping do law enforcement duties with the full-time deputies.  After one particularly frustrating day at Coop, Dale walked into the General Manager’s Office and offered his two-week’s notice and resignation.  Without many options in mind, Dale ultimately wandered into the Sheriff’s Office to be among friends while he sorted out what he was going to do next.  Sheriff Levens asked what he was doing, to which Dale replied, “I guess I’m going to have to start looking for a job.”  Immediately, and to Dale’s surprise, Sheriff Levens responded, “I’ll hire you.”   That was the day Dale’s law enforcement career began.

Two weeks later, Deputy Dale Vanderpool was on the road, assigned to midnights, as most new deputies generally are.  On his very first night on patrol, Dale clocked the fastest speed in his law enforcement career on the big hill south of Syracuse at 99 miles per hour.  He always wanted a “triple-digit speeder,” but a crafty Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper snagged a frequent speeder, a medical doctor, who regularly passed through Hamilton County between hospital assignments at high rates of speed.  His first emergency response, a 911 call, was to help a parent with a teen who wanted to hurt himself.  Dale had to respond alone, as his back-up was miles away, out in the county; however, Dale was able to help the parent diffuse the situation successfully.  As required for all law enforcement officers in the State of Kansas, Dale was sent to attend the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center for eight weeks of training near Yoder, Kansas. 

Throughout Dale’s service to Hamilton County, he was the first on the scene to only one homicide, the murder of John Lee Mayers at Love’s Country Store, when he was actually supposed to be on vacation.  He worked through the night and with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation throughout the course of that investigation.  It was, however, the deaths of the people he knew or had befriended, taken unexpectedly in their homes that stayed with Dale and bothered him most.  With the emergency response, he was prepared for what he was going to see and deal with.  There was an explanation for the tragedy, whether a traffic collision or a crime of violence, that helped make sense of what he was having to see, hear, and do.  The lives unexpectedly interrupted while sleeping or doing their normal routines just didn’t make sense and returned in obtrusive thoughts in his sleep.  Those people remain with him to this day. 

The difficult parts of the job were also seeing friends and familiar people arrested or coping with the arrest of a loved one, but interrupted vacations were something he began to expect. Dale had two memorable cases that he was able to solve in record time.  The first was a report of damage to the storage building at the gun club’s shooting range north of Syracuse.  As he was checking the broken drywall and extensive damage to the facility, Dale heard someone shooting in the distance who might have been a witness or provide a more specific time frame for the damages.  As Dale approached the shooter, he began to inquire if he had any knowledge of the damages to the range house.  Despite the denials, the presence of drywall dust on the fella’s head and clothing was a clue that the suspect had been located.  An arrest followed shortly thereafter.  The second case was a burglary to Mona Walkinshaw’s home.  Inside the front door, the suspect had dropped his wallet with all of his identification inside it.  You guessed it … that guy got arrested too.

In May, 1999, Sheriff Levens resigned and Dale, now serving as Undersheriff, was seriously considering relocating to Missouri to be close to family.  Hamilton County Clerk Beverly Holdren pleaded with Dale not to resign until a replacement could be named for Sheriff Levens, otherwise, Beverly would have been responsible for the functions at the Sheriff’s Office, as the statutory succession of power.  For Beverly’s sake, he stayed.  Dale enjoyed teasing Beverly when he stopped in to the County Clerk’s Office.  On the north pillar by the counter, Beverly had a picture of a flag with “In God We Trust: He loves his country best who strives to make it best.” Dale admired this regularly and strove to live by it.  He told Beverly on numerous occasions, “Someday, I’m going to steal that picture.”  She would chortle back to him, “You’d better not!”

Dale maintained his position as the Undersheriff and acting administrator of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.  After the new sheriff was appointed at the Republican caucus, Dale was left to provide law enforcement services for the entire county alone.  One deputy was on medical leave after knee surgery and the others refused to return to work.  Dale worked long hours to cover the law enforcement needs for several days until Stanton County Sheriff James Garrison walked into the door with several Stanton County deputies. He told Dale to go home and get some rest and they would cover the law enforcement needs around the County.  Dale was able to get some rest with their help until the Kansas Governor could confirm the new sheriff’s appointment and she could be sworn in.  On June 6, 1999, Sheriff Bethanie Popejoy was sworn in and Dale turned in his resignation, despite her objections and offers for him to remain.  On this last day, Beverly Holdren met with Dale one last time, but this time, he didn’t have to threaten to steal the flag picture.  Beverly gave it to him in one of the most touching moments he had experienced in his time in Syracuse.  The flag picture is a treasured feature in Dale’s home to this day. 

Dale moved back to Plattesburg, Missouri, “pronounced properly as Missoura,” according to Dale, to be close to family, and was glad he did.  He lost his grandmother a year later, his mother the year after that, and his grandfather died four years after his return.  Had he not returned to Missouri, he would have missed that time with them.  Dale recently lost his father, Raymond Vanderpool, who was buried in Chillicothe, Missouri, in February.

After his mother had passed in 2001, Dale applied at the Scott County Sheriff’s Office to be their K-9 handler; however, he never made it to the July 3 interview.  On July 2, 2001, Dale was helping Kevin Fearno check fence on a four-wheeler while on vacation in Hamilton County, when he flipped the four-wheeler and was rushed to the hospital with broken bones and internal injuries.  Dale remembered, “I thought I was doing okay until Patty King got into the ambulance to ride with me to Garden City.  That’s when I realized things were pretty serious.”  Patty was always the flight nurse that was called in when the serious medical emergencies needed some extra care and stabilization.  Dale attributes that accident to ending his law enforcement career.

Dale doesn’t miss the Western Kansas wind at all; however, he does miss visiting with the old farmers he knew so well:  Larry and Darrel Dikeman, Ralph Ire, and Roger Westeman, who he had great respect for.  Dale last visited Hamilton County in August, 2019, and didn’t recognize anyone in town.  There were new buildings and things had changed in the past twenty years.  Nothing was familiar any more.

 Missouri, has been his home for the past twenty-one years, where he currently serves as the Shipping Manager at Venture Industrial Products, a sheet-metal manufacturing company that makes, “pretty much anything you can make out of sheet metal.”  They do work for pharmaceutical companies, Department of Defense contractors, medical suppliers, and countless other clients in Lee’s Summit.  Some of their most popular products are the cabinets that dispense medications and other machines that fill prescription for the pharmaceutical companies.

2020 didn’t leave Dale unscathed from the pandemic crisis, as five people on his work team were diagnosed with Covid-19.  Dale was the youngest of the team to get the virus and ultimately a team member’s wife died with Covid-related complications. As Dale rubbed the joints in his fingers, “People need to understand it is a real thing, and it is brutal.”  The first week he had muscle aches, fever, and chills, but the cough developed in the second week with a lack of appetite, to the extent that the thought of food made him nauseas.  Pain remains in his joints since his recovery.

In his work, Dale has been a welder, promoted to welding supervisor for fifteen years, and has been in his current position for the past five years after Dale was commuting to work on Missouri winter morning, when his truck hit black ice and he lost control, rolling his pickup and walking away with a broken wrist.  Unable to do his welding duties with his arm in a cast, company management asked him to fill in temporarily as the Shipping Manager until his arm healed.  He did such a good job that he has remained in that position to this day. 

In May, 2017, Dale took a vacation to visit Lake Superior.  “I wanted to see a large body of water.”  He had never been to the ocean or other large lake, so he rented a cabin, took some books, and isolated in the beauty of the North Shore.  Dale’s quiet modesty summed up the events of the past twenty-one years since he left Syracuse, “. . . and that’s about it.”   

Times have changed and the good-natured kid who always drove a pickup on dirt roads has evolved into the steadfast supervisor driving a fuel-efficient sedan for his daily commute to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Dale’s parting advice to friends and citizens of Hamilton County who reside in the solitude of the quiet, little community is, “Enjoy the small town.  Everyone in the city gets so busy and there are people everywhere.  I miss driving on dirt road and being the only one on it … for three hours. 



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