While enjoying the quiet life of retirement on his farm north of Lohman, 90-year-old Artwin “Art” Ehrhardt said in his youth that it was rarely possible to venture farther than the county lines of Cole.
But years later, when Uncle Sam called, he joined the US Army and traveled halfway across the country and met the woman who became his wife.
Born in 1931, Ehrhardt attended the old Mount Pleasant School near Centertown for six years, followed by a year at St. John’s Lutheran Church School in Stringtown.
“The pastor, who was also our teacher, left Stringtown, and my parents sent me to Trinity Lutheran in Jefferson City, and I finished eighth grade there,” he said. “Then I went to Centertown High School for two years.”
He continued: “The board was talking about closing the school in Centertown; that’s when I went to Russellville to finish my last two years and graduated in 1949. During my senior year, I became the president of the first FFA class in school history, too.”
Two years earlier, in 1947, his father bought a second farm on East Lohman Road, where Ehrhardt now resides. After graduating from high school, he started working on this farm with his father, raising various animals and growing crops.
In April 1952, he received notice of induction into the United States Army and, despite being the only son in the family, was denied a reprieve. After his induction in Kansas City, Ehrhardt was sent to Camp Crowder near Neosho for internal processing, and from there traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas for his basic training.
“We trained on the hill called Logan Heights in Fort Bliss,” Ehrhardt said. “It lasted about eight weeks, then they sent me down the hill to train in artillery and automatic weapons.”
One of the pieces of equipment he remembers being trained on was the 90mm anti-aircraft guns that were used for coastal defense during World War II. After this advanced training was completed, he was transferred to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
“Over there as an automatic weapons group that was sent overseas for the Korean War,” he said. “Those of us in the anti-aircraft artillery were sent to work at different sites around New York. But my orders were reversed and they sent me to Fort Benjamin Harrison for six weeks to learn military administration and the work of the staff.”
Smiling, he added, “I guess they thought I’d be a good fit for homework because I learned typing in high school.”
Upon completion of his most recent training, Ehrhardt was transferred to a personnel section at headquarters in Fort Totten, New York. During this time he also maintained his faith, having brought with him a book identifying the location of Missouri Synod Lutheran churches across the United States.
One Sunday in particular, he visited the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Whitestone, New York. After the service, he saw two young women standing outside the entrance to the church and began to visit them.
“I was in my uniform and looked pretty smart,” he happily recalls. “One of the ladies invited me to her parents’ house for lunch and soon after we started seeing each other regularly.”
The young soldier and Delemar “Del” Banker became engaged in December 1953, while he was still serving in the United States Army at Fort Totten.
In addition to his staff duties, Ehrhardt accompanied units on occasional anti-aircraft gunnery exercises on Long Island. After being released in February 1954, he returned home to help his father on his two farms. His fiancée stayed on the East Coast to complete her training as a registered nurse.
On October 23, 1954, the couple married and a few months later built a new home on the farm north of Lohman. Later, Del was employed as a registered nurse at hospitals and doctors’ offices in the Jefferson City area, in addition to working for the Cole County Health Department.
Now retired, Ehrhardt spent many years farming and, with his wife, raised four daughters. His community service included serving on the board of directors of the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative, devoting 40 years to this position. Additionally, he served on the County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
“I was asked to run for the (Cole) County commission and was elected the Western District Commissioner, serving in that office from 1984 to 1992,” he said. “While I was with the commission, we started the half-cent sales tax to help with roads and bridges, and also implemented 911 calls in the county.”
He added: “For many years I also worked part-time at a local funeral home and continue to volunteer with the VFW Honor Guard at funerals and other patriotic events.”
Del, his wife of over 65, died in December 2021. Since then, Ehrhardt has remained at his Lohman farm, surrounded by his family who have grown to a circle of 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. .
Citing memories of his brief military experience decades ago, the former soldier said he decided to take on all the duties assigned to him when he received his unexpected conscription notice.
“I had grown up listening to the radio news about World War II, and when I got the call to serve, I had no idea what I was going to do or if I would be sent to Korea. “, did he declare.
“The army was something I had to do, but I learned a lot from that experience and was ready to go wherever they needed me.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.