Remembering Anne North

Remembering Anne North
January 14, 2011 at 7:20pm
I’ve been thinking about Christina and Tucson. Among the many feelings that have surfaced, there is one long surpressed. It is a strong memory of my young friend Anne North who died at age 11 in what I now understand was a monumental tragedy for a small rural community. It was the death of ten of our folks on a train track in March of 1959. At 16 I believe I was simply numbed when I heard the news. Maybe I remained that way for a long time. I was a junior at Beavercreek High School. I remember clearly where I was when I heard what had happened……maybe a mile down the road? I was standing in the Beaver Beacon newsroom with the seniors on the staff of the school paper. I couldn’t take it in. My experience with the death young people was limited, though my best friend, Jackie Thalman, had died two years before. I had no experience with loss of this dimension. That these kids were gone from us, in an instant, simply stunned me. A single moment blasted a ragged hole in the fabric of our communal lives. I remember realizing that one of the dead was Anne. She was a bright girl whom I knew from 4-H. I knew her pretty well.
I don’t know how I made it to the viewing in Dayton. I seem to have gone alone. Could that be true? Most of what happened after hearing of the accident is lost to me. Was there a community gathering? Did anyone comfort us? Did our parents know or wonder what was happening inside of us…and inside all the kids who would have known the Girl Scouts who died? I do remember standing by her open casket. In the dimly lit room, Anne’s parents told me that I had a responsibility be worthy of Anne’s memory. I suppose that sounds a heavy load to put on a teen. But it didn’t seem so then. It just seemed true and a little overwhelming. I know that they were “older” parents and Anne their only daughter. And I got to live and Anne didn’t. Anne, her parents said, had, “looked up to me.” Anne would was already someone very special. I would have continued to be proud to have her as my pal all my life.

I guess I think we all have a responsibility to be worthy of Christina’s memory and Anne’s………and any child so tragically denied a full life.

I’m going to post here the newspaper article that we would have read in 1959. It seems so raw as I read it all these years later. How raw it must have seemed then.


Xenia, Ohio (AP) — A freight train plowed into a car carrying 10 passengers and “split it open like a tin can” in a tragic railroad crossing accident near here Wednesday. All 10 — including eight Girl Scouts — were killed.
The “tin can” description came from the Rev. Alvin Klotz, one of the first on the scene, who added: “People were strewn over the field. There were two or three near the car but the others were all over.”
The car was dragged 50 feet along the tracks before being shoved to one side. One body, that of MRS. LUCILLE WHITE, 34, was found 75 feet beyond the car, indicating the force of the crash.

Returning From Library.
The daughters of MRS. WHITE and the other adult in the car, MRS. JEANETTE RANDALL, 38, were among the eight girls who perished.
The girls were returning home from a library here where they had been studying for merit badges. They lived in Beavercreek Twp., a rural suburb between Xenia and Dayton.
The accident happened about 3 1/2 miles west of Xenia.
Kenneth Ward, father of one Girl Scout, is an auxillary fireman. He was helping gather up the bodies, unaware that his daughter was a victim, when he recognized what was left of the car. After hunting around, he found the body of his 11-year-old daughter, LINDA.
The list of casualties were:
SHARON WHITE, aged 11.
Her mother, LUCILLE WHITE, aged 34.
Her mother JEANETTE RANDALL, aged 38.
ANN NORTH, aged 11.
ANNA WILVERT, aged 11.
LINDA WARD, aged 11.
CONNIE LaPRISE, aged 11.

Six Killed Instantly.
Six were killed outright in the crash and three were dead on arrival at the hospital.
W. R. Murray of Columbus, engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s three-diesel express freight, said he saw the car slow down as it approached the crossing and he thought it was going to stop. But it kept coming into the train’s path, he said.
State Highway Patrolman J. W. Smith said his investigation showed the freight was moving 60 to 70 m.p.h. but a Pennsylvania spokesman pointed out that the speed limit in that area is 50 m.p.h.
The crossing is unprotected by flasher signals and has only a crossbar railroad sign.
Vaughn Lewis, superintendent of Greene County Schools, commented: “The biggest tragedy was that there was no flasher light there. That’s a bad crossing and we (the school board) fought for flashers and didn’t get it. This is inexcusable in a populated area.”

Hamilton Daily News Journal Ohio 1959-03-19

About Llyn De Danaan

LLyn De Danaan is an anthropologist and author. She writes fiction and nonfiction. Katie Gale: A Coast Salish Woman's Life on Oyster Bay was published by the University of Nebraska Press. She is currently a speaker for Humanities Washington.
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