William Oldenberg Dies

Colon Fire is Fatal

May 17, 1945; Colon Express: “At approximately seven o’clock last Sunday evening the fire department rushed to Herman Oldenberg home on the east side. Discovering that an error had been made, they speeded to the William F. Oldenberg home on the west side, a house owned by Mrs. Jennie Hovis of Brunson. By that time the fire in the dwelling had been extinguished by the prompt and heroic work of Charles Snyder and Henry Slagle. Prior to getting ready to attend the evening church service, Mr. Oldenberg was starting a fire in the circulating heater in the dining room. Unaware of live coals in the stove, Mr. Oldenberg poured kerosene from a five-gallon can containing about a gallon of oil. The can exploded with such intensity that the bottom was blown out and Mr. Oldenberg was saturated with burning oil. He ran from the house a flaming torch, cast off his coat on the porch and rolled in the grass in a vain attempt to extinguish the fire. Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Hopper of Hamlet, Indiana, mother and stepfather of Mrs. Oldenberg were visiting in the Oldenberg home, and Mr. Hopper seized a heavy woolen blanket and Mrs. Oldenberg a gunny sack and extinguished the flames that encircled her husband. Neighbors hearing the explosion and the cries of Mrs. Oldenberg hurried to the tragic scene. Billy Kiefer and Rily Schaeffer promptly placed Mr. Oldenberg into the Hopper car and drove him to Dr. Brunson’s home and not finding him in, drove to Dr. Hoekzema’s home, who was also out. They then went to George Conklin’s for an ambulance and he too was gone. A few minutes later Dr. Brunson came along in his car and the men hailed him. Mr. Oldenberg was immediately transferred from the Hopper car into Dr. Brunson’s car and no time was lost in rushing him to Sturgis Memorial hospital where he died the following day. While Dr. Brunson had little or no hope of Mr. Oldenberg’s recovery, he faithfully remained with him several hours, doing what he could under the circumstances. Mrs. Hopper was trapped in the house but made her way out to safety, sustaining only slight burns on her forehead and the back of her neck. Five-year-old Esther Oldenberg was trapped in the bedroom just off of the dining room and remained there until her Grandmother Oldenberg, discovering the child was not outside, rushed into the house and through the fire and smoke and brought her out to safety. The fire was confined to the dining room where it did considerable damage. Every room in the house received its share of smoke. William Oldenberg was born on December 11, 1891. He married Bertha Crabb in 1915 and had three children; Doris, Herman, and Roy.”