Police officer, others in photo identified

May 5, 2013
Several Mystery Photo readers remembered Washington police Officer Reuben Wasler, pictured at far right in this photograph thought to date to the 1940s.

Whether it was his portly appearance or his affable nature, Reuben Wasler made quite an impression on many people. That must be why so many Observer-Reporter readers were able to identify the Washington police officer in last week’s Mystery Photo.

Wasler, who served on the city force from 1941 into the early 1950s, lived at 42 W. Walnut St. and was neighbor to at least some of the young women in the photo.

Vicki Ferrell-Law called us to identify her mother, Ruth Merritt, who is in the front row, third from left. “She taught school in Washington for 27 years,” she said.

Mrs. Merritt, who is now 93 and living in a nursing home, began teaching at Third Ward School in 1955 and moved to Clark School in 1963 to teach one of Washington’s first integrated classrooms. She retired from Washington Elementary Education Park in 1983.

Ferrell-Law, who has lived in Washington all her life, was also able to identify some of the other women, including Nelva Thomas, first row, far right; Maureen Jackson, second row, third from left; and Mary Louise Martin, second row, fourth from left.

“I think the group may have been the Patrician Club, which my mother used to talk about quite a bit,” Ferrell-Law said.

There were a number of Patrician clubs around the country at the time, the purpose of which was “to advance the moral, social, physical and intellectual welfare of its members.”

Deloris Lacey called to identify the “jolly” Patrolman Wasler, and also to identify the woman standing next to him as Jane Leftwich.

John Campbell of Washington was able to identify Elizabeth Wheeler, Sis Martin and Nelva Thomas, fourth, fifth and sixth in the first row, respectively.

Unfortunately, no one was able to precisely date the photo, which looks to be from the late 1940s. Nor was anyone able to identify the orchestra or the place where this July 4 event was being held.

Here’s one more remembrance of Wasler (whose first name was spelled several ways in the Washington City Directory) from Joyce Neff Hough of Annapolis, Md.:

“Mr. Ruben Wasler was my family’s next-door neighbor on West Walnut Street for many years. He lived there with his two sisters, who also were not married. If I remember correctly, they were both schoolteachers, Miss Anna and Miss Laura Wasler. They were precious people and very proud of their beautiful backyard. As a child I would sing to him the song, ‘Rueben, Rueben, I’ve been thinking, what a grand world this would be,’ and he would sing back the refrain to me. Thank you for the fond memories.”

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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