It took Myra Jenks years of trying to get a historical marker to remember the 1944 crash of a B24J Liberator bomber in Merriam. She even went so far as to write a history book, which raised most of the money to put it up last November.
Now that marker is missing, taken by thieves or pranksters from the 4-foot pipe that held it in its place along Antioch Road near the Cinemark movie theater at Merriam Town Center.
The missing marker was brought to Jenks’ attention by a man who was interested in its story and had been looking for it, said Jenks, 92. She told him where it was, but he said he couldn’t find it.
“I got to thinking, maybe I should check, and sure enough it was gone,” she said.
The city filed a police report June 26, but no one knows how long the plaque has been missing, said City Administrator Phil Lammers. It had been separated from the pipe, which is still in place near a bench along the sidewalk.
Jenks, former longtime president of Historic Merriam, said the plaque looked bronze, but was actually made of a less valuable metal. The proceeds from her book on Merriam’s history raised $1,000 toward the total $1,550 marker, with the city paying the rest.
The marker commemorated a plane crash in the Merriam neighborhood near what later became the theater and shopping area. In July 1944, the plane was on a training flight from Lincoln, Neb., before it was due to head to England to help the Allies in World War II. But on a low pass over Merriam, something went wrong. A wing clipped a rooftop and the plane broke up, with the fuselage landing among the houses. Three crewmen died; three others, as well as some people on the ground, survived with injuries.
Getting a marker on the spot was one of Jenks’ prime causes as president of the historical society, but it took years to happen because of some raw feelings about the incident. She tried 20 years ago to get a marker up in time for the 50th anniversary of World War II, even ordering a bronze plaque. But that order had to be canceled after the pilot, who survived, and his family objected, saying the memory was too hurtful.
The pilot has since died, so last year Jenks tried again and succeeded.
“It’s too bad,” Lammers said of the missing cast-aluminum monument. “The person who took it may get $5 for it. It’s as stupid as it can be. There are a lot of unfortunate individuals out there.”
The city will replace the plaque, he said.
That would make Jenks feel a little better. “We’ll hope it stays this time,” she said.