Louis G. Burkhalter, 27, machinist, died attempting to save Ruth E. Mastellar, 19, and Veda G. Hemstock, 26, from drowning, Bradley, Illinois, July 28, 1912. The women, who could not swim, waded 70 feet from the bank in the Kankakee River and then suddenly stepped off a ledge into deep water. They went beneath the surface and drifted downstream. Burkhalter, who had swum as a boy and who was dressed, ran into the water and also fell off the ledge. He swam 50 feet toward Mrs. Mastellar and Miss Hemstock, called for help, and went beneath the surface before he reached them. He reappeared twice and then sank and was drowned. The women reappeared once and then sank and were drowned. The bodies were recovered later. 9113-672
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Louis G. Burkhalter, of Hammond, Ind., was born on Nov. 29, 1885, in Wapello, Iowa. A machinist for the Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad, Burkhalter, 26, drowned on July 28, 1912, while attempting to save his sister-in-law, Ruth Masteller, and another woman, Veda Hemstock.
Burkhalter was survived by his wife, Lois, and children, Ernest and Helen. According to the Ottumwa (Iowa) Courier, Lois Burkhalter of Kankakee, was visiting Burkhalter’s mother, Clara Burkhalter, when they learned that the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission posthumously awarded Burkhalter the Carnegie Medal in November 1912.
“Owing to the press receiving notice of these awards before they are sent out to the recipients (it was) possible for her to receive the joyful news while on her visit to her late husband’s home,” the newspaper reported in its Nov. 5, 1912 edition. “Her joy on learning the news of her husband’s bravery being rewarded added to the pleasure of her visit and to that of her relatives as well.”
Burkhalter was buried at Mound Grove Cemetery in Kankakee, Ill. He and Masteller share a headstone.
(Edited from information provided by Burkhalter’s ancestor.)