William E. Johnson died after helping to save Willard Wiedeman, Jr., from drowning, Eureka, Missouri, September 10, 1961. Willard, Jr., 8, who could not swim, lost his footing on a sand bar in the Meramec River and was carried into water 14 feet deep 45 feet from the bank. He called for help as he alternately sank and rose. Johnson, 52, moulder, who was greatly overweight, swam toward the boy. He then called for help, but continued to Willard, Jr., and took hold of him. Both were submerged briefly twice, and Johnson called out that he could not retain his hold. The boy’s mother swam to them, took her son from Johnson, and towed him to the bank. Johnson again called for help. Willard Wiedeman, father of the boy, entered the water fully clothed except for his shoes and swam to Johnson, who by then had become inert and was almost completely submerged. Wiedeman lifted Johnson, who was 60 pounds heavier than he, to the surface and attempted to tow him toward the bank. Johnson sank, causing Wiedeman to be submerged and swallow some water. Wiedeman then surfaced with Johnson and, nearly exhausted, called for help. With a man holding one end of a rope tied around her waist, Wiedeman’s wife swam to her husband and Johnson as they sank again. Wiedeman returned to the surface alone, badly dazed. His wife grasped his hands, and both then were drawn to the bank by the rope. Willard, Jr., soon recovered. The body of Johnson later was recovered.
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