Story of Carnegie Hero Weldon M. Praytor enlivens family reunion

Weldon M. Praytor
Weldon M. Praytor, right, with his wife, Mildred Praytor, and one daughter.
The headstone of Weldon M. Praytor bears a bronze medallion cast in the likeness of the Carnegie Medal.
The five daughters of Weldon M. Praytor, who recently gathered for their family reunion. They are seated from left, Sue Praytor Wortham and Nell Praytor Hyde; and standing from left, Shirley Praytor Abbott, Laura Praytor Alvey, and Pat Praytor Streetman.

Nearly 85 years to the day that Weldon M. Praytor helped a man escape from the bottom of a well, Praytor’s descendants recognized his heroism at a family reunion held July 22, 2017, which included the recent installation of a Hero Fund medallion on Praytor’s headstone.

In July 1932, Praytor was called to the scene where a man, who was near the bottom of a 25-foot-deep well, was in danger of suffocating from sulfur dioxide gas.  Then a 21-year-old farmhand, Praytor didn’t shy away from the challenge.  He helped 60-year-old Steve L. Lynch out of the well in Lindale, Texas, and was recognized by the Carnegie Hero Fund two years later.

Praytor’s family wasn’t surprised when they learned of his actions.   Praytor’s daughter, Laura Alvey, said her father was a selfless man.  “He was always helping people,” she said.  “He would give the shirt off of his back if he had to.”

Praytor, who lived in Hopewell, a small community of Lindale, was given a bronze medal and $1,000 grant, which he used to build a house for his family.  He and his wife, Mildred, who married in 1931, raised seven children – two sons and five daughters.

The family has reunited annually since 2001, but this year the event became more involved as the family researched Praytor’s act and wanted to educate more relatives about what he did. Organizers opened the reunion to Praytor’s side of the family, specifically his late Uncle Robert’s children and grandchildren.

“They didn’t really know anything about (Weldon’s heroic act),” Alvey said.  “They were never told the story.”

The family also was able to see the medal, as it was handed down to Praytor’s grandson Dwayne Praytor, and he brought it to the event to display.

Alvey said her remaining siblings – sisters Pat Streetman, Nell Hyde, Sue Wortham and Shirley Abbott, look forward to the reunions as they don’t see each other very often due to distance.   “We make a special effort to get together,” Alvey said.  Her two brothers, Louie Mitchell and Homer Charles (Bud) Praytor, died in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

Weldon Praytor passed away in February 1980 at the age of 68 after battling illness, including pancreatic cancer.  Mildred died December 1979, six weeks before Praytor’s death.  They share a double headstone in Hopewell Cemetery.

Bronze medallions cast in the likeness of the Carnegie Medal are available to families of deceased awardees (see back cover).

–Melissa A. McLaughlin, case investigator