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Effort starts to honor late officer

Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm


Vandalia’s Orville Rosenstengel next to his police cruiser. He was killed in 1960.

More than 50 years has passed since Vandalia police officer Orville Rosenstengel was shot and killed in the line of duty.
But thanks to the efforts of his decendants, his life and his positive example of a law enforcement officer will never be forgotten after the establishment of a memorial association.
On June 15, 2013, the descendents of Orville and Pearl McWhirt Rosenstengel establish the association to educate the general pubic about a positive role model like Orville and to combat the negative stereotypes of officers.
The first big project for the group is an effort to designate  a section of Highway 54 running between the city limit signs of Vandalia as “Orville Rosenstengel Memorial Highway.”
Currently, relatives have more than 80 of the 100 signatures required by MoDOT. They also need to raise $2,400 by November and turn in the signatures with an application in an effort to receive the desgnation in August 2014. Two signs would then be placed along that stretch of higheway with the designation.
Donations can be made through the First National Bank of Audrain County. Community members can also stay current with association news by “liking” them on their Facebook page.
“Our goal is to eventually establish a scholarship at Van-Far for a person wanting to go into law enforcement,” said Tina Pickett.
His daughter Deloris Hogue still resides in Vandalia.
For more information, contact Tina Pickett by emailing
Biography of Orville Rosentengel by Tina Pickett
Orville Rosenstengel was a Ralls County share cropper in the 1930’s. Although he and his wife, Pearl (McWhirt) and three children (Dolores, Neal, and Warren Dale), had to move frequently, as share croppers did back then, their home was filled with love and laughter. Orville Eugene had been born to Clardy and Edna (Snider) Rosenstengel on May 26, 1911 in Perry, Mo., near Greenlawn.
Clardy’s parents were Joshua and Sarah (Howald) Rosenstengel, from St. Francois, Mo. Joshua’s parents were Adam and Rebecca (Cowhom) Rosenstengel. Adam discovered the Doe Run Lead Mines, in Francois, Mo., which were on his farm.
In addition to farming, Orville repaired tractors and various engines for neighbors and friends. He also built wagons and once built a sleigh, which came in handy one snowy, Christmas Eve night when Orville drove his family to his parents’ house for Christmas.
Once, while using a rubber hose to siphon fuel, Orville accidentally swallowed some, which made him very ill.
He never fully recovered from this incident-the fuel created ulcers in his stomach, which he tried to treat with home remedies. Orville’s favorite remedy was a half cup of baking soda and a half cup of water, in which he would swish this around in a glass and chug it.
This home remedy did Orville more harm than good and he ended up hemorrhaging. Two-thirds of Orville’s stomach had to be removed.
Unable to farm, Orville moved his family to Vandalia, Mo. where he became the town’s police officer. On November 18, 1960, Orville got a call from a Ralls County resident who resided just yards away from the Audrain County line, just outside the Vandalia city limits–a prowler had been seen!
Regardless of the fact that Orville was off duty at the time, he decided to help this good citizen anyway.
Earlier in the day, he had taken the squad car in for repairs, so he had to drive his own car to the address given over the phone. Because of this, Orville had no radio to call for help if he needed it.
When he arrived at the residence, he apprehended the prowler, not knowing that he was a criminal by the name of William Thompson, who was wanted in lllinois.
For reasons no one will ever know, Orville ended up driving Thompson to the Vandalia Police Department in Thompson’s own car.
Upon arriving at the Vandalia Police Station, Thompson shot Orville in the chest and killed him.
Orville left behind a wife and three children, two of which were still dependents.
Orville’s family was not entitled to full death benefits because he had been off duty and had gone out of Audrain County and out of the city limits to help a Ralls County resident.
William Thompson was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison; he died there.
Orville Rosenstengel memorabilia can be viewed at the Vandalia Area Historical Society Museum.
His gun, badge, and several other items are on display to the public.