A little more than a year’s worth of work from family members resulted in a celebration this past Saturday at the V.F.W. Hall as the new “Officer Orville Rosestengel Memorial Highway” sign was unveiled in front of a large crowd.
MoDOT area engineer was joined by Rosenstengel’s family to pull the veil off the sign.
“I know how hard it is to get one of these signs up and put in place for an officer who was killed in the line of duty in recent memory,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Gregory Kindle. “I can’t imagine how hard it is when it happened nearly 70 years ago.”
Audrain County Sheriff’s Department Captain Larry Brothers said a few words. He talked about the beginning of his long career. He said he remembered learning a lot about Orville when serving as an office in the Vandalia Police Department. He said he knew Orville and his family.
Vandalia Police Chief Tony Laird said he thought it was a great idea when the family mentioned to him their goal of getting a memorial highway sign placed on Highway 54.
City of Vandalia Mayor Ralph Kuda, Jr. also made some brief remarks.
A poem written by Neal Rosenstengel in November 1960 was read by Lisa Rosenstengel Robinett.
Another poem, this one written by Martha Kirtlink Libby in 1960, was ready by Martha Libby.
A third reading came from Warren Rosenstengel’s book “Me and Brother Neal.” It was read by Jill Rosenstengel Reagan.
A state resolution has been signed by Governor Jay Nixon and prepared by Missouri State Representative Jay Houghton.
Before the unveiling, Charlotte Rosenstengel gave the introduction and remarks, Wayne Lynn performed some musical selections, and Tina Hogue Pickett gae the welcome.
Near the end of the event, there was a reflections time for folks to share memories of Orville.
Lynn then performed “I Surrender All.”
Pastor Bruce Williamson gave the closing prayer.
Refreshments and fellowship time followed the service.
The food was catered by Pam and Briana Leeper.
More on Orville
The late Orville Rosenstengel lost his life on November 18, 1960 after receiving a call from a Ralls County resident that there was a prowler in the area.
Though he was off duty at the time, Rosenstengel drove his own car, as his police cruiser was in the shop for repairs, and went to the residence.
He apprehended William Thompson, who he did not know was a criminal as he didn’t have a police radio in his personal vehicle.
He took Thompson to the Vandalia Police Department in his own car where Rosenstengel was shot in the chest and killed. Orville left behind a wife and three children, two of which were still dependents.
Since he was off duty, his family was not entitled to full death benefits.
Thompson was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison, where he eventually died.
There are several pieces of Rosenstengel memorabilia on display at the Vandalia Area Historical Society Museum.