Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aviation pioneer Vern Kraemer dies at 95

Vern Kraemer (1917-2012)
We are sorry to report the death of Luverne "Vern" Kraemer.  He died yesterday (6/20/12) at the age of 95 in Rapid City.   

The husband of LCHS vice-president Norma Kraemer, Vern Kraemer was a South Dakota aviation pioneer.  Born in Parker, South Dakota, Kraemer spent his early years in Wood -- and later Nemo.  And while he was first trained as a blacksmith, it was aviation that captured his imagination and attention -- a fascination that lasted more than eight decades.

Kramer earned his pilot's license in 1940 at the Spearfish airport, where he later worked as a mechanic for another aviation pioneer, Clyde Ice.  Your can read much more about this remarkable man in this Vern Kraemer online obituary.

During World War II, Kraemer was a mechanic and pilot with the Civil Air Patrol's Coastal Patrol.  Sixty years ago, after working as a mechanic for Boeing Aircraft and later as a commercial pilot, mechanic and flight instructor, he built the first licensed home-built aircraft in South Dakota.  That American Triwing aircraft is now  exhibited in the terminal building at Rapid City Regional Airport.  That aircraft -- and Vern Kraemer -- were recently the subjects of considerable media coverage, including this story and video carried by the Rapid City Fox News affiliate, KEVN. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with Norma Kraemer and all of the Kraemer family during this difficult time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nemo Road area in the flood of '72

by Norma Kraemer

Luverne "Vern" Kraemer and his first wife Bertha survived the Flood of ’72 at their home at the Box K Ranch three miles south of Nemo, SD. Luverne took the pictures in black and white the morning after the flood on June 10, 1972. The water was starting to recede, but the damage was obvious. He traveled as far north as Este Creek and as far south as the Pennington/Meade County line to take these pictures. Washed out bridges blocked travel beyond these locations. For a month after the flood, he had to travel to HWY 385 using Merritt-Estes Road and then to Johnson Siding to get to his job at the Rapid City airport because Nemo Road was impassable to Rapid City. 

Este Creek flooding at Nemo Road - 10 June 1972
He reports that at the height of the storm on June 9, the lightening was so continuous that it was almost like daylight outside. It rained for six hours for a total of 15”. Box Elder Creek came out of its banks and spread across the valley floor reaching within 75 yards of his home. The home is approximately 180 yards from the creek. Steamboat Rock, a prominent landmark bordering the east of his ranch, and all the surrounding hills were covered with waterfalls. Rocks the size of Volkswagen Beetles were floating down Box Elder Creek. One resident of the Ox Yoke Ranch died by being swept down Box Elder Creek, being found later near Black Hawk, SD.
It took the Lawrence County Road Department several days to remove the rocks covering Nemo Road that came out of the canyon north of the ranch home. Vern had to hire a front-end loader to remove the large rocks that extended into the field. Since he has an airport runway down the valley, for years he would give me a bucket when we walked down the runway to pick up rocks and remove them from the possible path of the aircraft to prevent propeller damage.  This was more than ten years after the flood.   

For more photographs and information about the impact of the 1972 flood in Lawrence County, visit our Historical Marker Gallery.