The Chanute community lost a true gem with the passing of Warren Alford on Wednesday. (Obituary on page 2).
In his 90-plus years, he gave so much of himself to his hometown.
I’ve known Warren for a long time and worked on several stories with him and about him.
He volunteered with the Chanute Historical Society and when companion Mary Lou Cooper was blood drive chair, would take the photographs of the double digit donors, which continued this year.
And he was a big fan of explorers Martin and Osa Johnson. He was interviewed a couple years ago for a film about them.
Warren had known the Johnsons as a boy growing up. He said that he mowed the yard of Belle Leighty, Osa’s mother, and she would invite Alford and his sister over when Martin and Osa were in town.
“They didn’t have children and they enjoyed children,” he said. “So we would go over whenever they were in town. It got to be where we were pretty well acquainted with them.”
Alford remembered the Johnsons’ pet gibbon Wah-Wah as a boy, feeding him strawberries, but one time Wah-Wah was a little cantankerous.
“One evening I went over there to visit,” he said. “It was just Martin; Osa was out fishing. I was sitting on the divan when the gibbon grabbed my ear and wouldn’t turn me loose. Martin had to go get a cookie or something to get him to let go.”
Despite his personal relationship with the Johnsons, Alford was very aware of how popular they were.
“At that time, their movies were very popular all over the world,” he said. “It was an honor when Martin and Osa would be here in person on the stage and narrate their movies. This (Memorial) auditorium would be full. To come to a movie like that was something really special.”
Warren did have his stories and another passion was photography. He emailed many photos to the Tribune.
As a tribute to him, I picked a sunset photo to publish with this article.
Warren, we hope your final sunset on Earth will follow you everywhere.