An airplane crash ends Gandy Construction, an early elevator player


The Mayer Osborn company brochure mentions Gaddy (sic) Construction of Omaha

Story by Kristen Cart

My father remembers the grain elevator construction business from earliest childhood. But his childish memories did not distinguish one job from another, so until recently we did not know about the company where my grandfather William Osborn began his career as a carpenter.

Dad said they still lived on the farm when his father went to Kansas City in pursuit of a better opportunity, which dated the event to before 1944. That job was likely with the Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha. Before then, Grandpa’s Mayer Osborn Construction brochure said he worked for Gaddy (sic) Construction of Omaha. It was difficult to come up with any information about them, until we located a clipping that marked a tragedy.

The newspaper account related:

Plane Crashes at Lexington, Omahan Killed

Lexington, Neb., (AP). Ralph Arden Gandy, 41, head of an Omaha construction firm, died Saturday night after the light plane he was piloting crashed near here.

Tommy Johnson, a Gandy construction company foreman, was injured in the crash.

W. H. Pfiefer, Lexington funeral director, said Gandy’s plane took off from a field on the farm of Dennis O’Connor, a cattle feeder who lives six miles northeast of here.

After the takeoff, the funeral director said, the plane stalled and crashed on a road. Both men were thrown free of the wreckage.

Gandy died a short time after the crash in the Community hospital of Lexington.

Johnson received a broken jaw and chest injuries. He was removed to the Methodist Hospital in Omaha by ambulance Sunday night.

The Gandy firm had built a grain elevator on the O’Connor farm, Pfiefer said, and Gandy and Johnson had been at the farm inspecting it. The plane was taking off to return to Omaha when it crashed.

Gandy is survived by his widow, Clara, and four children.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Neb.,  Aug. 1, 1949.

William Osborn worked with Loren Saunders, his brother-in-law, at a job in Omaha before he took the opportunity in Kansas City, according to my dad. It seems likely that the Gandy company was that job.

6 comments on “An airplane crash ends Gandy Construction, an early elevator player

  1. Emily says:

    I love to read this when it comes out. My grandfather built slip form concrete grain elevators while my mom was little. my grandparents moved around every three to six months from the time they were married until my mom (the third of six children) was in third grade. I find a lot of your stories remind me of the ones my mom told or my grandmother tells. You did one where a man fell to his death from an elevator during construction. Unfortunately that happened on a job my grandfather was the foreman of as well. This one, reminds me a story of when my grandmother was pregnant with my mom. They were living in NE in 1954 and my grandfather was the foreman on a job in Murdock. The foreman for a job not far from there in Manley (I think it was Manley) died in an airplane crash and my grandfather acted as foreman for both jobs until they were complete. I actually just took a lot of the stories and research my mom was putting together and finished it up and had it printed up for all my aunts for Christmas. Even some of my cousins were interested in reading It too. This a great thing to have to record these things for future generations. These elevators aren’t as common as they used to be.

    • kocart says:

      Do you know which company your grandfather worked for? I am curious where the fall happened. Usually, we can find a newspaper clipping with the details. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

      • Emily says:

        For Christmas I put together o bunch of my grandmother’s stories for my aunts and all my cousins. Here is the one I wrote about the man that fell. My mother and I found a few articles while researching that particular job. My grandfather worked for Virgil Johnson. At the time the company was Johnson Elevator company.

        At a job in Galatia, KS in 1959, while Darrell was stabilizing the family trailer, it fell and he was hit across his back and shoulders. Rosina took him to the hospital. The hospital wasn’t going to see him until she could pay. She didn’t have insurance. She told them instead, “I’ve got enough money to buy this damn hospital.” When they left two days later, she paid cash. Rosina called Virgil to tell him that Darrell had been hurt; not bad but he was pretty bruised up. Rosina wasn’t sure what they were going to do. She told Virgil she wanted to know what he was going to do because if Darrell didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. Virgil asked if his butt was bruised and then pointed to a chair and said “See that chair right there, he can park his ass right there and supervise from his chair.” When the elevator was just about completed a man fell from the top of the elevator. Darrell was a witness to the fall. The guy opened the door at the top and the wind caught him and blew him over the side of the elevator. He fell 120 feet to his death. The man was Arthur Kromberg, 42, originally from Menasha, Wisconsin. Rosina said when they called the man’s brother to tell him he could come pick up his belongings. He didn’t seem very interested except that he asked if there was anything of value. They had told him his brother had a truck. The man reluctantly agreed to get the truck.

      • kocart says:

        That is an amazing story. I should be able to find more about it in local newspapers. We had wondered about the Galatia project because it was done in the same style as the elevators my grandfather built at Mayer-Osborn, a company that shut its doors in about 1955. The only thing we can figure is that the designer of that elevator type, Eugene Mayer, must have gone on to work for Virgil Johnson. The guys in the business worked together and knew each other, and they managed to continue in their specialties whether construction companies prospered or failed.

  2. Emily says:

    I have wondered the same things. The elevators have a lot of similarities. The main thing that sticks out is the curved round house at the top of them.

    The one from Galatia is on one of Johnson’s business cards. Johnson used to work with some brothers with the last name Sampson. Does that name ring a bell?

    They were Virgil Johnson’s brother in laws. They worked together for a while too under the name Johnson-Sampson. My grandfather worked constructing concrete elevators from 1947 to about 1963. He worked for several different people.

    Johnson was the man he worked for most, on and off over the years. When Virgil and his brother in laws split, my grandfather went to work for Dewey Construction and then Young Love. Then Virgil found a partner and my grandfather worked for Johnson & Bratcher. Then Virgil went off on his own as Johnson Elevator Company. When Virgil went broke after a missile base job in the 1960s my grandfather worked for a guy by the name of Guy James. He did two jobs for him until he finally settled in Rushville, IL. He never built another elevator but he had his own company and they did a lot of elevator repair work.

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