Leola Twiggs Served Her Community

Leola (Doll) Twiggs grave marker 05-26-2023

Memorial Day weekend is the time when I usually stroll through the area’s cemeteries looking for men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. (You’ll find some of those at the end of this post.)

My ramble through the New Lorimier Cemetery in Cape landed me at this intriguing grave stone in Section 4, Lot 195, Grave 4. I figured that there had to be a story behind the sassy-looking woman on Leola (Doll) Twiggs’ stone.

I had no idea what a remarkable woman is buried there.

The first stop was Find a Grave, which had her obituary embedded in the listing.

Born in Luxora, Arkansas

Leola (I hope she’ll forgive me for using her first name) was born August 31, 1937, in Luxora, Ark., to Johnny and Hattie Mae Mack. The tiny town is sandwiched between the Blues Highway (Hwy 61) and the Mississippi River.

It had a population of 1,178 in the 2010 census, and only 942 ten years later. The satellite photo is from Google Maps.

Moved to a segregated Cape at 3

John S. Cobb School 08-26-2020

She attended the all-Black John S. Cobb School until the city’s schools were desegregated in 1954, after Cobb School burned down.

She was one of 24 Black students to attend Central High School in the fall of 1954.  She was the only student of color in many of her classes, and felt separated even within the integrated school, a Missourian story by Callie Clark reported in 2004.

Worked the fields in the fall

She entered Central as a senior, but, because she joined her father and siblings working in the fields for several months in the fall, she was required to attend an extra semester and graduated in January 1956. (Note: this is a picture of a man and his daughter in Immokalee, FL, on their way to the fields, not Leola.)

“My expectation was teachers are teachers, and they treat children alike. I found out they didn’t,” Twiggs said.

In one class, she remembers watching her white classmates gather around the teacher’s desk, laughing and joking. When she approached to ask for help with an assignment, the teacher asked her to sit down.

“I started thinking, ‘They don’t want me here,'” Twiggs said. “When they’d ask me a question, I didn’t want to answer anymore. It didn’t seem quite worth it.”

She lived in a number of places, including Dayton, Ohio, before returning to Cape Girardeau in 1969.

She joined East Missouri Action Agency in 1969

She took a job with East Missouri Action Agency, where, over the years, she worked as a site manager, bus driver and teacher. (Note: this was a picture of a Girl Scout Head Start volunteer in 1967, not Leola.

Head Start, created in 1965, is considered the most successful, longest-running national school readiness program in the U.S., providing comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low income children and their families.

In 2009, she was honored by the agency for 40 years of service.

Taught Sunday School and volunteered at Civic Center

She taught Sunday School at New Bethel Baptist Church, and before starting with Head Start, she volunteered her summers to work with children at the Cape Civic Center from 1965 to 1968. (Note: this was a Civic Center baking contest in 1967. Leola isn’t in it.)

She served her church in many roles over 60 years: Sunday School teacher, mission president, choir president, youth women’s group leader, and prayer meeting coordinator.

The Bridge – a community project

Second Baptist Church 428 S Frederick 09-03-2015

New Bethel Missionary Church – a predominantly Black church – and the largely White La Croix Methodist Church joined forces to launch a community outreach program in 2004.

In 2006, after the two congregations had been meeting in a vacant lot at the corner of Henderson and Jefferson, La Croix purchased the former Second Baptist Church at 428 S. Frederick so that a program called The Bridge could be open to the community.

A five-block processional along Jefferson Ave. preceded the building’s dedication. Leola was quoted in a  Missourian story by Jennifer Freeze as saying she hoped the march would send a message to the community.

Campaigned for safer Indian Park

After a young child dashed out into the street from Indian Park and was killed by a passing car, Leola, who lived three blocks from the park, had some suggestions for the city Parks and Recreation Advisory board to make the area safer and more pleasant.

  • Reduced speed limits on William and Lorimier in the areas of the park.
  • Signs warning motorists that children are playing nearby.
  • Parking restrictions on one side of the street during peak hours.
  • Improved or permanent bathroom facilities
  • Installation of a drinking fountain.

It’s been some time since I took a close look to see if any or all of her recommendations were accepted.

Links to information about Leola

I have confessed that I committed research in pulling this together. I learned in school that if you steal from one source, it’s called “plagiarism,” and you’ll get a failing grade; if you steal from a bunch of sources, it’s called “research,” and you’ll get an A.

Here are some of the sources I tapped.

Previous Memorial Day posts

Since this project started out as a Memorial Post and I got sidetracked, here are links to other stories I’ve done about veterans and memorials.

New Life for Lorimier Apartments

Lorimier Apartments 04-01-2016A reader sent me good news the other day: the old Lorimier Apartments across from Indian Park at Lorimier and William are being worked on.

When I photographed them in July of last year, I figured they would keep deteriorating until they fell in.

Laura Simon wandered around

Lorimier Apartments 04-01-2016There was nobody around to ask permission to go onto the property when I drove by, but Missourian photographer Laura Simon spent some time documenting the place if you want to wander over to see her gallery.

Bridget Brown reported that Jason Coalter and Dustin Richardson of Centurion Development are doing the renovations. What’s interesting is that Bridget wrote the apartments were built in 1925, but I found Missourian stories mentioning the place as far back as June 7, 1919.

Lorimier Apartments

Lorimier Apartments 06-17-2015I’ve always been curious about the Lorimier Apartments, at the corner of Lorimier and William, across from Indian Park.

The earliest mention I of them I could find in The Missourian archives was a June 7, 1919, story that W.L. (Doby) Timbs was suing the city of Cape Girardeau for constructing what he said was a sewer line that was too small that caused flooding in the vicinity of the Lorimier apartments.

Sold to John Sackman for $15,000

March 25, 1921 – “One of the most important realty transactions of the new year in this city was reported today in the announcement of the sale of the Lorimier Apartments, corner of Lorimier and William Streets, to John Sackman. The consideration “$15,000 and other consideration,” the announcement says.

Leon Heisserer of Benton was the owner of the Lorimier apartments and the bungalow at the south…. The property has a frontage of 117 feet on Lorimier and 60 feet on William Street. The deal was made by the Ben Vinyard Realty company.”

Sold in November for $24,000

November 21, 1921 – “Two important real estate deals were consummated in Cape Girardeau on Saturday.

“The Lorimier Apartments … was sold by John T. Sackman to H.F. Dossett, a farmer living on the Rock Levee road, six miles from the city. The consideration was $24,000.

“Two hundred acres of land on the Rock Levee road, near Ramsey Creek, six miles from Cape Girardeau, were sold by H.F. Dossett to John Sackman for $28,000. The Cape Girardeau Real Estate Company, W.D. Deevers, agent, handled both transactions.

“Mr. Dossett stated today that he would rent the apartments as has been the custom. Mr. Sackman will build a fine house and barn on the farm, he intimated today. The farm will be rented out, he said.”

A more interesting Page One headline in that day’s paper read, “Malden Maids Ride With Cape Boys and School Fires Them.” Some high school girls got into big trouble when the city slickers “blew into” town.

Mrs. French and son travel

April 17, 1923Mrs. R.R. French and little son, Paul, of Lorimier Apartments are visiting relatives in St. Louis. They are expected to return here next Sunday. (In other big news of the day, “Mrs. W.H. Jacobs and Mrs. C.W. Kinsey motored to Jackson this morning to spend the day with Mrs. Jacobs’ parents.”)

October 3, 1923 – Mrs. R.R. French and little son, Paul, of Lorimier Apartments, left on the noon train today for Senath to visit relatives for about two weeks.

Bartels’ home damaged by fire

December 12, 1935 – “A gasket, blowing out on the intake of the city $10,500 two-year-old fire truck, handicapped firemen in fighting a blaze which badly damaged the dwelling of Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Bartels, 227 North Middle street.” The Bartels moved into Lorimier Apartments until their home could be repaired.

“Mr. Bartels, owner of Bartels Merc. Co., 735 Broadway, was at his store and Mrs. Bartels was attending a matinee at the Fox Broadway Theater. Miss Alma Enderle, who is employed at the home, was the only person there and was not aware of the fire until warned by neighbors.”







Preservation Homework: Parks and Buildings

This is a continuation of the links I’m posting to help students in a SEMO Historical Preservation class. They’ve been given a list of Cape landmarks to research. It turns out I’ve written about most of them, so I’m going to give them a some background information about some of the parks and random buildings they’re looking for. I posted churches and cemeteries yesterday.

I’m doing a presentation to the class on April 8 where I will tell the students what I do and why I do it. After that, I’ll talk about how I do it. I hope I can get across there is no better way to find out things than to knock on doors and talk with people like I’m doing with The Last Generation project. I won’t swear that I get all the facts right, but you readers do a good job of setting me straight when I’ve miss the mark.

Cape Rock Overlook Park

Old Bridge Overlook Park

 Cape Girardeau City Hall

Indian Park

Indian Park 04-16-2011Louis Lorimier and his Indian cohorts, battling the Americans, captured Daniel Boone.

Houck Field House

KFVS TV Studio/Tower on Broadway

Mark Steinhoff, KFVS-TV cameraman in studio c 1967This story has lots of links about KFVS

Fort D Park

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Air flight CGI - STL, Lambert Airport