Viola’s Quest for Life Insurance

A gravestone in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg marks the burial site of Elmer and Viola Quest. Neither Elmer nor Viola were born in Perry County. They weren’t married in Perry County, nor did they live most of their lives here. Also, the surname, Quest, is a new one for this blog. So, how did these two end up being buried in the Trinity Cemetery? I will explain this as you read this blog post. Below is a photo of the Quest gravestone.

Elmer and Viola Quest gravestone – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Perhaps you noticed on the above gravestone that someone was born on this day. In fact, that person would be celebrating a special birthday today. Elmer Frederick Quest was born on October 30, 1897, making today his 125th birthday. Elmer was the son of August and Amalia Quest. I do not know the maiden name of his mother. Elmer’s later World War II draft card says he was born in Nameoki, Illinois. There is a Nameoki Township located about where Granite City is found just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. At the age of 2, we find the Quest family living in St. Louis, where Elmer’s father was a house painter. This census entry says Elmer was born in Missouri, but later ones say Illinois.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

Next, we find Elmer in the 1910 census as a 12 year-old. Older siblings of Elmer were born in Missouri, and a subsequent sibling was born in Missouri. Elmer was the only child in this family who was born in Illinois. There must be a story there, but I do not know what it is.

1910 census – St. Louis, MO

In 1917, Elmer had his World War I draft registration completed. Elmer, at the age of 20, was a clerk for the Equitable Life Insurance Company.

Elmer Quest – WWI draft registration

Elmer is still found living in St. Louis when the 1920 census was taken, and he was still living with his parents. He is called an agent for a life insurance company.

1920 census – St. Louis, MO

The last census entry in which we find Elmer as a single man was the one taken in 1930. Apparently his father had died. He was living with his mother, who was called a widow, and his older brother, August. Elmer still had the same occupation.

1930 census – St. Louis, MO

Up to this point, we still have not seen any connection to Perry County. We will now take a look at the woman who would become his wife in the 1930’s. Her name was Viola Johanna Voepel, who was born on September 28, 1903. She was the daughter of John and Emilie (Schilling) Voepel. She was born in Palmyra, Missouri. Her parents had been married in Frohna in 1900. Her mother, Emilie, was a Perry County native, but after that marriage, the newlyweds moved to Palmyra, where John Voepel was from. The story of the Voepel marriage was mentioned in two different earlier posts on this blog. If you are interested in some background information about how the Voepel name arrived in Perry County, you can read either the post, From Johnny’s Place to Johnny’s Place, or Florida – Born Beautiful. Sometime before 1905, the Voepel family moved to Perry County, where their 2nd child, a girl named Maria, was baptized in Altenburg. We find the Voepel’s in the 1910 census living in the Brazeau Township where Viola’s father was a farmer.

1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Another son, Bernhard, was born in 1910. He would later be called “Johnny” Voepel and become notable in Altenburg for operating a tavern called Johnny’s Place. By the way, around here, the name Voepel is pronounced like “Fable”. When the 1920 census was taken, we see all 3 of the Veopel children in the family.

1920 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The only church record for Viola in her early life was her confirmation record. She was confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg in 1917.

Viola Voepel confirmation record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

I was unable to find Viola in the 1930 census. I know she was not living with her parents. Since she married a man who had lived in St. Louis most of his life, I suspect Viola had gone to St. Louis to find work at some point in time and had met Elmer Quest. I looked for Viola in the St. Louis census, but failed. The only evidence I located about Elmer Quest marrying Viola Voepel was a reference to it in a St. Louis newspaper that says it took place in about 1936. I do not have a subscription to, so I could not view the actual newspaper article.

Quest/Voepel marriage record – St. Louis newspaper

It does not appear that Elmer and Viola had any children. We find just the two of them in the 1940 census, still living in St. Louis.

1940 census – St. Louis, MO

In 1942, Elmer had his World War II draft card completed. The Equitable Life Insurance Company is once again listed as his employer.

Elmer Quest – WWII draft card

The last census that we can view is the one taken in 1950. Elmer had a slightly different description of his job…assistant cashier for an insurance company.

1950 census – St. Louis, MO

Elmer Quest died in 1987 at the age of 89. A Social Security death index states that his last place of residence was Altenburg, so it appears that Elmer and Viola had moved to Perry County later in their lives.

Elmer Quest – SS death index

Elmer’s death record is found in the books of Trinity, Altenburg. That document says he was living in the Lutheran Home (probably in Cape Girardeau) when he died.

Elmer Quest death record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Viola Quest died in 2001 at the age of 97. Her Social Security death index says her last place of residence was in Jackson, Missouri.

Viola Quest – SS death index

Viola’s death record is also in the Trinity, Altenburg books, but the records we have in our research library do not include those that are this recent. Perhaps one of our local residents, Janice Unger, who would have called these two, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Viola, could tell us more details about when this couple came to Perry County.

You have already been shown the gravestone of Elmer and Viola, but now you know how it ended up in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.

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