Carolyn and Pat Phelps come from two families that have a long history of giving back to the community of Carthage.
The community is returning the honor this year by naming Carolyn and Pat Phelps Grand Marshals of the 2012 Maple Leaf Parade.
With the honor, the Phelps join dozens of other people they have called friends over the years.
“Ray Grace was grand marshal, my dad was, Marge Housh,” Carolyn Phelps said. “Yes, we were surprised. And it was a very nice honor. We didn't expect it though.”
When the Carthage Chamber's Maple Leaf Committee announced the Phelps' selection last month, they quoted from the form submitted to nominate the couple: “Carolyn and Pat have been strong supporters of numerous civic groups and private projects over the years. Each has served on numerous boards. Pat and Carolyn have supported countless worthy projects over the years without a thought to personal recognition.”
Pat Phelps' grandfather, William Harlow Phelps, came to Carthage in 1867, coming to a city that was digging itself out of the ruins of the Civil War that left the community a desolate ruin.
He served in the Missouri state legislature and worked as a lobbyist for the Missouri Pacific Railroad and built the famous Phelps House, one of the most elegant of the Victorian homes in Carthage.
“He came here from upstate New York and he came through Ohio and met the woman he ultimately married,” Pat Phelps said. “He came on out here and she followed him out and they were married in the early 1870s.”
William Phelps' first wife was killed in a carriage accident in St. Louis after they were married for 25 years. William Phelps married his second wife, who was Pat's grandmother, when he was 61 years old.
Pat's father, George E. Phelps, was a lawyer in Carthage.
Pat said he went to school to become a lawyer and come back to practice with his father, but his father died suddenly at age 47, when Pat was still in college.
Carolyn Phelps said her family history doesn't go back quite as far as her husband's, but it goes back several generations.
George Beimdiek Sr., Carolyn's grandfather, operated a quarry north of Carthage and was one of the founding partners in the Carthage Marble Company.
George Beimdiek Jr., Carolyn's father, started the Beimdiek Insurance Company not long after graduating from college.
The two families were also connected by Carthage's largest employer, Leggett and Platt.
Pat's father and Carolyn's father were both on the Leggett and Platt board of directors for a time and her grandfather was president of the company.
Pat said he has enjoyed his time on the McCune-Brooks Hospital board and watching that hospital develop over the years.
Page 2 of 2 - “I went on that board in 1974,” Pat Phelps said. “A lot has changed. It's been interesting to watch how it has changed. We had that wing that we built for future growth that hadn't been used and they put that right to work after the tornado. We were really able to set up and provide a great local service.”
Carolyn Phelps said she an Pat have always tried to help make Carthage a better place.
“When you grow up in a small town and you are exposed to all of these things, you want to do good things,” she said. “It's very rewarding too. Mostly it's fun though. I think starting new projects and trying to see things grow is rewarding. I think being a real small town, if this were a huge city, I don't think you would see that as much as you do in a small town.”
The family's contributions stretch beyond the borders of Carthage.
The Beimdiek Student Recreation Center at Missouri Southern State University was built largely because of a donation from Carolyn's father, George Beimdiek Jr., before he died. It was finished in 2010.
“He always loved athletics,” Carolyn said. “He always played tennis because golf took too long. He had to take up golf later on when his knees wouldn't handle the pressure. The equipment down there is wonderful.”
Nowadays, Carolyn focuses on her church while Pat is developing property they own along Airport Drive west of Carthage High School.
They are both looking forward to the Maple Leaf Festival, although being named Grand Marshal of the event will disrupt their Maple Leaf routine.
“ We're going to get to do some things that we've never done before,” Carolyn said with a laugh. “We'll judge some contests that I don't know that I'm qualified to judge.”
Carolyn recalled when the first Maple Leaf parade off the ground.
“I think Maple Leaf is a wonderful tradition for us to have here in Carthage,” she said. “I remember when it first started, Sen. Webster and Bob Dale and they got Marching Mizzou down here for the first Maple Leaf Parade. We had some (University of Missouri) cheerleaders stay with us I remember.”
Pat and Carolyn have enjoyed growing up in Carthage and raising their family here and they're looking forward to much more to come.
Carolyn summed it all up when she said: “It's been a great life living here in Carthage.”