Rotzinger

This is the application of Robert John (Cherry) "Bob” Rotzinger, of Fordland, who began his journey as one of 200 babies riding from New York on the Orphan Train.

On the hundreds of gravestones in the Fordland Cemetery, the name "Rotzinger" is engrained in Cecilia Trivitt’s memory.  

Her father, Robert John (Cherry) "Bob" Rotzinger, devoted time to maintaining the cemetery and took care of his community, but his story actually begins with the Orphan Train. He was one of 200 babies to ride on the train that came down from New York during the Orphan Train Movement (a movement that went from 1854 to 1929).

"Dad was born in 1907 in New York City," said Trivitt. "He spent two years in the Sisters of Charity orphanage and then took a ride on the Orphan Train. The orphanage in New York wrote to Catholic churches in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, asking if anyone would apply for a child since they had an abundance of them." 

When the orphan train movement started, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living on the streets of New York City, according to the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center. Trivitt said the Alphonse Rotzinger family, of Pocahontas, Arkansas, applied for her father, as they had just lost a son to typhoid fever.

"Mr. Rotzinger's application number was 40," said Trivitt. "The number was sewn in the coattails of the boys and sewn in the hems of dresses of the girls. The train arrived at 11:25 p.m. and the 'parents' had to get on the train fast and rip out hems to find their matching number. Dad was just two years old and was raised in a loving home."

She added, "When Dad retired, he had to go back to New York for proof of birth because all he had was a copy of his application."

Going deeper into his history, Trivitt said Rotzinger was employed by the Frisco railroad in Thayer, Missouri. He was transferred to Fordland and worked as a depot agent. Back then, it was pretty common for workers to be transferred to other areas with the Frisco railroad.

"Dad worked in Mansfield, West Plains and Mountain Grove," said Trivitt. "In later years, after we were all in high school, he went up to Humansville, Peculiar and Weaubleau, on the north and south line for Frisco. It was in Fordland where he met Mom. Her parents owned a restaurant in Fordland." 

Rotzinger stayed with Frisco until his retirement in 1973. He also worked for Hagale Walnut and the Kelley Ferrell Funeral Home. In addition, he handled the mail as a city clerk, which is something Trivitt helped him with.

"We loaded mail on the train twice a day," said Trivitt. “It was a passenger train, at one time when it came through there. We put mail on the train every morning and afternoon and took mail off. There'd be sacks of mail and sometimes one or two sacks, but then the Air Force base came in Fordland, which made it real heavy."

When they expanded the cemetery in later years, Rotzinger kept the property mowed and maintained. Trivitt said until she and her siblings were all married, they spent their time working on the cemetery.

"We took care of the whole cemetery," said Trivitt. "We decorated graves when we knew no family was going to be there. If some of them didn’t have families, we did the decorating for them. I still do it every year."

Rotzinger planned a patriot's program for many years on Memorial Day at the cemetery. It was a popular attendance back in those days, according to Trivitt.

"There would be a Pledge of Allegiance, placing of the wreath, messages from local pastors and a prayer," said Trivitt. "In later years, the Fordland High School band played and we sang with people gathered around the flagpole."

During those years, Rotzinger transported people to monument companies and into town to order stones for their families.

"Bob was a really good person," said Dawn Smith, who knew Rotzinger. "When my grandfather died, he came to get my grandmother and her two daughters and drove them to wherever to buy their headstone. He was just a good person and he took care of people.”  

Rotzinger died in 1987 and was buried in the Fordland Cemetery. Trivitt said, "Dad was very proud of all the work done at the cemetery and stayed connected until his death in 1987."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.