Harold Lee Volkmer, 80, former member of Congress from Missouri’s 9th Congressional District, died Saturday, April 16, 2011 at Beth Haven Nursing Home in Hannibal following several bouts of pneumonia during the winter.
Once nicknamed “The Roadrunner” by the late U.S. Sen. Tom Eagleton in awe of the ground he could cover and the work he could accomplish in a day seemingly tirelessly, Harold was busy literally in his last days reviewing a legal case for the NRA’s Civil Rights Defense Fund. Known to all simply as Harold, he was touched tremendously by the hundreds of greetings that came to him recently on his 80th birthday.
His parents were Frances Victoria Schwering and Paul Joseph Volkmer of Jefferson City. From his dad, he learned his tremendous work ethic but also the enjoyment of fishing. From his mom, he learned his love of politics, entering his first campaign as a young child by carrying FDR placards for her as she approached store owners about placing them in their front windows. As he grew up in the shadow of the state capitol, his mother coached him that in order to really make a difference, he must be on the inside.
He graduated from St. Peters Catholic High School in Jefferson City and worked his way through Jefferson City Junior College as a stock boy and butcher at Kroger (where he shopped all his life in gratitude for the opportunity they had given him). Later, he attended St. Louis University and the University of Missouri Law School. Having taken the Missouri Bar exam early simply as practice, he actually passed it and was admitted to the Bar on April 23, 1955, prior to graduating from law school on June 8, 1955.
Harold was appointed assistant attorney general of Missouri following graduation and served in that capacity until entering service in the U.S. Army. He served two years, much of which was spent on a ship delivering materials and supplies to workers near the North Pole as they built the Distance Early Warning line. While in the Army, he married Shirley R. Braskett of Kokomo, Ind.
Upon completion of his Army service in 1957, he and Shirley located in Palmyra where Harold entered private law practice with Harry J. Mitchell, an association that lasted until 1961 when he opened his own law office in Hannibal. Soon, he was joined in practice by Ronald McKenzie, and later by John Lyng. During this time, Harold was active in Young Democrats.
He was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Marion County in 1960 and served from 1961-66. In that year, he was elected State Representative and served from 1967 through 1976. During this period, Harold and Shirley began raising their three children – Jerry, John and Beth – and helped build the community. Harold was active in the Hannibal Junior Chamber of Commerce, serving on the board and receiving the Outstanding Jaycee Award. He served on the Salvation Army Board of Directors and the Hannibal Concert Association Board of Directors. He was chairman of the Marion County Easter Seals Campaign and March of Dimes. He chaired the effort to build the Hannibal swimming pool. He helped start the first Cub Scout Pack of Blessed Sacrament Church, coached flag football and Little League baseball, and helped start the Floor Hockey League at the YMCA.
In November, 1976, he was elected to the first of 10 terms in the United States Congress. In the U.S. House of Representatives, he served on the Judiciary Committee (4 years) and the Agriculture Committee (16 years), chaired the Agriculture Subcommittee on Small Farms and Forests, served on the Science and Technology Committee, chairing the Space Subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA and the space program during the time the space station was launched, and chaired the subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.
Harold’s wife Shirley died in 1995, and in 1996, he lost his bid for re-election to an eleventh and final term in Congress. In August 1997, Harold married Dian Poole Sprenger of Columbia, and they lived happily ever after, traveling around the world, gardening, caring for family and volunteering while maintaining their residence in Hannibal.
Harold was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Dick Volkmer and Bob Volkmer, a sister, Susie Heisinger, his wife, Shirley Volkmer, and a grandson, Jon David Volkmer.
Surviving are his wife Dian Volkmer, three children, Jerry Volkmer of New Mexico, John Volkmer of Virginia and Beth Volkmer of Virginia, four grandchildren; a sister-in-law, Janda Volkmer of Washington State; a brother-in-law, Dave Heisinger of Jefferson City; nieces and nephews and cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Hannibal. Burial will full military honors will be at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Hannibal. Fr. Mike Quinn will officiate.
Visitation will be Tuesday from 5-8 p.m., at the James O’Donnell Funeral Home in Hannibal. A rosary service will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the funeral home.
Pallbearers will be Mr. Volkmer’s fellow Knights from the Hannibal Knights of Columbus, Council #907. Honorary Pallbearers will be Don Kesner, John Lyng, Bob Yount, Ron Kesner, and the respected members of Harold’s congressional staff.