Gravestone Tales of Stark County

Virginia Moeller, Miss Illinois 1936

Virginia Moeller,
Miss Illinois 1936,
WW II Veteran

A small pillow headstone in Osceola Grove Cemetery marks the grave of Virginia Moeller. She was Miss Illinois 1936 and a veteran of World War II.

Virginia Moeller was born in 1918 in Springfield and died in Chicago in 1949 at age 30. She was buried beside her maternal grandfather, Miles Austin (1865-1914). Virginia’s grandmother and mother, Katie Kelch Austin and Gertrude Austin Moeller, later joined her in the family lot, in 1955 and in 1981, respectively.

Virginia’s father, Gottreich Moeller, was a native of Germany. In 1904 he was brought by his uncle Louis Treppschuh from Germany to Wyoming, Illinois, to work in the Treppschuh tailor shop. During World War I Moeller joined the US Army. He served in three major engagements and made an enviable record as a fighting man. However, he was gassed during the war. Afterward he was in and out of hospitals for lung trouble. He feared contracting tuberculosis. He was also having marital problems. Moeller committed suicide in Peoria in 1928 and was interred in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria, with full military honors.

The article on Gottreich Moeller’s death reads in part: “His wife had written him to ‘get out.’ In the letter that he left for his 9-yr-old daughter he expressed regret that he and his wife were having trouble and concluded the letter with the words: ‘I have done all I can for you, Virginia dear, and hope someday you may be able to forgive your broken-hearted daddy.’ ”

In 1936, Virginia Moeller, now an 18-year-old 5’ 2” brunette, competed in the Miss Illinois pageant at the Illinois State Fair as Miss Springfield. She was named Miss Illinois and competed in the 1936 Miss America contest at Atlantic City. She graduated from Springfield High School in 1937.

Virginia Moeller enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in late 1942. She married Douglas Howard in September, 1943.

The cause of her early death is not known. Her gravestone inscription reveals neither her military service nor her marriage: “Virginia Moeller, dau. of G. & G. Moeller, 1918-1949.”

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