Mystery Solved: Films Seen By Family Member

Thursday, December 2nd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

*Editor's Note: This is part two of a series by Emory Bryan which was seen on the News on Six during November. Part one is also available on our web site entitled "Mystery Films".

The News on Six is delighted to report that one of our viewers helped us solve a mystery. Now we have some answers to questions raised by the "mystery films" story. The films were not long lost, but they were missing for more than five years. The man who owns them believed they were lost forever.

When the story about the mystery films was broadcast on KOTV, Ken Fugate recognized Betty as his first cousin and, finally, the films were reconnected with the family which once owned them. The family saw on television the film they had never seen before. "I tried to run it in a projector, but it was so old and brittle that it would break every time. I had seen a little bit of it, but not very much," said Fugate.

Betty's Tulsa cousin has far more than just the film. He has pictures which tell the rest of their story. Betty was born to a big family in Hinton in 1907, the year Oklahoma became the 46th state. As a young woman, she moved to Tulsa in the 1930's, but she didn't stay long. "That was the first time I ever saw her,” recalled Fugate. “The second time was in the 1970's."

In the years they were out of touch, Betty found the man she would marry in George Rhoades. He was from an affluent family and wanted to be a lawyer. But World War I was calling overseas, and George with his camera answered. He returned from the war with photographs of the German war machine. He even filmed an American president in a parade.

George rose to the rank of captain, and after the war, entered law school and government service. It was there he met Betty, and they married on April 6, 1944. She was 37 and he was 48. As an attorney for the Department of Interior, George's job took him to many of America's national parks. He and Betty traveled across the country, filming the natural beauty. Judging from the pictures, they loved America, they loved life and they loved each other. But the joy ended suddenly on October 25, 1947.

As he was on his way to buy a newspaper one morning, George was hit by a car. He died 12 days later, after only three years of marriage. Betty was heartbroken and all alone in the nation’s capital. However, she obtained a position with the Department of Agriculture and spent her entire career there, working to retirement.

She moved to Missouri to be near friends, and asked her cousin to come visit. "She wanted to get a driver’s license,” remembered Fugate. “She never had a driver’s license living in Washington, DC. At that time, she couldn't pass the driver’s test. She never did, in fact."

But her retirement, like her marriage, was cut short. She died of cancer in the early 1970's in Tulsa, where she sought medical treatment so she could be near her family. Without any children, Betty willed her house and most of her personal property to her first cousin.

Fugate had donated the films in hopes it might be of some use and was surprised to see it on television. No longer a mystery, instead the film is a love story with a tragic ending. The story of a couple in love, torn apart by death, who now have shared a bit of their lives with us.