Grim anniversary: Remembering 17 Butler County victims of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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On May 28, 1977, a fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club killed 165 people, including 51 from the Miami Valley.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

On May 28, 1977, one of the worst nightclub fires in the country’s history claimed 165 lives - 17 from Butler County.

The Beverly Hills Supper Club, located in northern Kentucky, was a popular banquet and nightclub facility. On this night there were nearly 3,500 in attendance, more than 300 over its capacity.

Below is a list of 17 victims from Butler County who perished in the fire:

Mabel & Herschel Barker

Mabel Barker was a cafeteria worker at Wayne School. She had lived in Wayne Twp. all her life. Herschel Barker was an employee of the former Armco Steel and a veteran of World War II. Friends remember Mabel as a kind person and a jokester.

“You always had something to laugh about when you were near her,” her lifelong friend Ruby Brown told the Journal on the 20th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. Herschel, her husband, was the quiet one.

“He would just kind of sit back. Mabel took the limelight in the family. They were a great couple,” Brown said.

Mabel was in a garden club and often gathered with friends to play cards, according to Brown.

Anne Beer

Anne Beer — known to many older teachers as “Little Miss Beer” — was new to the Edgewood district. Beer was the librarian at Wayne School. Her parents, Richard and Joan, lived in Hamilton. Beer lived in the Ashley Commons apartment complex in Oxford, where she had just graduated from Miami University. Her escort for the evening was a friend, Russ Gray, of Cincinnati. He also died in the fire.

Robert & Carol Cottongim

Robert and Carol Cottongim had a 6½-year-old daughter, Leigh Ann, and were expecting their second child when they died in the fire.

A first-level instructor at Wayne Elementary, Carol Cottongim, 32, had broken the news of her pregnancy to her sister-in-law, Ann Cottongim Hayes, during a telephone conversation the day before the fire.

Robert Cottongim, 34, was head of nuclear medicine at the former Mercy Hospital of Hamilton and had some additional good news to share with his sister during that conversation.

“Carol was so excited, she was three months pregnant, and my brother was just beside himself, ” Ann Hayes told the Journal during a 1997 interview. “During that same telephone call, Robert had invited me to Hamilton to witness his indoctrination as a deacon at his church. We had a really great talk. I have been grateful for that ever since. I think remembering that conversation helped me get through my grief.”

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Aerial view of the Beverly Hills Supper Club in May 1977.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

Aerial view of the Beverly Hills Supper Club in May 1977.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

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Aerial view of the Beverly Hills Supper Club in May 1977.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

Credit: ED ROBERTS

J. Brent Crane

Brent Crane was one of the youngest people to die in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. He was 19.

Crane lived in Waynesville and had graduated from Waynesville High School a year earlier. He worked for MacMillan Bloedol Co. in Centerville.

He went to the club that night with Tammy Kincer, his fiancee. She was even younger — 18. They were celebrating her graduation from high school and their engagement.

Waynesville was stunned. The family was well-known. His father, James W. Crane, was a former Waynesville mayor and the vice president of the Waynesville National Bank. Three of his grandparents live in the village.

Brent Crane is buried in Miami Cemetery in Corwin.

Harold Daly

When Harold Daly died in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, he left behind his wife, Linda, and two daughters, Jennifer Lyn and Kristen Anne.

Although not with the group from the Edgewood City School District that night, he and his family knew some of them. Daly had gone to Wayne School before his family moved to Middletown. He graduated from Middletown High School in 1962.

Daly had moved to Washington Court House, where he worked for MAC Tool. Another couple in town, Peter and Susan Raine, also were former Middletonians. The two couples went together to the club that night.

Daly’s wife and the Raines managed to escape the fire, but not unharmed. Linda was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Covington with serious injuries. Peter Raine suffered serious eye and lung injuries and was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in Covington. Susan Raine also suffered serious injuries and was in Booth Hospital in Covington.

Daly’s body was not identified until two days later. He had given his coat to one of the women and had no identification on him. His father, William J. Daly, was a former municipal court bailiff who died in 1971. Daly also was survived by his mother Edith, two brothers, Tom and Michael, and a sister, Margaret.

» PHOTOS: Anniversarry of Beverly Hills Supper Club fire

Gloria Sue Duncil

Gloria Sue Duncil, 36, of Hamilton, was a second-level teacher at Wayne Elementary School.

She was a past president of the Hamilton-Fairfield Jaycee-ettes and was a member of the Front Street Presbyterian Church in Hamilton.

Her husband, John, escaped the fire but was hospitalized for injuries he received. He later filed a lawsuit seeking $3 million for the death of his wife and for his injuries, which included lung damage.

John Duncil died seven years after the fire after suffering a heart attack.

The Duncils’ two sons, Calvin and Johnny Ray, were at home when their mother was killed.

Grace Fall

Four generations of Falls had lived on a 218-acre farm on Stubbs Road. In 1977, Grace Fall was the matriarch of the Wayne Twp. homestead when she was killed in the supper club fire. But her influence spread far beyond the dairy, hog and corn operations of the family farm.

In many ways, she was a community matriarch. Fall was an officer in the Wayne Twp. Life Squad. She also worked as a secretary at Wayne School and drove a school bus in the district.

She was survived by her husband, Ed, her son, Gary, and daughter, Barbara.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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5 things to know: Beverly Hills Supper Club fire

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Mary Lou Ittel

Mary Lou Ittel was a native of Portland, Ore., but her name is synonymous with the Edgewood school system.

She married Maurice Ittel in 1943, when she was in Dayton studying art. Her husband was the school superintendent at the helm during the merger of the Wayne, Seven Mile and Trenton school systems.

Mary Lou Ittel attended college in California and the Dayton College Art Institute. She was an active artist who belonged to many art and literature groups. Her artwork won a number of awards. She was a member of the First United Church.

Tammy Kincer

Tammy Kincer went to the Beverly Hills Supper Club with her fiance, J. Brent Crane. Both died in the fire. She was 18 years old.

Tammy had gone to the club to celebrate her upcoming graduation from Lebanon High School. Tammy and Brent were also celebrating their engagement.

She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Keith Kincer, of Ridge Road. She had been planning to enter Sinclair Community College in the fall and wanted to be a legal secretary. In high school, she had been a member of the National Honor Society.

In her memory, her parents and friends established a scholarship through Lebanon Assembly 67 of the Order of Rainbow Girls. Much of the money came from graduation gifts.

Lucy King

Lucy King, a guidance counselor at Edgewood High School, had started her teaching career in 1945 at Wayne School before the Wayne and Trenton school districts merged into the Edgewood district.

At 57, King had devoted her life to education and to helping students become successful, productive adults. She was also a member of the Butler County Historical Society and the Alpha Delta Kappa Education Society of Butler County. She lived \in Hamilton, and was a member of the United Methodist Church in Oxford.

After her death, the high school established a Lucy King Memorial Scholarship Fund.

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Memorial services are held for the victims of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire at the Edgewood High School Stadium.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

Memorial services are held for the victims of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire at the Edgewood High School Stadium.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

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Memorial services are held for the victims of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire at the Edgewood High School Stadium.

Credit: ED ROBERTS

Credit: ED ROBERTS

Minnie Knight

Minnie Knight lived in Germantown but went to the Beverly Hills Supper Club with a group of 84 people from the Dayton Automobile Club. Knight, 70, died in the fire along with her sister-in-law, Dorothy Isaacs of Dayton.

Their fates weren’t known the night of the fire. E.J. Isaacs, Knight’s nephew, said the family was still holding out hope the next day. But good news didn’t come for the family, which had seen so much tragedy already.

Knight had lived in Germantown for 46 years. She had worked for 21 years at the Defense Electronics Supply Center. She was a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, where she was a delegate to the annual Methodist conference and the president of the Dorcas Circle.

The Rev. Frank Crofoot, at that time pastor of the Germantown church, recounted the Knight family ordeals. One of Minnie Knight’s brothers, he said, had died in a traffic accident a year before the fire, another brother committed suicide and a third had died in a trailer fire. Her father had died of natural causes the previous fall.

Knight had also survived her two husbands. Clifford (Chippy) Martin died in 1958, and Ross Knight died in 1964.

Donald & Dorothy Koontz

The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire orphaned six Wayne Twp. children. Randy, Susan, Julie, Jayne, Dawn and Lori were the children of Donald and Dorothy Koontz, who died in the fire. Randy, the eldest, stepped in to care for Jayne, Dawn and Lori, who were still living at home at the time.

Donald Koontz was a popular Wayne Twp. trustee. He’d served nine years. He was initially appointed to the board to fill one year of an unexpired term but ended up staying longer. Voters elected him three times to four-year terms, the last in November 1975.

Koontz could often be seen mowing the grass or driving a snowplow as part of his trustee duties. But perhaps his most visible duty was driving the big tanker truck that would come to fill fuel tanks.

Dorothy Koontz was equally visible in the community. She worked as an instructional aide at Wayne School.

She became one of the founders of the Wayne Rescue Squad and was named Miss Miami Valley Outdoors one year.

Both were members of Jacksonburg United Methodist Church.

Clark Mayfield

Clark Mayfield, head football coach of Jacksonville State College in Alabama, had traveled to Ohio with his wife to surprise his mother, Ona Mayfield, a Wayne School teacher who was being given a retirement party at the club.

Mayfield’s mother, wife and child escaped the fire. He was Mrs. Mayfield’s only child.

Alma Vogt Schnapp

Alma Vogt Schnapp had escaped the fire, but she re-entered the burning building to help a woman who couldn’t walk. She was born in Hamilton, the daughter of John and Josephine Vogt. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy and married George Schnapp, who died before her. She left two sons, two brothers

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