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Photo by Jim Hudson
Diane Rasplica Jones with her husband, Larry, and Granite City Pawn and Jewelry owner Jim Hudson. Hudson returned a watch to Jones that originally belonged to her grandfather after its whereabouts had been unknown for decades.
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W.B. Rasplicka, the original owner of the watch recently returned to his granddaughter, was a successful businessman in Collinsville and Glen Carbon in the early 1900s.
GLEN CARBON — A watch tells time.
Ask it where it’s been, though, and you’ll rarely get an answer.
Such is the case with a 145-year-old timepiece recently returned to the granddaughter of its former owner. And while no one will ever know for certain what the watch has seen in recent decades, what is known is that thanks to the honesty, generosity and research work of a Granite City pawn and jewelry shop owner, it’s home.
When Jim Hudson of Jim’s Pawn And Jewelry in Granite City acquired an old watch from an estate sale earlier this year, he discovered the name W.B. Rasplicka engraved inside of the watch case. The timepiece was an American Waltham watch made in the 1870s.
The 1870s was also when Diane Rasplica Jones’ great-grandfather W.R. Rasplicka immigrated to the St. Louis area from Bohemia. In his new country, he met and married a woman from Czechoslovakia. In 1873, Jones’ grandfather W.B. Rasplicka was born.
When Jones’ grandfather was 8 years old, his immigrant father died in a fire and his mother moved the family to Collinsville. W.B. Rasplicka grew up to become a successful businessman in the area. He started working at the C.H. Krafft store there and eventually worked his way up to become president of the company.
Rasplicka later started and ran the W.B. Rasplica General Store in Glen Carbon. He was also postmaster of Glen Carbon for 24 years, a police magistrate, a justice of the peace and a notary public. His prominence in the area was marked by his participation in many other civic community organizations as well.
It was that prominence that helped Hudson crack the case. When, after finding the engravement, he read the name aloud, Merle Lutes, an employee at Hudson’s store, recognized it. Lutes said he thought members of the family still lived in the area, but he didn’t know where they were.
Lutes did know Ralph Barker, who’s in his 80s, and Lutes thought he might remember the family and know how to find them.
Barker, in turn, contacted Glen Carbon Village Clerk Peggy Goudy to try to find the family. Goudy recognized the name, but for a different reason — Diane Rasplica Jones is the chairman of the Glen Carbon Historical and Museum Commission and works at the Glen Carbon Heritage Museum. Finally, Hudson’s search had come to an end.
There remained one order of business, though. Why would a woman whose maiden name was Rasplica be the granddaughter of a man named Rasplicka?
As she explains it, Jones’ grandfather had changed the family’s surname from Rasplicka to Rasplica, dropping the letter ‘k’ from the spelling. She knew that, if the watch was his, the engravement would reflect the original spelling.
“There are many pictures of my grandfather with a watch chain going into his pocket,” Jones says. “We knew the test of whether the watch was his or not would be the spelling engraved on the case.”
Jones remembers her grandfather well; she lived in the same house with him when she was a child before his passing in 1958 at the age of 83. She recalls clearly his activities in the community and the impact the Great Depression had on his businesses.
Jones points out some of her grandfather’s possessions are actually on display at the Glen Carbon Heritage Museum, where she works. The foot warmer and leather gloves he used when driving his horse and wagon between Glen Carbon and Collinsville during winter months are some of them.
Jones says the watch will be kept as a treasured keepsake by her family and expresses sincere appreciation for the efforts of everyone involved in the chain of events resulting in getting the watch to her, especially Jim Hudson.
“It was really a nice, humanitarian thing that Mr. Hudson did,” she says. “It’s good to know there are still good, honest people in the world.”