In Memory of Donna Chaney and The Mystery Continues

Welcome back.   In the case of the missing cheerleader from last week’s column I’ve found there’s still heartache and crying surrounding this tragic story which occurred 43 years ago. I’ll have more on this mystery but first let me take you back in time once again to another lady who died way too young.

The exact year escapes me but I’ll call it 1966 or 67. The location was the intersection of Highway 75 and Tuxedo Boulevard and sitting on the northwest corner is a rock faced building which now houses several small businesses but back in the middle 60s it was one of the most popular restaurants in town especially with the late night bar crowd. Many customers from Mary’s Bar in Dewey, the After Five Club which was a bit further south on Highway 75 and the Bam Tam nightclub, located where Dink’s is today came to Denny’s Tuxedo Café. Denny’s was one of the first cafes in the area to offer broasted chicken and a line usually started around 8PM that stretched down the street from the door. It wasn’t just the chicken that drew crowds though. The owner, who was also a local rancher, and his family had the type of charisma that attracted people. A reputation for good food, top of the line service and a friendly attitude along with a big heart made Denny something of a legend in town. It was during my freshman year in high school when  I got a job washing dishes there after school and on weekends to make some pocket money.

This is when I first met Denny’s ten-year-old grand-daughter who on busy nights washed dishes right alongside me. This little girl would grow up ranching like her grandfather and operating what many call the best country café in the four-state area. Before that she had managed the famous Embers Steakhouse as well as the equally famous Marie’s Steakhouse and then in 1993, she opened her crown jewel which she still ran, the Copan Café and Truck Stop on north Highway 75 just before you cross the state line into Kansas. From prime rib to pies, she had a treasure trove of recipes, a love of people, a strong work ethic and a good husband to support her. Over the years the Copan Café developed a loyal following just like Denny’s Tuxedo Café and there was frequently a line at the door there too. The lady who died last week was of course Donna Kay Forrest Chaney and because of the crowd her funeral was held at the Copan High School. Just like in the case of the missing cheerleader, the heartache and the crying over her loss will go on for years. As for her pride and joy, the Copan Café is of course a family run business where Donna had trained many family members so she left it in good hands. If you have never been there you need to check it out for sure.

Before I move on to Cyndi Kinney’s disappearance, here’s a quick recap of last weekend in Bartlesville and Dewey. Hotels were full and restaurants were packed with waiting lines. I was out and about as the 50-year reunion of Sooner and College High graduates was held in Bartlesville along with the multi-year reunion of Dewey High graduates which drew well over 650 people. Throw in a show at the Bartlesville Community Center and Western Heritage Days in Dewey and you’ve got a lot of people spending money which is always a good thing for the tax coffers.

Now back to the case of the missing cheerleader. The Osage Laundry where the case unfolded still sits at 801Kihekah Street while directly across the street construction of the National Bank of Commerce was in full swing back on June 23, 1976 the day when everyone in Pawhuska began searching for this missing girl. Sorry to leave you hanging but I’m out of space so I’ll have to continue the story next week unless the death of another prominent citizen demands my attention.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………….

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