Many believe that nothing is coincidence, but all occurrences are perfectly ordered by a higher power. When Ron Wallace, of Kansas City, purchased a vintage violin recently he set in motion events that led him to return the instrument to a local family.
The return of the violin by a stranger to the Rusty Kahrs family, of Hughesville, also prompted them to look into the history and heritage of the violin’s creators.
Inside the violin Wallace, a retired U.S. Postal worker, saw an inscription with the words stating “Patented, August Kahrs, 309 1/2 E. Third Street,” with a date of 1928. Through research he tracked down Rusty Kahrs and also found a 1896 Sedalia Democrat article about Will Kahrs who made violins in Sedalia. William Kahrs was a brother to August.
“Manufacturer of Violins,” the article stated. “Mr. Wm. Kahrs, of Kahrs & Bloess, has made complete two violins this summer which will compare favorably in tone and finish to any manufactured. Will says that should the fishing season play out, he will have time to make some more.”
Rusty Kahrs, a former Pettis County Presiding Commissioner, said it was his wife Linda who recently received the call from Wallace.
“My wife took the call,” he told the Democrat Wednesday morning. “He basically started the conversation by (saying) ‘this is going to be a weird conversation, but please don’t hang up.’ He explained how he came into possession of the violin.”
Wallace spoke by phone Wednesday and said he found the violin at a local consignment auction in Independence.
“My wife and I are retired and our hobby is to go around and buy things and sometimes sell antiques,” he said.
So, maybe it was fate that led him to the violin and helped him cross paths with complete strangers. He said when he saw the violin he knew “it had some age on it,” but it was in great shape. He decided to purchase it and won the winning bid of $70 plus tax. He liked the unusual shape of the instrument, which is oblong instead of curved like a traditional violin.
“So, I bought it to sell initially,” Wallace said. “Then, when I went down to take pictures of it, it just grabbed me and I said ‘I need to find the owners.’”
He began to research the instrument, trying to find someone in or near Sedalia who was interested in its history. As it turned out, August and William were the great-great uncles of Rusty Karhrs and brothers to his great-great-grandfather John C. Kahrs.
Wallace invited Rusty to his home in Kansas City, where he sold the instrument to him for $80.
“I think I made $3 on it,” he added laughing.
Wallace said he often goes to auctions and finds albums of old photos and sometimes looks for the owners. Unfortunately, many times, family members aren’t interested in the photos. He said he was pleased the Kahrs family were actually excited to have the violin and appreciated its history.
“Some people just don’t have any interest in their heritage,” Wallace said. “I actually talked to Linda first and I told her I said ‘this will be the strangest call you’ll have all day.’ I said ‘don’t hang up on me this isn’t a solicitation,’ but she was real open to talk, how strange it that? She said ‘I know Rusty will be interested, I’ll have him call you.’
“It just turned out good, we are tickled to death, that somebody was interested in their heritage, (and) to drive across the country to come pick it up,” he added. “I’m tickled to death they are happy with it.”
Rusty’s aunt, Mary Jane Kahrs, of Smithton, said the news that they had violin luthiers in the family was surprising. After looking up the obituary for August Kahrs she said she found he was born a half mile from Bahner on Nov. 17, 1858. He moved to Sedalia in 1876 and for a time owned a jewelry shop located at West Third Street and South Ohio Avenue.
“After he closed his shop, he moved it to his house (at 511 E. Third St.), and did watch repair,” she added.
She also found that August was a member of the 2nd Regiment Band in Sedalia for a time. Mary Jane also added that she thought there had to be a higher power and not coincidence that brought the violin home to the family.
Rusty said no one has tried to play the vintage violin, but he hopes to have Instrumental Influence Inc. look at it in the future.
“It’s a little loose (the strings) and I hesitate to tighten it down and do much to it,” he said. “I don’t want to mess anything up … (Wallace) was looking at it and said two of the pins are different. Maybe he (August) made them that way, but he wondered if two of them were replaced.”
He noted that he enjoys history so receiving the violin was special for him.
“I thought it was really cool,” he added. “I’m a history buff anyway.”
He said he would at some point mount the violin on the wall at the family’s home and added he was grateful Wallace took time to find the family.
“He’s a very nice guy,” he said. “A real nice guy, not everybody’s that nice anymore.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.