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When he was young, he dreamed of one day becoming a pilot, and in 1938 Owen countian, Harry Clark Karsner, received his Commercial Pilots License. During World War II he was a flight instructor at Ryan’s School of Aeronautics in California, but it was after the war that Clark Karsner became well-known throughout Owen County and the surrounding area.
Clark was born in 1914 to Johnathan and Lela Karsner of Monterey, and like many other Owen County children of the day, Clark grew up in a close knit, hard working family. His sister, Lela Maude Hawkins, remembers his kind ways and dedication to his community and to the Lord. Lela Maude reminisced about how every year she and Clark looked forward to the first of May when they were allowed to take off their long underwear. She laughed as she remembered: “No matter how hot it was in April, we still had to wear them until the first of May.” Lela Maude recalled how they were always healthy, contributing fresh food and lots of exercise to their strong stamina. “The only medicine we ever had at our house was Epsom salts. Anything that was wrong on the inside we drank it, and anything wrong on the outside we soaked in it.”
When Clark Karsner returned to Monterey after the war, he constructed a four-plane hanger on his farm near Old Cedar Baptist Church; and by 1946 he was owner and operator of Karsner Field where he instructed men of Owen County in the art of flying. A dedicated Christian, Clark erected a neon sign on the side of his hanger with the message, “Christ Is The Answer” — a message which today still remains as an inspiration to thousands of motorist traveling south along Hwy. 127 from Owen County.
Although Clark Karsner was Chairman of the Board of Deacons in his church, a magistrate in the county, a director of the First National Bank, and appointed State Aeronautics Commissioner, he considered his greatest mission in life to fly his gospel plane, “Messenger To Ninevah,” from which he broadcast wire-recorded sermons of Evangelist Rev. Louis Arnold. Inspiring hymns sung by Clark’s wife, Sarah Jane Gill Karsner, accompanied the sermons, and as thousands of people in Kentucky, and southern Indiana and Ohio heard these messages from the air, many wrote of how their lives were changed.
At the age of 57, Harry Clark Karsner died of a heart attack, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of many. Clark’s airplane hanger remains standing along Hwy. 127, a testimony by the roadside with its message “Christ Is the Answer” still proclaiming the gospel to passersby. The board of the Owen County Historical Society recently voted to approve a resolution to encourage family and friends of Harry Clark Karsner, and those interested in preserving history, to raise funds for a state highway sign to be erected in honor of the man who brought aviation to Owen County and the message of the gospel to countless others. The cost of the marker is $2,075 and an account has been set up by Clark’s family at the First Farmers Bank & Trust Co. of Owenton. Donations can be made to: Karsner Airfield Highway Marker. Please address donations c/o Margaret Murphy, 1890 Point of Rock Rd., Owenton, Ky. 40359.
The vision of the Owen County Historical Society continues to grow. We look forward to Oct. 2 when we will be dedicating our Kentucky River Room and calliope at 2:30 in the afternoon. Everyone is invited to the celebration as we listen to showboat tunes played on the calliope by Cincinnati Museum Center calliopist and accordionist, Ashley Ford. Historian Charles Moormon will present a talk on riverboats, and the vice-president of museums at the Cincinnati Museum Center, Tonja Matthews, along with our president, Jeannie W. Baker, will be speaking. Please join us for the festivities of the day and come visit our new exhibits and displays in the museum.
The Owen County Historical Society annual picnic will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 under the pavilion. The meat, bread, drinks and paper products will be furnished, so please bring a covered dish and join us for food, fellowship and good stories. Come prepared to share a story of your choice, and please bring pictures. Let us know how many are coming by calling 484-2529.