A Nightmare on 22nd Street

A Memoir by Mat Scheck

June 15, 2002

This is the tragic stories of “Big Mike” Scheck and Jeff Ramsey and how a lovely middle class neighborhood was damaged forever by their untimely deaths.

1048 22nd Street in 2007

I was born in Rock Island, Illinois and lived there for the first twelve years of my life. My family owned a house on 22nd Street on the corner of 12th Avenue, a massive Victorian manor capable of housing my large family, which was comprised of six girls, three boys, and my parents, plus an endless gaggle of family pets and visiting relatives and friends. It was a happy household, nestled in a peaceful and quaint middle class neighborhood, until two tragic events happened in the span of a year that forever destroyed the peace, happiness, and tranquility of two fine neighborhood families. One of those families was mine. The other family was that of my best friend, Jon Ramsey.

For many years I buried the horrible memories from 1972-73 deep inside my mind and only revisited them in nightmares. My family moved away from Rock Island when I was 12, so it was much easier to escape from the bad memories simply because everything from that era was far, far away from me; I didn’t have any daily reminders of my once ideal childhood that had been shattered by death and tragedy. As I grew older the memories slipped into oblivion and eventually disappeared for long stretches of time.

But I could never escape the nightmares.

Mike & Tess Scheck, 1949

The story begins when my father, Michael Leo “Big Mike” Scheck, a Chicago native and World War II veteran, moved to the Rock Island area—known as the “Quad Cities” because Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa were all located in what is essentially one metropolitan area—in 1947 to attend St Ambrose College in Davenport. He and his younger brother, Ed, were outstanding football players at St. Ambrose under legendary coach Larry “Moon” Mullins. Uncle Ed was so good he was inducted into the St. Ambrose Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984. While attending St. Ambrose my father met my mother, Therese Marie “Tess” Bernat, a French-American beauty and Indiana native whose French-born father, Jean, taught French and Spanish at the school around the time my father was an undergraduate there. My parents married in 1949 and eventually settled in Rock Island, where my father was a teacher and counselor for the Rock Island School Corporation for many years. My parents bought the house at 1048 22nd Street about three years before I, their last child, was born in 1963.

For the first nine years of my life our neighborhood in Rock Island was an ideal place for a family to live. The Hauberg family, wealthy scions of the local timber industry, donated their large estate to the city seven years before I was born, and their beautiful, wooded estate became the Hauberg Park and Civic Center. This lovely park and its surrounding woods was located across the street from our home. For years it was the best place for a kid to play, from sledding in the winter on its many hills, to building hidden tree forts or playing Army with friends in its woods, to playing at the park run by the excellent staff of the Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department, to playing T-shirt League baseball (a sort of pre-Little League organization) on its many ball fields.

In about 1971 my father started acting strangely. At first he had memory lapses and strange blackouts that grew progressively worse until he’d forget long stretches of time. When he’d come to from these memory “fits” he had no idea how he got to where he was. Then he started having bizarre personality changes where he exhibited behavior that was not only unusual, but also completely off character for him. Then he began having violent anxiety attacks that would wrack his entire body with trembles and sometimes even mild to severe seizures.

1961 Rock Island Argus article about Mike Scheck

Dad had been born into abject poverty, grew up in the rough-and-tumble, South Side Chicago ghetto during the Great Depression, and had survived Word War II, so he was an amazingly tough and resilient guy, and thus he laughed off these odd personality changes as male menopause. But when they started to affect his work, his concerned peers and family begged him so seek medical help, which he eventually did. Some of his more malicious peers started whispering behind his back that he was crazy, which was absurd, as Mike Scheck had been known his entire life as the most sane, logical, rational, sober, stable, dependable, and decent man most people had ever met. These vicious rumors spread like wildfire and I was taunted more than once by kids for having a “psycho” dad.

When Dad finally sought medical help, to say the medical professionals he reached out to failed him would be an understatement. Gross malpractice would be far too kind a description of the horrible treatment and care he received the first year after his strange symptoms arose. First they said he had a thyroid problem. When that proved untrue, they said he was insane and had him placed in a psychiatric ward for evaluation. The shrinks who saw him declared him completely sane and back he went to the internists for even more bungling and incompetent treatment by them. They poked, prodded, and examined him relentlessly, and then, finding nothing that verified their initial diagnoses, declared his troubles were psychosomatic and all in his head.

Finally, Dad was sent to be evaluated at the Veterans hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, where the excellent neurosurgeons from the University of Iowa realized almost immediately that dad had the classic symptoms of a brain tumor called glioblastoma. A brain scan confirmed this: inside dad’s brain was a gigantic tumor the size of a grapefruit. It was only due to dad’s immense strength, resilience, and toughness that he had survived so long. The tumor was spreading rapidly and had already begun to invade his spinal column. The doctors informed my mother that dad had less than a year to live. They were absolutely in awe of him that he’d survived this long.

For the next nine months Dad’s doctors tried mightily to help ease his suffering from this horrible disease, and of course Big Mike fought it with every fiber of his immense being, but in the end his cancer defeated him, and he died at about 4:00 am on October 15, 1973. I was 10 years old.

My life has never been the same since that awful last year of my dad’s life. Most of it

Mike Scheck's grave stone at the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery

Mike Scheck’s grave stone at the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery

remains a bad dream for me, even some 30 years later. The horror of watching my big, strong father slowly waste away and lose his mind was often too much to bear, and the worst part was knowing he was never going to get better, no matter how hard I prayed, and I prayed every day and night for nine months. I have never prayed for anything since.

I actually felt immense relief when he died, because I knew death had finally eased the massive pain from which Dad was suffering, not only from his illness, but also from knowing he was not going to be there any more for his beloved wife and their nine children, three grandchildren, and all their progeny who would be born after his death. For many years afterward I blocked all memories of my father, because every time I thought about him I’d fall into a deep depression that nearly paralyzed me for days.

But this story gets even worse. Much worse.

My two best friends for most of my life in Rock Island were Jon Ramsey and Larry “Buzzie” Phillips, both of whom lived up the hill from me on 22nd Street near 13th Avenue. Buzzie was a funny and neurotic dreamer who loved to build things and then tear them down for fun. Jon was a tiny but tough and brilliant kid, probably my one intellectual and athletic rival at Lincoln Elementary School. The three of us had been friends since we were babies. I cannot recall many days in my life that didn’t include either Jon or Buzz, or both, in my daily living and adventures.

Jon Ramsey was the first friend I told on October 15, 1973 that my father died. I have absolutely no recollection of why I decided to go to school that day, but I did, and as I lumbered out my front door for the long walk to school, Jon was the first kid I encountered. Jon, Buzzie, and I walked to school together nearly every day since we were in kindergarten, so it wasn’t unusual to run into Jon in the morning.

“My dad died last night,” I told him immediately. Jon—as will be seen later in this essay—was the one kid I knew would understand what I was feeling at that moment. We both cried all the way to school that morning.

During the dark days after my father died, Jon’s mom, Wilma Ramsey, was an incredible presence around my house. That’s what people did in my neighborhood. While my family shuffled through and attended to our seemingly endless post-death duties for my father, Wilma took care of our house, answered our phone, and cooked for us. It was an extremely magnanimous and generous gesture from a wonderful and caring woman.

The Ramsey family understood tragedy better than most. In 1972, Jon’s older brother, Jeff, was kidnapped and murdered.

Jeff was a rambunctious and wild kid who often tried his mother’s patience. For a 12-year-old, he lived life a little too far on the edge, always running off to places he shouldn’t have been, and in the summer of 1972 he paid the price for his Tom Sawyer-like adventures into the dark unknown.

For my friends and me, Jeff’s murder was a nightmare of horrific dimensions. One day he was there and the next he was not, and the circumstances of his death were so brutally macabre that it was almost impossible to believe. Nowadays kids get plenty of exposure to murder and horror from movies and video games, but in 1972 the idea of being kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and murdered like Jeff was the stuff of campfire tales, not of reality.

Yet it happened to my best friend’s older brother, a kid I’d known since I was a baby; a kid I played Army with in the woods (Jeff liked to re-enact Vietnam battles where he and my older brother, John, and John’s best friend, Ted Clegg, always played the Vietcong); a kid who taught me to cast a fishing rod when I was four; a kid who was probably the most daring sledder and bike rider in the neighborhood; a kid who used to torment, tease, and beat up his little brother and me because we weren’t “tough” enough for his taste; a kid who used to turn his basement into the coolest haunted houses every Halloween; a kid who had coolest bike in the neighborhood—a spiffy Stingray upon which he spent all his money he earned from delivering the Quad City Times newspaper every day since he was nine.

Jeff was brilliant, creative, funny, and, yes, very wild. These days I am sure kids like Jeff are chocked full of Ritalin and probably aren’t allowed to leave the house, which probably would have been a good idea for Jeff in 1972. For all his crazy antics, Jeff didn’t possess a molecule of malice in his entire being, and moreover I had six sisters who adored him, because above all else the Ramsey boys were beautiful and charming and girls went crazy over them. No one would have wished this horrible fate upon Jeff. Back then life was fairly innocent and these terrible things just didn’t happen. But it did happen, and Jeff suffered the consequences.

When Jeff turned up missing the first week of June, my mother and father immediately went to the aid of the Ramsey family much in the same manner that Jeff’s mother would do for us a year later when my father died. I wouldn’t say my parents and Jon and Jeff’s parents—Wilma and Dale Ramsey—were close friends, but there was a mutual respect and admiration on both sides that had always been evident. Now in their most desperate time of need, Dale and Wilma needed all the friends they had to rally to their aid.

When I think of Wilma Ramsey I always remember going to Jon’s house after school and she’d make us sandwiches while he and I watched The Monkees on television—Jon and I were huge fans and owned all their records. She was a quiet, gentle, and kind woman, but Jeff drove her crazy because he was such a wild and adventurous rascal. Jon, on the other hand, was a great son, very smart and responsible for a nine-year-old boy, the obvious leader of my peer group, and in most ways the exact opposite of his manic brother. No parent deserved what happened to Jeff, and certainly not Wilma, who was great mother, and certainly no kid needs to see this horrible thing happen to his brother as Jon did. I doubt Jon and Wilma were ever the same.

When Jeff first disappeared no one was too shocked, because Jeff had a reputation for running off and not coming home until late, for which he was punished and grounded endlessly all the years I’d known him. But after a full night passed and he didn’t show up, everyone became worried. An endless line of police and FBI agents started interviewing all the kids and adults in the neighborhood. No one knew Jeff’s whereabouts, although everyone swore to have seen him on the day he disappeared, which wasn’t unusual because Jeff was a social being who hung out with everyone at one time or another. After a week it became apparent that Jeff was probably not coming back alive. By that time the front pages of both Quad Cities newspapers, and all the local news station broadcasts, were filled with little more than the plight of this missing kid from our neighborhood, this kid who had been our very dear friend and neighbor all our lives.

They found Jeff on Arsenal Island near the Sylvan Slough, buried beneath a pile of refuse. He had been brutally mutilated, tortured, and hanged by his captor. The Sylvan Slough was a popular fishing spot for kids in my neighborhood, a place where legendary-sized channel catfish could be caught if you knew where to look. A place we’d all frequented at one time or another for years. However, Jeff went alone that day he turned up missing, which for the rest of us was unthinkable. In his case it was a tragically unlucky thing for him to do.

The police and FBI never caught Jeff’s killer. For years my friends and I tried, in the spirit of Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys, to solve Jeff’s murder. One of my friends, Jimmy Hannan, knew more about Jeff’s case than other kids because his father was the Chief of Police for the Rock Island Arsenal US Army base. In fact, Chief Hannan was one of the police officers who found Jeff’s body, and his department was prominent in the subsequent murder investigation.

Rock Island was a river town located on the banks of the Mississippi and had plenty of strange and crazy transients, losers, bums, and sickos capable of such a horrible crime. In the summer of 1973 Jimmy, my other friend Ralph Haymon, and I tried to find Jeff’s killer. It became our obsession. Jon Ramsey was our best friend, and finding his big brother’s killer became our Holy Grail quest. Sadly, we had few clues to go on other than what Jimmy glommed from his Dad, and we—like the Rock Island Police Department, The Rock Island Arsenal Police, and the FBI—never solved the crime.

My family moved away from Rock Island on May 15, 1975, and I have only been back five times since then. Eventually as I moved on with my life the bad memories faded. As the years went by I lost touch with all my friends from 22nd Street and Lincoln Elementary School. However, the nightmares would often return with an alarming frequency, forever reminding me of the pain and anguish that robbed me of my childhood.

The years 1972 and 1973 were a nightmare if you lived on 22nd Street in Rock Island, Illinois. First little Jeff Ramsey was murdered in the most horrible of ways, and then a year later Big Mike Scheck was felled by cancer at 48, leaving behind a wife and nine children and a town full of kids who missed his presence at school.

22nd Street entrance to the Hauberg Estate, 2007

The last time I visited Rock Island was in 1999, when I brought my then girlfriend there to attend a family reunion in Bettendorf, where I still had relatives from both the Scheck and Bernat clans. I took her to see Hauberg Park and the old Scheck House at 1048 22nd Street, then showed her where all my friends and I, including Jeff Ramsey, had carved our names on the giant H-Block Monolith that marked the entrance to Hauberg Park. I showed her all the cool hills where my friends and I went sledding. I showed her the ice-skating rink and ball fields where my friends and I used to play. I showed her my father’s grave at the Rock Island Arsenal’s Veteran’s Cemetery. I told her the tragic tales of Jeff Ramsey and my father. And then I finally closed that chapter in my life once and for all.

Until today; I guess I’ll never fully escape my nightmare on 22nd Street.

61 thoughts on “A Nightmare on 22nd Street

  1. Thanks for writing this. We moved to Calif. in ’68 and I lost touch with mom’s sisters side of the family. Thanks to Betsy we are in toch again.

  2. AS I sat here tonight doing research for a paper I am doing for my speech class,as you see I am 51 and am going back to college to become a addiction specialist for teen-agers.Like you over the years I have thought of quiet,shy little Jeff,you see as i lived at 911-23rd str. and had been in the same class as Jeffs. I also delivered papers,sleid at Hauburgh swang from the vines in the woods and played a variety of childhood games in those woods.I have often wandered if Jeff had not been killed by the same man that molested my older brother and several newspaper boys and it was all boys.Especially since this same man had child pornography and only molested newspaper carriers (boys)I remember hearing that Jeff had newspaper twine embedded in his body.The monster who molested my brother lived on 9th avenue right next to the Kohlmiers mantion.When I saw the movie on Adam Walsh i called the tip line,look at the imilaraties Adam was 12,newspaper carrier and I do not remember the rest.I always have thought that somehow all of this was weaved together somehow even though they always thought it was a carny because the carnival was in town at Davenport same place it came every year.I have always remembered Jeff as I am sure alot of the kids in my class does,it was alot for a 12 year old or anyone to wrap around.Thank you for keeping his memory alive.Cecilia Croegaert,55-main street Saunemin,Il.61769 Ackerman is my maiden name

  3. I too remember all to well the murder of Jeff as i was friends with his sister Jill. I think all of our innocence was shattered when this happened. In a place where people did not even lock there doors, this changed that. The FBI came to our house, because my brother and friends always fished down there. That family was destroyed, as was Jill.

  4. Jeff was my friend,spent a lot of time at his house eating graham crackers and drinking chocolate milk. I was fishing with him the day he disappeared, in my opinion i know to this day who did it and they put the wrong man in prison for it. Jeff you are sorely missed.

  5. So many many memorys came pouring back as i read this,jill was a class mate,although i never knew her well i liked her,she was always so nice.and Mr Scheck,well who could forget him.between him and mrs walters i couldnt say which one was my favorite.loved them both.sad story but glad you wrote it,because even though the events that happen were bad,you cant help but have some of the good memorys come back as you discribe how tranquil life most of the time was back than.thank you And God Bless You And Yours.

  6. Someone posted this link on a Facebook group. I am so deeply sorry, those were horrible tragedies, yet it was nice to read your story of people worth remembering. Thank you.

  7. Lee Bunch,

    No one was ever arrested, charged, or convicted for Jeff’s murder. Jon Ramsey and I are still friends and in contact, and as of 2012 Jeff’s murder is still unsolved. The one person of interest hung himself in 1977.

    Therefore, the “wrong” man is not in prison for this. And if you think you know who did it, I’d like to know this person’s name so I can hunt the sonofabitch down (if he’s still alive) and bring him to justice.

    Moreover, if you DO, in fact, know who murdered Jeff, why haven’t you ever contacted the authorities? I’m curious to hear your answer. This case has obsessed me for the last 40 years simply because Jon Ramsey was my best friend as a kid and I never let go of the idea of capturing Jeff’s killer.

    If I had EVER known who killed Jeff, I would have personally dragged the bastard to the police. So why haven’t you ever come forward?

    Therefore I find your claim of having knowledge of who killed Jeff to be–and please excuse me for saying this–a little strange and highly questionable.

  8. I just read your comment on Jeff and am curious as to whom you believe did this horrific crime? I, too am trying to solve this heinous crime. I believed it was freight train who did this but this purley speculation. Thanks @Lee Bunch

  9. Sorry Matthew, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this blog. I was thinking that a man or monster named Fteight Train Gautney may of been responsible for this murder as well several other boys he lured away, tortured and killed them along railroad tracks. He followed fairs and carnivals and lured these boys away by whistling the sound of a train. Thank you for writing this article for justice needs tone served! Thanks!

    [Matthew Scheck Responds]

    There was a book written about Guatney by John Conover that implicates him for many murders similar to Jeff’s, but there was no proof or evidence implicating that Guatney killed Jeff. Also, John Wayne Gacy was another possible suspect, but he was elsewhere during the first week of June 1972. The FBI suspected a local QC man who subsequently killed himself before they could charge him. I tend to lean towards the man the FBI suspected. Certainly Jeff’s murder follows Guatney’s M.O., but he’s long dead (I think he died in 1997). I would love to see the FBI files on Jeff’s murder and find out who they suspected.

  10. I too remember all to well Jeff Ramsey’s untimely death. My brother Frank used to hang out with Jeff. I’ll never forget how a bunch of the boys in the neighborhood got caught riding their bikes along the railroad tracks by the slew. I remember they were gone for a long time that parents got worried and started a search. My father was part of that search, they were found late evening and boy did my brother get punished when he got home. So did some of the other boys, but Jeff was at our house the next ready to go again. My brother almost went with him (my parents were not home at the time) but I reminded him he would get it worse if he went so he stayed behind even though Jeff taunted him as he rode off. It was the last time we saw him. Later that evening his dad came to our home looking for him, and then a few days later the police. I still think sometimes what would have happened if my brother went with him, would it have deterred the killer since there would’ve been two instead of one lone boy or would there have been an even greater tragedy and two boys would’ve died.

    [Matthew Scheck responds:

    Ramona –

    What was you and your brother Frank’s last name?]

  11. I was home in RI this past weekend laying flowers on grave sites of those family memebrs who have passed. Crossing the Arsenal Bridge into RI, Jeff came to mind. Like many, I knew Jill better than Jeff. But the one thing I did understand was losing a sibling at an early age. I lost an older sister when I was 11. I understood the pain Jill and her family was going through. I knew how it affected my parrents. In the 70’s, children being kidnapped and killed was unheard of. We played outside without the fear children have today. Parents keep their children a little closer these days.
    I joined the Army in 1978 and only come back periodically. As I crossed the area where Jeff was found, I wondered if that case was ever solved. As we know, you can find anyhting on the internet. Matt, what a very nice article about your father. I went to school with your brother John. If you would, have him reach out to me. I’d like to catch up. I had fond memories of your fathe as well. He was a giant of a man. I remeber the last time I saw him your mother was pusing him in a wheelchair to load him into a car. He wasn’t very coherent at that time. I really didn’t understand the severity of his suffering. The last thing I knew of your family was that they moved to Ohio.
    I hope this tragedy is solved one day. With technology, cold cases are being reopened and killers brought to justice. I hope for the Ramsey family they will find justice.
    Like Jo Lee, I remember your dad and Ms. Walters. They were two giants with very big hearts. There love for children was evident in their interactions.
    Matthew, what a loving tribute to your dad. As a father, my biggest reward is having the love, admiration and respect of my children. Your dad is smiling.

  12. I knew Jeff and his sister.went to a Sady hawkin dance with her. This was the worst summer of my life . I slep with a bat in my bed. the years have passed buy the memory remains. ALL these year I thought it was carnies then John wayne gacy, At the age of 28 years old I asked the cops about it.The last I herd they new who did it but had no evednace.Runor had it he grabbed another child on the same date. After all those years I was told he lived in a basement apartment on the corner of 20th street. Please if any one has herd this please let me know. Just days before he vanished we were riding go cart down the hill by our house. John B and John S went fising with him. last he was seen. After growing up and having kids of my own.I cant imagine the pain. To this day my prayers go out to his family.

  13. I, too, remember Jeff Ramsey. If my memory serves me correctly we played together one time at Hauberg Park. I lived on 24th Street and 21st Avenue. I would usually ride my bike to the park with my girlfriend, but on this day I only remember playing with Jeff. I think this was summer of 1971, a year before the murder. I was also age 11. I remember that Jeff needed to go home for a moment — either to get something to eat or drink or to check in with his mom. I walked with him through the woods to his house. I remember being a little nervous being in the woods because I had never been on that side of Hauberg. I remember he invited me in his house, but I stayed outside
    while he went in, and in a few minutes Jeff emerged from his house with a sandwich and we headed to Hauberg to continue playing. I remember Jeff as being VERY cute and adventurous, and I don’t remember ever playing with him or seeing him again. I remember hearing his name on the news as missing and I was devastated. My world was also shattered and the innocence of my childhood was taken. I remember not being able to sleep and being afraid of going outside to play. I often wondered if it was in the same woods we walked that he was taken. I revisited Hauberg Park for a family reunion a few years ago and walked along the edge of the woods remembering Jeff and wondering about his family. I thought about him today and googled his name and found your story. It was well written, and brought back memories. Even though I only met him one time I have never forgotten him. God bless your family and the Ramseys.

  14. I always think of the tragic event every year at this time. I was the same age as Jeff. I hung out alot with my cousins that year at their house in west Davenport off Rockingham road. We would always go exploring around the area, mostly at Fairmount cemetery. We were all set to make the trek up there when my cousins mom said a resounding “NO”. “Not with that man(Jeff s killer) still at large.” Thats when it really hit home. We never went there or anywhere else with out an adult. We lived in fear from then on. When it got dark we had to put up the chain across the driveway at the end of the lane. We would sprint down, put it up and sprint back, trembling with fear in thinking that “the Ramsey killer” might be lurking nearby. I could never sleep well while staying there, as I would hear the train horns late at night, and since Jeff s body was found by the railroad tracks, I would think of the incident.I was often still awake to see the sun rise. In the summer of 74, however, our lives returned to normal as my cousins family moved out of the rapidly deteriorating west Davenport neighborhood and to a small farm in rural Blue Grass. Then our fears were only of coyotes and wolves and not murderers and molesters.

  15. Jeff Ramsey was my great uncle. I am the grandaughter of one of his sisters. Though of course i never knew him, I do know the affect his death has had on my family. No one will tell me anything, because I am after all judt a young girl. In fact, the only reason I know about Jeff’s death is because of a newspaper article I found that my father had kept through the years. I can not recall what the headline or newspaper was called but I do however remember that picture. It was in the article and haunts me to this day. I wish I could find out more though this story was very informative and for that I am thankful. As I said this event isn’t spoken of and I wish I could learn more about him and whybsomeone would want to hurt him. Thank your for this article . Rest in peace, Jeff

  16. Jeff Ramsey is a friend of mine, that was killed by a horrible person. I remember great times with Jeff and getting grounded or spanked for staying out to late.

    Thank you Matthew, I knew your father while I was in school also and I have to admit that I did not remember your father passing in 1973. I believe today that I was very depressed after Jeff died. But did not understand or know what I was feeling. You see I to went fishing with Jeff a lot almost every day that I can remember, but mostly I remember that day it was a Thursday (I think) Jeff came to my house in the morning around 8:00 am I was mowing or getting ready to mow my lawn as my mother was mad that I had not mowed in a long time. Plus I had to mow the neighbors lawn and then edge both sets of side walks. I remember watching him ride his bicycle toward the river.
    When he did not come home that night his mom came to my house to see if he was there that is when we found out that he was missing. the next morning I went to the river and found several people looking for him. We searched all day and then I went back to help every day until they found his bicycle on the following Tuesday. Which when I told my mother that we had found his bicycle she kept me from continuing to search because she feared the worst and felt I should not see his body. they found him two days latter on Thursday. I spent many hours down at the Rock Island Police Department looking at books of mug shots and pointing out any body I have seen around us. During his funeral I waited for Jeff to come in the back door like a chapter out of Huck Finn. As I read you journal I am taken back to that time. You describe it and Jeff exactly. Jeff’s charisma touched a lot of people. Jeff and I would pick up our newspapers at the same corner. I to which we could find his killer and bring him to justice.

    Thank you Matthew I know this was hard to write, Its good to know that others still remember Jeff before he was killed.

  17. Glad you posted this. I grew up on 21 street, hung out with John and “Buzz”. Walking to Lincoln, playing war in the woods. Best times of my life were in that neighborhood.

  18. I lived on 21st street, across the alley from the Ramsey family and went to school with Jill. Jeff was much younger when I knew him, maybe 7.
    I had already married by the time that Jeff was kidnapped, but I remember being told about it and feeling such tremendous sorrow for the family.
    I think about this tragedy often, because, as you had mentioned, it seems as though that was the “defining moment”! Things were never, ever gonna be the same. Innocence forever lost.

  19. I just found this site. I should know some of you people on here, it has been a long time. I lived at 1215 19 th Strret. Jeff and I did a lot of things together, I was to be with him on the day he went missing. Please feel to contact me. SGT. Detective Donnie D. Thomas Bryan county S.O. Pembroke GA

  20. Our family lived across the alley and two houses down. (21st Street)
    I was the same age as Jeff, and have fond memories of us building go carts with scavanged lawnmower parts, riding bikes through the neighborhood, playing army in the park, teasing the girls in the neighborhood.I remember Jeff as a kid who lived life and played hard. I also remember what a good,kind and caring mother Mrs. Ramsey was. She treated all the kids in the neighborhood as hers.It was a wonderful place to grow up. We moved out of the neighborhood in 1971, and I still remember the day I found out the terrible news. My mother was upset and crying when she told us Jeff had been murdered. She tried to shield us from the details but the news was everywhere. After 40 years his murder is still like a bad dream and the shock and hurt is the same. Though we may not see closure in our lifetime, we do have a God that reconciles all accounts.

  21. I live at 1212 22nd street. This is a well written article. I’m going to go see if I can find the names carved in the stone.

  22. Matt, My wife and I attended your mother’s funeral and burial. Michael
    Scheck, your dad had a profound effect on me. While @ Black Hawk College, my dyslexia issues emerged. Your father was kind enough to tutor and help me with English, spelling and grammar. I went on to be the author of half a dozen books of poetry.
    I did happen to see your father when I was home for a visit from Graduate School @ the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. He died shortly thereafter. He was accompanied by your Mom, Tess.
    I remember them from having lived across the alley from us in a duplex on 15th Street between 12th & 13th Avenue, very near Longview Park. Then the Schecks moved away to a big house on 22nd Street. My family, (Tom & Madelyn, my parents) always remained in touch with your family. My younger brother, John (AHS”69) came across this internet site and asked for my comments. He and I shall continue to follow this for the pursuit of the truth has always been a theme in my life. Justice often trails shortly behind the truth. “Persistence sweetens the success.”, my older brother Allen (AHS’63) used to say.

    [Mat Scheck]
    Of course I remember the Kellys. Madelyn and Mom remained close for many years after we moved away, and she came to visit us in Indiana in about 1976; it was a GREAT visit, we kids always adored her. I recall your Dad, Tom, passed away right around when Dad did. Madelyn was such a wonderful person. You Kelly boys were all so much older than I was, and of course I wasn’t born until after our family moved to 22nd Street, but of course your family was always close to our hearts.Thanks for writing!

  23. @R bunch
    that day johnny b and my brother did not go fishing although jeff wanted my brother to go real bad.I would not let him.I sent him to baxter’s house, but he came back and said johnny was grounded, so then i sent him to troy’s house.But troy’s dad was being a butthead about it so jeff came back again.I then tried to get him to go to the wood’s house to see if one of the boy’s there would go.no he came back again, jeff kept being so insistant that I would let johnboy go with him and i would’nt let him.Because I was babysitting my brother and sisters till dad come home.It got to the point we were arguing about it because he did’nt want to go alone fishing.So i tried to get him to wait till our dad got home and i also kept suggesting people in the neighborhood.Jeff said at one point he was gonna go to the apartment building behind the Wood’s house cause he thought he knew someone there who could go.I said to him but i don’t think any kids live there though and not to go there.I don’t think he went there though.he was at our house a long time that morning before he left.later that afternoon jill come looking for him and i told her he was trying to find someone to go fishing with him.johnny and johnboy and jeff were best friends in case no one knows. buzzie is my cousin.

  24. Jeff’s death was a shock to me as well since our neighborhood was what I thought “the best place” to raise a family.” I had already moved to Florida the year before but remember all the fun we had with you boys playing with us in the woods or sledding down the hill and over the bridge. I was deeply sadden by his tragic death, and hearing of your dad’s illness and passing.
    It just so happened I mentioned Jeff’s murder again to my wife for the millionth time and she googled it. To my surprise we came across your article, which was nicely written and very moving for me. It’s obvious from the responses you have here that Jeff’s murder effect all of us for all these years.
    You have my email, keep in touch and say hi to the rest of your family..

    [Mat Scheck]
    Ted Clegg! You and your family were such an important part of that neighborhood and such dear friends to the Scheck family. When I was really little I used to follow your dad around like Dennis the Menace; Jack was my hero and best buddy! And your Mom, Helen, was like a second Mom to me. When Dad got really sick your Mom took care of me while my Mom was in Iowa City where Dad was hospitalized. I loved the Clegg family like it was my own, and I am sure my brothers and sisters all feel the same. Mom kept in touch with Helen for many years after we moved away to Indiana, but the last ten years of her life she suffered from Alzheimer’s and struggled to remember things. Thanks for your comments! I love how the Internet can reconnect people. Keep in touch!

  25. I am cousins with Buzzy Phillips and spent a lot of time at his house, in the woods, and other locations you mentioned in this story.. Although I was only 7 or 8, I remember the tragedy of Jeff Ramsey’s death. This story was so well written, thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts.

  26. Hi, I happened upon your site when I was looking for info on Hauberg Estates. Your writing about these events is very poignant & sad. Such tragedies.

    I realized that the house that you lived in in Rock Island is on the market for sale now, the photo of the house looked familiar. I am thinking of buying in the area. Thought you might be interested in seeing photos of it now, looks like a great house. I am not involved in the sale of it in any way.


  27. Hi, just found this site. My brother Patrick (Paddy), was always getting into trouble with Jeff. I remember vividly this sad event. It forever changed me. The innocence of childhood was gone. Jeff was a year older then me, and as I said, he and my brother were always in trouble for one thing or another.
    I remember your father, also, as I was friends with Maggie. Thank you for sharing this story.

    [Mat Scheck]:
    Driest, hello, and thanks for the comments. I remember your family quite well, and Jeff & Paddy were like Heckel & Jeckel back in the day, what a pair those two made! I’ll pass your comments on to Maggie.

  28. @Ramona B
    I remember all of you ! My name is,Rick Lerch I was 8n the same class,as,Matt Schick and Jon Ramsey at Lincoln grade School! Mrs Myers was our 3rd grade teacher !

  29. My brother and me delivered papers 45th St Ave is were we lived my brother remembers Jeff I don’t remember him but I remember when this happened and how scared we were to go fishing alone after that. We also moved from Rock Island in 1975 but always have memories of that happening was wondering if it was ever solved.

  30. I was in Jeff’s grade and Paddy McAdams, I grew up on 14th ave and 29th street RI. My mother Mary Ahlf dies in 1972 when I was 13, horrible, I was orphaned at that time. I knew Jeff Ramsey. Rock Island and Hauberg park were where we all hung out alot. It was and idealic childhood up until then.

  31. I lived at 1212 22nd st. You had such a wonderful family, mom and dad. I remember coming to your kitchen and being in awe of the table there to seat your family. It seemed so big. You are so right, it was a wonerful place as a child, until Jeff died and your father got sick. Thank you for sharing your memories.

    [Kristel! Hello! Your brother Eric was one of my very good friends and I adored your Mom, who was my Cub Scout den mother! Wow! Thanks for finding my page! – Mat Scheck]

  32. I remember that day very well. I was in the same class as John and Larry and lived a block from them. It was such a terrible tragedy, no family should have to face. I often wondered if they had ever caught the person who did this.

  33. @R bunch
    again I will say this My brother john s and johnnie B did NOT go fishing with Jeff that day he dissappeared. I woud not let my brother or Jeff go fishing. I was babysitting my siblings that day. I would Not let Jeff go fishing alone without asking around in the neighborhood for someone to go with him.Jeff was hanging out at our house most of the day.Johnnie B was grounded and could not go fishing either.My brother could not go because my dad was at work so he had to stay with me. Hence this is why Jeff was at our house trying to wear me down all morning.I made him go to all the houses of people he knew in our neighborhood to see if anyone would go fishing with him.He kept coming back and saying this person or that person could not go.He kept driving me nuts because I would not let him go by himself and I would not let John boy go either but Jeff was hyperactive and wantd to go fishing that day.when it got afternoon I told him he needed to head home to eat.He never arrived home because Jill came by around dinner time looking for him because he never made it home. I think somewhere between our house and his house in the alley(because that is a direct way to his house) someone he knew(because he talked to everybody) he was tricked and taken.

  34. I am so sorry for the loss of your father again as I know it must of been so extremely hard especially since there was so much trouble surrounding it. I came to your house after it happened to offer condolences with my friends from the neighborhood because he was a great teacher. I also remember the bullying and name calling you kids went through, with neighbors saying your dad was crazy and so were some of you.It was awful the way some people gossiped.I can see it somehow made you stronger and a decent writer.Cudos.Like you, I also play that frozen place in time over and over again, trying to see if I missed something that day as Jeff walked off up the alley.

  35. I also knew the Ramseys…I was friends with Ruth…(Jeffs oldest sister) for many years. Ruth went to school with my step-sister Rosanne….Sadly Ruth passed away from Cancer in 1998 but I knew the details of Jeffs death haunted her right to the end. I knew Jon and Jill….Dale and Wilma…all wonderful people…may they rest in peace…

  36. We lived on 12th Avenue and 20th street and knew both families, both great! This certainly brought back a lot of memories the good and the sad. Friends on Facebook with Betsy.

    [Hello, Terry! I have a great newspaper clipping of your dad, my dad, and me & your baby sister Stacy that was published about 1971 in the Argus.You brother Ken and my brother John were best buddies at Central and Rocky, and of course I adored your parents. Thanks for writing a comment here!]

    – Mat Scheck

  37. I just discovered this well-written article today, thanks to Diane Oestrich. It brought back many happy and sad memories. I taught 4th and 6th graders at Lincoln Elementary School for one year (1969-70). I had a wonderful experience there with creative students, cooperative parents, and a fantastic faculty. Jeff Ramsey was one of my students. His tragedy occurred after I had left Lincoln. I was devastated when following his horrendous story in the news. SO sad! Luckily, I remember him as a shy, kind, and adorable young boy. He must have stored up his wild side for after school. 🙂

    I am impressed by the many loving stories of the neighbors in the Broadway District. I grew up on 23rd Street, two blocks from the school, and also have happy memories of that area. My parents lived in the same house for over 70 years!

    I think of Jeff often; sadly, when I read about similar happenings in our too-often troubled world. My heart goes out to his remaining family, and to yours, too, Mat.

  38. How awful for you and your family.I never heard about this. God bless you and your family and thanks for sharing your story.

  39. Matthew,

    What a memoir! So much sadness for a young child to endure. I lost my mother to a glioblastoma multiforme grade 4 so I understand some of your situation with your father. His journey was much longer than my mother’s. Mom died 8 months after her diagnosis. It is a terrible disease and you lost your father way too soon. I am so sorry that your family had to go through this illness with him.

    It would be amazing if Jeff’s murder could be solved. I live in the IL Quad Cities but moved here a few years after the murder so this story is new to me.

    Are you related to any of the Scheck’s who have attended Augustana? A trombonist, perhaps? I teach there. I hope that life is treating you well now!

  40. Our son Reggie was one of the neighborhood kids who played with Jeff. His death really frightened Reggie for many years.

  41. I taught with your dad at Central. I started in 1965 and remember him well. After he became ill, I remember at one first day of school, he came to the first day of school activities at the high school. Hus head was bandaged and he was obviously quite ill. I did not get to see hum again until his funeral..I had Jill in class. I remember how sweet and gentle she was. This tragedy rocked my world as an adult. I was 29, in my seventh year teaching. I am so sorry that the family did not have closure. May the blessings be.

  42. Hi Matt! I have many fond memories of growing up on 22nd street. I was at your house and Buzzie’s house many times. I hung around with your sister, Jeanne and Buzzie’s sister, Betty. I remember both of these sad and tragic events. I was around ten or eleven years old at that time. Thank you for sharing your memories in this article. I’m going to share it with the Matya family. All eight of us “kids” and our mother still live in the Quad Cities. Take care, Matt.

    [Connie! I wrote you an email to catch up with you. Thanks for leaving a comment, I want to hear all about how your family is doing these days.]

    – Mat Scheck

  43. I’m best friends with Jon today. Breaks my heart to read this but also so sweet to hear about him as a 9 year old.

  44. One of my friends from 23rd Street forwarded me this post on my Facebook page. I grew up at 1020 23rd Street and I did some of the same things you describe, playing army in the woods near the Hauberg Center and across the street from my house on 23rd street, and sledding down the Hauberg Hill. The picture of the entrance on 22nd street and your descriptions were very vivid for me. I drove through the neighborhood about a month ago and it made me sad to see how much my old house, as well as the neighborhood in general had deteriorated.

    Mr. Scheck (I only knew him as Mr. Scheck) was one of my favorite teachers. Unfortunately, my memory of that time is a little sketchy. I think I had him for a social studies class at CJHS. I do remember that he was a very respectful person. By that I mean he respected his students as people which I really appreciated. Not all teachers did that, and not all of my memories of Central are as good as those I had with your Dad.

    Our family moved to 42nd Avenue in May of 1973 so I only heard the stories of your father and Jeff from a distance. My own father died in 1996 of a recurrence of kidney cancer that had metasticized to his hip. He also had we believe, early onset Alzheimer’s which over the course of two years, made it impossible for him to communicate with us. The behavioral changes in someone you love due to illness are so hard to witness. So, your descriptions of your Dad brought back all the memories of my own. I sympathize with you more than you know. It is hard to believe my dad has been gone almost 20 years.

    I think it is very healthy for you to write about your experiences as you have. It is extremely sad and tragic, but you seem to have dealt with it in the only way humanly possible, by facing it and allowing yourself to re-experience it in what I believe is a very positive way. No one gets through life without tragedy. I am so sorry that some of yours came so early in your life when, as kids, it is so much more difficult to deal with. God bless you for sharing it with others who did not understand what you went through at the time.

    I am 64 now. I remember playing with Ted Clegg who is closer in age to my sister Marianne. Tedd’s older brother Tim was our baby sitter on several occasions. In those days, I hung out with the Swanson’s (Don, Dave and John) across the alley on 22nd Street. I also remember playing with Doug and Greg Gillette, just up the street, who were valedictorians in each of their classes at Rocky in 1967 and 1968 respectively. Others on my street that I played with were Brad Rank, and David and Stephen Wooten. I don’t know if you know any of these people but it was a good neighborhood in which to grow up. We had a lot of good people living there. We still had innocence in those days. We live in a different world today. Hopefully, our cumulative experiences, both good and tragic, make us stronger to face whatever the future brings, and demonstrate positive faith to do right.

    Best Wishes to you!

    [Scott, thanks for the comment! The Ranks and Wootens were neighbors and I remember both families well. Jack and Helen (Queenie) Clegg and their children–Tim, Terri, and Ted–were very close friends to our family. I thank you much for your memories and recollections, Scott!]

    – Mat Scheck

  45. This is such a well-written and moving article. I was the same age and grade as Jeff and we attended the same church and Sunday School. This was a terrible time for me as well with so much tragedy. The youngest Lardner child lost her life, our close friends Paula Schwegler and Karen Thomas were killed, my grandfather died slowly of lung cancer, and there was Jeff’s unspeakable tragedy as well. I have never since believed anyone to be immortal. Respecting death as something that can arrive in an very unexpected time has impacted my entire life.

    My heart ached for Jeff’s family. I cannot imagine how they suffered. And it ached for Jeff as well–he was just a kid.

    I thought that Jeff’s murder was attributed to John Wayne Gacy, not formally, but that he had been tracked to working at the carnival in Davenport during this exact time. Perhaps I am wrong.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  46. Boy this brings back such great childhood memories and then the tradgedy that took our childhood away from us. When Jeff was taken I remember my dad ( Kayo ) coming home and asking me where my brothers were??? Well my little brother Brian was one for getting into anything!!!! Luckily he always took one of his buddies with him and thank god he did this time,too!!! But my dad was never mean talking but he was getting that way waiting for Brian. He said he would tell us all together what wad going on. So finally Brian got there and my dad says ” I going to tell you kids this once and once ONLY!!! You are NOT TO GO TO THE PARK ANYMORE UNTIL FUTHER NOTICE AND YOU ARE NOT TO GO ANY WHERE BY YOURSELF!!! All the other parents in the neighborhood are talking to their children, too!!! ” We of course said WHY DAD??? “Well,because I’m telling you so and because something happened and you need to stay closer to home or to the neighborhood and that’s all I’m going to say”.

  47. I owned the house at 1230 22nd street and it was below the hill and at the corner. They say it was the house…

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