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The Chillicothe Voice

The Truitt Legacy — Part 3

Jun 30, 2023 12:33PM ● By Sherry Adams
In writing about the Truitt Legacy we would be remiss in leaving out Barbara Truitt, one of the most influential movers and shakers of our town.

Barbara Truitt was born in 1918 in Chillicothe, the daughter of Henry III and Helen Truitt. She attended Chillicothe schools and went on to study business and graduate from the University of Illinois. She was a member of the Women’s Air Service Pilots serving during the Korean War as a senior commander. Barb was a real estate and insurance agent and the past President of the First National Bank in Chillicothe where she served as chairman of the board of the holding company, First Chillicothe Corporation.


Barbara led a fascinating, but humble life. Her possessions comprised of a five-room cottage on the river, a 6-year-old pickup truck, a 12-year-old Oldsmobile, a black Lab named Tug, a set of hangers at the Mt. Hawley Airport, an island on the Illinois River, a bank, and some of the choicest land on the Illinois River.

Barb never married—some say Chillicothe was the baby she never had. She flew planes across the ocean as a pilot in WWII and ran a hotel in South Korea. She had the money and the sense of adventure to live anywhere in the world, but she chose to come back to her hometown of Chillicothe in the 1950s.

Barb was outspoken and some say eccentric but for sure one of a kind. She could outfish and outshoot most of the men. She always walked to the beat of her own drum. Barb believed her town could be great and gave her money, her time, and her talents to make it happen. When talk started at the Chillicothe Foundation, which Barb had founded and endowed, about buying the then vacant Pearce Grade School and making it a community center, Barb jumped on the bandwagon and said, “Let’s do it!” Through the foundation, she donated $1.4 million dollars to remodel the building and add a swimming pool.

Other credits to Barb in Chillicothe are: the 4-year scholarship she endowed at the high school, the west parking lots, improvements in the business district, land bought along the river for future development, the caboose that houses the Historical Society exhibit, and a bank (1st National) that she insisted stay under local control after she gained back controlling interest.

Barbara Truitt loved her town and the people in it. She spent her life doing for others and giving them a leg up. She was determined to make Chillicothe a better place for everyone to live, thanks to Barb, it is! 
Henry Truitt, V
Henry Truitt, born in 1948, has spent his entire life in Chillicothe. Although his given name was Henry, he has been known all his life as Handy. Asked how that name came about, he related that when his mother was in labor she yelled out for her husband, whom she called Heinie, and he thought she was saying Handy, and the rest was history. All throughout his schooling and his professional life, he has been known as Handy.

Handy went to Chillicothe grade schools and graduated from Chillicothe High School in 1966. From there he went to Northwestern University majoring in mathematics. After a year, he enrolled in the University of Illinois to major in architecture. He attended U of I from 1968–1973. A year of that time he studied in Versailles, France in conjunction with their Department of Architecture overseas program. In 1973 he graduated with a master’s degree in architectural engineering and eventually became a registered architect, structural engineer, and professional engineer.

Handy met and married his wife, Betty Hogan, in 1972. They eventually moved into a Truitt family-owned house on Second Street where they still reside today. The couple have two children—Peter and Gwen.

Before graduating from the University of Illinois, Handy worked for the State Highway Department and Tom Landes & Associates during breaks from college. From there he joined the firm of Lankton-Ziegele-Terry, then later moved on to work for Phillips Swager & Associates. In 1994 he joined Caterpillar where he began as a Project Architect and then advanced to Division Manager for Global Facilities Services, responsible for getting Caterpillar’s new buildings throughout the world designed and built. He retired from Cat in 2009.

During his industrious career working as an architectural engineer, Handy spoke at many conferences and received many awards and commendations for his outstanding work.

Handy was a board member of  the First National Bank in Chillicothe beginning in 1983 and Chairman of the Board from 1985–2015. In 1990 he became a charter member of the Board of Directors at Pearce Community Center. He is also past chairman of the Chillicothe City Planning Commission.

When asked what his proudest accomplishments were, he did not hesitate to say; “My wonderful family,” He then added, “Another thing that I’m very proud of is the work and care I’ve taken in putting together our family tree, so my grandchildren will know about their ancestors and where they came from.”

Thank you, Handy for sharing all this valuable information about your ancestors with all of us.

In conclusion, we owe a big debt of gratitude to the Truitt Family for everything they did in the making of our town. From first platting out of the streets and plots, the banking and businesses they first established, to the Pearce Community Center that we are so proud to have today.

May we never forget how those who come before us pave the way for future generations.