In Memoriam: The Annie Oakley Foundation
This page is a memorial to Bess Edwards, Annie Oakley’s grandniece. Bess’s grandfather, John, was Annie’s brother. Bess and Lavon Grawburg, grandnieces of Annie Oakley, started the Annie Oakley Foundation in 1984. See the Annie Oakley Foundation’s Mission Statement and a catalog of their accomplishments below.
Directors and officers came and went over the years, but Bess remained steadfast and carried on after Lavon died. Carol and I got involved about 1999 in doing research for the book, Peters & King. Carol became the AOF Secretary, and I became AOF President and Chairman of the Board. During our tenure, there were a number of notable contributors to the on-going foundation. Holly Finnarn became an AOF Director and her husband, Ted Finnarn, became our legal counsel and furnished their law office for a number of years as our meeting site. For a time, Tractor Supply in Greenville allowed us the use of their conference room. Bess’s brother-in-law, Bill Edwards provided financial and moral support from afar and provided the large photo prints we used at our exhibits. In more recent years, Tom Guillozet, of the Hanes Law Group Ltd., became our legal counsel and the firm allowed us the use of their law library for meetings. Betty Wonder became a great friend to Bess and to all of us. She was an AOF Director and AOF Secretary until her death.Betty’s husband Ted Wonder, gave us financial support upon his death. Don Fitzgerald was a loyal and long-time AOF Director until his death. Doctors (professors) Walt and Janet Goulet were AOF Directors, as was Joan Klein.The Ohio Gun Collector’s Association, particularly OGCA Presidents Bob Rubendunst and Walt Goulet, along with OGCA Business Manager, Laura Knotts, provided logistical and financial support. Bess Edward’s daughter, Janet Bailey, actively supported her mother as she became older and less able to drive and travel. This included a trip to Paris, France to visit Disney’s rendition of the Wild West Show in that city as their guest, and to Germany to appear on TV there. Judy Lear, was a faithful supporter of the AOF for logistical purposes. Brian Swiger did yeoman service as AOF Treasurer for a number of years. The DVD about Annie’s life that AOF produced was done by Brad Wallace (and his family), with AOF Director Allen Harbison in 2005 for a fraction of the going rate for such excellent work.
Annie Oakley’s life was the inspiration, but Bess Edwards was the primary one inspired. Her insistence on in-depth research, accuracy, and outreach on Annie’s life should be her legacy. Upon her death, it was deemed in the best interest of her legacy to turn over the AOF assets to the Annie Oakley Center Foundation.
Tom Schiffer, AOF President and Chairman of the Board
The mission of the Annie Oakley Foundation is to provide accurate information on the life and legend of Annie Oakley and to disseminate educational materials to schools, libraries and museums.
The 2018 Annie Oakley Foundation Board members, left to right: Tom Schiffer, Chair; Dave Niley; Carol Schiffer, Secretary; Pat McCarthy; Brian Swiger, Treasurer; Linda Baker; Tom Guillozet; with Janet Bailey, Bess Edwards' daughter, in attendance. They are shown here at Tom Guillozet's law office on July 18, 2018, in Greenville, OH, at the last meeting of the Annie Oakley Foundation as they have disbanded as a non-profit organization and transferred their assets to the Annie Oakley Center Foundation.
Members of the Board of the Directors of the Annie Oakley Foundation in 2016: (left to right): Tom Schiffer, chair, Carol Schiffer, secretary, Pat McCarthy, Dave Niley and Linda Baker, directors, and Brian Swiger, treasurer. Bess Edwards is seated.
Bess Edwards - Great grandniece of Annie Oakley. Photo by Marlene P. Creech, Spring of 2004.
History of the Annie Oakely Foundation
The Annie Oakley Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization was created and incorporated in 1984 by her closest living family members, Bess Edwards and Lavon Grawburg, grandnieces of Annie Oakley. The aim of these direct relatives was/is to clarify and authenticate the life and career of this Ohio pioneer woman. After the death of her cousin, in 1992, Edwards has carried on the research to honor their commitment.
On the way to achieving the mission, troubling flaws were found in the early biographies of Phoebe Ann Mosey. Endless effort, which grew from a few months to years, has been put forth to research and correct false allegations, and erroneous, long-held beliefs. These efforts included searching early census on National Archives microfilm; corresponding with historians across the nation; studying the many scrapbooks compiled by Annie and her husband, Frank Butler; and using Annie's unfinished autobiography. News of renewed interest, honors and film-shoots have been covered in our newsletter "Taking Aim," which began in 1988.
Although Annie was not a westerner, she had always been identified as one by writers and filmmakers because of her role as the star attraction with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show. Annie blazed a trail in many areas of sports and entertainment.
Interest in her life and career has grown because of the remarkable way she and Frank Butler, her husband-manager and agent, handled her career and her celebrity. She has become a role model for students and foundation members ranging in age from nine to ninety.
Telling It Like It Was
The Foundation has invested much time, effort and money producing Annie Oakley: American Legend, the film which will finally "tell it like it was." Proceeds from the sale of this DVD will help fund continued educational outreach programs.
The "Spark Plug" of the Annie Oakley Foundation is Bess Edwards, Annie Oakley's great grandniece.
Along the way, The Annie Oakley Foundation has also assisted with arrangements for the following: