Fame achieved by people with Crawford County connections

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Barbara Bedford

Pat Bowlen

Walter Bradford Cannon

Vincente Fox

Elaine Kramer

Agnes Moorehead

George Wendt

Rachel Mergen

Numerous men and women of various fame were born and raised in Crawford County. Others simply spent time in the local communities at some point in their lives. There are certainly more than just seven such individuals, but what follows is a cross-section of those with local connections who are known across the country and, in some cases, the globe.

Barbara Bedford
Barbara Bedford, born as Violet May Rose in the Prairie du Chien and Eastman area, was a silent film actress, who appeared in many films. Her long list of film appearances included in the “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Tumbleweeds” and “Cradle of Courage.”

According to Robert K. Klepper’s “Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies,” Bedford “seemingly disappeared after her last cameo film roles in the 1940s.” Following the death of her last husband in 1945, she moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and worked in retail sales under the name Violet Spencer, taking the surname of her deceased husband.

Pat Bowlen
Pat Bowlen has owned the Denver Broncos for the past 34 seasons. “After his birth 70 years ago as the son of a Canadian wildcatter and a steadfast Wisconsinite, Patrick Dennis Bowlen never stopped skating, swimming, skiing, biking, hiking, competing and running.” Woody Paige at the Denver Post stated in his sports piece “Pat Bowlen is one of Colorado’s most important sports figures.” “He passionately ran hundreds of miles a week.”

As part of his education, Bowlen attended Campion High School in Prairie du Chien.

Paige noted in his own opinion, “Bowlen owning the Broncos is the best thing that ever happened to Denver professional sports. How many contractual problems have the Broncos had? None, really. Cheap? No. Losers? Rarely. Sure, they’ve lost Super Bowls, but they certainly have been to a lot of them.”

Walter Bradford Cannon
Famous physiologist Bradford Cannon was a native of Prairie du Chien, having been born in 1871 to a railroad official and a high school teacher.

During medical school at Harvard, he worked with the recently invented x-rays to examine the digestive organs. At the time of his graduation, he became a professor at Harvard and the chair of the Harvard Department of Physiology.

He discovered, according to the American Journal of Public Health, “when an animal is strongly aroused, the sympathetic division of its autonomic nervous system combines with the hormone adrenaline to mobilize the animal for an emergency response of ‘flight or fight.’”

During World War I, Cannon examined the problem of wound shock. He helped medical professionals gain a better understanding of the condition, which led to a treatment that included the immediate replacement of fluid that is lost from the blood stream.

His further work included research on chemical neurotransmission and on homeostasis, which is the maintenance of the body’s regular states.

He became a leader of the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy and the American-Soviet Medical Society.

Vincente Fox
Vincente Fox was born in Mexico City in July of 1942 to a farming family.

After moving around in his childhood, he found himself attending Campion High School for a year, where he learned English. He went on to a Mexico City campus to receive a degree in Business Administration.

After university, he began to work for Coca Cola and ended up becoming the company’s President for Mexico and Latin America. According to Mexico’s Presidency of the Republic website, he was the youngest person to ever hold the position.

With his experience, he began to gain power and join the political field. He was the President of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, the founding president of the Board of Patrons of the Amigo Daniel Orphanage, a board member of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Grupo Fox, a federal deputy and the governor of the state of Gaunajuato.

Elaine Kramer
Elaine Kramer, rodeo legend, was born in Prairie du Chien. She was known, according to Smooth Transitions, LLC, as a spectacular Roman rider, who could ride six horses at one time.

“Six matched sorrel Saddlebreds full of beauty, class and speed. Imagine driving a team of six horses—three pairs in tandem—but with no coach or carriage. Elaine stood on the backs of her horses—Roman style. They thrilled audiences throughout the United States and Canada for twenty years from 1954 to 1974. She was a top exhibition act appearing at every major horse show and rodeo in North America,” said Smooth Transitions in their story, “Elaine Kramer’s Secret Revealed.” “She closed out her performing career in 1974 with a cameo appearance in the Oscar-winning movie about rodeo champion Larry Mahan called ‘The Great American Cowboy.’”

After her horse riding career, she returned home to continue working and to help her parent’s beef operation.

In October 2003, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, praising her for her wonderful skills as a Roman rider.

Agnes Moorehead
According to the official Hollywood Walk of Fame website, Agnes Moorehead, an actress who was featured in over 70 films and dozens of television shows, including “Bewitched,” was born in Clinton, Mass. in December of 1900. Her first public performance was in her father’s church at the age of three. Moorehead joined a chorus and held a lifelong love for acting and religion.

Because of an insistence made by her father, she decided to start originally in a teaching career. This decision led her to teach public school in Soldier’s Grove for five years, while also studying to receive master’s degrees in English and public speaking at the University of Wisconsin.

George Wendt
George Wendt, an actor and comedian from Chicago, attended Campion High School in Prairie du Chien.

After dropping out of Notre Dame University, he began a successful career in television. He worked with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago for six years. He portrayed Norm Peterson on the series “Cheers.”

Today, he is married to actress Bernadette Birkett, who he met during his work at the Second City comedy troupe, and has two sons and a daughter.

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