Mizzou Botanic Garden Tribute Bench Sponsor shares tribute story

The Charles W. Digges Family

Born in Columbia in 1919, Charlie Digges’ family home near the corner of Providence and Burnam Roads was at the south end of town. Beginning at age 5, his father walked him and his brother to Mizzou football games, played where Stankowski field is now located. He attended MU Lab School, Hickman High and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1940 from Mizzou, eventually becoming president of The Insurance Group, an independent insurance agency in Columbia.

Charlie and Kathy Digges

Charlie and Kathy Digges

Kathy Yeargain Digges earned her associate’s degree from the MU College of Education, and went to work in an insurance claims office.

“I first “met” Charlie when he phoned in insurance claims,” she said. Then one day, her mother invited Charlie to a dinner party where the couple met in person.

“Talk about fate, Charlie and I fell madly in love,” Kathy said. “There is a 27-year age difference between us but I was born to be Charlie Digges’ wife. We had a heightened relationship and cherished every day of it.”

The couple led an active life, exercising and walking every day, often on the MU campus.

“Our house is just two blocks from MU. We’ve walked around the columns thousands of times and gave praise to Barb Uehling [MU Chancellor whose vision for campus beautification launched Mizzou Botanic Garden], Kathy said.

“In 2011, when Charlie was 92, we often walked together on Sundays at Carnahan Quad and he would rest on a particular bench, which faced Jesse Hall. We could celebrate our good health and our lives sitting there.”

The couple decided to buy the bench as a Christmas present for their entire family and continued to rest on “their” bench when they walked until shortly before Charlie’s 100th birthday. He died in January 2019.

“He was a Tiger for 100 years,” Kathy said.

She decided to purchase the oak Tribute Tree next near the Digges bench as a memorial to her husband.

“Now when I walk on Carnahan Quad, I can sit on Charlie’s bench, pat his oak tree and remember the good times we had together.”

Story by Jan-Wiese-Fales