The mystery of the missing bust

Probus was beloved by the community and especially by children. “He liked people, and people liked him. Hed look at you and smile, and no matter how angry you were, you knew you were going to give in, Judith Probus, Probus’ mother said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1980.
Probus was beloved by the community and especially by children. “He liked people, and people liked him. He’d look at you and smile, and no matter how angry you were, you knew you were going to give in,” Judith Probus, Probus’ mother said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1980.
Elena Brown

On a balmy summer day in June of 1979, at the age of 24, Richard Probus was shot 13 times and thrown into a ditch between two baseball fields near Winton Woods. 

A year earlier, full of high hopes and big dreams, Probus, a WHHS alum, had opened a corner store in Mt. Healthy called Draper’s Carryout and Deli with his friend Richard DeBaker. 

One year later, DeBaker, who had fallen upon hard times, hired Raymond Ball, a friend who had previously done work as a hitman, to murder Probus in order to collect a shared life insurance policy. 

When Mildred E. Currus, Probus’s grandmother, heard of his death, she was devastated and decided to commission a bust of him to be placed in the WHHS library to forever commemorate the alum. 

Fast forward 40 years: the bust is gone and has been completely forgotten. But then, last March, the librarians were doing some spring cleaning and came across information regarding the bust.

“We did not even know it existed,” librarian Melody Riggs said. “We were cleaning out a lot of old files and records in the office and we came across some newspaper clippings and a file about him… From there, we started looking for it and couldn’t find it. It was very intriguing.”

The librarians believe that during the 2012-2013 renovations of the library, the bust was lost during all of the packing and unpacking.

The Richard Probus bust was inspired off of Probus’ 1972 yearbook photo. (Remembrancer)

The librarians next came to room 2306, the journalism classroom,

arms laden with newspapers and other files. They retold the story to the journalism students, hoping they might be able to help them in their search for the bust.

That’s when I got involved.

For a year, a few other students and I wandered the hallways searching for the bust. I scoured articles from the Cincinnati Enquirer, digging up any information I could find regarding Probus.

I learned that he was on the honor roll at Eastern Hills Jr. High in 1968. 

I learned that his favorite possessions were two beer mugs given to him by his girlfriend. 

I learned that he had a dog named Linus, and loved the comic Peanuts. 

I learned that he sculpted a ceramic beagle on Nov. 29, 1978.

I immersed myself in the case until I knew more about Probus than even his best friends, which I admit may have been a bit stalkerish.

The problem was I still had no idea what the bust looked like. Then, about three months ago, I had a breakthrough.

I visited the library intending to research the art around WHHS for an article that has now been published called “The history of our halls.” I stumbled upon a book about all of the art around WHHS.

This book had a picture of the Probus bust as well as a brief description of its history. With this new advancement in the back of my mind, I eagerly set out once again to try to finally find the missing bust.

One day, about 2 months ago, I was walking in the hallway past the conference room. I glanced in and immediately stopped in my tracks. In the far right corner, hidden by the curtains and shadows, was the Probus bust! 

Shocked and a little skeptical that it had been hiding in plain sight all this time, we told the librarians of the astonishing discovery.

“We need to have a welcome home party!” Margo Fisher-Bellman, one of the elated librarians, responded in a text chain. 

Reinvigorated by my lucky break, I decided to dig even deeper into the Probus case. I was able to find the office phone number of Meryln Shiverdecker, the prosecutor of the case back in 1980. After leaving a message, I arranged an interview with him. 

While Shiverdecker didn’t remember much from the more-than-40-year-old case, he did have one interesting anecdote to share with me regarding Probus’s damaged body.  

“One thing that I will never forget, the investigator for the coroner’s office, a guy named Jack Leach, was on the witness stand,” Shiverdecker said. “He was called out to the scene of the crime and was there when Probus’s body was found. Then [Leach] as a coroner’s office investigator, went through the autopsy protocol…The defense lawyer [asks Leach] ‘Do you consider this to be a homicide?’ He looks at him and says ‘Either that or a very determined case of suicide.’”

Probus’ corner store, located on 7440 Hamilton Ave. in Mt. Healthy, is now home to Goodies BBQ, which has won many awards for their food, including in 1992 when Cincinnati Magazine named them the “best southern style barbecue”.

Another lead that I investigated was the corner store owned by Probus and DeBaker, which is still around today, but now as a beloved BBQ restaurant called Goodies BBQ.

I walked into the restaurant with hopes of finding some new information, but instead, the pungent aroma of mouth-watering brisket filled my nose. Unfortunately, I walked away with no new information and no pulled pork sandwich. 

Having exhausted all possible leads, I sat down to finally write this article, a year in the making, regarding the journey and, more importantly, the significance of the bust.

The importance of the bust is not one of sophisticated art or monetary value but more a representation of our school’s gilded history.  

“I think it shows that Walnut values their alumni and just the specialness that is Walnut,” Riggs said.

The bust also showcases the fickleness of memory and how something once beloved can turn into something that can easily be lost.

“I think it’s interesting to see how there’s definitely a disconnect at some point,” Acacia Diniz, another librarian,  said. “It became something that could leave this room and nobody really seemed to miss it for a long time. But it’s a piece of history that’s connected to Walnut.”

Now, whether the bust will be returned to the library or if a welcome home party will actually occur is a mystery for another day. No matter what happens, students can revel in the fact that a missing art piece will now be in the spotlight and that the memory of Probus will forever be kept alive. 

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About the Contributor
Elena Brown
Elena Brown, Managing Editor of Student Life
In her second year as a Chatterbox staff member, Elena Brown, ‘27 is looking forward to working as a Managing Editor this year. She hopes to become more confident and to become a better writer this year. Brown also plays soccer outside of school. She enjoys hiking and being outside. Brown also loves to read and plays the guitar. While Brown does not have one specific college in mind, she hopes to study environmental science and to eventually have a career that will make an impact.
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