Elinor G. Chapler–Poet, Musician, Librarian, Doctor’s Wife

Elinor G. Chapler


Mrs. Chapler was my piano teacher for several years. Later I also took organ lessons from her. But she was much more than the teacher of private music lessons.

Elinor was born January 19, 1910 to Nold Wagner and Gertrude (Utley) Groh in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was a 1927 graduate of Little Rock High School, and attended Little Rock Junior College, College of the Ozarks (Clarksville), and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville).

She was librarian for over six years at the Little Rock Public Library, and was a professional organist for the First Methodist Church in Little Rock. I don’t know how she met Keith M. Chapler, but they were married in Little Rock on June 5, 1930, and moved to Des Moines, where Dr. Chapler (also Dr C.R. Osborn) interned at Lutheran Hospital.

While Mayme Fitting was visiting her sister, a patient at the Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, she ran into a former grammar school student, Dr. Keith Chapler. Mayme Fitting was a 1900 Dexter graduate, who attended Cedar Falls Normal School and became a teacher, and was also a Dexter librarian. She is buried at Dexter.

Miss Fitting told Dr. Chapler that Dexter needed a doctor. Chaplers moved to Dexter in 1933, in time to encounter Marvin “Buck” and Blanche Barrow after the Bonnie and Clyde shootout at Dexfield Park that July.

The Dexter Women’s Club was formed in 1935 to “broaden mental horizons and to stimulate larger intellectual development,” according to Dexter’s 1968 Centennial history. Mrs. Chapler was elected their first president.

The next year, the library became tax supported. Elinor Chapler was on the library board for several years, Chairman of the Book Committee, choosing and purchasing the books, emphasizing children’s books early on. She also started the filing system and catalogued the books.

Growing Heritage, her book of poetry, was published in 1937. Her poems were published in 17 anthologies and in newspapers and magazines throughout the nation. Some were aired by radio.


She is listed in American Women–Standard Biographical Dictionary of Notable Women (1939-1940); Who’s Who in Dallas County, Iowa, in 1940; and in Who’s Who in the Central States (1947).


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“Around the Corner” by Agnes Wells, Dexter Sentinel, Apr. 8, 1948

Dr. and Mrs. Chapler’s son, Christopher K., was born in 1940. He is a Dexter graduate of 1958 and became a medical researcher.

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Chaplers lived for years in a stucco house south of Freeman Street on the corner with Marshall Street.  When we took lessons during grade school years, we walked there–having to cross Highway 6, walking through downtown, crossing the railroad tracks. Then back to the school afterwards.

A long-time organist for the Dexter Methodist Church, Mrs. Chapler lectured on poetry and music appreciation, wrote book reviews for the Iowa Medical Journal, the Bulletin, and conducted a book column in the Dexter Review for many years. She served as President of the P.E.O. for six years, was chairman for four years of the State Medical Auxiliary, and associate editor of Horizons.

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Dexfield Review-Sentinel, May 17, 1962.

 She taught piano and organ to dozens of students through the years, and also translated letters from a French penpal for at least one of them.

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Both Dr. Keith M. and Elinor G. Chapler are buried at Dexter.





  1. She also taught a Methodist High School Sunday school class for many years…many of us who stayed around Dexter, continued to attend that class for years after graduating.. We studied a Know your Bible series that I believe was used as a college class in Simpson.

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