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Columbia Missourian

A.W. 'Babe' Manns remembered for chewing gum, farming

By Youngrae Kim
July 19, 2013 | 8:24 p.m. CDT
A.W. “Babe” Manns, left, gives a stick of gum to a young church member in front of Olivet Christian Church in Columbia. Mr. Manns gave gum to children of the church for nearly 50 years.

COLUMBIA — The "Juicy Fruit Man" of Columbia has died.

A.W. “Babe” Manns, 97, died Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Mr. Manns was born in Madison County, Ill., to William and Ida Brandt Manns on Jan. 7, 1916. One day as a child, one of his aunts started to call him "Babe" instead of his uncommon first name, Alcide. The name stuck, and henceforth everyone called him "Babe."

Mr. Manns spent his working years farming, starting out as dairy farmer with his father in Illinois. He married Mildred Davis on Sept. 7, 1939, in Alton, Ill. After two sons were born, he moved to southern Boone County and opened his own cattle farm. Mr. Manns continued his career until his wife died April 18, 2003.

He was a member of Olivet Christian Church since the early 1960s. Among other members of the church, he was known as the “Juicy Fruit Man.” Every Sunday for nearly 50 years, Mr. Manns would stand by the church doorstep and hand out 25 to 30 sticks of Juicy Fruit chewing gum to young children.

“At one point, he had broken his hip and ended up in hospital for a while," said Karen Bradley, a close friend of Mr. Manns at the church. "And his first Sunday back to church, he was literally knocked down by all the kids who were so excited to see him back again.”

“There are people who are my age, and I’m at my early 50's, that remember him giving them Juicy Fruit gum when they were children. And they come back now and still get a hug and get a stick of Juicy Fruit gum even though they have children of their own.”

Bradley said although Juicy Fruit was his favorite choice of flavor, Mr. Manns didn’t chew a lot of gum.

“He chewed plucked tobacco, and that was kind of his staple,” she said. “He loved his plucked tobacco, his Pepsis, his pies. He loves pie, cold or hot; it doesn’t matter.”

Mr. Manns is survived by two sons, Ron Manns, and his wife, Donna of Mexico, Mo., and Jerry Manns, and his wife, Dotty, of Columbia; 10 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and three great, great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Olivet Christian Church, 1991 S. Olivet Road, with services immediately after. Burial will follow at Olivet Cemetery. Arrangements are by Nilson Funeral Home at 5611 St. Charles Road.