Andrew T. Hatges
75-year-old Owner, West View Market
Cause of Death: Bludgeoned
Murder Scene and Date
108 Virginia Avenue SE
Mason City, Iowa
Cerro Gordo County
March 8, 1968
By Nancy Bowers
Written July 2010
On Friday, March 8, 1968, a crime Mason City Police described as “cold blooded murder” ended the life of 75-year-old Andrew “Andy” T. Hatges, a Greek immigrant who literally created and lived the “American Dream.”
When a bread delivery man found Andy’s West View Market still locked at 10:00 Saturday morning, March 9, he notified police. Authorities discovered Hatges’s body face-down on the living room floor of the modest two-story home at 108 Virginia Avenue SE where he lived since the 1930s.
Andy was clothed and still wore his overcoat. Under his body was an 8-inch wrench which had been used to bludgeon him on the head. His right hand was badly swollen with defensive wounds, and his left hand was cut.
Dr. Paul Potter, Cerro Gordo Medical Examiner, set the time of death at about midnight Friday. Mason City Police Capt. Melford S. Newburg told the press that Hatges bled to death after his throat was slashed just above the Adam’s apple.
Andy, a widower, lived alone and never locked his back door. It appeared that he either discovered a burglary in progress or the assailant was waiting in the house for him.
Although there was still money in his pockets, robbery appeared to be the motive. Hatges was known to bring home part of his daily receipts, so it was believed several hundred dollars were missing.
He was last seen at 10:00 Friday night, when a store employee and her husband gave him a ride home from the market that was three miles from his home.
The Mason City Police called in the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation to help work the murder. The wrench and other evidence were sent to the FBI Lab for examination. More than 400 interviews were conducted, and authorities searched for a red truck believed to be involved.
Although thoroughly investigated, the homicide was never solved and Andy Hatges did not receive justice.
☛ Remarkable Success Story ☚
The life of Andrew “Andy” T. Hatges — which ended so tragically — was a remarkable success story. He was born in Greece on November 28, 1892 to Pomtino Papandrew and Andrew Hatges. When he was 18 years old, he sailed from Patras on the Athinai, arrived in New York City June 1, 1910, and then made his way to Iowa.
He was part of an early migration of Greek citizens — at that time mostly men — to Iowa, where they built railroads and mined. Some of the Greeks returned to their native country, but many stayed on in their new land, opening restaurants, candy stores, and groceries.
Andy joined the American Army and served in France in WWI as a Private in the 163rd Iowa Depot Brigade. He became a naturalized citizen in 1918.
After the war, he returned to Mason City and, in 1920, worked as a barber and lived in a rooming house at 11 N. Connecticut Avenue. By 1925, he was Manager of the Arena Hotel at 214 1/2 S. Federal Avenue.In 1925, Andy returned to Greece and there on September 7 married Maria Pipilis. The newlyweds left by ship from Patros and arrived in New York City on New Year’s Eve of 1925. They lived for about a year in Greene, Iowa, in Butler County before moving permanently to Mason City in Cerro Gordo County.
In 1926, Andrew opened his first grocery — the Mason City Fruit Store — across from City Hall on First Street NW. In 1932, he moved his business to 223 N. Federal Street and it became the Federal Fruit Market. He expanded with the West View Market on the west side of town. In 1964, he sold the Federal Street location to his nephew Art Hatges and continued to operate the West View Market until his death.
On July 24, 1926, Maria Hatges gave birth to Constance, known as “Connie.” On April 28, 1935, the 33-year-old Maria had a second daughter — named Maria in her honor — but died shortly after the baby was born. During her funeral service at the Greek Orthodox Church, conducted both in English and Greek, Maria was called one of the “noblest souls of the community.”
Andy never remarried. He lived the rest of his life in the Virginia Avenue house where he died. He lovingly raised his daughters, both musically gifted and popular girls.
☛ Pillar in the Greek-American Community ☚
He was a prominent member of the Greek-American community in Mason City and a pillar of the Greek Orthodox Church there.
Andy was also a member of the local chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). He truly lived out the goals of the organization to promote Hellenism, education, philanthropy, and civic responsibility. During the time he was the organization’s local president in the early 1940s, the group had its best fundraising efforts to date and were able both to give to charitable work and invest in war bonds.
Always eager to help out family, in 1956 Andy brought his 14-year-old nephew Aristides “Art” Hatges from Greece to Mason City to attend school. “Art” worked in his uncle’s Federal Fruit Market at 223 N. Federal Avenue, quickly learning both English and the business. In 1963, he bought the store from his uncle and changed the name to Art’s Federal Fruit Market.
For many years, Andy’s cousin George Hatges operated the Maid-Rite Sandwich shop at 111 W. State Street.
In May 1963, Mason City was enthralled when Andy’s brother-in-law Lieut. General John Pipilis, Chief of National Defense in Greece, visited him while in North America as a delegate to a NATO Conference. The local Greek community feted the celebrity at a reception in the Sky Room at the Hotel Hanford and a dinner at Costa’s Restaurant afterwards.
Andy’s death was a blow to the close-knit Greek-American population in Mason City. His services were held in the Greek Orthodox Church and he was buried with his wife Maria in Elmwood Saint Joseph Cemetery beneath a veteran’s tombstone.
He was survived by a large number of extended family members as well as his two daughters, Maria Hatges and Constance A. Hatges Speronis, who both lived in Tampa, Florida.
This brutal murder is remembered with sadness by those who investigated it. In a June 18, 2000 interview with the Mason City Globe Gazette, former Police Chief Wes Greenan said:
“I can picture so much. It was a vicious crime. His hands were all beat up from defending himself, and he was almost decapitated.”
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “AHEPA Officers Installed Here: Lodge Closes Best Year Financially,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, January 29, 1943.
- ☛ “Art Hatges buys Federal Fruit Market,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, September 14, 1963.
- ☛ “Bulletins: Murder Investigation,” Oelwein Daily Register, March 11, 1968.
- ☛ “Chief of Greek defense to visit in Mason City,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 28, 1963.
- ☛ “Children at Gypsy Day Fete,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, August 1, 1946.
- ☛ “Community News,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 30, 1935.
- ☛ “Find Mason City Grocer Brutally Slain in His Home,” Waterloo Daily Courier, March 10, 1968.
- ☛ “Gard buys Federal Fruit store from Art Hatges,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, July 18, 1964.
- ☛ “Greek general, visiting in city, likes ‘spaciousness,’” Mason City Globe-Gazette, June 1, 1963.
- ☛ “Grocer Dies of Cut Throat,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, March 11, 1968.
- ☛ “Hatges Rites On Wednesday,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, January 23, 1945.
- ☛ “Here in Mason City,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 30, 1935.
- ☛ “Kindergartner to Be in Senior High in Year,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, March 3, 1956.
- ☛ “Mason City Grocer, 75, Found With Throat Cut,” Des Moines Register, March 10, 1968.
- ☛ “More North Iowa cold cases,” by Richard Johnson, Globegazette.com, June 27, 2010.
- ☛ “Mrs. A. Hatges Services Held,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 2, 1935.
- ☛ “Mrs. Hatges, 33, Succumbs Here,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, April 29, 1935.
- ☛ “No Suspects In Mason City,” Waterloo Daily Courier, March 11, 1968.
- ☛ Personal Correspondence, Hatges family members, 2010-2011.
- ☛ “Push Search for Grocer’s Slayer At Mason City,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 11, 1968.
- ☛ U.S. Census.