Dubuque, Iowa   

Friday, October 5, 2007      
Dubuque's Deweber has checkered past, future
Local checkers collection takes national stage


Photo: Jeremy Portje
Don Deweber aka Mr. Checkers, of Dubuque, has one of the nation's top checkers museums at his home.
The International Checker Hall of Fame might have been bigger and splashier than Dubuque's World of Checkers Museum, but the former is gone, leaving the latter as the preeminent repository for checker memorabilia in the United States.

The International Checker Hall of Fame housed in the Chateau Walker, in Petal, Miss., was destroyed by a fire Sept. 29. It was founded in 1976 by Charles Walker, a former state checkers champion who is currently serving a five-year prison term for money laundering. Walker's family escaped the blaze unharmed, according to the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American.

The World of Checkers Museum is housed in a small Dubuque apartment and several storage rooms. It was founded in 1993 by inveterate checker collector Don Deweber, who continues to add to his extensive accumulation.

"It seems as though everything was destroyed in the fire (at the International Checker Hall of Fame), so what you've got in Dubuque is now unique," said Alan Millhone, president of the American Checker Federation.

In the world of checkers, the loss of the massive

News You Can Use
Access to the World of Checkers Museum is by appointment only. Contact curator Don Deweber by phone at 563/556-1944 or by e-mail at checkers21@hotmail.com.

Walker collection is devastating.

"You can't begin to put a dollar amount to it. It was Charles Walker's life's dream and now it's gone. It's left a tremendous void," said Millhone, of Belpre, Ohio.

Deweber, who has been known as Mr. Checkers for as long as he can remember, echoed that sentiment this week, after he learned about the devastating fire and called the Walker family, whom he considers friends.

"It is a great loss to the checker community. None of those things can be replaced. (Walker) put millions of dollars into preserving checker history," he said. Deweber toured Walker's mansion and museum several times and Walker once came to Dubuque to see Deweber's collection.

The World of Checkers Museum contains hundreds of checker sets and Deweber knows the historical context surrounding each one. The sets, of all sizes and materials, are tucked carefully into drawers, cupboards and closets. Checker memorabilia are artfully displayed on shelves and tables around the apartment.

"These things tell you so much about the history of the times," said Deweber, gently examining a faded 73-year-old box of checkers with musical notes on the top of each.

"For so long, everyone played checkers and merchants advertised with them," he said.

Deweber has hundreds of examples of commercial uses of checkers. Several years ago he donated his 20,000-volume collection of checker books to Loras College. About 5,000 of the books ended up in the Cleveland Public Library's special collections department.

10-6-07 RoadsideAmerica.com - Checker Hall of Fame: Game Over

May, 2000 - Telegraph Herald - "Dubuquer's checkers collection fit for king"