By Pat Smith
---- — What a special evening last Friday was for all of us regardless of where we graduated.
The whole atmosphere of the high school gym was electric. I was excited to be there as an old Sunday School teacher of Fred Craig, friend of Lori Osting who accepted the award for Oscar Ewing, admirer of Nanci Hellmich and John Stewart and Kathryn Ernstes Bailey.
I asked John Pratt if the first Hall of Fame presentation was all he hoped it would be. He said the night exceeded their expectations. “We not only were present to a successful presentation, but a new tradition has been created that will enrich the community and honor excellence amongst our own.”
The gym was filled, even with the weather being less than hospitable. It was bad enough that my alley didn’t seem safe to me so Julie and Mark Hanmer graciously picked me up for the occasion.
Pratt said that to him the highlight was when over 3000 people spontaneously gave a standing ovation to John Stewart, followed by another one for Fred Craig. “I was also pleased by the way the crowd listened so attentively as the list of accomplishments of our recipients were being read. Their stories will I believe particularly resonate with the students as a source of inspiration and to reinforce to them that they can achieve great things.”
I certainly agree with him about a source of inspiration. I have always been impressed with the fact that Oscar Ewing helped pay his way through college by selling cooking utensils and subscriptions to the Saturday Evening Post and through Harvard Law school by waiting on tables and tutoring other students. He willing to work undoubtedly helped his rise to leadership. Lori Osting, who lives in the original home (Ewington) built by a Ewing ancestor accepted the award for her distant ancestor. Mike Ewing, now Colorado resident, said he can remember Oscar’s interaction with his family.
Pratt gave Tom Hunter credit for securing the impressive plaques (thanks to First Federal) and said it meant a lot to have Lori Osting and Sara AmRhein there, school board members Dr. David Weigel and Al Moore, graduate Rachel Harter beautifully singing the national anthem, graduates Lance and Logan Hunter and the Pershing Rifles of IU with the color guard helped top off the night. Pratt said, “Special thanks to Tom Hunter for his vision and the hard work of the selection committee. It was an honor just to be there.”
It was obvious to those of us who remember Nanci Hellmich when she worked at the Greensburg Daily News that she was incredibly talented and had the determination to do whatever she wanted to do with it. I receive her articles by email and remind readers of her columns.
Fred Craig? Someone meeting him for the first time wouldn’t know about his outstanding accomplishments. Information on the Internet about him is not correct but there’s no doubt that he’ll always be known as “a filmmaker, producer, creative director, artist and writer with a professional career in the motion picture and television industry for over 55 years. “ He was a leader even as a teenager but has remained modest and thoughtful.
Kathryn Ernstes Bailey and I worked together on the three part series about her experiences in World War II. I found it fascinating because most of us have, or should have, learned about that war, about D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and the heroes in that war, but not much about the nurses that saved lives or made death easier for many.
Kathryn wouldn’t brag but she had plenty to brag about. She served in England, France and Belgium as a member of the 25th General Hospital U.S. Army Hospital Unit. When the war was over she served us as a nurse in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Illinois. Sara AmRhein accepted her award.
John Stewart? What can I say that hasn’t been said about this man who has been a much beloved resident for so many years. He and his wife Alberta have been both an example and an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to know them.
An impressive group of people for the first Hall of Fame inductees. I can’t wait to see who’s chosen next time. Maybe someday we’ll see the Hall of Fame idea carried out for the whole county because there are so many extraordinary citizens and former citizens of the county who graduated from one of our schools or attended school here. Well, let’s face it, there is something special about Decatur County people.