GREENSBURG — On Friday night, the man known nationally as “The Father of Medicare” will be honored in the Tree City alongside a longtime writer from USA Today and a veteran animator who played a significant role in many of Hollywood’s legendary animated films; also honored as part of the same ceremony will be the founder of a prominent local business and a pioneering nurse who served her country with distinction in World War II.
All five of the above were either born and raised in Greensburg or spent significant parts of their lives here; two call the Tree City Home now, while two are deceased. And all are graduates from none other than Greensburg Community High School (GCHS).
Oscar R. Ewing (Class of 1906); Nanci Hellmich (1976); Fred Craig (1960); John Arthur Stewart (1937); and Kathryn Ernstes (1932) will be the first group inducted into the GCHS Hall of Fame. The formal ceremony will take place between basketball games in the GCHS gym, as the Greensburg Junior Varsity and Varsity teams face off against Indian Creek.
According to GCHS History Teacher John Pratt, who heads the GCHS Hall of Fame selection committee, the three living inductees – Craig, Stewart and Hellmich – are all scheduled to attend Friday’s ceremony. Pratt told the Daily News that he and the selection committee believe these inaugural inductees are all extremely good choices.
The Hall of Fame itself, Pratt explained, is the idea of Greensburg Community Schools (GCS) Superintendent Tom Hunter, with the entire GCS Board fully supporting the initiative. The selection committee is composed of community members, former and current teachers, and various others with an interest in and knowledge of both Decatur County and GCHS history.
“For a school that’s been around more than 140 years,” Pratt said, “it’s really quite an honor to be among the first five inductees.
This inaugural class of honorees is so impressive, in fact, that future inductees will have a lot to live up too. Oscar Ewing earned a bachelor’s degree from IU after graduating GCHS and then a law degree from Harvard. He served in the US Army during World War I and would later move on to a career in politics, starting out as an assistant vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He would later serve in the Cabinets of Harry S. Truman and Lyndon Johnson, overseeing the administration of public health programs and Social Security.
Ewing is best known, Pratt said, for his advocacy of a national health insurance program, which would eventually help lead to the modern Medicare program that today provides insurance to millions of elderly Americans.
“Modern healthcare coverage for the elderly exists today because of this GCHS graduate,” Pratt said.
According to his page at the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), Fred Craig has worked on a range of well-known animated films, including “The Lion King,” “An American Tale,” “The Land Before Time,” “Aladdin,” “Tarzan,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Secret of NIMH,” “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” and others. Craig currently lives in Greensburg.
Hellmich, meanwhile, has written for USA Today since 1983, joining the national publication just one year after its creation. She has won multiple awards for her work about diet, nutrition and fitness, which she covers for the paper’s Life section.
Kathryn Ernstes Bailey rose to the rank of captain during World War II in the US Army Nurse Corps, serving during the D-Day invasion of Normandy and administering 1,000 beds. Her career after the army was every bit as distinguished.
Ninety-four-year-old John Arthur Stewart remains well known and respected throughout Decatur County. He served in World War II and was as an integral part of Stewart Seeds, Inc., a family farm business founded by Stewart’s father that remains an important part of the community; Steward retired as president.
“We worked to include people who will be part of standard operating history lessons moving forward,” Pratt said, adding that he’s pleased the inaugural list includes graduates from a wide range of eras.
A small area near the school’s north lobby has been reserved for keepsakes and documents related to the GCHS Hall of Fame, Pratt added, where they’ll be on display for everyone to view.
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; firstname.lastname@example.org