Second class of Huntington County Honors shines light on citizens, accomplishments

(From left) Joan Keefer, Mel Ring and Ivan Wilhelm
(From left) Joan Keefer, Mel Ring and Ivan Wilhelm TAB file photos.

Originally published Sept. 28, 2017.

From an Olympic silver medalist to a legendary codebreaker, the 2017 class of Huntington County Honors includes outstanding people whose achievements have made an impact on the local, state, national or international stage.

Created to shine a light on individuals and their works, Huntington County Honors seeks to educate, inspire and instill pride in the community.  Some honorees have used their time and talent to contribute to the betterment of life here at home, while others have built on their local upbringing to make a contribution elsewhere.

Joining with last year’s inaugural group of 25 individuals, this year’s class of honorees spans five different categories.

They will be formally recognized and inducted in a public ceremony on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. in the rotunda of the Huntington County Courthouse.

Huntington County Honors recognizes both the well-known and those who are more obscure. Candidates must have made a lasting contribution to the betterment of Huntington County or brought recognition to the community through their actions or achievements.

One of the goals of the organization is educational, helping preserve stories that might have been lesser-known or that have been lost to history.

“The research and investigation that goes into some of these outstanding people reveals amazing stories,” says HCH President Joe Santa.

“You read about what a worldwide sensation the Clark Twins were, as four sets of twins from one family in Andrews who played basketball with the Globetrotters. Or you find out about Elizebeth Friedman, who was the country’s premier codebreaker through two world wars.”

Santa says that it is also important to recognize individuals whose efforts continue to make an impact on Huntington County today.

“You look at the work of people like Doc (Richard) Hafner and Jerry Yeoman and what they meant to local business, or to Emmy Purviance and Mel Ring for their public service in making Huntington County a wonderful place to live,” he says. “Then you have DeWitt Baker and what he did for Huntington University and in Sierra Leone, and Gary Dilley, a 19-year-old Huntington kid who won an Olympic silver medal in swimming. That’s a lot to be proud of as a resident of Huntington County.”

A display featuring the 2017 class of Huntington County Honors will be on view in the Courthouse rotunda following the Oct. 28 ceremony through November and then again beginning in January at the Huntington City-Township Public Library. Information on all the inductees will also available on the Huntington County Honors website at www.hunting toncountyhonors.org.

Huntington County Honors announces a new class each year. The organization will also look to individual and corporate sponsorships to help offset operational costs. Anyone interested in sponsorships may contact the group at info@huntingtoncounty honors.org or by regular mail at Huntington County Honors, PO Box 481, Huntington, IN 46750.

This year’s Huntington County Honors class includes:

Athletics and Recreation
• The Clark Twins — Four sets of twins from one Andrews family who formed a basketball team that barnstormed the United States before joining the Harlem Globetrotters on European tours and becoming an international sensation.

• Gary Dilley — A product of Glen Hummer’s legendary YMCA swimming program, Dilley won a silver medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and was a 12-time All-American at Michigan State University.

• Ivan “Kaiser” Wilhelm — The best all-around athlete of his era and a 2011 Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Wilhelm quarterbacked the Huntington High School football team and led the Viking basketball squad to the state Final Four in 1945.

Business and Professional
• JW Caswell/Winfred Runyan — The Caswell Runyan company was the premier builder of cedar chests in the country, earning numerous patents as it branched out to build consoles for radio, phonographs and later jukeboxes and television sets.

• Dr. R.M. Hafner — The local veterinarian  was also president of Community State Bank and was instrumental in the creation of Riverfork Industrial Park. He also served on numerous boards and was involved in many local organizations.

• Gerald “Jerry” Yeoman —  A businessman who started Yeoman Engineering, a pioneering company producing precision molding and tool-and-die work. Yeoman also made his mark in many areas of Huntington life, including economic development, youth baseball and Pathfinder Services.

Community and Public Service
• Emmaline “Emmy” Purviance Henn — A tireless hands-on volunteer, she took up the cause of preserving Huntington’s past and its historic buildings, none bigger than the renovation of the LaFontaine Hotel in the 1980s.

• Joan Keefer — Her creation of the Indiana Room at the Huntington City-Township Public Library made it a must-stop for researchers. Keefer’s encyclopedic mind and countless investigation hours made her a sought-after genealogist and informational resource.

• Mel Ring — In his 60 years as a local resident, Ring has been involved in  nearly every aspect of life in Huntington County, from its infrastructure to its economic development, and to many service organizations supporting children, those of lesser means and to preserving history.

Humanities and Cultural
• Dr. E. DeWitt Baker — Through his 16 years as president of Huntington College, he oversaw the rapid expansion of the school. He also served in a missionary role, especially in Sierra Leone, where he was instrumental in creating mission schools to bring literacy to the country, and initiating a polio-eradication program.

• Luke Scheer — Considered the preeminent historian of the Miami tribe of Native Americans, Scheer spent years researching and preserving the tribe’s genealogy and history. He led the way to preservation of Chief Richardville House and laid the groundwork for the Historic Forks of the Wabash.

• H. Allen Smith — With a newspaper career that began at the Huntington Press, Smith went on to become a best-selling author and humorist whose books sold in the millions in the 1940s and ’50s. He also wrote feature articles for most of the top magazines of the day.
Historical

• The Bippus Family — Multiple generations of the family made huge impacts on the county. They initially improved the canal system, then brought the railroad to Huntington. The family aided in the town’s growth by adding natural gas, oil, and electricity, and built the grand LaFontaine Hotel.

• Elizebeth Smith Friedman  — Called “America’s first female cryptanalyst,” Friedman and her husband went from decoding the works of Shakespeare to deciphering military communiques in World War I, unscrambling rumrunners’ messages during Prohibition and helping to break the German Enigma machine code in World War II.

• Helen Purviance — The original “Doughnut Girl” of the Salvation Army in World War I, Purviance learned to make the deep-fried treats from scant supplies in trenches help satisfy soldiers’ physical hunger and give them a touch of home comfort.