Ripley County residents feel ups and downs in 2011

Wanda English Burnett

Looking back at the year 2011 in Ripley County, it seems we had a little bit of the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly to report about.

The good...
On the very first day of the year a bevy of officeholders were sworn in at the Ripley County courthouse including: Ric Hertel, prosecutor and Ryan King, deputy prosecutor, Annette Pindell as Jackson Township trustee and many more. Judge James Morris told those gathered they found out they were elected in “this hall” and should be sworn into office in the same place.

Representative Randy Frye held true to his campaign promise and launched into action inviting area school officials to meet with Indiana State Superintendent of Public Education, Tony Bennett.

The Town of Milan received a $600,000 Community Focus Fund grant for their storm sewer project.

Josh Ballmer, Holton firefighter, was honored at the fire department’s annual dinner meeting. He was named Fireman of the Year and given a plaque by fire chief Tony Franklin.

Those participating in the Polar Plunge at the Versailles State Park in February raised a whopping $40,343.88. The monies were earmarked for Special Olympics.

A renovation/addition at the Jac-Cen-Del High School now boasts a middle school section, and new and expanded rooms to make the education process go more smoothly. While it was a big undertaking and some hammering going on during class sessions, it is complete with the children and staff being the winners in the end.

Gold Star Chili, George’s Pharmacy and Pizza King have all taken up residency in the new Neal-Weir Plaza in Versailles.

The new Welcome Center was officially opened in Versailles, just across from the Neal-Weir Plaza. The center hosts the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce, Ripley County Economic Development, and Ripley County Tourism Bureau, along with a floral shop, Designs by Davison Floral and Gifts.

Aubrey Holt of Milan was inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s Hall of Greats. The Milan man is known for his legendary song writing and performing abilities.

A Christian business association was created with the first meeting being held at the Osgood Town Hall. This endeavor was spearheaded by local businessman, David Baugh.
The Town of Osgood received a $600,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community Affairs. This money was earmarked for their wastewater project.

A great day for John Holzer, president of the Versailles Town Council, was when the Sunoco property was cleaned up. He was present to swing a sledge hammer and say how pleased he was that the project that had been in the making for years was finally completed.

Jac-Cen-Del students put together a documentary showcasing 50 years at the school. The public was invited to the open house and could view the hard work of the students.
Hundreds gathered at a prestigious memorial service at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to remember marines who had been killed in Afghanistan. Among those who paid the ultimate sacrifice was Versailles hero, Cpl. John Bishop. His entire family was at the service, along with friends.

Elizabeth Smith of Milan was surprised when she received a full ride to college on a Lilly Scholarship.

The courthouse clock was in the news often as talks of its need for repairs were heard at several meetings at both the commissioner’s meeting and Versailles Town Council, as they have a joint interest in the clock. In the end it was finally repaired so it would quit leaking, and painted a beautiful gold.

Another item on the commissioners’ agenda for the year was the building of the new courthouse annex. The actual work finally began in September and the steel beams are now in place. The annex is located directly across from the present courthouse on the north side. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on August 22 with local and state dignitaries present.

Local Indiana Patriot Guard Riders participated in escorting beams that had been in the World Trade Center to Indianapolis to be used as a firefighter memorial.

Two men were memorialized as their names were attached to the Tyson Memorial Sports Complex at Versailles. One ballfield was named after Gus Moorhead and another after Lefty Sutherlin.

Nearly 500 families in Ripley County received help when the Gleaner’s Mobile Food Pantry came to Osgood. Thanks to Bill Warren and his volunteers, food is dispensed on a regular basis through the Trustees Food Pantry at Osgood.

Over $100,000 was raised through Ripley County efforts for Relay for Life.
Wayne Peace, environmental specialist and EMA director for Ripley County, announced his retirement unexpectedly. He said it was a good thing for him and he was looking forward to retiring, but would still be in touch with the county.

Brenda Wetzler, president of the Ripley County Community Foundation Board of Directors presented the President’s Award to John Kellerman at the foundation’s annual meeting. Also receiving an award was Deb Locke, who received the Executive Director’s Award from Sally Morris.

Pat’s Bulk Food Pantry announced it was back in operation after being burned in November of 2010. The store boasts more shelves, meaning more choices for those shopping at the store just south of Versailles on US 421.

September 11 was a day of somber remembrance throughout Ripley County as residents paused to remember the 10 year anniversary of the tragic day that changed America forever. The terrorists attacks were felt at home quickly after people began to learn that a Milan native, Col. Canfield “Buddy” Boone had been killed in the Pentagon.

Thereafter, when war was declared and many local troops began going to Iraq and Afghanistan, the reality of the day would be even closer as lives from Ripley County were claimed.

From a motorcycle memorial ride for Marine Cpl. John Bishop who died in Afghanistan on September 8, 2010, to church services, a memorial service at the Buddy Boone Memorial in Milan and finally a grand finale at the Ripley County Fairgrounds Park in Osgood, citizens of Ripley County remembered the day in their own way.

The big pumpkins are always a highlight of the Versailles Pumpkin Show, sponsored by the Versailles Lions Club. This year the top winner in the Open Category went to Hank Nicholson of Versailles with his massive 592.5 lb. pumpkin. His three-year-old son, Clint took the top honors in the Grown in Ripley County Category for his 302.5 pound pumpkin.

Something new for the annual Bluegrass Festival at the Versailles State Park is a jam session. This was held the night before the festival began in an informal setting on the front porch of the Versailles Welcome Center. The jam session was hosted by the Ripley County Tourism Bureau, headed by Katherine Taul.

Lt. Pete Stenger, part time officer for the Town of Versailles, was honored for 20 years of service with the police department after he retired in October.

The Taste of Home Cooking School, sponsored by Ripley Publishing Co. at the South Ripley Elementary School, was a huge success with many businesses helping to sponsor the event with prizes. The culinary specialist said she had given shows in big cities such as Indianapolis that didn’t have near the amount of prizes that Ripley County gave away.

At the annual meeting for the Ripley County Economic Development it was noted that many things were in the works to bring businesses and job to Ripley County. Two new businesses were honored at the meeting.

Sunman officials were celebrating the completion of Eastern Avenue, a project that had gone on for 20 years.

Law enforcement from every agency in the county took time out of their busy schedules to shop with kids for Christmas at the Alco Store in Versailles. Jeff Thielking, secretary of the F.O.P. Lodge, who sponsored the event, said there were over 200 kids invited to the event.

The Ripley County Chamber of Commerce hosted a night of honors with Chad Moeller, principal of St. Louis School, Batesville, taking the Educator of the Year Award; Owen Menchhofer, of Osgood, taking the Citizen of the Year Award and Scott and Cindy Neal being named Business Persons of the Year. The committee was chaired by Cathy May.
South Ripley schools announced they now have a resource officer, Dan Goris. Goris came to the school with more than 30 years of experience with the Indiana State Police, where he has multiple trainings.

Beth and Bob Baylor of Baylor Trucking participated in the Wreaths Across America program that brought thousands of Christmas wreaths to be placed on soldiers graves across the country. They made a stop in Versailles at the American Legion where wreaths were laid at the Ripley County memorial on the courthouse lawn.

The 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor was remembered. Ripley County’s first casualty of WWII was Raymond Stratton who lost his life aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 during the attack. His remains were never found as he was buried at sea.

Josh Lohrum went the extra mile this Christmas decorating his parents home, Johnnie and Helen Lohrum, to the hilt. The home, which is located just north of Osgood off US 421, also had several of the displays that Joe Day used to have at the Wye in Versailles.
Chris Baker and Jaci Ruf took the EMT of the Year Awards for their work at Rescue 69. Jamie Vest was awarded the Above and Beyond Award at the Rescue squad’s annual dinner meeting.

The bad...
State budget cuts were expected to affect Ripley County residents who depend on getting various shots from the local health department such as Hepatitis A and B.

Joe Day of Versailles, lost his battle to cancer. Day’s name will forever be mentioned when Christmas comes. He was the inventor and provider of the beautiful light display at the Wye that brought joy to thousands over a span of about 30 years.

A horrific crash claimed the lives of two Versailles children: Kacy and Grace Brown. Their parents, Kris and Ai, were also seriously injured in the crash that took place on US 421 just as they were turning down their road to go home. The community came together as never before to surround this couple with love. There were several acts of kindness, but one that touched the Brown family immensely was the making of thousands of Oragami cranes since Ai is Japanese. These cranes were placed at the girls’ grave as they waved freely in the breeze.

A semi rig crashed into a lake near Holton. Both the driver, Patrick Allen, 41 and the passenger, Tomya Allen, 37, of Batesville, were taken to city hospitals to be treated for their injuries. It took crews most of the night to get the rig out of the lake, that used to be a quarry.

A single vehicle crash claimed the life of Milan senior, Ryan Doyle.

The family of Cierra Adams, 18, of Batesville, said their daughter died from a heroin overdose. It was her 18th birthday when the terrible tragedy took place. Her mother sprang into action and formed a candlelight vigil for her daughter to bring awareness to the problem of drugs in the area.

The announcement of local post offices possibly closing made residents spring into action calling for meetings in the areas of Pierceville, Friendship and Canaan.

Funeral services were announced for Robert Damm, 77 of Osgood. He and his wife, Judy, had owned and operated several businesses including the Damm Theatre in Osgood, that is still in operation.

More than $5,000 worth of food headed to multiple restaurants was destroyed after police and health department officials worked together. The officials said the food was not being stored at the right temperatures in the refrigerated trucks.

The downturn in the economy is affecting Ripley County families who are served by Family Connections. The staff has been trimmed by two-thirds and Connie DeBurger, executive director of the organization said that more than 60% of the funding was cut. This means they can only serve about 100 families where they used to serve 210 with much needed services.

A food pantry that began in May of 2010 was closed in December due to thieves. The Cross Plains Baptist Church Food Pantry had been broken into more than once with all of their stock stolen. Also, there was much damage to the building causing organizers of the pantry to feel they should close.

A Holton woman was walking her dogs at the Versailles State Park when one of them got caught in a trap and died in her arms. Melodie Liddle was shocked the traps were even there, but that they were close to where someone or thing could get caught in it was unacceptable to her. A park spokesperson said it was perfectly legal for the traps to be there, but Liddle says she wonders what would happen if it was a child. The incident drew media attention with not only The Versailles Republican carrying a front page article, but several other media outlets as well telling the story.

The ugly...
Kenneth Parlow II, 19, of Sunman and Travis Christenberry of Batesville, were charged with multiple felonies including arson and theft.

Trial began for James L. Fernbach Jr., of Batesville for shooting two people at a Batesville convenience store. He was found guilty, but mentally ill by a jury and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Darryl Simpson of Versailles was facing child molest charges. He would later plead guilty to those and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Cameron Powers, 17, was being tried as an adult after being charged with serious felonies, such as arson and burglary after Pat’s Bulk Food Pantry had been burned in 2010.

Batesville’s John R. Tunny, 47 was charged with child molesting. He later pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Jeremiah McIntosh of Holton, was arrested in the connection with the beating death of Jeffrey Benham. He later pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to serve 20 years in prison for the crime.

Triplett’s Drug Store in Osgood was robbed with the pharmacist, Bob Buxton fighting off the attacker. Buxton was later transported to the hospital and suffered a medical emergency with his heart. David Ison is now facing charges for attempting to rob the pharmacy. He has also been charged with five murders in Franklin County. Amanda Napier, 34, of Glenwood, now also faces charges in connection with the attempted robbery at Triplett’s Drug Store in Osgood.

Ronald Rose Jr. of Milan, was sentenced to 20 years for battery and sexual misconduct.
Anthony Prater of Osgood, was sentenced to 30 years for child molesting.

Robert J. Huskey, 62, of Osgood, was found guilty by a jury on sex charges. He was also on probation at the time and violated a 20-year probation sentence.

Tobie Wilson, 36, of Osgood, pled guilty to sex charges. He will be spending the next 20 years in prison.

A Versailles couple, Matthew Mark Erne Jr. and Sarah Joe Klue, were charged in Dearborn County in connection with burglarizing an apartment and robbing a lady at the Kroger Store in Dearborn County.

Two inmates, Stanley Short and Robert Huskey, escaped the Ripley County Jail on September 4. The two were considered dangerous as Short was being held on felony charges of criminal confinement and rape. Huskey had been convicted of child molesting and was awaiting transport to Indiana Department of Corrections. Within a day both inmates were back in jail with the jail operating normally, according to Sheriff Tom Grills. No one was hurt and no incidents were reported as a result of the inmates’ time on the town.

Reserve deputy Zebulan Hildebrand was charged with felony crimes. The charges of Battery and Aggravated Battery were filed on the Holton man after police say he shook his baby injuring the infant.

James “Dennis” Pippin, 43, of Milan, was charged with Domestic Battery in the Presence of Children. Pippin was the jail commander for Ripley County.

A Ripley County Department of Child Services supervisor was accused of offering a woman information about her children who had been taken away from her in exchange for sexual favors and illegal pills. That employee was Scott Ogden, who was let go from that job immediately according to information from a spokesperson for the Department of Child Services.

Justin Lee Whitham pled guilty to Sexual Misconduct with a Minor and Richard Jarrett pled guilty to Child Molesting. Whitham received a sentence of 18 years with Jarrett getting 20 years in prison. Calvin Merida, 37, of Milan, pled guilty to child molesting and will be sentenced in January of 2012.

Kevin Hall, 39, of Versailles was charged with multiple counts of child molesting, along with Lindsey Mayberry, 22, who was also charged in connection with the same victim.

In conclusion, some people in the county feel changing the school calendars may fall in the good, the bad, or even the ugly category. However, it was decided that all the schools would adopt some sort of a modified calendar from the traditional one that they have been used to.