The Friends of Ed Whitcomb have begun an effort to restore and preserve the childhood home of the state’s 43rd governor in Hayden.
As a way to help raise money for this project, Don Tatlock of Seymour is putting together a benefit auction at 10 a.m. Oct. 31 in the Hayden Historical Museum’s pavilion building.
The Friends of Ed Whitcomb committee was initially formed with the purpose of erecting a monument to honor and recognize the achievements of his life, creating a bust of Whitcomb for the Statehouse in Indianapolis and establishing a scholarship fund in his name for students pursuing higher education.
A fund was established with the Jennings County Community Foundation to handle donations made to projects. The monument was finished and placed in the yard of his boyhood home at Hayden and was dedicated last year with a special ceremony. A bust also was created and placed on the third floor of the Statehouse.
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During that ceremony, the Hayden Historical Museum received the deed to the Whitcomb home. Plans are underway to convert the house to the way it looked in December 1943 when Whitcomb came home after being missing in action for two years.
The committee hopes this walk-through museum will help capture that special homecoming moment and enhance the story of his adventures during World War II.
Whitcomb served as a navigator for B-17 bombers and was with the first squadron to be sent into service when they flew to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
After the Philippine Islands fell to the Japanese, Whitcomb was one of the many U.S. soldiers captured and was held as a prisoner of war on the island of Corregidor. He was able to make a daring escape by swimming for eight hours at night to get away but would be captured again. He managed to escape for a second time and then made his way to safety.
Whitcomb had been listed as missing in action for two years, but he finally was able to return back to the United States to be reunited with his family and friends at Hayden in December 1943.
He wrote a book, “Escape from Corregidor,” about his experiences.
After the war, Whitcomb became active in politics and served as Indiana secretary of state and then was elected governor in 1968. He also lived and work as an attorney in Seymour, but he returned to his home in Hayden at times in his later years.
Whitcomb, who is now 97, lives in Rome in Perry County along the Ohio River.
Although several items of historical, collectible and other uses have been donated for the auction, more are needed, particularly military memorabilia and other such appropriate items. Call 812-522-8327 to arrange for donations.
Additional financial support for the preservation project also is needed. Checks should be made to the Jennings County Community Foundation and designated for the Friends of Ed Whitcomb Fund.
They can be mailed c/o the Hayden Historical Museum, P.O. Box 58, Hayden, IN 47245 or brought to the auction.