26 county residents to carry bicentennial torch

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Indiana's Bicentennial Flag will flag are to be raised at the state's 92 courthouses including Jackson County's in Brownstown at noon Friday in celebration of the state's 199th birthday.

Earlier this summer, the names of 26 Jackson County residents were announced as torchbearers for when the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay makes its way through Jackson County on Sept. 15.

The torch will be lit at 9:40 a.m. that day from the Jackson County Courthouse steps in Brownstown. Then at 10 a.m., it will begin its journey around the county, also visiting Seymour, Vallonia and Medora.

Here are profiles of the people who will be carrying the torch in Jackson County:

 

Name: John Burkhart

Age: 77

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Semi-retired

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It was very humbling and rewarding at the same time. I am truly blessed to be a part of this great community.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Because of my success in business and community service.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

Being a part of the historic celebration.

 

Name: Dianne J. Cartmel

Age: 80

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Retired

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I am thrilled and honored to be chosen as a torchbearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay. History has always been a great passion in our family, and in particular for me, the history of our great state of Indiana. My husband, Jerry, and I were both born and raised in Indiana, went to college in Indiana, were married and raised our family here. The sense of community, honor, hard work and duty to God, family and country held by Hoosiers is second to none.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Our lives in Indiana have led us on many enriching journeys. I have been honored to serve on many boards — local, state and national. The people we have met along the way have become part of our family. I am proudly carrying this torch for my family, friends, the community of Jackson County and the citizens of Indiana.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

The torch itself represents Indiana’s past, present and future. Deeper still are the many layers of profound symbolism and deep pride in being a part of those who will be quite literally passing the torch across our great state and from generation to generation. Playing even a small role in this special moment in Indiana’s history, honoring the state that I treasure with the family and friends I love so dearly all around, is a role I will cherish for more reasons than I can possibly express. I am ever and always so proud to be a Hoosier. Happy birthday, Indiana.

 

Name: Tonja Grant Couch

Age: 33

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Nonprofit executive director

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I am humbled and honored to be a torchbearer here in Jackson County. I’m proud to be a born and raised resident that strives for a stronger community.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

An employee shared she had nominated me, which honestly made me a bit uncomfortable at first. I feel as though I was nominated for the hard work that I, including our board, staff and many volunteers, have done on behalf of the county through our work at United Way. In four years at JCUW, the organization has seen great progress. Volunteer engagement numbers have significantly increased. Other great things have happened to JCUW, too, because of great collective leadership with staff, board and campaign volunteers.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am most looking forward to sharing this moment with my family, allowing my daughters to see how important it is to give everything we have to make our community stronger so all residents are supported and valued.

 

Name: Jack Gillespie

Age:

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Retired veterinarian

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I was honored and proud to be nominated and selected to be a Jackson County bicentennial torchbearer. After teaching at Crothersville and Tampico high schools, I left Jackson County to study veterinary medicine at Purdue. After 25 years working as an industrial research and development veterinarian, I returned to Brownstown to practice with my brother in the Gillespie Veterinary Clinic. Having lived away from Brownstown for more than 28 years, I was surprised to be nominated to be a torchbearer.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I was probably nominated to represent the Gillespie family, who have been a Jackson County pioneer family. Also, it may have helped since my mother, Hazel Gillespie, was chairman of the Jackson County sesquicentennial celebration 50 years ago.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am looking forward to carrying the torch to represent the start of another 50 years in Jackson County, Indiana. It is my hope that in 2066, some of the Gillespie family and/or my wife Betty Butt Gillespie’s family will still be a part of the Brownstown community.

 

Name: Amy Hartley

Age: 52 (young at heart)

Residence: Vallonia

Occupation: Fourth-grade teacher at Brownstown Elementary School

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I’m pleased to be selected to be a torchbearer because this is an exciting year to be a Hoosier. When I am discussing Indiana history with my students and we talk about 200 years, it sounds like such a long time ago, especially to a 9-year-old. But then I think about how it’s a relatively short time. It’s difficult to imagine how the pioneers accomplished what they did and how our state has changed in just a matter of a few generations. I would love to go back to 1816 and celebrate Indiana gaining statehood and witness what life was life. Then I want to come back to the 21st century to my indoor plumbing.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I think I was nominated to be a torchbearer because I am passionate about Indiana’s past, present and future, and as a fourth-grade teacher, it’s a privilege to teach Indiana history. I respect the close yet diverse communities that make Indiana what it is.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am looking forward to representing Indiana by carrying the torch through my hometown of Vallonia. I am excited to participate in something that symbolizes our culture and heritage and am honored to represent my town and our great state.

 

Name: Don Hill

Age: 85

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Retired teacher with Seymour Community Schools

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I have been a Hoosier all my life. Being born and raised in southern Indiana in the town of Fort Branch, attending college in Terre Haute and making my home in Seymour, I feel my roots are firmly embedded in the traditions of the great state of Indiana. For over 20 years, I have traveled the state performing the poems and stories of James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet. In my presentation, I related to the children the lifestyle of living over 100 years ago. I have since preserved the history of the printing industry during the 1800s by establishing the Conner Museum of Antique Painting, located at the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. To be a torchbearer for the bicentennial is an honor which I hold dearly.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Unbeknownst to me, my daughters nominated me. It was nice of them to honor their dad in such a way. Why I was selected by the state is unknown. I feel that having received the distinguished Sagamore of the Wabash may have had something to do with it. In any case, I feel honored.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

As I understand, I will be carrying the torch in front of Seymour High School, where I taught for 33 years. This will give me the honor of displaying the torch to the students who will be witnessing the event.

 

Name: Vicki Johnson-Poynter

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Registered nurse for 40 years practicing in Tennessee and Indiana

 

Name: Mike Jordan

Age: 72

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Self-employed real estate appraiser

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

A wonderful honor. I am humbled to be asked. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am proud to represent our community. I would like to thank Mary Voss for nominating me.

Why do you feel were nominated?

Because of my community involvement. I was a city councilman for 32 years and in the Indiana National Guard for 40 years. I also was a member of the city plan commission for 40 years and presently am a member of the city redevelopment commission and the board of the Freeman Field museum. I also am a Sagamore of the Wabash.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

It is such an honor to represent our city and county in the bicentennial celebration.

 

Name: Eunice Lacey

Age: 76

Residence: Crothersville

Occupation: Cafeteria cashier with Crothersville Community Schools

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is a privilege to represent my county and state as we celebrate our 200th year. I was surprised the day my congratulation letter arrived from Gov. Pence. To be chosen amongst numerous applicants is humbling and an honor.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Part of the application criteria was community service and community organization participation. I have been involved with local and state organizations that give back to the community through various fundraising activities for many years. Giving back to my community is my personal goal and civic duty.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

To represent my town, county and state in a historical celebration. To meet fellow Hoosiers who also will be torchbearers from across Indiana.

 

Name: Sally Cate Lawson

Age: 28

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Manager of The Jackson County Banner

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

In one word, “humbling.” My experience is a little different due to the fact that I am carrying the torch posthumously in memory of my grandmother, Sally Ann Banks, who is my namesake. She meant so much to so many people in this community. Her selflessness and passion for her community will forever be remembered. I will carry the torch so in some small way, I can honor her during this event.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I feel I was nominated because I am lucky enough to share the name of a truly extraordinary woman, and it is only fitting that she be recognized during this historic event.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I had the option to ride or use another form of transportation, but I chose to run my portion. In memory of such a dedicated and hard-working woman, I felt it only fitting that I, too, put in the time, hard work and training to carry the torch in her honor that she showed this community for many years.

 

Name: Aaron Louden

Age: 39

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Probation officer

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I am honored to be among those who were selected from all walks of life to represent our county and state as we reflect on the past and stride forward into the future.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

My father was a lifelong resident of Jackson County. He and my mother taught in the Brownstown and Seymour schools, respectively, and in doing so prepared their students for the future. I have done my best during my career as a probation officer to continue my parents’ legacy of assisting others. In being chosen as a torchbearer, I believe my commitment to public service is being recognized and celebrated.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am most looking forward to seeing my wife, mother, family and friends as they gather along my portion of the route to celebrate the event.

 

Name: Gary Meyer

Age: 69

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Retired CEO of Schneck Medical Center

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is an honor to celebrate this event being that our community and county mean a lot to me.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I would hope that I was picked for my community service and commitment to our citizens. I am honored that I was nominated by my daughter.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am looking forward to seeing cheering people and seeing everyone come out and enjoy the day. I remember the torch coming through for the ’96 Olympics, and that was a lot of fun.

 

Name: Rick Meyer

Age: 46

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Police officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is such an honor to be selected. As a lifelong resident of Jackson County, it makes me proud to be part of history that highlights our county in such a positive way.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Two things come to mind. I was fortunate enough to play professional baseball. Still today, many people talk to me about my experience as a professional baseball player. Secondly, I was shot in 2014 in the line of duty.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I look forward to participating with other torchbearers and seeing the community come together to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday.

 

Name: Charles Moman

Age: 64

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Retired elementary music teacher — 37 years

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I count it a real privilege to be a part of our state’s bicentennial. I composed the Indiana history-based musical “Indiana, That’s Where I Belong” for Indiana elementary fourth-graders. It has been sung by tens of thousands of Hoosier children. This torch run will continue my celebration of Indiana history.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

First, for my 37 years of teaching Seymour students to love music. Also, for my comeback story involving my near-fatal auto accident in 2014.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

Just very happy to be a part of this statewide bicentennial torch relay alongside many special Hoosiers.

 

Name: Matt Nieman

Age: 47

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Youth minister at Immanuel Lutheran Church

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

To be included with such impressive people is an incredible honor. I am excited to get to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate our state.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Honestly, I have no idea. I’m surprised and humbled.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

It will be cool to be a part of something so big — bigger than just Jackson County.

 

Name: Doug Pogue

Age: 61

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Associate minister at Brownstown Christian Church

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is truly an honor to be a part of this experience for Jackson County and the state of Indiana. To be part of a group of distinguished individuals that are representing our county and every county in the state, I have read of some of their stories — stories of heroism, survival, impact and influence of our kids and community. I have to admit that I feel very small and insignificant in comparison to have been chosen as a torchbearer. Being a minister and carrying a source of light has another meaning for me, as well. To be able to use what God has given me in order to be an influence on others’ lives is what Christianity is all about. A little over 25 years ago, it was questionable as to whether I would survive a sudden cardiac death incident. Since then, God has put me in places, allowed me to talk to people and be healthy enough to participate in a torch relay.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I have a wonderful group of ladies who are a part of our Golden Wheels ministry. One of our members, Marilyn Reedy, informed me that they were going to put my name in to be a carrier. I didn’t register the significance of the event at the time, but getting closer to the time and seeing, reading and hearing all the activities, I am getting excited for the day. I have always believed in giving back to my community. I volunteer in the band programs in the schools, been a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and I am a part of the Columbus City Band. Being a defibrillator heart patient for 25 years, I have had the chance to lead a support group for other patients through St. Francis and Community hospitals. Many people go to warmer weather for winter. I travel to Haiti each year during January or February with a medical mission team to provide help to the people there. I am planning another trip this year in February. To me, this is another opportunity to give back to my community. The personal benefit it being a part of something much bigger than me. Being a minister at Brownstown Christian Church, I deal with volunteers all the time and can appreciate all that people give to make things happen.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

Somewhat nervous. I would imagine that each of us have our secret fear of tripping or wrecking or doing something that would not reflect well on the event. For my part of the route, I’m riding my bicycle from Brownstown to Vallonia while carrying the torch. We had our county meeting of all the torchbearers the other evening, and all I could think about was managing the torch, riding one-handed and getting to Vallonia, all while managing the time frame allocated within the county time frame. I have ridden that road several times, but this time, I get a police escort. Because (State Road) 135 doesn’t have a berm, I try to avoid it when I’m out doing my rides. But I will get to ride down the middle of my side of the road. On a serious note, I was 11 when the sesquicentennial took place, and many of the names that were a part of that organizational group (all volunteers, by the way) were there to help form my life. I am hoping that by being a part of this event, I can be a positive influence on someone else and inspire them to be a giver of self.

 

Name: Jeffrey Rider

Age: 61

Residence: Uniontown

Occupation: Antique firetruck collector and restorer

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

Having participated in the 150th celebration parade in 1966 in Brownstown, I feel being the torchbearer for the 200th is a real honor for me. I feel proud to call Jackson County home and to be able to share this opportunity with my other family members. It’s all very exciting. Not many families can say they have lived in one location for eight generations.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Because I represent the Rider family, which have lived in Indiana since 1812 and all family members have resided in Vernon Township since 1860. My great-niece, Shelby Rider, is the eighth generation.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

To be chosen from the many applicants from across Indiana makes the day to carry the torch unforgettable. I’m just an ordinary guy representing my hard-working ancestors, and being able to do this is a proud day. My parents would have really enjoyed being a part of this because history and family meant a lot to them.

 

Name: Theresa Elaine Rouse

Age: 63

Residence: Freetown

Occupation: Retired elementary schoolteacher with Freetown Elementary School and Brownstown Elementary School

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I am honored to represent Indiana, Jackson County, educators and our community. Since I taught Indiana history for many years to Freetown Elementary fourth-graders, I find it very special to be a part of this historical event.

Why do you feel were nominated?

I feel I was chosen for my positive communication with students, parents and my community. I am the 2013 Indiana D.A.R.E. Educator of the Year. I’ve been selected for “Who’s Who Among America’s Top Teachers” three times. I’ve received other awards. My former students stop and tell me how I’ve changed their life for the better.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

Just being a part of the historic event. When I think of it and the meaning, I get a little emotional inside and teary-eyed. Such an honor.

 

Name: Carl Shake

Age: 82

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Owner of Brownstown Electric Supply Co. since 1970; joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952, serving in Korea from 1953 to 1955; lineman for Public Service Indiana from 1955 to 1961; outside salesman for General Electric, starting in 1961

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Served on the Brownstown Park Board for 24 years. Brownstown school board member for 16 years, starting in 1978. Provided electric service for the watermelon festival for 24 years. Received the Book of Golden Deeds award from the Brownstown Exchange Club. Received the Distinguished Hoosier award from Gov. Mike Pence in 2013. Received the Congressional Record and Ninth District Small Business Spotlight honors for Brownstown Electric Supply Co. from Todd Young of the House of Representatives.

 

Name: Rick Smith

Age: 66

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Retired finance

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

Proud to be a Hoosier. Feels nice to be a part of this Indiana historical event. Indiana has always been home, and I am proud to carry the torch for our state.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Community involvement, community leadership, community volunteer.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

To be a part of and see the community celebrate this heroic moment.

 

Name: Cliff Sommers

Age: 33

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Recorder clerk

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

To me, being selected as a torchbearer means that I get the opportunity to participate in history. I will be part of a moment that will be remembered indefinitely by Hoosiers until our memories become history and history becomes legend.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I feel that I was chosen to be a torchbearer because of all the work I do for my community volunteering and helping those around me. I personally look around and see many people more deserving of the opportunity, but I will humbly accept the honor and hope I make those that nominated me proud.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am looking forward to bearing the torch so that I can be a part of a pivotal moment that every living Hoosier and those lucky enough to be visiting our great state can say that I was there, that for 10 glorious minutes I bore a torch that would travel across our state through the hands of Hoosiers and to be able to tell people stories about that time I carried a torch for Indiana’s bicentennial.

 

Name: Steve Sunbury

Age: 47

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Veterinarian

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

I have always been a proud resident of both our community and our state, so to be chosen to represent our community as a torchbearer for Indiana’s bicentennial is a great honor.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I come from a large family that has lived in this community and been very active in the community for many, many years. I feel I was chosen to represent my entire family and their involvement over the years. I’d also like to think I represent a typical Jackson County resident — a friendly, hard-working, church-going, community-involved individual.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I’m hoping to see many familiar faces in the crowd along the relay route. Plus, I think it’s going to be fun to run with fire.

 

Name: Morris Tippin

Age: 71

Residence: Medora

Occupation: Retired minister

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is an honor to represent the Medora Covered Bridge and western Jackson County. There are many historic sites in the western part of the county that are drawing thousands of visitors from all over the world, and I count it a privilege to be recognized for bringing those to light.

Why do you feel were nominated?

Because of my passion for and involvement with the Medora Covered Bridge and the other historic sites in western Jackson County.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

To seeing the visitors, school, communities and friends observe the torch going through the historical structure that have had so many cross it since 1875.

 

Name: AmyMarie Travis

Age: 48

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Prosecuting attorney

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

It is such an honor to be a part of Indiana’s bicentennial and especially to participate as a torchbearer. I am a Hoosier gal, born and reared. I have traveled throughout the United States and am always so glad to return to the farms, fields, creeks, limestone and lakes of Indiana. This opportunity is truly a highlight for me.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

I have a deep sense of community and a love for Jackson County. I am also blessed to be Jackson County’s prosecuting attorney and the first woman elected to that position.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I am hoping the sense of pride that I feel in my state will be shared with others as the torch moves throughout Indiana over the next month and a half.

 

Name: David Willey

Age: 60

Residence: Brownstown

Occupation: Town of Brownstown clerk-treasurer

What does it mean to you to be selected to be a torchbearer?

Being given the opportunity to be a torchbearer is a humbling and honorable way to represent Jackson County in celebrating 200 years of Indiana’s existence as a state of the Union. It has been heartwarming to see residents of Jackson County and Brownstown plan and celebrate bicentennials of Indiana, Jackson County and Brownstown in the same year.

Why do you feel you were nominated and chosen?

Well, I was born and raised in Seymour, graduated from Purdue University, married Jan Schleter, my beautiful and talented wife of 35 years, in Brownstown and spent the last six years as clerk-treasurer of the town of Brownstown. Jan can be very … convincing.

What are you looking forward to with carrying the torch?

I cannot begin to articulate how excited and proud I am to help Indiana and Jackson County complete the tremendous feat of passing the torch across the state of Indiana … the 19th state.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.