Like one of millions who left Europe for the United States in the early years of the 20th century, Jacob Leon Brenn hoped to find a new life in a new country. His journey eventually brought him to Huntington, where he became one of the most successful businessmen in the community’s history. Brenn’s Huntington Laboratories grew out of an old brewery to four sites across the country producing maintenance and sanitary products. Brenn also showed his love for his new country and town by becoming a civic leader involved with schools, organizations and his synagogue.
An all-around standout athlete at Huntington High School in the first decade of the 20th century, Mark “Mickey” Ererhart continued as a sports star at Indiana University where he lettered in three sports. As a three-year letterwinner and captain of the Hoosiers’ football team, Erehart put his name in the Big Ten record book with a 98-yard run from scrimmage in 1912, a record that remains today. Erehart went on to earn a medical degree, and as a doctor in Huntington, he served the community with his practice for 40 years
Much of the preservation of Huntington County’s historic sites and the embrace of its rich heritage through festivals and educational programs can be traced directly to the life’s work of Jean Gernand. Reviving the Junior Historical Society in 1975 led directly to the popular Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival and the restoration of the Chief Richardville House. Her efforts have targeted numerous sites for preservation, and her research and expertise have carried the county’s heritage and culture into current day for education and celebration.
One of the country's most decorated sportswriters and sports authors, Hammel was named Indiana sportswriter of the year 16 times and has been honored by numerous halls of fame. A graduate of Huntington High School, the longtime sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times has covered NCAA basketball championships and multiple Olympic Games, among many other top events. He is the author of several books, including numerous publications on the Indiana University men's basketball team and coach Bob Knight.
During an adult lifetime of service to her adopted home community, Marj Hiner has taken leadership positions with scores of boards, committees, and community projects. She was instrumental in establishing the current local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association, which has raised thousands of dollars in scholarship assistance for Huntington County students. Her long political association with Dan Quayle was highlighted when she spearheaded local preparations for his historic visit to Huntington with Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush in August, 1988, that launched the Bush-Quayle ticket’s successful campaign for the White House.
Among the greatest swimming coaches in U.S. history, Glen Hummer is known as the pioneer of Open Water Swimming. He coached the Huntington YMCA teams for more than 40 years and made them one of the top teams in the country. He was a coach for the U.S. Olympic team and numerous national teams and his Huntington swimming program produced a pair of Olympic medal winners. Huntington YMCA teams won 12 national championships under Hummer and produced 35 All-Americans.
One of Huntington’s early sports stars, Ralph “Boag” Johnson excelled in basketball at the high school level at Union Center and then at Huntington College, where he was among the top scorers in the state. Johnson then was a pioneer player in the early days of NBA with the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. After his playing career, Johnson became a coach, teacher and administrator at Columbia City and Warsaw high schools.
Also known as Topeah, or “frost on leaves”, Francis LaFontaine was the last principal chief of the unified Miami tribe. He became chief of his Miami village in 1828 at the age of 18. He worked with his father-in-law, Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville, on a treaty in 1840 that would eventually move half the Miami nation west of the Mississippi. LaFontaine became chief in 1841 after the death of Richardville and moved into Richardville’s tribal headquarters house at the Forks of the Wabash.
A Huntington lawyer, Milligan opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War, and he was arrested, tried and sentenced by a military tribunal. Milligan challenged the case, claiming his prosecution by a military court was unconstitutional while civilian courts were still operating. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in Milligan’s favor and he was released after two years in prison. The case, Ex Parte Milligan, became a landmark case in U.S. history.
Perhaps the best-known Catholic communicator of his time, the works of Archbishop John F. Noll and his Huntington-based Our Sunday Visitor publication reached nearly every Catholic household in the country, with a circulation of 1 million at its peak. He was an outspoken advocate for numerous causes and worked against anti-Catholic efforts. He was instrumental in the building of churches, schools and orphanages, and was a best-selling author of numerous books.
Eiffel Plasterer was a teacher-turned-showman who used the humble soap bubble to both instruct and entertain. He became intrigued by bubbles as a physics student at DePauw University in the 1920s, and after a 40-year career teaching physics at Huntington High School, took his “Bubbles Concerto” to audiences across America. He created bubbles in unusual colors and geometric shapes, while some would perform “tricks” at his bidding. Along the way, Plasterer used his fragile tools to impart lessons in chemistry, physics … or everyday aspirations: “Life,” he once observed, “is like blowing bubbles – our hopes and our dreams. And they don’t all have to break.”
A record-setting basketball player at Huntington College, Steve Platt returned to his alma mater as coach and turned the Foresters into a national power during his tenure. Platt was first a high school star at Union High School. At Huntington College he scored 3,700 points which is still tops among Indiana college players. In 14 years as a coach, Platt led the Foresters to 329 wins and a spot in the NAIA national tournament seven times, culminating with an appearance in the 2006 championship game.
For more than half a century, Huntington felt the influence of the leadership of Don Purviance. After serving in World War II, Purviance returned to his family's Majestic Company, building it into the nation's leading fireplace manufacturer. He was devoted to improving life in Huntington, and took on leadership roles in community organizations, service groups, youth development and agencies for health and aging. He and his wife, Emmy, were also avid supporters of the work of Huntington University and the First Presbyterian Church.
In the summer of 1988, Huntington became the center of the political universe, as Indiana Senator Dan Quayle was the surprise choice of vice-presidential running mate by Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush. The full-ticket campaign kicked off in Huntington, and Bush and Quayle were victorious in the November general election. Following his tenure as vice president, Quayle ran for president in 2000. He has since been a best-selling author, political consultant and global investment banker.
Despite a lineage of tribal leadership, Jean Baptiste de Richardville still had to prove himself worthy of leading the Miami Indian nation. He was half-white, half-Miami, his mother Tah-kum-wah the sister of the great Miami Chief Little Turtle. Richardville’s bravery on behalf of the tribe earned him the respect that eventually elevated him to Chief on Little Turtle’s death. Richardville oversaw and protected the affairs of the Miami, securing land and building a trading post at the Forks of the Wabash.
For more than 30 years, Fr. Ron Rieder has been a spiritual leader in the Huntington community as priest of the SS. Peter and Paul parish. In addition to leading his own parish, Fr. Ron has been active throughout Huntington, serving on boards of numerous organizations. He serves as chaplain to the police and fire departments and ministers to inmates at the Huntington jail. Fr. Ron was instrumental in the renovation of the St. Felix Monastery when he had once studied as a young novitiate in the 1950s.
One of Huntington’s most dedicated public servants, Ed Roush served the Huntington community as a member of the military, as a local attorney and prosecutor, and as a legislator at the state level then as a member of the U.S House of Representatives. He is known as the father of the 911 emergency telephone system, and for his environmental work that culminated with the Huntington dam and lake being renamed for him in 1997. Following his political career, Roush later served as interim president of Huntington College.
Arthur Sapp put Huntington, Indiana, on the international map when he was elected as the president of Rotary International in June of 1927. Originally a teacher, Sapp earned his law degree and started a practice in Huntington in 1912. He was prosecuting attorney for three terms. In addition to his involvement in Rotary, Sapp was involved locally with the YCMA and was a founding member of the Huntington County Red Cross among numerous other local and state organizations.
Among the greatest sportscasters of all time, Chris Schenkel broadcast sports on television and radio from all corners of the world. With his recognizable baritone, the Bippus native was the voice of New York Giants football, boxing, Triple Crown horse racing, the Masters golf tournament and the Olympics, among many others. Later in his career he became the most recognizable broadcaster in the history of professional bowling. Schenkel was National Sportscaster of the year four times. He was inducted into 16 halls of fame and earned a lifetime achievement Emmy award.
One of Huntington’s longest-lasting and most successful businesses had humble beginnings. Alvin and Clara Schenkel’s dairy started with just two cows, but grew to not only be know for their business acumen, but for the quality of their products, which have been honored nationally on multiple occasions. Schenkel Dairy remained in the family through four generations, and over the years the dairy and those family members have been active in helping to create better communities in Huntington County.
Jim Shuttleworth was an engineering visionary and entrepreneur who took materials-handling innovation from Huntington County to a worldwide market. Shuttleworth, Inc. – founded in 1962 in Warren and later moved to Huntington – became a leader in conveyor systems for custom manufacturing and shipping needs. Jim Shuttleworth was the guiding force in the company’s global expansion. At home, he supported a variety of civic causes as well as his alma mater Purdue University, and Huntington University. He was a pilot who restored and flew World War II-vintage military aircraft. He lost his life at the controls of one of those planes in 2003.
Warren’s Pulse Opera House was a center of entertainment more than a century ago, but it took Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok to rescue the theater and revive it as a home of the arts. Since she restored the building in 1986, Smyth-Wartzok has directed more than 130 productions. She has exposed the local population, including more than 10,000 young people, to live theater, many for the first time. She has been honored numerous times from the local to international level, and continues to give her time as a volunteer in addition to her work with the Pulse Opera House.
Gene Snowden has never been shy about expressing his love for Huntington County, and he has spent his life in service to its residents. He has served the community in a number of elected offices. He first served on Huntington County Council, then followed with election to the Indiana House of Representatives and eventually the Senate. He later retuned to Huntington to serve as auditor, and finally won election as mayor, where he oversaw expansion of business and technology.
Bob Straight’s coaching excellence on the basketball court was highlighted by leading Huntington High School to a runner-up finish in the 1964 state basketball tournament. He demonstrated his leadership off the court as well. Following a coaching career that saw him win 71 percent of his games, Straight took over as principal at Huntington and helped lead the community through consolidation. He later assumed leadership roles with the IHSAA and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, guiding construction of the hall’s building in New Castle.
With products distributed to more than 90 countries, Van Buren-based Weaver Popcorn is one of the leading brands in the business. Welcome Weaver brought the company to prominence after he came on board in 1945 to join his father, who started the business in 1928. Welcome Weaver was also active in the Huntington County community in leadership with the Methodist Church, the local YMCA and on the school board, where he assisted Huntington County through consolidation in the 1960s.