HUNTINGTON — The best representatives of Huntington County’s past and present are set to be celebrated as Huntington County Honors inducts its 2019 class.
The public ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, October 26, at the Historic Forks of the Wabash. This year’s group includes 10 honorees whose lifetime achievements and works are being recognized.
Created in 2014, Huntington County Honors highlights 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. Honorees are divided into five categories — athletics and recreation, business and professional, community and public service, humanities and cultural, and historical.
The first class of recipients was inducted in 2016, with a new group selected each year since.
“We continue to be impressed with the stories of these exceptional people,” says HCH president David Carnes. “Their achievements and actions have made them exemplary representatives of Huntington County, and the community can take pride in holding them up as role models.”
In addition to preserving legacies that might otherwise be lost to history, Huntington County Honors also seeks to educate, and has taken initial steps to work with the school corporation to bring the lives of the recipients into the classroom.
“We want the public to know about these people and their lasting impact, and we particularly want students to learn about the contributions that have been made by individuals from their own county,” says Carnes.
This year’s class includes a pair of championship coaches in Fred Fields and George Haines. Fields led Huntington North’s girls basketball to state championships in 1990 and 1995 and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Haines, a product of Glen Hummer’s Huntington YMCA program, went to California, where he coached 53 Olympic swimmers, led the United States swim team in three Olympic Games and was named Coach of the Century by the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001.
Two families representing multiple generations of leadership in flagship Huntington businesses are being honored. The Ralph and Barbara Johnson family built Johnson Petroleum, providing fuel to the community for more than 90 years and expanding into Johnson Junction convenience stores. Three generations of the William and Marjorie Zahn family have provided local leadership to First Federal Savings Bank.
Dr. Eugene Habecker became president of Huntington College in 1981 at the age of 35 and for a decade oversaw an unprecedented expansion of the school. Lawyer David Brewer has dedicated his 50 years in Huntington to helping found a number of local organizations and lending his time to several other service and philanthropic endeavors. John Niederman came to Huntington in 1985 as president of Pathfinder Services, turning the organization into a model for social service agencies nationwide.
The class of honorees also includes three individuals from the past.
Harold Shultz personified the All-American hero. A star athlete and valedictorian at Huntington High School in 1947, Shultz earned an appointment to West Point, where he was a top student and played for the Army football team, earning the top scholar-athlete award. He entered the Air Force and was a combat pilot in Korea and Vietnam, where he earned numerous honors for his heroic actions.
Roxy Lefforge was a Methodist minister who served as a missionary in China beginning in 1918. During World War II, she was captured and held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines. American forces rescued her on the day she was scheduled to be executed. She would eventually return to the United States and serve as professor at Huntington College.
Walter Rusk was Huntington County Agricultural agent from 1941-63. He was an important liaison between the farm and business communities. He advocated for area youth, developing one of the largest 4-H programs in the state. Rusk had the vision for the local 4-H Fair, making the focus on the youth and their projects instead of adding a carnival midway — a model that continues to this day.
A display featuring the 2019 class of Huntington County Honors will be on view in the Courthouse rotunda following the October 26 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.huntingtoncountyhonors.org.
Huntington County Honors announces a new class each year. The organization also looks for individual and corporate sponsorships to help offset operational costs. Anyone interested in sponsorships may contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail at Huntington County Honors, PO Box 481, Huntington, IN 46750.