2022 Class selected for Huntington County Honors
The stories range from the creation of the unofficial state sandwich to the birth of what would become Huntington University. There are tales of horror and survival in war, while others tell of success in many different arenas and of giving back to the local community.
Huntington County Honors adds 12 new inductees with its 2022 class, bringing to light their stories of achievement, work and service. The public recognition ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 8, in the rotunda of the Huntington County Courthouse.
Created in 2014, Huntington County Honors highlights both the well-known and those who are more obscure. Candidates must have made a lasting impact on Huntington County, or brought recognition to the community through their actions or achievements in one of five categories — athletics and recreation, business and professional, community and public service, humanities and cultural, and historical. The inaugural class of Huntington County Honors was inducted in 2016. This year’s class brings the total number of honorees to 86.
“The history of Huntington County is rich with stories of tremendous individual achievements, unique contributions to community life, and selfless service,” says Paul Siegfried, a member of board of directors of Huntington County Honors. “By bringing light to these stories, we strive to present them as part of the fabric of Huntington County, both past and present, and that they can be a source of inspiration and reflection as we move forward as a community.“
This year’s class includes three inductees in the Athletics and Recreation category.
Recently-retired Huntington University baseball coach Mike Frame played for the Foresters before becoming the their head coach in 1984. In his 38 years of coaching, Frame compiled a record of 920-754, an average of 24 victories per season. That win total puts him among the top 10 all-time coaches in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). His teams have won 17 regular season or conference tournament championships. He’s taken the Foresters to the NAIA National Tournament four times, and 13 times his players have earned All-America honors. Seven of his players have gone on to play professionally. Frame has been conference coach of the year seven times, and was NAIA District Coach of the Year and NCCAA District Coach of the Year. Huntington University named him to its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. He was also selected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ezra Williams was a farmer in Huntington County and a huge basketball fan. He contracted polio in 1950, but he did not let his impairment slow him down. He created the Midget League in 1959 to introduce young players to the game of basketball. The league was renamed the Kim League following the death from cancer of one of its young players, Kim Howenstine. Williams never missed a game, even having to crawl up the steps of the YMCA because of the limited use of his legs. His league continues and nearly every Huntington basketball player can trace their start in the game to the Kim League.
Jenny (Eckert) Zorger played basketball with toughness, a competitive nature and a love for the game. The 1986 Huntington North graduate set the school’s all-time scoring mark and led the Vikings to a 19-4 record and their second sectional title in her senior season. She was the first HNHS player to be named to the prestigious Indiana All-Star team. She went on to play at Ball State, and was the Mid-American Conference player of the year in 1990. Eckert was later named as Ball State’s Player of the Decade for the 1980s, and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2104.
The Business and Professional category has three honorees.
Nelson Bechstein owned and operated his family’s grocery store for 55 of its 100 years of existence. The son of German immigrants, Bechstein became owner of the business after his father’s death in 1937. Bechstein’s downtown location made it convenient for townspeople, but the biggest draw was the quality of its products, including a full-service meat counter featuring its popular ham loaf, and a large deli with barrels of sauerkraut made from the Bechstein family recipe. Bechstein’s never turned anyone away and those in need always were able to get groceries for their families. The store closed in 2000 shortly after celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The Drabenstot Family and Nick Freienstein are responsible for Nick’s Kitchen being recognized as the birthplace of the breaded tenderloin sandwich, and the restaurant has earned the reputation of producing the best example of Indiana’s unofficial state sandwich. Freienstein started selling hamburgers from a pushcart, then opened Nick’s Kitchen in 1908 and added a new sandwich, a handheld version of the German wiener schnitzel. Gene and Peggy Drabenstot family purchased the diner in 1969 and kept the popular tenderloin on the menu. Their daughter, Jean Anne Bailey, now owns the original Nick’s Kitchen. Their son, Jim Drabenstot, runs Nick’s Junction in Roanoke and daughter Nancy Bonebrake operates Nick’s Country Cafe in Huntington. All three feature the famous sandwich and welcome curious tenderloin-loving customers from across the country.
After six decades practicing law in his adopted hometown, Stanley Matheny has earned the unofficial title of the “dean” of Huntington County attorneys. A graduate of Wabash College and Indiana University school of Law, Matheny joined the Huntington firm of Lesh & Lesh in 1959. He remains active with the firm, now known as Matheny, Han & Denman, LLP. Over the years, Matheny has served as judge of Huntington City Court and Huntington City Attorney. More recently, he has focused on elder law.
There are two new Huntington County Honors members in the Community and Public Service category.
Herb LaMont was a quiet man who left a large legacy, first in business, and later as an advocate for social service. He created the Maco Corporation following World War II and served as its president the rest of his life. After the death of his wife in 1964, LaMont married Kay Hartzell, and their partnership marked a new chapter in each of their lives and in the lives of many others in Huntington County. LaMont was one of the organizers and supporters of the Huntington County Association for Retarded Children, which later became Pathfinder Services. Pathfinder honors his efforts with the Herbert D. LaMont Award, annually given to the Pathfinder volunteer of the year. It has become one of the highest honors presented in Huntington County.
Marilyn Morrison holds the distinction of being the first officeholder from a small Indiana town chosen to head the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT). That milestone came in 2001, during the third of her eight terms as clerk-treasurer of the Town of Warren. Morrison was born in Warren and was elected her hometown’s clerk-treasurer in 1991. When the IACT honored her with its Russell G. Lloyd Distinguished Service Award in 2002, she became the first town clerk-treasurer so honored. In 2001, Morrison was recognized by the Warren Chamber of Commerce with its Samuel Jones Award for her contributions to the community. The award holds special meaning for her because it is named for the town’s founder — who is also her great-great-great grandfather.
In the Humanities and Cultural category, the are two new honorees.
John Wenning was unsure of what career path he wanted to follow, and on the suggestion of his mother, he decided to pursue an education in music. He graduated from Ball State and landed a teaching position at Huntington North High School. There he remade the school’s show choir into one of the most consistently successful in the state. The Varsity Singers program captured multiple grand championships, and was named Indiana’s top concert choir in 1996. Wenning was Huntington County Community Schools Teacher of the Year in 1996, and was recognized by Ball State with an Alumni Achievement Citation in 2006. Many of his students have followed their choral experience into careers in music.
Rev. Milton Wright might be best known as the father of the Wright Brothers — Orville and Wilbur — but he also made a large impact in Huntington’s history. Wright was a pivotal figure in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ at a time when church leaders were seeking a place to educate the denomination’s young people. Doctrinal differences had led to a division in the Church of the United Brethren Church in 1889 and Wright, one of the denomination’s bishops, led a breakaway group. In 1897, shortly after a group of civic leaders brought Wright and other church officials a timely proposal to locate a college in Huntington, what was initially called Central College came into existence.
In the History category, Huntington County Honors adds two new inductees.
Lessel Long was one of the earliest settlers of Huntington County. He was a soldier for the Union Army in the Civil War. During the conflict he was taken prisoner and sent to Camp Sumter, the infamous prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. After nearly dying in the camp’s brutal conditions, he returned home to Andrews following the war. His 1886 memoir of his time in the camp, “Twelve Months in Andersonville,” described in horrific detail what prisoners endured. Of the 45,000 prisoners at the camp, 13,000 died from malnutrition, exposure or disease. Long’s book shocked the public, became a definitive historical and cultural record, and spurred reforms in prisoner treatment.
Leo Scheer joined the Navy shortly after his graduation from Huntington Catholic High School in 1942. After training as a medic, he found himself on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Scheer dodged death numerous times, from surviving the explosion of his landing craft to escaping German fire on his way to the shore. He gave basic medical treatment to soldiers for three days while pinned down on the beach. For the rest of his life he attributed his survival to a guardian angel. After serving in Europe, Scheer spent the rest of the war onboard a ship in the Pacific. He returned home to the family’s contracting company and his brickwork can be seen across Huntington County. Scheer donated much of his military memorabilia, including a medical belt that remains on display in the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
A display featuring the 2022 class of Huntington County Honors will be on view in Huntington City-Township Public Library beginning in January. The Huntington County Historical Museum houses a permanent exhibit featuring all previous honorees. Information on all the inductees is 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 email@example.com or by regular mail at Huntington County Honors, PO Box 481, Huntington, IN 46750.