November 25, 2015
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We Know Who You Are

Letters to the editor can be sent to Keep up with Kristen's blog at

I hardly can believe the holiday season is here. Producing the November/December issue always gets us in the spirit, though we stop short of playing Christmas carols in October as we are working on it. This year, it was the Reitz Home Museum that really put us in the mood. For the cover, Creative Director Heather Gray and photographer Jerry Butts worked with Matt Rowe, executive director of the Reitz Home Museum, and volunteer decorator Doug Patberg to festoon the home’s grand entry early enough for our photo session. Victorian Christmas, the Reitz Home’s annual holiday tour, has guests standing in line to see the gilded family home of one of the city’s most recognized philanthropists decked for the season (see story on page 162). The home is spectacular; I enjoy visits throughout the year. If you’ve never visited the Reitz Home Museum, let this be the year you do!

Proving they indeed are in the holiday spirit, several Tucker Publishing Group staff members (and Todd) share their most memorable holiday traditions and memories on this page. One of my earliest childhood Christmas memories is of visiting my Granny in Evansville when my family still was living in Iowa (before returning here to my father’s hometown). The image I most recall is sitting on the sofa of her Englewood Avenue home with my sister Miekka and our six cousins, all girls — eight little girls ranging in age from 4 to 10 (my youngest sister wasn’t born yet) — holding the new dolls Granny and our step-grandfather (Leonard) had bought for us.

This also is the time of year when we process thousands of subscription renewals, orders, and gifts. It occurred to me to share with you that we know who you are. At TPG, we are very hands on. My husband or I open our mail; we see the subscription renewals and orders come in, and work with staff members to process them. We don’t employ a receptionist at our office and we all answer the phone, so if you call our office with a question about your subscription, you perhaps will speak to Managing Editor Emily Patton or Art Director Hannah Jay — both are quick to look up from their computer screens to help a caller. Indeed we give your subscriptions a number, but, dear readers, you are far from a number to us. We know who you are, and, as always, I look forward to hearing from you.

May your holiday season be the brightest!

Kristen K. Tucker
Publisher & Editor

What’s Your Favorite

Christmas Tradition?

“Because the anticipation for Christmas Day was too much for us children, my parents would always let us choose one present to open on Christmas Eve. We would go through shaking and feeling every present the night before to make sure we made the right choice on which present to open early. The best year was when I saw a guitar-shaped gift addressed to me from Santa.”
Emily Patton, Managing Editor

“On Christmas Eve night, after checking to see if Santa had arrived (Santa never seemed to visit before 8 p.m. when I was a child), my family would drive around my hometown of Tell City, Indiana, to see all the Christmas lights decorating the homes. My favorite home was the Groves’ on 19th Street. Their entire yard is filled with lighted holiday scenes every year.”
Trista Lutgring, Staff Writer

“I love going out to Goebel Farms to get a real Christmas tree. We did this as a family growing up and now I’m the only one in my family that carries on the tradition. I have a lot of ornaments, so the tree needs to have plenty of room for hanging. The smell of the tree is one of the best parts.”
Jessica Hoffman, Account Executive

“My cousin Lee and I are one month apart in age. Although we live several hours apart, we have spent almost every Christmas together. We’re more like brothers than cousins and always have told each other what we knew the other was getting for Christmas. Then of course we acted surprised. We each have two sons who also are the best of friends. Here I am getting the present lowdown from my cousin in this photo circa 1963.”
Todd Tucker, President, Tucker Publishing Group


Perfect Harmony

Evansville native Steve Morgan tours with popular a cappella group Straight No Chaser
Evansville native Steve Morgan is a founding member of Indiana University’s all-male a cappella group Straight No Chaser.

Steve Morgan has been singing his whole life, and now a hobby that started in the historic halls of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, has led him to national stardom. Morgan, a founding member of IU’s all-male a cappella group Straight No Chaser, first began chasing his dreams right here in Evansville. After graduating from Harrison High School in 1996, he studied finance at IU then spent several years working as an actor in New York City, performing in Broadway productions of “The Full Monty,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Mamma Mia,” just to name a few, all while traveling and singing with Straight No Chaser.

He left the group, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, briefly in 2008 but has been back singing tenor for more than two years. The group, best known for its renditions of popular Christmas tunes, just released a new album, “The New Old Fashioned,” a collection of chart-topping covers spanning more than 50 years. Straight No Chaser currently is doing a 70-show tour with a planned stop in Evansville on Dec. 10 at the Old National Events Plaza. Now 37 years old, Morgan lives in Cincinnati with his wife Emily, a personal fitness trainer, and their two children, Lily, 6, and Will, 3. Evansville Living recently sat down with Morgan to talk about his latest tour and tunes.

What was your favorite part about growing up in Evansville?
I think it was just that Midwestern idyllic scenario. I had both my grandparents in town. I had friends and family there. I could get on my bike and go anywhere I wanted. It’s quaint. Everybody knows everybody else. And it gave me a great launching pad for what I wanted to do. I got a great education and had lots of opportunities to try different things.

What is your go-to album or song when you need a boost?
Well, it changes all the time. The best album to walk the streets of New York to is Seal’s “Human Being.” If that doesn’t get you moving, then you don’t have a pulse. And Jamie Cullum’s “Photograph.” I love the lyrics in that song, “When I look back on my ordinary, ordinary life, I see so much magic, though I missed it at the time.” Certainly, I live an enchanted life to be able to sing and call it a profession. But there are times over the course of a 70-show tour where you start to forget that. But then I sit back and realize, “Alright, it’s pretty sweet.”

Straight No Chaser owes much of its success to covers of Christmas music. Do you ever get tired of singing it?
We owe a lot to Christmas music, so we’re not running from it at all. We hear people say all the time, “Hey, you guys are our Christmas. We’ve got you in our CD player from Thanksgiving on.” And that’s a huge honor. We take it seriously. Straight No Chaser defines a season for some people. We just hope our fans give our non-Christmas music a chance. We hope they enjoy it.

What’s the story behind Straight No Chaser, the name?
It’s an old jazz standard by Thelonious Monk. That was how we first found the name. I’m told there is another reference, something else, but that never entered our minds as college-aged boys. I think it also speaks to the purity of what we do, too. It’s just voices. Straight No Chaser. No filler. No track. No rhythm guitar. Everything you hear is just us.

For more information about Straight No Chaser, visit


Find Your Voice

Youth Resources executive director discovers passion through helping youth
Evansville native Laura Ferguson joined Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana as a Central High School freshman.

Evansville native Laura Ferguson began attending Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana’s Teen Advisory Council meetings as a Central High School freshman. Twelve years later, Ferguson still hasn’t left the program.

Today, the 27-year-old serves as the executive director for Youth Resources, an organization founded in 1987, which helps engage and involve young people in community service projects. Since its inception, Youth Resources has involved more than 148,875 young people, ranging in age from 5 to 18, in 3,250 service projects.

“Youth Resources is a unique community that is so supportive and so focused on serving others,” says Ferguson, who succeeded former executive director Ann Burnworth in January 2015. “It changed my life in a number of ways. I think that every kid in some way, shape, or form is at risk. One exposure to one adult, positive peer, or one service opportunity can change the trajectory of their lives.”

When Ferguson joined Youth Resources as a high school student, she said she was extremely shy and “had a lot going on inside that I wanted to say.” She met adult mentors who encouraged her and was introduced to students more like her in “an open, welcoming, and trusting environment where you can really express whatever you want to express.”

Ferguson attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she studied nonprofit management. She interned with Youth Resources during college, and after, she decided to work part-time with the organization until she joined the staff full-time as the Teen Advisory Council coordinator. After two years in the position, she took over as development director, and by the next year, she was promoted to executive director.

As executive director, Ferguson promotes the organization in the community, reaches out to youth to get involved, and maintains donor relationships. Her favorite part of the job is working with the youth.

“The past executive director used to say that she kissed the paperwork on her desk,” says Ferguson. “What you do behind the scenes makes it possible for those students to have the experience that I had.”

Jeremy Brown, Youth Resources communications and special events coordinator, says no one truly understands how hard Ferguson works behind the scenes for the program. The two met in the summer of 2006 when Brown attended his first TEENPOWER camp as an incoming Castle High School sophomore and Ferguson was on the youth staff.

“She was super, loving, genuine, and the most caring person on the planet,” says Brown. “She was really invested in me and helped me see things in myself I didn’t see.”

Youth Resources offers four programs including the Make a Difference Grants, which provides grants up to $750 for local youth of all ages to lead service projects in the community, Vanderburgh County Teen Court, a diversion program that offers first-time teen offenders the opportunity for a second chance, Teen Advisory Council, a program where high school students meet bimonthly to identify youth issues, and TEENPOWER camp, which is the only youth substance abuse prevention conference of its kind.

For more information about Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana, call 812-421-0030 or visit or on Facebook.


A Place To Call Home

The Nussmeiers find sanctuary in Lincolnshire neighborhood

Before the Nussmeier family moved from McCutchanville to the Lincolnshire area of Evansville, the simple pleasures of riding bicycles with friends, carpooling to events, and walking to school and work were unknown. Those small, every-day perks became a reality when Steve and Amy Nussmeier purchased a three-bedroom, two and a half-bath home on S. Willow Road in July 2013.

The decision to look for a home in Evansville was spurred by the Nussmeiers’ two daughters Carlie and Mallory, who were entering high school at Reitz Memorial and middle school at St. Benedict Cathedral School and who both are active in multiple sports. Steve is a co-owner at Nussmeier Engraving Company, a third-generation engraving, printing, and designing company located in Downtown Evansville.

“It was a drive to school, to work, to sports,” says Steve, who went to Memorial High School and ran track and field at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. “Because they do multiple sports, we were making the trip to Evansville five to six times a day.”

Choosing to look for homes in Lincolnshire seemed like a natural fit to Steve, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. It also is where his parents still live today. Amy’s mother grew up in the home next door to the house they purchased on S. Willow. The proximity to Reitz Memorial High School and St. Benedict Cathedral School would allow their daughters to walk to school.

When they decided it was time to buy, the Nussmeiers, married for 19 years, listed their McCutchanville home and sold it before they began looking for a new place to live. And when they started to look, there were no houses for sale in the area.

Amy, an Evansville Day School and Indiana University alumna, spotted the house built in 1927 on S. Willow Road and said, “If I was going to buy a house on this block, it would be this one.” The curb appeal and simple beauty of the brick Colonial-style is what drew her in.

“I drove through the Lincolnshire neighborhood and looked at this house from the street and thought, ‘This is it!’” says Amy of the home previously owned by Kenneth and Carolyn Helm. “Unfortunately, it was not for sale. I told my mother this story and she told me who lived in the house. The Helms are old family acquaintances and I knew Carolyn's son Mark well. I gave him a call and the rest is history.”

“We ended up purchasing the house a few months later,” says Steve. “We liked the way it was decorated on the inside and kept all the color schemes. For two years, we kept it the way we bought it. This year, we have done a couple things — re-wallpapered the kitchen, changed some fixtures in the kitchen, and repainted the dining room. We painted the dining room the same color as the living room to make it look more open.”

Tay Ruthenberg at Evaline Karges Interiors, Inc. helped the Nussmeiers decorate and redo an upstairs bedroom, and Cindy Bell of Evansville was instrumental in placing furniture and hanging pictures.

The 2,500-square-foot home is two stories with a finished basement and has original hard woods floors downstairs. “They have their own creaks and they squeak — that’s part of their character,” says Steve.

Entering the home, guests step into the living room, immaculately designed with dark wood furniture, antique lighting fixtures, and dog figurines and ceramic pieces inspired by the Nussmeiers’ love of canines including their massive bulldogs named Lucy, 11, and Chuck, 10. A big screen television hangs over the fireplace with two glass-paned doors on either side of it opening to the sunroom, which was an add-on 20 years ago after formerly being used as an outdoor porch. Windows surround the room allowing light to filter through. While it has a stained wood ceiling, the rest of the room is painted white with yellow carpeting.

“It looks inviting to those passing on the street,” says Steve, who adds the family spends most of their time in this area. A door leads from the sunroom out to the backyard patio, which is patiently manicured by Steve. The bulldogs enjoy lazily laying on the brick walkway under the patio furniture in the yard. A detached two-car garage is accessible from the back of the house.

The living room also connects to the dining room, with a beautiful chandelier, original to the home, hanging above the dining room table. The kitchen, painted a bright coral, is off of the dining room with dark counters and white cabinets. Themed with farm animals, the kitchen has small paintings and figurines of chickens and cows. A smaller table in the kitchen area sits adjacent to the bar allowing seating for a quick meal or homework session.

“I would call my style traditional with a bend toward English Country,” says Amy. “I love warm tones and like to create a sense of coziness in each room. Home should be a sanctuary — a place your family wants to return to after a long day. That is the feeling I want to create in my home and this house does that job perfectly.”

A hallway connects the kitchen to stairs running down to the finished basement, a door to the backyard, and another set of stairs leading up to the two girls’ bedroom and the master suite.

“When the living quarters are tighter, I think it makes us a tighter-knit family,” says Steve. “We are all up on the same floor together.”

Since moving to Lincolnshire, Carlie, 17, a junior at Memorial, and Mallory, 14, an eighth grader at St. Ben’s, have embraced the change of living close to friends. Carlie plays varsity volleyball at Memorial and played basketball for two years. Mallory plays volleyball and basketball for St. Ben’s, and also serves as goalie for the Memorial Cub Soccer Team and on a travel team Indiana Fire. Amy took a job as the varsity volleyball coach at Memorial and currently is in her second year. She also accepted a job teaching sixth through eighth grade Language Arts and English Literature at St. Ben’s, allowing her to walk both to work and practice. Steve’s commute to Nussmeier Engraving now is only a mile and half, allowing easy access to home during the day if needed.

Since the move to Lincolnshire, Amy says the family finally has time to relax.

“Our favorite place to hang out is on the porch out front,” says Steve. The porch is brick and wraps around the front of the sunroom and the entrance of the house.

“We have rocking chairs and people drive by and there’s a lot of activity. On football Friday nights, there’s tailgating on our front porch. It’s really fun. When we lived in McCutchanville, we used to spend a lot of time outside. We still spend that time outside, but just in a different way.”


Musically Inclined

Evansville native and opera singer partners with WNIN for project

Early October brought a rush of activity to the home of Matthew O’Neill on Sunset Avenue in Downtown Evansville. The Evansville native was working on the project “Sunset at Semper Fulgens” (which means “Always Shining” in Latin) with local public television station WNIN, and O’Neill couldn’t contain his excitement for the home concert series.

“It’s been crazy around here,” he says as he sits in the carriage house behind his 1905 historic home that he owns with Kristen Holt Burckhartt. “This piano just came from Louisville. Then WNIN just brought over the lights. It’s just been crazy.”

A graduate of Harrison High School and the University of Evansville, music has played a large role in O’Neill’s life. After earning a degree in guitar from UE and with the intention to teach guitar at a collegiate level, O’Neill began taking courses at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. But by the time he graduated, his master’s was not in guitar, but in voice.

“I started gigging around the Twin Cities then I decided to have a go of it professionally,” says O’Neill. “I had a little job at Lyric Opera of Chicago and took an audition that really changed things for me.”

That audition was with the San Francisco Opera training program, which earned him a two-year fellowship with the program. From there, he found himself performing as a tenor on stages in Los Angeles, Dallas, Southern Europe, and Japan to name a few.

“I really enjoyed the repertoire and the story telling component of opera,” says O’Neill. “I liked the environment. I liked the expansiveness of it, the fact that it’s pretty large scale.”

In 2014 during a visit to Evansville to see his parents, O’Neill met Burckhartt. The couple has since spent the last year fixing up their home in Downtown Evansville.

Now he finds himself wanting to get back to playing and exploring different genres of music. After playing again for the last three and a half years, he has enjoyed performing in different environments including at his own home for the “Sunset at Semper Fulgens” series. A small number of tickets to the concert and filming of the pilot episode were sold to benefit WNIN. The first episode currently is in the editing process, says O’Neill, and is expected to air on WNIN Jan. 21.

What was the turning point that made you want to become an opera singer?
Frankly, it seemed to be (that) I was a good musician, so I was prepared for work. And it was simply a matter of I was getting hired and that I was making some income. Ultimately I discovered that I had an instinct toward it. So it was a combination. It was never my passion to begin with, but it was a combination of sort of almost developing a passion for it and also a practicality that it seemed to be the thing that I was the best at.

If you had to pick one favorite aspect of opera, what would it be?
I love the repertoire and the work, and I love the experience of performing, but honestly my favorite part about it is the shared community experience of a cast. You get together for, let’s say, six weeks and it’s sort of like a little family. It’s pretty cool because you’re working on a specific project and then it ends.
Obviously the performing is a great experience. I always was into rehearsal; my thing is rehearsal. Performances are when you get paid and it’s for the audience, but it’s a different thing. For me, the thing I get the most out of is rehearsing with a community of folks.

Do you have a memory from your career so far that stands out to you the most?
Actually my favorite memory is something I did. It was for an opera called “The Makropulos Case” by a Czech composer named Janacek. There was a wonderful part called Hauk Sendork but he happened to be very, very old. Probably in his late 80s. I think that early on, the director got a hold of me and thought I was really too young for it. I think they were really concerned about it once I showed up. So I went to the casting director and said, “What if I just did something like bleached my hair white?” He said, “Well yeah, try it. Absolutely.”

I showed up in rehearsal and it was some of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten. Something as simple as bleaching your hair — people can see you in a different way. That was a really successful (show), one of the best experiences I’ve had in opera.

What do you have coming up for your career?
Several years ago I was involved with the world premiere of an opera called “Moby Dick” with the Dallas Opera. Dallas had a brand new opera house called the Winspear Opera House and they commissioned this opera Moby Dick … it was a co-commission with several companies. I ended up doing it in San Diego and then in San Francisco. We filmed it for PBS Great Performances and it was broadcasted a couple years ago. I’m doing that now in Los Angeles.

Before I left, I did this show, “Sunset at Semper Fulgens,” sort of co-produced with WNIN. It’s a house concert show. I always liked house concerts. I liked the intimacy of just a few people. I wanted to find a way that I could bring in some friends and colleagues from outside who don’t live here, keep active musically with those people, and explore my own interest in a lot of genres of music.

I was talking with Brad Kimmel, president and CEO of WNIN, and we sort of came up with this idea for a house concert/television show series. The idea is to bring in a guest of note — the first is a friend of mine and a wonderful musician named Matt Rollings, one of the leading studio-session pianists and producers in Los Angeles and Nashville. It’s sort of a discussion and collaboration.

The idea is kind of showing off Evansville. We’ll get a little footage of going out to eat lunch and maybe a little bit of the riverfront, sort of showcasing Evansville. Because the idea would be that this would be a series that would be syndicated in some way. So the idea is to bring in guests, treat them as guests, and show off the hospitality of this community.

How often do you find yourself back in Evansville?
In a perfect world, and it just depends on when the work comes up and things, but in a perfect world I would like to do one or two (opera) engagements per year but also be involved in other music and run a career from Evansville. I find that while Evansville is certainly not a musical hub, its proximity to other hubs is convenient. I was just rehearsing with my guest in Nashville yesterday, and we are talking a two hour and 15 minute drive. It’s not a big deal.

Also I think for me, being down here in Downtown, in this exciting period, this revitalization of Downtown, is a pretty neat time with everything that’s going on with Haynie’s Corner, the medical school, and all these things. It’s a good time to just come down here.

For more information about home concert series, visit Facebook and search “Sunset at Semper Fulgens.” The first episode is set to air at 8 p.m. Jan. 21 on WNIN.


The Daily Race

YMCA special events director uses to-do lists to get to the finish line
Heather Lejman poses with Derrick Stewart, CEO of YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, at Pancake Days.

Heather Lejman begins everyday with a list. She goes through her day crossing off what to do, whom to call, what to organize, and where to go.

In her position as special events director at the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, Lejman is involved with many of the activities the YMCA presents, but race season takes up most of her time as well as space on her to-do list. The YMCA of Southwestern Indiana hosts the Evansville Half Marathon, the Spirit, Mind and Body Triathlon/Dualthon, Kids’ Triathlon, and the Airport Run along with training clubs for each race. Lejman begins planning the Evansville Half Marathon a year in advance.

“I’m sending emails to volunteers, sponsors, and people we are purchasing from whether it be advertising or anything else,” says Lejman. “I’m constantly checking on the status of those things. I spend a lot of time at the computer contacting volunteers and coordinating that. Other days it could be hauling Gatorade and water for hours because we have to load trucks or unload the basement. I don’t have days that are ever the same, that’s why I love this job.”

The 2015 Evansville Half Marathon was the 12th annual. Since its inception, the event has raised close to $1 million for the organization, raising tens of thousands of dollars every year.

“It’s always rewarding when the gun goes off at a race and we know that we have done everything we can do and then we get to sit back and watch people finish,” says Lejman. “It’s fun to celebrate with them that victory because we’ve done everything we can do to ensure their safety and to ensure they have a great time at the race.”

In addition to the annual races, Lejman also directs Team 13, the training club that practices for the Evansville Half Marathon for 13 weeks, and leads the YMCA’s annual Pancake Days, which brings the community together for fellowship over food, fun, and entertainment in February.

The Newburgh, Indiana, native and Purdue University alumna worked at the YMCA part time helping with summer camps, life guarding, and at the front desk since she was 16 years old. She also contributed to the special events team while working fulltime at her family’s business.

“When we decided to close Schmitt Photo three years ago, I was 40-something and looking for a job,” she says.

Luckily, Lejman found a fulltime position working with the people and activities she always has enjoyed.

“I couldn’t see myself doing any job but this one at this point in my life,” she says. “I truly enjoy this.”

For more information about the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, visit


A Time to Be Heard

Holly’s House forensic interviewer gathers information from child sex abuse victims
Molly Elfreich has worked as a forensic interviewer at Holly’s House since 2012.

When Forensic Interviewer Molly Elfreich leaves the interview room after speaking with a child sexual abuse victim at Holly’s House, she often has to return to the same space just minutes later to speak with another. In order to effectively do her job of speaking with children ages 2 to 17, she says she has only a couple minutes to decompress before she must move on to the next.

“I don’t just speak with just a child a week,” says Elfreich, who also serves as the associate director at Holly’s House, a nonresidential child and adult victim advocacy center located at 750 N. Park Drive. “I do multiple interviews a day and they need me to be 100 percent each time. Not to say that there won’t be cases that won’t be forever a piece of my heart and to this day I can think back and I know their faces.”

In over three years at Holly’s House, she has interviewed 1,200 children who have possibly been abused. Nationally, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Elfreich, an Evansville native, recently attained the Diplomate Child Forensic Interviewer (DCFI) certification, which is the highest level of credentialing from the National Association of Certified Child Forensic Interviewers (NACCFI) Credentialing Board. She is the only person in Indiana and one in 54 in the U.S., to hold this advanced certification.

“It helps a lot in a court setting,” says Elfreich. “I didn’t have to have that certification, I didn’t have to take that test. I didn’t have to put in the man-hours to do it. I chose to do it so that the child is getting the best person across the seat from them so they can get justice. I follow the child-first principle in everything. It always is in the back of my mind that if it helps me in court, it helps them in court. I did it for that and for Holly’s House. Any time that there can be recognition about what we are doing inside our building, there is a potential to bring community awareness.”

The 32-year-old graduated from Indiana University where she majored in criminal justice and psychology. After leaving college, she became a deputy sheriff in Florida, where she worked for nearly two years before returning home to Evansville to work as a confinement officer at the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office. She decided to attend the University of Southern Indiana to obtain her master’s degree in health administration and later discovered she and her husband were expecting a child. She briefly stopped working as she finished her degree and after her daughter’s birth. Soon after, she learned of an opening at Holly’s House for a backup forensic interviewer, which would also help as a service coordinator and receptionist.

“Forensic interviewing is fairly new in the sense of careers,” she says. “It’s only been around about 30 years so it’s ever-evolving. It’s always being tweaked. That’s why I’m constantly going to trainings. I try to go to at least two to three in-depth trainings a year as well as participate in peer reviews.”

Since accepting the position at Holly’s House in early 2012, Elfreich has been promoted to the fulltime forensic interviewer and assistant director.

“There are not a lot of us,” she says of forensic interviewers. “You don’t know if you’re going to be able to do it until your very first kid is sitting across from you and you are doing it. You either have it in you to disassociate and move on or you don’t. I have lots of respect for people who have tried this and said they can’t do it and moved on. It is a complete disservice if you can’t emotionally handle it. As of right now I do a very good job of turning it off because I want to be good for every kid that comes in.”

When a child enters the interviewing room with Elfreich, she instructs him or her to sit in a specific chair and she sits in a chair across from them. She does this because of the video cameras built into the wall, which allow law enforcement in the space next door to watch the entire interview. Elfreich, who can’t speak to a child unless a report has been filed through the Department of Child Services and/or law enforcement, wears an earpiece allowing her to never leave the room so those viewing can speak to her.

“I don’t want them to get some false idea that this is some secret between me and them,” she explains. “I make them aware that those people are watching because this is for a purpose. There is a lot of shame and guilt. Someone has groomed them or lured them into this situation and they have made the child think they are an active participant when they are not.”

Elfreich works to learn where the child is developmentally through a narrative practice, which is non-traumatic. If a child loves gymnastics, she will ask him or her to describe a competition episodically using as much detail as possible.

“I am figuring out developmentally where they are at and what kind of details they can give me,” she says. “When we get to the abuse, I’m not confusing them when I ask them to tell me all about it.”

The majority of her questions are open-ended and she never inserts responses for the child. She keeps an easel in the interview room allowing children to use drawings to recall situations or anatomical illustrations to help clarify body parts. Elfreich never shows emotion when the child is disclosing the abuse, and she also never touches the child.

“I tell them, ‘Whatever words you use, whatever language, whatever you say to me, you’ll never be in trouble with me,’” she says. “When we talk about body parts, once you get past that first time, and they hear me say it and I say it with no affect, no shock, they are like, ‘OK, she can hear this and listen.’”

Reliving the situation can be difficult and Elfreich says she always wants to make sure the child is in a state where they want to talk about it.

“They had no choice about what happened to them but they are absolutely going to have a choice in who they talk to and who they tell,” she says. “I always want that to be portrayed that the child had a choice. If they can’t do this part with me, then they are going to have a really hard time going through the criminal justice process.”

Elfreich says almost all disclosures are delayed, which can mean a child confesses six months to years after the abuse occurred. She says one example of how family members learn of the mistreatment is through accidental disclosure where the child told a friend who later told their mother and the parent reports it.

“The general public has this ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ effect where there is physical evidence and there is a black light used,” she says. “We don’t have evidence. There is no longer an injury if there ever was one.

“We have to convince a jury that this child’s statement is enough for this conviction. Part of my job on the stand is education on why kids have delayed disclosure, why kids sometime disclose and recant their statement.”

She explains that disclosures often are delayed because “stranger danger isn’t what children should be afraid of.”

“Out of 1,200 interviews, there were probably 15 to 20 that were strangers,” says Elfreich. “They are family members, people they knew, people they loved. You’re asking kids to send dads, grandpas to jail. They love these people even though they molested them. You are asking a lot emotionally of these kids to take on.”

Because of the personal relationships involved, Holly’s House offers a “Think First & Stay Safe” school program, which provides personal safety and child abuse prevention education at no charge to elementary schools in Gibson, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties. Nineteen thousand area children have received the instruction created by Child Lures Prevention.

For more information about Holly’s House, call 812-437-7233 or visit


At the Poll

Get to know the three mayoral candidates before November’s election
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke

As the race for mayor nears the general election on Nov. 3, Evansville citizens work to more closely examine the candidates for the position. Those on the ticket this year include Republican and Incumbent Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, Democrat Gail Riecken, and Independent Steve Wozniak. To help prepare voters before casting their ballots, the staff of Evansville Business Magazine asked each of the three mayoral contenders the same five questions.

Lloyd Winnecke

Party Registration: Republican // Education: University of Evansville
Current Job: Mayor, City of Evansville // Age: 55
Marital Status: Married to Carol McClintock, real estate agent at F.C. Tucker Emge Realtors
Children: Daughter, Danielle

What is the biggest problem facing Evansville that not enough people are talking about?
The city is facing unfunded federal mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade our water and sewer system. The current systems in place were constructed decades ago, and the city has kicked the can down the road for years when it comes to upgrading the outdated infrastructure. We’ve begun taking steps to make these improvements, while at the same time limiting the burden on ratepayers and holding the line on government spending.

What is Evansville’s greatest opportunity in the next four years?
Our greatest opportunity over the next four years lies on the same forward moving path we’re on today. Jobs are growing, our streets are cleaner and safer, and we’re experiencing revitalization all across Evansville. There’s no question we’re heading in the right direction, but with continued growth, and completion of the development and revitalization projects already in progress, I know the best is yet to come.

Describe, with specific examples, how you would improve the city’s economy?
We’ve partnered with local businesses, while advertising our city as a landing spot to companies looking to relocate. Our economic climate has been nationally recognized three times over the past year as a top 10 city for business.

I’m committed to staying on the current course, which has led to 2,400 new and retained jobs, millions in new investments, and the lowest unemployment rate in five years.

What is your vision for Downtown Evansville once the Indiana University medical school and research center has been built?
The medical center, along with our new convention hotel, will transform the look and feel of Downtown for decades. The hotel will generate thousands of new visitors and the medical school will create a new pipeline of healthcare professionals. Going forward, we need to leverage these two great assets to attract even more visitors and businesses to Downtown.

Just for fun, tell us what your favorite Evansville “hidden gem” is.
There are many hidden gems throughout Evansville. Some are nonprofit organizations which provide badly needed services; others are little known attractions that serve our community; and there are scores of restaurants that service taste buds all over the city. To pick just one ... I’d have to say the Wesselman Park Nature Center.

Gail Riecken

Party Registration: Democrat
Education: University of Indiana
Current Job: Indiana State Representative // Age: 69
Marital Status: Married to Ron Riecken, retired
Children: Two daughters, Julie and Katie

What is the biggest problem facing Evansville that not enough people are talking about?
Our city’s debt has grown to more than half a billion dollars. He (Mayor Lloyd Winnecke) spends money the city doesn’t have, tapping into the city’s reserve funds with no plan to increase revenue or reduce expenses. This debt eventually can have a negative effect on the city’s finances.

What is Evansville’s greatest opportunity in the next four years?
Economic development from the new Indiana University medical school and research center.

Describe, with specific examples, how you would improve the city’s economy?
I would do this with an Evansville First policy, which would help local small businesses compete for city contracts
by stressing contracting with local businesses for goods and services. I would work to attract new businesses to Evansville by offering tax incentives to businesses that want to locate to Evansville and incentives that are published and fairly applied without personal likes and dislikes.

What is your vision for Downtown Evansville once the Indiana University medical school and research center has been built?
I want to promote the new Indiana University medical school complex to businesses interested in medical research and device manufacturing, work to develop lodging for students and staff at the facility, and keep fighting in Indianapolis for the inclusion of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana in the next state budget.

Just for fun, tell us what your favorite Evansville “hidden gem” is.
Wesselman Park Nature Center

Steve Wozniak

Party Registration: Independent
Education: University of Southern Indiana
Current Job: Self-employed, owner of Wozfans
Age: 42 // Marital Status: Single
Children: Daughter, Halley Sun

What is the biggest problem facing Evansville that not enough people are talking about?
The City of Evansville has become stagnant and is not progressing with a comprehensive plan. There are many needs of the city that need to be addressed to solve problems that currently strangle our city, with no plan of action to resolve these issues. There is a concerted effort by surrounding cities to progress with new ideas and developments that provide opportunities to their residents and visitors that the City of Evansville is not addressing.

What is Evansville’s greatest opportunity in the next four years?
The implementation of a comprehensive Urban Renewal Initiative, URI, will give rise to our greatest opportunity. First, the building of a new port will open the entire bend in the riverfront for commercial and residential development. Second, a new civic center built with industrial agriculture will alleviate our blocked Main Street. This proactive movement will help to “woo” Google Fiber to choose Evansville as one of its next Google Fiber Cities.

Describe, with specific examples, how you would improve the city’s economy?
Updating the city’s communication infrastructure with FTTH, Fiber to the Home, would attract innovative businesses to start new ventures or expand existing businesses to meet the demands of technology. Case in point, proven industrial agriculture is a soon emerging economy and I, as the next Mayor of Evansville, will attract these innovative start-ups to suit the needs of processing raw materials into finished goods to create jobs for the people.

What is your vision for Downtown Evansville once the Indiana University medical school and research center has been built?
Through the implementation of the URI, Downtown Evansville will be a thriving urban setting that will complement the new urban campus to the City of Evansville. Indiana University School of Medicine is one piece of the puzzle that will be flanked by large-scale residential and commercial development, a new civic center, a new riverfront, and a gateway creating the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum into the icon of the City of Evansville.

Just for fun, tell us what your favorite Evansville “hidden gem” is.
The “hidden gem” of Evansville is the magnificent Bosse Field. Bosse Field is the third oldest baseball park in the U.S. and has the potential to be the catalyst that will prove to revitalize the neighborhood surrounding Garvin Park. This new development will come to be known as Bosseville. Bosseville, being very unique and well planned, is not to be mistaken with Wrigleyville, which surrounds the second oldest baseball park in the country.


Dr. Ronald Rochon

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Job: Provost at the University of Southern Indiana

Resume: In his 23 combined years as a professor and university administrator, Dr. Ronald Rochon has taught at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Rochon served as the director and co-founder for the Research Center for Cultural Diversity and Community Renewal while also holding the position of director of the Master of Education-Professional Development Learning Community Program, interim director of the School of Education, and associate dean of the College of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Teacher Education. Before making the move to the University of Southern Indiana in 2010, Rochon was the inaugural dean of the School of Education at Buffalo State College in Buffalo, New York.

Family: Wife Lynn Rochon, son Ayinde, 18, and daughter Nia, 16.

This south side Chicago native has seen his fair share of communities since completing his undergraduate degree at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. As the University of Southern Indiana provost, Dr. Ronald Rochon’s career has taken him all over the U.S., but he admits his time at USI has been his most cherished thus far.

What did you hope to accomplish when you accepted the provost position in 2010?
One of the things I wanted to accomplish was learn not only the job and do it well, but also come here and learn about the historical legacy of USI and what its goals already are. USI had just developed its first strategic plan and I wanted to be part of the community that could advance the plan to fruition. When I got here, I felt it was very important to reach out to faculty, staff, and students across campus to find out what was important to them and begin to assist in building upon an already successful model. I feel that in order for organizations to be successful, you have to develop partnerships and work with people.

What do you hope to achieve in the future with USI?
The Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting body, will be visiting our campus next year to review our academic programs, assessment plans, etc., and making sure we are prepared for that is a big goal of mine — one of many. I also want to continue developing academic programs that are responsive and receptive to students. With costs rising and students having to find a way to make ends meet, we need to support these students and make sure they achieve their academic goals.
I want to continually push this institution to receive the academic credibility we deserve.

I also want to continually be engaged in the recruitment process and make sure our student body reflects the state of Indiana and the rest of the country. I believe the more students we can recruit here from different walks of life, locations, and diverse situations will make our institution that much stronger.

How does USI compare to other educational environments you’ve seen?
This has been one of the friendliest places I have ever worked. It has a healthy attitude and a very collaborative spirit. USI is without question one of the most unique places I’ve ever worked in regards to people coming together to find ways to improve every part of the campus. I consider USI to be a healthy environment for teaching, learning, and also intellectual development.

Being an outsider, I can tell you one of my first observations about this community, without question, is that this place is one of the greatest secrets that higher education has to offer. Another one of my many goals is to make sure that we remain special while also making sure this secret goes viral. I want to sing from the mountaintops how great the school is, how great the students are, and how great the faculty is. Any chance I get to talk about USI, I use it.

For more information about the University of Southern Indiana, call 812-464-8600 or visit


Street Kings

For the full Fall Festival feature, pick up a copy of the September/October 2015 issue. Aerial photo by Jerry Butts.

As fall arrives in the Tri-state, the city buzzes with anticipation for the annual West Side Nut Club’s Fall Festival held this year Oct. 5-10 on Franklin Street. For the Nut Clubbers themselves, it’s time to watch the hard work and preparation come to fruition.

“We are amateurs putting on a professional event,” says Dennis Nettles, the 2015 Fall Festival publicity chairman and cemetery superintendent for Alexander Memorial Park Cemetery in Evansville. “I can tell you we’re already working on stuff for next year’s festival. That’s just kind of how it goes.”

The history of the West Side Nut Club dates back to 1921, when a group of 11 businessmen and merchants on Evansville’s West Side decided to form an organization to rally for the interests of their side of town. Their motto became “From small acorns, large oaks grow.”

“There was a grocer all the way to a doctor and a lawyer,” says Jeremy Melton, who is this year’s Final Clean Up chairman and works as a purchasing manager at Countrymark Refining and Logistics in Mount Vernon, Indiana. “They were already a melting pot when it started and really it’s stayed that way.”

Above, Rick Decker, Bill Evans (past Nut Club president), and Tim Mitsdarffer. Below, Dennis Nettles, 2015 Fall Fest Publicity Chairman.

Today, the club has 300 active members and around 75 lifetime members. Lifetime members are those who have been a part of the club for 25 years or more, says Melton. All active members serve on one of the 30-plus committees the club organizes to run the festival. Lifetime members are not required to volunteer, but Nettles says they still devote time to the festival.

“We couldn’t do a lot of stuff without those guys who come back and help as well,” he says.

Nettles explains the committees have a chairman, a co-chairman, and a second co-chairman. This method allows the co-chairmen to learn and prepare for when they will be chairman of the committee; the co-chairman will become chairman the next year and the second co-chairman will become chairman in two years.

“The great thing is this just comes together. It’s like organized chaos; it rolls and it goes,” says Nettles.

This year marks the club’s 94th festival; Nettles and Melton credit the longevity of the event to those who came before them.

“We don’t have it down to a science, all the people before us in the 93 years we’ve been doing this, they’re the ones,” says Melton. “We don’t reinvent the wheel each year because it’s already been done. You just try to come in and do just as good of a job as the person before you.”

Follow the Hats

By Bradie Gray • Photo by Heather Gray

West Side Nut Club members are notorious for their straw cowboy hats. Some are filled to the brim — literally — with buttons, ties, and anything that represents the Nut Club or that specific “Nut Clubber.” They can be seen all over the 94th annual Fall Festival, but where did they come from?

“The straw hats date back to the earliest festivals during the pioneer days. It just stuck since then and has become kind of a staple,” says 13-year West Side Nut Club member and Publicity Chairman Dennis Nettles.

Every year, members receive a new bolo tie for their participation in the Fall Festival — most can be seen layered on the straw hats.

“(The hats) also are a way for people to identify a Nut Clubber if there’s a situation, a problem, or if they’re lost,” says Nettles.

The hats assist with the Fall Festival’s “Find-A-Parent” program located on 11th and Franklin Street. Modeled after a system in place by Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, the program was introduced in 2003. The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office created the wristband plan for parents and guardians along with their children.

“The program is free,” says Nettles. “We give the kids a bracelet and put the parents’ names and phone numbers on the inside of it. If they get lost, they can find a sheriff or someone with a Nut Club hat on. We all know what to do in that situation.”

“I recommend that if you have children, make the ‘Find-A-Parent’ booth the first place you go when you get to the festival,” he says.

Booth Boost

Fall Festival serves as biggest fundraiser of the year for Cynthia Heights
By Emily Patton • Photos provided by the Cynthia Heights PTA

Below, the Donut Bank Sausage Slider, which can be found at the Cynthia Heights booth No. 76. 

The first full week in October is circled in pen on calendars throughout the Tri-State. The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is a can’t-miss for the 200,000 attendees. It’s also an event that vendors anticipate possibly even more than those of us craving corn fritters and elephant ears.

Booth No. 76 Cynthia Heights Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, known for its Donut Bank Sausage Slider, a glazed donut with sausage, bacon, and cheese, and Fudge Puppies, a Belgian waffle on a stick dipped in chocolate syrup and whipped cream, earned about $12,000 in profit last year from the week alone. The festival is the organization’s “biggest fundraiser for the whole year,” says PTA member Michelle Hogan.

“Without it, there would be a lot we couldn’t do,” says Hogan, who lives in Evansville. The booth, which sits near St. Joseph Avenue, has been a staple at the festival for the last 16 years.

The proceeds from the Fall Festival help fund Cynthia Heights Elementary School’s events including its annual Celebration of Reading, a program that rewards children for reading as much as they can throughout the school year, and Passport Family Night, which allows the children to “visit” different countries by touring different restaurants in the area and learning about the culture.

“We also use that money to fund a scholarship for needy kids in our school,” says PTA Treasurer Kellie Clodfelter. “If they can’t get a graduation dress or they can’t pay for their fifth grade field trip, we have that money. We also buy Christmas presents for Secret Santa kids whose names weren’t drawn off the tree.”

The proceeds also helped pay for a walking track at Cynthia Heights, making it one of the few Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. elementary schools with a walking track.

“We couldn’t have built it without the Fall Festival,” says Clodfelter, also of Evansville.

The PTA uses 15 to 20 volunteers a day and breaks up the shifts into a few hours at a time. Last year, Cynthia Heights sold cotton candy, but a new product will be offered instead this year because of the manpower it requires making the fluffy candy treat.

Try the booth’s Grippos Flavored Popcorn and pair it with a Ski, a new combo at this year’s festival. Unlike many booths, Cynthia Heights accepts credit and debit cards.

“When we go to conferences for PTA, everyone’s just astounded by what we’re able to accomplish through this fundraiser,” says Clodfelter. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of satisfaction.”

For more information about Cynthia Heights Elementary School, call 812-435-8740 or visit