January 28, 2015
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Best of Evansville 2015

The readers of Evansville Living have spoken
View the full feature in the January/February 2015 issue of Evansville Living.

The writing is officially on the wall and the readers of Evansville Living have spoken. Each year our readers cast ballots and we, as editors of the magazine, share some favorites, too, as we learn the people, restaurants, stores, and more that have made their mark as Evansville’s best.

Ron Rhodes

Most Colorful Community Character
Readers’ Pick

For 20 years WEHT and WTVW Eyewitness News Meteorologist Ronan Rhodes (we know him as Ron) has forecast the weather for the Tri-State. He’s won awards for his skill in predicting precipitation, including the National Weather Service Seal of Approval. Viewers, and readers of this magazine, appreciate that. But we also appreciate Rhode’s humor; he is one funny guy — and that’s what netted him the Most Colorful Community Character award. We love Ron for his devotion to “funky fruit” and the fun he has working. Search for Ron on YouTube and you’ll see him with pal Brick Briscoe, coughing the carols when the coworkers both were ill earlier this winter. What Rhodes really loves best is getting out in the community. “I like talking to kids in school and going to different charity events. I like it better than being on television because you get instant feedback.” We’re betting that Ron gets lots of laughs, high-fives, and other enthusiastic signs of support. tristatehomepage.com

Lic’s Deli & Ice Cream

Best Ice Cream Shop   Readers’ Pick

Readers of Evansville Living voted Lic’s Deli & Ice Cream Best Place for a Milkshake in 2014. The sugary goodness didn’t stop there. This year, readers spoke up again and named the nine retail stores in Evansville Best Ice Cream Shop. In addition to ice cream (with more than 20 flavors), the old fashion soda fountain style ice cream shop serves deli sandwiches, cakes, and cookies. licsdeliandicecream.com

Victory Theatre

Best Place to See Theater   Readers’ Pick

Perhaps best known for being the home to the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, the Victory Theatre once featured a daily program of four vaudeville acts, a movie, a comedy routine, organ music, and a 10-piece orchestra. The theater opened on June 16, 1921 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It underwent an extensive seven-year $15 million renovation in the 1990s. Today, the 1,950-seat venue maintains its tradition of variety by hosting theater companies, local ballet and modern dance, touring productions, and more. 600 Main St., 812-422-1515, victorytheatre.com

AbyssCo

Best Place to Buy Something You Never Knew You Wanted   Editors’ Pick

If you’re looking for pretty much anything, AbyssCo is the place to go. With clothing, art, jewelry, and everything in between, AbyssCo is a hidden treasure trove of unique finds. After six years, the store has amassed a quirky collection of items including their shop cat. “We’re not an average consignment shop,” says owner Kristie Bondy. “We only take things that are different or interesting. I think our questionable attitude sets us apart. We don’t like to be predictable or boring.” 4851 Monroe Ave., 812-491-6661, facebook.com/abyssco

Bippus Frame Shop

Best Custom Framing   Readers’ Pick

There isn’t a framing challenge that can’t be solved for brother and sister duo Tom Bippus and Jill Isaac. The third-generation owners of Bippus Frame Shop, located at 200 Cherry St., have custom framed everything from golf clubs to puppets, and even roofing shingles. Each piece is crafted individually and every frame is custom-made. 200 Cherry St., 812-422-3899, bippusframeshop.com

Buffalo Wild Wings

Best Chicken Wings   Readers’ Pick

When your hardest decision all day is between traditional or boneless wings, you know everything is going to be all right! With two locations in Evansville, Buffalo Wild Wings offers 16 signature sauces, five seasonings, and weekly promotions — Wing Tuesdays and Boneless Thursdays. So mark your calendars, catch a game, and prepare to feast. 5405 Pearl Drive, 812-423-9464; 715 N. Green River Road, 812-471-9464, buffalowildwings.com

Brinker's Jewelers

Best Jewelry Store   Readers’ Pick

The Brinkers are behind the third generation family-owned jewelry store, Brinker’s Jewelers, that has served the Tri-State for 43 years. Evansville Living readers voted Brinker’s as Best Jeweler in 2014, and the tradition continues this year. Shop for the perfect engagement ring, wedding bands, fine jewelry, and watches, and grab a bite to eat at Café 111, also located next door to the jewelry store, and voted Best Workday Lunch Spot. 111 S. Green River Road, 812-476-0651, brinkersjewelers.com

Koch Immersive Theater

Best Place for Star Gazing   Editors’ Pick

Explore space and see the stars up close in the Koch Immersive Theater, which was the centerpiece of a $14.1 million renovation and expansion by the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science. Inside the theater, two digital video projects beam images onto the entire surface of the 40-foot wide dome. While you can see traditional planetarium shows, you also can be immersed in full-dome cinema utilizing Digistar® projection technology. The theater offers five movies for both children and adults and can accommodate film screenings, lectures, group meetings, teleconferencing, and more. 411 S.E. Riverside Drive, 812-425-2406, emuseum.org

Bonefish Grill

Best Seafood Restaurant   Readers’ Pick

Its wide variety of fish selections from around the globe have given Bonefish Grill the readers’ choice of Best Seafood Restaurant. From Rainbow Trout, an Idaho Trout that has a tender, flaky texture, to the Chilean Sea Bass, which is rich, melt-in-your-mouth savory, Bonefish cooks its market-fresh fish over a wood-burning grill. 6401 E. Lloyd Expressway, 812-401-3474, bonefishgrill.com

Goodwill

Best Thrift Store   Readers’ Pick

During the Great Flood of 1937, Evansville Goodwill Industries worked 24 hours a day serving the community in any way — providing a place to stay, storage for furniture, clothing. Today, Goodwill continues to aid those in need and accepts donations at its four retail stores in Evansville and 10 more in Southern Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Each store is stocked with different merchandise every day. Everything in the store is donated so shoppers will never know what priceless or unique item they will find. goodwill.org

Western Ribeye & Ribs

Best Salad Bar   Readers’ Pick

Western Ribeye & Ribs co-owner David Nix jokes that if you take away the restaurant’s salad bar, you have to take away fried chicken from Colonel Sanders. The restaurant opened in 1975 and was the second restaurant in Evansville to offer a salad bar. (Andy’s Steak and Barrel, now closed, had the first.) The fresh ingredients and vegetable toppings of the create-your-own salad are what sets Western Ribeye & Ribs’ salads apart. 1401 N. Boeke Road, 812-476-5405, westernribeye.com

Monte Skelton

Best Local Musician   Readers’ Pick

For Monte Skelton, music is a way of life. It’s been that way before Evansville Living learned of his ability to play 22 musical instruments. The University of Evansville alumnus teaches music during the day at Joshua Academy and plays music in the evenings. He plays in two groups — Factor: Primo and Monte & Shelly. Through playing music at festivals and venues around Evansville, he says he has been fortunate enough to gain loyal followers. facebook.com/monteskelton

Karama

Best Place to Get Into Africa   Editors’ Pick

While visiting Ethiopia, Dyan Larmey saw the poverty that struck the country, especially the women. She wanted to help. To make a living, the Ethiopian women made different items like jewelry and scarves to sell, and that’s when the idea of Karama was born. Located in Haubstadt, Indiana, Karama, which means dignity in Arabic, offers a wide variety of eclectic and handmade items from different African artisan partners. These items bring a piece of Africa to Southern Indiana. “In Evansville, we offer a glimpse into the capabilities of Africa. We wanted to address the poverty in Africa and we wanted to make a difference,” says Jill Morley, executive director of Karama. 3200 Schroeder Road, Haubstadt, IN, 812-867-9656, karamagifts.com

D’Alto Studio of Performing Arts

Best Hidden Gem   Readers’ Pick

Tucked away on Stockwell Road, D’Alto Studio of Performing Arts offers a variety of instruction in arts like improvisation, stage combat, and ukulele. “There is no big flashing sign, and we have no advertising budget,” says owner Jennifer Dalto. “The studio provides that warm home away from home. The arts help us deal with the everyday stresses in our lives.” With a stage, the studio produces 12 to 15 theatrical productions, dance shows, and concerts each year. Students of all ages are welcome. 303 N. Stockwell Road, 812-402-4166, daltoarts.com

Jeff Lyons

Best Local TV Personality   Readers’ Pick

After working for 14News for 26 years, Chief Meteorologist Jeff Lyons knows weather. Rain, sleet, or shine, he is dedicated to delivering the forecast to the Evansville area with a smile, and enjoys providing the people with information they may find useful. “I hope people trust me, like me, and respect the job I do and that I’m committed to it. I’m humble, and it’s always nice to get recognition. But no matter the votes, we’ll be reporting the weather day in and day out.” 14news.com

Tin Man Brewing Co.

Best Local Brewery   Readers’ Pick

Evansville is a beer town and if you disagree, have a drink at Tin Man Brewing Co. The microbrewery opened on Franklin Street in 2012 and utilizes a mash filtration system, which uses less water and fuel to produce more sugars from grain (around 18 percent more than normal systems). Tin Man made a business decision when determining to use cans to sell its products, and an environmental one. “Canned beer stands up better to oxygen and light,” Tin Man President Nick Davidson told Evansville Living in 2014. “By canning the beer, we not only deliver a better product, but also do more to protect the environment.” 1430 W. Franklin St., 812-618-3227, tinmanbrewing.com

Anna Hargis

Biggest Cheerleader for Little People   Editors’ Pick

Omaha, Nebraska, native Anna Hargis is committed to working for children and has been ever since she started volunteering for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Anna came to Evansville in 2004 to study at the University of Evansville. Though Anna joined the program to change the lives of the kids she mentors, her own life and perspective was changed as well. “I hope people see I’m passionate about this,” the 28-year-old BBBS executive director says. “I believe in the program and the kids, and I’m proud of it. I want to connect people with the program, and everyone can make an impact here.” 101 Plaza East Blvd., 812-425-6076, bbbsov.org

Helfrich Hills Golf Course

Best Public Golf Course   Readers’ Pick

Working on your golf swing never stops and Helfrich Hills Golf Course has been voted as the best public course to do just that. Built in 1923, the course was designed by renowned architect Tom Bendelow. The 18-hole par-71 course, located across from Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, has tree-lined fairways and features many hills and valleys. It is the host site of the Tri-State Amateur and U.S.G.A. Public Links Qualifying rounds. 1550 Mesker Park Drive, 812-435-6075, helfrichmensgolfclub.com

Red Pandas at Mesker Park Zoo

Best Furry Faces   Editors’ Pick

The colder the months — the furrier the face. Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is home to two red pandas, Celeste and Junjie, who love the colder temperatures of an Indiana winter that are typical in their native southeastern Asian habitats. Housed in the Discovery Center at the zoo since arriving in 2013, Celeste is a 8-year-old female who was born at the Potawatami Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. Her counterpart, Junjie or “handsome hero” in Chinese, joined the zoo in July 2014 and is a 1-year-old male red panda who Marketing Director Abigail Adler calls “spunky.” He was born at the Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri. When not having fun playing, the red pandas enjoy sleeping on trees with all four legs dangling. 1545 Mesker Park Drive, 812-435-6143, meskerparkzoo.com

The Bauerhaus

Best Wedding Reception Venue   Readers’ Pick

The Bauer family’s ties to Darmstadt, Indiana, date to 1880 when Michael Bauer came with his parents from Darmstadt, Germany. Michael and his wife Barbara would hold picnic lunches and invite friends over on Sundays. The celebrations have continued 135 years later to wedding ceremonies and receptions at The Bauerhaus, which provides full menus, bar services, wedding cakes, transportation, music, lighting, and entertainment. 13605 Darmstadt Road, 812-759-9000, thebauerhaus.com

Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science

Best Public Art   Readers’ Pick

If you’re looking for art, the search stops here. Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science’s permanent art collection is of American and European painting, graphic works, and sculpture dating from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Tour the permanent exhibitions such as the still life and landscape galleries, or stop in throughout the year for the rotating exhibitions. Each year since 1948, the museum hosts the Mid-States Exhibition to showcase emerging local artists. 411 S.E. Riverside Drive, 812-425-2406, emuseum.org

Raben Tire & Auto Service

Best Automotive Repair   Readers’ Pick

It’s the Raben family mission to be the very best, and Evansville Living readers agree they have done just that. Raben Tire opened in 1952 and has grown to one of the largest tire and service companies in the Midwest with 25 locations in five states. Six sons of the original owner, Butch Raben, help operate the business still today. Raben offers services such as oil changes, brakes, alignments, shocks, batteries, preventive maintenance, and more. rabentire.com

Azzip Pizza

Best Restaurant Opened in 2014   Readers’ Pick

Grippo’s, Ski, and pizza — there’s no better combination! Purdue University alumnus Brad Niemeier won the Burton D. Morgan Plan Competition with his idea for Azzip Pizza, a quick and casual style of ordering pizza. Azzip, located at 5225 Pearl Drive in Evansville and 8680 High Pointe Drive in Newburgh, Indiana, promises crispy perfection in front of your eyes in 2.5 minutes. Pairing with former Evansville Country Club Executive Chef Blake Kollker in spring 2012, Azzip opened in early 2014. Azzip delivers creative recipe combinations such as The Westsider with crushed Grippo’s potato chips and sprinkled Ski soda. Azzip Pizza, 5225 Pearl Drive, Evansville; 8680 High Pointe Drive, Newburgh, IN, azzippizza.me

Don Mattingly, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Best Local Sports Star   Readers’ Pick

No matter the level of success Don Mattingly achieves, he proudly still calls Evansville home. The manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers played baseball for Reitz Memorial High School. During his junior year, Memorial went undefeated and won the state title in 1978. The school went on a 59-game win streak that ended the following year in the state championship. “Evansville’s a blue-collar town,” Mattingly told Evansville Living in 2011. “When you come from that part of the country, you work hard at everything you do. You work hard, and you play hard — for your mom and dad, for your family, for the people who helped you get there.” He spent 14 years playing for the New York Yankees, later coaching the Yankees, Dodgers, and earning his manager role in 2011. losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com

K.slademade

Best Thing for Your Stuff   Editors’ Pick

In 2010, Kelsea Slade wanted a creative outlet and found handbags were her calling. She noticed there was a hole in the market, and in response she created K.slademade. “I love working with leather. It’s a really beautiful material, and I love the way it takes its own shape,” says Slade. “Handbags are something that speaks to all women. Every woman needs a handbag, so it’s a good way to reach everybody, except maybe men.” kslademade.com

West Side Nut Club Fall Festival

Best Free Event   Readers’ Pick

The weeklong West Side Nut Club Fall Festival should be considered a holiday. This free event attracts more than 200,000 people to Evansville’s West Side with its free entertainment, carnival attractions, amateur talent competitions, 137 food booths, and on the final day, a parade. The fall festival will be in its 94th year this October. nutclubfallfestival.com

PetSmart

Best Pet Service   Readers’ Pick

Cat cuddles and puppy loving — your pets are an extension of your family. It’s important to find the best services for wellness and training. Voted Best Pet Grooming by Evansville readers in 2012, PetSmart, 215 N. Burkhardt Road, offers grooming seven days a week, training from accredited trainers for positive, consistent behavior from your pet, and veterinary care at the Banfield Pet Hospital®, which has full-service veterinary care providers with wellness programs for ongoing preventive care. 215 N. Burkhardt Road, 812-476-6462, petsmart.com

Tin Fish Restaurant

Best Place to Get Hooked   Editors’ Pick

No need to fish for compliments here. The seafood at Tin Fish speaks for itself. With an interior that is reminiscent of a small sea harbor town, the restaurant offers some of the best seafood in the Tri-State. After opening up shop in downtown Newburgh, Indiana, in 2007, the fish joint baited hungry customers with their reputation from the 11 other locations in Florida, California, and Minnesota and hooked them with the fish and chips. A delicious filet of white cod is battered and fried, then placed alongside a heaping pile of golden crosscut fries. It’s a meal that’s sure to whet any landlubber’s appetite. 300 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN, 812-490-7000

Bar Louie

Best Cocktail Menu   Readers’ Pick

Over the years, Bar Louie has been a reader favorite in multiple categories such as Best Bloody Mary, Best Suburban Hot Spot, and Best Bar for Grownups. Bar Louie, which is located at 7700 Eagle Crest Blvd., again takes the crown for its extensive cocktail menu from the Louie’s Sangria to the Peach Lightning. 7700 Eagle Crest Blvd., 812-476-7069, barlouieamerica.com

Hmmm. Were we asking for readers to name the best interior design firm or individual? Readers weren’t sure, and SugarBakers Home Fashions (a firm of designers) and Kip Farmer (a designer) each received the most top place votes. We’re happy to present the Best of Evansville to both. 

SugarBakers Home Fashions

Best Interior Designer   Readers’ Pick - Group

At SugarBakers Home Fashions, it is all about the customer and his or her vision to make a house a home. “The operative word would be team,” says Manager Kendi Speakes. “More heads are better than one. We focus on the clients and tailor it to them. We don’t want people to say their home is a SugarBaker home because we are bringing their vision to life.” The team includes Ann Pate, owner, Kendi Speakes, manager, Amber Clark, assistant manager, Stephanie Eidson, inside sales specialist, designers Servane Dicus, Jodi Murtha, and Brittney Schipp, and sales assistants Alexandria Dickenson and Chrissi Kuhn. 1100 Tutor Lane, 812-475-1344, sugarbakers.us

Kip Farmer

Best Interior Designer   Readers’ Pick - Individual

Being an interior designer for 28 years, Kip Farmer has plenty of creative flair to go around. After opening his firm in 2000, he has designed both residentially and commercially around the Tri-State, and even in other states, but his favorite place to land is Evansville. “I think of myself as Evansville focused. I’ve had a lot of fun doing projects here, and I love being a part of the creative work force Evansville fosters. I always enjoy coming back.” 812-453-2153, kipfarmer.com

New Harmony, Indiana

Best Small Town in a 50-Mile Radius   Readers’ Pick

Only around 25 miles from Downtown Evansville, New Harmony, Indiana, is a historic town on the Wabash River that attracts visitors from all over for its art, architecture, culture, serenity, and beauty. This small-town community was founded in 1814 by a German communal society. Today, New Harmony offers year-round festivals and special events or an any day of the week escape. visitnewharmony.com

Computers Plus

Best Computer Repair   Readers’ Pick

There are few moments more frustrating than working with a computer that needs repairing. Computers Plus is open six days a week and offers computer repair for both Apple and PC computers, tablets, and phones. Schedule appointments online, talk to a specialist, or receive in-store lessons. Computers Plus also has inventory ready for purchase from computers to printers, and all other parts in between. 301 S. Green River Road, 812-477-1123, computersplus.com

Dan’s Comp

Best Bicycle Shop   Readers’ Pick

Starting in Mount Vernon, Indiana, in 1986 and operating a shop in Evansville since 2012, Dan’s Comp offers not only the best selection of bikes and gear, but also provides great service to its customers. The shop makes a point to be involved in each community it assists. “When someone comes into one of our shops, they will be greeted by the most experienced and trusted sales and service staff in the Tri-State,” says John Wilson, retail bike shop manager of Dan’s Comp. 1412 S. Green River Road, 812-477-8828, danscompbikes.com

Marc Hafele at Impulse Hair Studio and Day Spa

Best Hair Stylist   Readers’ Pick

“We build relationships before building a business,” is Marc Hafele’s motto. After owning Impulse Hair Studio and Day Spa for 29 years, Hafele emphasizes sincerity with his customers. His business is more than a job; it’s a career that allows him to make a difference. “I don’t call them clients; I call them friends. I’m honored by how deep we get to touch people like no other career can.” Hafele never stops reinventing himself or growing, and every year he chooses to start over. 428 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN, 812-858-5554, impulsehair.com

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant

Best Place for Breakfast   Readers’ Pick

Why is Cracker Barrel loved by so many? Dining at the country restaurant brings back memories of family and home cooking. Cracker Barrel offers a home-style country breakfast all day long with traditional favorites such eggs, homemade buttermilk biscuits, grits, gravy, and sausage patties to buttermilk pancakes with a side of bacon and orange slices. It’s a home-cooked breakfast away from home! 8215 Eagle Lake Drive, 812-479-8788, crackerbarrel.com

Thyme in the Kitchen

Best Place to Sharpen Your Knife Skills   Editors’ Pick

When the city’s longtime kitchen store and cooking class center closed two years ago, foodies craving the latest in cookware and instruction were bereft. We can thank Thyme in the Kitchen for stepping up with the opening of its bright Franklin Street store just over one year ago. Owners Marcia and Gil Jochem host as many as 20 or more classes each month, on weekdays and weekends, in the evening and afternoons. Friday evenings are typically “Date Night” classes. On Feb. 13, students will create an All Chocolate Valentine’s Day dinner: spinach and pear salad with a chocolate vinaigrette, cocoa rubbed baby back ribs, baked beans with cocoa, and chocolate stout cake. After cooking and dining, guests can join the Mardis Gras Franklin Street Pub Crawl right outside the door. 2308 W. Franklin St., 812-399-2726, thymeinthekitchenevv.com

Winzerwald Winery

Best Regional Winery   Readers’ Pick

The Winzerwald Winery tasting room is located at 2021 W. Franklin St. The tasting room serves a flight of six wines of the customer’s choice for $5 and is an extension of the winery located in Bristow, Indiana. Named apart of the Best Reason to Go to Franklin Street in the 2013, small tables for conversation and chilled bottles that are ready for serving await. 2021 W. Franklin St., 812-423-2427, winzerwaldwinery.com

@EvansvilleWatch

Best Local Twitter Account   Readers’ Pick

If you grew up in a household that listened to the police scanner — or maybe you enjoy that hobby still today — it’s time to join Twitter. The Best Local Twitter Account as voted on by readers is @EvansvilleWatch, a social media incident alert and public safety information site founded by Evansville native and former EMS worker Bill Merkel in 2009. Merkel and volunteers monitor the Evansville Police Department scanner and other official sources and tweet out, live time, community news and information: local incidents, traffic alerts, weather, crime reports, and more. More than 35,000 people follow this hyper-local, credible staple on Twitter. twitter.com/evansvillewatch

Café 111

Best Workday Lunch Spot   Readers’ Pick

The title of Best Workday Lunch Spot is a tricky one. Can it serve as an escape when you need it and can it also be a quick grab-and-go? Café 111 answers the call located in Brinker’s Jewelers, 111 S. Green River Road, Ste. D. Enjoy delicious soups and sandwiches, breakfast pastries, or gourmet salads Monday through Friday, with lunch hours on Saturday. 111 S. Green River Road, Ste. D, 812-401-8111, cafe-111.com

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The Living Record

We remember those we lost in 2014

Father Time eventually catches up with us all. Every year, we mourn the passing of members of our community who have made contributions to their jobs, their families, to civic organizations, and much more.

And it is altogether appropriate that, as we turn the calendar to 2015, we celebrate some of those who died in the past year. We poured through death records and obituaries to find notable men and women who helped make the Tri-State a little bit better when they left than it was when they were born.

We hope this collection of mothers, fathers, teachers, veterans, athletes, artists, doctors, and so much more honors the uniqueness in us all.

Joseph S. Schnee, 77 — Jan. 5, 2014
A former member of the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, Joe was known as a funny, outgoing person who never met a stranger. He owned North Park Liquor and later Economy Liquor for 17 years. He designed and built his own home off Orchard Road, made from the bricks of old Central High School. Joe was a former member of Germania Maennerchor and the Eagles for many years.

Dean H. Davis, 94 — Jan. 27, 2014
A nationally known watercolor artist, Dean was the 2010 Vanderburgh County Arts Award Winner. He came to Evansville in 1957 as the art director for the Evansville Printing Corp., and retired from Keller-Crescent Co. in 1981 to focus completely on painting. His paintings now hang in galleries around the world. Dean was a proud member of many watercolor societies and taught many watercolor workshops across the U.S.

Daniel K. Sparrow, 53 — Jan. 28, 2014
For 25 years, Dan proudly led the North High School baseball team to success on the diamond. His teams won SIAC, sectional, regional, and semi-state championships. Dan twice led the Huskies to the state finals, finishing as runners-up both times. He resigned from coaching to battle cancer. He was recognized as the 2013 District Coach of the Year on Jan. 24, 2014.

Robert E. “Gene” Myers, 101 — Feb. 4, 2014
Gene lived his first 24 years on a farm in Vigo County, Indiana, before hitchhiking his way to Evansville in 1936. He took a job at Whirlpool and worked there for 35 years before retiring. Gene was a self-taught man of many talents, including woodworking, gardening, genealogy, photography, music, and bowling. He was married to his wife Beatrice for 71 years.

Donald Engbers, 70 — Feb. 8, 2014
Donald never quite got to the Big Leagues, but he did spend 9 years playing Minor League Baseball after signing a contract with the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 17. He helped coach baseball at his alma mater, Reitz Memorial High School, for several years. Donald worked for 25 years as a sales representative at Lever Bros. He participated with the Hot Stove League in recent years and served in the Army National Guard.

Don Waterman, 89 — Feb. 8, 2014
At Reitz High School, Don was known as “Mr. Football.” He graduated from Reitz in 1942 and was a coach and equipment manager for the Panthers up to the time of his death. Players, both on and off the field, knew him as a mentor. A tank commander in World War II, he earned the Purple Heart after sustaining injuries at the Battle of St. Leu, France. Don was a member of The Disabled American Veterans, VFW Post #1114, the American Legion Eugene Pate Post, and West Side Civitan.

Margaret Lily Darr, 88 — Feb. 23, 2014
A native of England, she joined the British army at the age of 18 and was stationed in London. She came to the U.S. in 1945, arriving with her husband Dorris E. “Woody” Darr aboard the Queen Mary. Margaret came to Evansville, and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. She worked in the dietary departments at Harrison High School and Welborn Hospital. She also volunteered at several Evansville nursing homes.

Eugene W. Elpers, 78 — March 2, 2014
For 52 years, Gene and his wife Rita were the owners and operators of the Log Inn in Haubstadt, Indiana. Gene was in charge of all cooking operations in the kitchen, including chicken frying. Gene was a member of the St. James Catholic Church, Haubstadt Chamber of Commerce, Knights of St. John in Haubstadt, and St. James Men’s Club.

Dr. Sylvia Arroyo — March 13, 2014
Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Dr. Arroyo earned her pre-med degree at the University of Rochester in New York and her medical degree from the Autonomous University of Medicine in Mexico City. After becoming an anesthesiologist, she came to Evansville as a solo practitioner with a group of anesthesiologists at St. Mary’s Hospital, where she stayed for 25 years.

Father Robert A. Deig, 88 — March 28, 2014
Father Deig served the Catholic Diocese of Evansville for 58 years in a variety of roles. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1950. He taught at Mater Dei High School and later served 15 years as superintendent of Reitz Memorial High School. Father Deig served as Dean of the diocese’s Washington Deanery, and as Dean of the Princeton Deanery. In all, he served eight parishes in the diocese.

Leo Edward Buttrum Jr., 87 — April 2, 2014
After graduating from Bosse High School, Leo played center for the basketball team at Evansville College. He then served in the Marines, before earning an accounting degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. Leo was a Certified Public Accountant with an office at 200 Main St. for 35 years. He could watch river traffic and hydroplane races out his office windows. Leo became a Master Mason in 1961, Reed Lodge #316. He also was a member of the Scottish Rite, Hadi Shrine Temple, and No Ruz Grotto.

Margaret “Mitzy” Cravens, 84 — April 18, 2014
Mitzy founded Earl’s Muffler and Transmission in 1952. At a time when few females worked as mechanics, she was well known for her knowledge and certifications in the field. For some time, Mitzy was the only licensed female automotive inspector in the State of Indiana. She also was a custom exhaust specialist. She loved the business and continued to work into her 70s.

Abigail Ann Weissmann, 14 — April 19, 2014
Abbi loved dogs. Her family owned two of them, Riley and Mandy. But her wish was to meet Stan, the dog from the television show “Dog With A Blog.” The nonprofit group Wish Upon A Star was able to make that happen just a few weeks before Abbi died after a battle with pulmonary hypertension. Abbi loved horses, too, and rode for many years at Hobby Horse Acres in Chandler, Indiana. Abbi attended Chandler Elementary School, Hebron Elementary School, and Plaza Middle School, where she had been a Girl Scout in Troop #191.

Veronika Samila, 92 — April 25, 2014
At the age of 17, she was rounded up by the German army and placed on a train to be relocated. She jumped from the train and walked for two weeks to make it back to her home. But she was then rounded up again and sent to a forced labor camp, before eventually being released and making it to Austria, where she met her husband, Mikolaj. She came to the U.S. in 1950 and became a citizen in 1961. She lived many years in Centralia, Missouri, but was buried in Evansville, home of her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.

Jerry C. Smith, 67 — May 2, 2014
He was better known as James Oliver Stagg, the pseudonym he used during his days as a disc jockey on WJPS. A generation of Evansville teenagers grew up listening to Jerry play top 40 tunes on the radio. He was an avid collector of vintage vinyl records and loved to fish. Jerry was a veteran of the Army National Guard, and a member of American Legion Funkhouser Post 8, the West Side Nut Club, the Tri-State Hot Stove League, and Water for the People.

Ruth Haas, 100 — May 31, 2014
Ruth was a longtime fixture at Scott Elementary School, where she taught for 24 years and served as principal for 11 years. Ruth was a member of the Business and Professional Woman’s Club, Delta Kappa Gamma, AARP, and retired Evansville and Indiana teachers associations.

Phyllis James, 86 — May 31, 2014
Phyllis retired after 40 years as the office manager of Loge News Company, but she wasn’t ready to settle down. Instead, she opened G&S Sportsman’s, which she ran along with her son for 10 years. Phyllis also played violin for 33 years with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.

Father Gregory Chamberlin, OSB, 75 — June 10, 2014
Father Chamberlin was ordained into the priesthood in 1965. He served in a variety of capacities at Saint Meinrad College for 25 years. Then in 1991, he came to Evansville to begin a 23-year assignment as pastor of St. Benedict Parish — which later became St. Benedict Cathedral. In 2011, the National Catholic Educational Association awarded Father Chamberlin the Distinguished Pastor Award in acknowledgement of his pastoral contribution and leadership.

Laverne “Vern” Hayes, 82 — June 30, 2014
In 1969, 22 years before he retired from Whirlpool in Evansville, Vern started running. By his own count, Vern competed in five marathons, 25 half marathons, and 614 road races and won 400 first-place awards. He logged 71,240 miles and wore 92 pairs of running shoes. He was an avid Indiana Hoosiers basketball fan and a longtime golfer, recording 13 holes-in-one.

Melvin Joseph Wannemuehler, 86 — July 2, 2014
A graduate of Reitz Memorial High School in 1945, he immediately then entered the U.S. Navy. Mel started working with computers while in the Navy, then continued that education at Evansville College. He became Evansville’s first data processing manager society president and led the computer departments at Kent Plastics and SIGECO before his retirement in 1992. Mel also was an early advocate of soccer in Evansville. He was the first coach of the North High School soccer team.

Dr. Kishor Bhatt, 67 — July 8, 2014
A pediatrician, Dr. Bhatt served the Tri-State since 1977, with offices in Evansville and Boonville, Indiana. He also served as medical director of the Sagamore Health Network. He volunteered much of his spare time, receiving awards from St. Mary’s Hospital, Catholic Charities of Evansville, and Tri-State Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. In 2013, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke presented Dr. Bhatt with an award from Cultural Society of India. He served for many years as the president of the Cultural Society of India, as well as the Tri-State Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.

William H. Young Sr., 89 — Aug. 10, 2014
After serving in the 3220 Quartermaster Division in World War II, William married and came to Evansville, where he raised his eight children. He retired from Sterling Brewery in 1988 and served with the Mason Brothers Memorial Chapel. He was the Democratic Precinct Committeeman in the Fourth Ward for more than 30 years.

Kristy Kelley, 27 — Aug. 15, 2014
After going missing for nearly a month, Kristy’s body was found in her car, submerged in a lake just outside of Boonville, Indiana. While it ended in tragedy, the search for Kristy — who leaves behind two young children — brought the Boonville community together for weeks, with hundreds of people searching the vast open areas of Warrick County. Those volunteers came together one final time on Sept. 20 for a memorial service to say a final goodbye.

Daniel Wertz Mitchell, 86 — Aug. 31, 2014
Daniel started working in the transit department at Old National Bank in 1950 — he opened and delivered mail. That was after his stint in the Army and his graduation from Indiana University. He would work his way up the company ladder, eventually becoming CEO in 1980. He retired in 1994, but stayed active with the bank. He was a member of several community groups, including Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, University of Evansville, Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, Evansville Dance Theatre, Junior Achievement, and Habitat for Humanity. He was inducted into the Evansville Business Hall of Fame in 2008.

Rick Davis, 45 — Sept. 3, 2014
Never one to shy from controversy, Rick challenged Democratic Party leaders with a bid for mayor of Evansville in 2011. He studied journalism at the University of Southern Indiana, and held positions at Warrick Publishing, the Henderson Gleaner, and the Evansville Courier & Press. He then entered politics in 2008, winning the race for Vanderburgh County treasurer. Davis battled Crohn’s Disease — which is an inflammatory bowel disease — for many years. Complications from surgery for Crohn’s caused his untimely death.

Lynne Mlady, 71 — Sept. 17, 2014
Lynne taught personal communications and advertising at the University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana, and Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. She also was an author and worked as a copywriter for WTVW. She was an award-winning creative director for Keller-Crescent Co. She served the Advertising Club of Evansville, Friends of Angel Mounds,Evansville Civic Theatre, the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, and was a member of the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardeners.

James “Jimbo” Bruce, 99 — Oct. 2, 2014
After earning All-State honors at Bedford High School in basketball and track, Jim went to work for Indiana Bell and was transferred to Evansville in 1938. He enlisted with the U.S. Marines during World War II, and personally met President Franklin D. Roosevelt during one of the President’s visits to the Pacific. Jim was badly wounded at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Despite that, before his death, he was believed to be the oldest living World War II veteran in Indiana. Jim belonged to the Order of the Purple Heart, Veteran of Foreign Wars Post #2953, American Legion Post #8, and Disabled Veterans Post #7, among several other organizations.

Gwendolyn Eades Koch, 93 — Oct. 17, 2014
During World War II, Gwen travelled the country singing to the troops. After returning home and attending The Julliard School in New York for her master’s degree, she taught music at the University of Evansville. An advocate for education, Gwen was one of the founders of Evansville Day School. Along with her husband Louis Koch Jr., she restored a number of homes in Downtown Evansville. She received the Historic Preservation award from the City of Evansville in 2002.

Joseph Dulin, 79 — Oct. 23, 2014
Joseph, a native of Evansville, was an honored and accomplished educator. He became the first African American Lay Principal of a Catholic School, was the founding principal of Roberto Clemente Student Development Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, attended the Million Man March in 1995, has been featured in magazines and on ABC, NBC, CNN, and BET, was a special advisor to presidential candidate Al Gore, was featured in an exhibit at the Evansville African American Museum, and much more.

Deborah Hartz, 60 — Nov. 20, 2014
Deborah died at home after a four-year battle with cancer. She worked for 37 years for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. She had many positions for the district including both elementary and middle school teacher, district math supervisor, a reading and math coach, curriculum coach, and district coach. She also served on curriculum committees, book adoption committees, co-chaired the last two revisions of the teacher evaluation rubrics, and led the initial curriculum-mapping project for the school district. She also was an active member, officer, and representative of the Evansville Teachers Association, Indiana State Teacher Association, and National Educators Association. She was honored multiple times locally and nationally. She was named the Indiana Horace Mann Teacher of the Year in 2013.

James “Jim” Louis Taylor, 89 — Nov. 20, 2014
Jim graduated from Bosse High School in 1943. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, where he was stationed in Europe with the 95th Troup Carrier Squadron. Jim worked at International Steel and was a firefighter for the Evansville Fire Department for 32 years, beginning his career in 1948. He was treasurer, director, and CEO of Evansville Fireman’s Federal Credit Union. Jim was a member of Masonic Lessing Lodge #464, Scottish Rite, Hadi Shrine, Warrick County Shrine Club, Swords of Bunker Hill, Major of the Uniform Bodies, and was a Kentucky colonel.

Howard J. Pemberton, 96 — Dec. 15, 2014
Howard was born in Lynnville, Indiana, on March 3, 1918, to the late Teddy and Pearl (Young) Pemberton. He graduated from Lynnville High School in 1936. He began working for Traylor Brothers Construction Company building the Evansville Dress Plaza after the 1937 flood, he went on to work for Sunbeam Electric Company until 1941, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Howard was a World War II veteran, who served in the Philippines as an aide to Gen. McArthur and was honorably discharged in 1946. After returning from the Army, he had a bread route and later a milk route. In 1950, he purchased the McWilliams Hardware Store in Lynnville, and renamed it, Pemberton Hardware Store. Howard ran this store until his retirement at the age of 67 in 1985. Howard was an appointed member of the first Warrick County School Board in 1962.

James M. Schreiber, 80 — Dec. 19, 2014
Jim had a 40-year career at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. He taught seventh and eighth grade at Dexter School. He also was the journalism advisor at Bosse High School, science teacher at Harper School, and seventh and eighth grade teacher at Howard Roosa School. For 14 years he was the advisor to the award-winning school newspaper at North High School. During this time, Jim was selected as one of 14 outstanding journalism teachers in the U.S. by the Newspaper Fund, Inc. Jim received the Distinguished Service Award from the Evansville Jaycees in 1968, being named the city’s outstanding young man. Jim was the first auctioneer on the first Channel 9 TV auction.

Wayne Davidson, 83 — Dec. 24, 2014
A 1949 graduate of Reitz High School and a 1956 grad University of Evansville, he served in the U.S. Army from 1953 until 1955. Wayne began his professional career as a sales representative with Mead Johnson Nutrition Company. After a series of positions, with increasing responsibilities, he became president and CEO of Mead Johnson in 1975. Wayne served as a director of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association, the Whitehead Institute of BioMedical Research, and Old National Bank.
 

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Silent Strength

University of Evansville alum plays stoic bodyguard on Netflix series
University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow portrays a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

Behind the political force of Frank Underwood on the Netflix original series “House of Cards” is the stoic and ever-present force of Edward Meechum. University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow plays Meechum, a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and his wife Claire, portrayed by Robin Wright. It’s a role that the 38-year-old Brooklyn, New York, resident calls “challenging and exhausting” because of the silent internal rumbling of the character he portrays in the political drama series based in Washington, D.C.

Darrow, a native of Kansas City, earned his bachelor’s degree in theater performance and literature from UE in 1998 before continuing his training at New York University where he received his master of fine arts degree. His extensive resume includes starring roles in numerous plays such as, “Richard III,” which was performed at London’s Old Vic, among other venues. In “Richard III,” Darrow acted alongside Spacey, who played Richard, which introduced Darrow to “House of Cards.” The award-winning series debuted in February 2013 and returns for its third season Feb. 27 on Netflix.

How did the University of Evansville Department of Theatre shape your career?

Going to Evansville prepared me to audition for conservatories. I ended up at a conservatory in New York (New York University). I’m sure I wouldn’t have the career I have if I hadn’t come to New York when I did. As an actor, I certainly developed quite a bit (at UE) due to the extraordinary talent and efforts of the faculty.

What led you to your decision to study in Evansville?

I had auditioned for John David Lutz the summer before I graduated high school (Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas). I started talking with him and eventually I visited the campus for a long weekend. I actually will never forget sitting in on John David Lutz’s acting classes and seeing the work to me that was incredibly impressive and mind-blowing and at the end of that work, he was pointing out what was working and him saying, ‘Here’s where you can go deeper. Here’s where you can go harder.’ It confirmed to me that I was at a serious place where the work of acting was viewed as something that could take a lifetime of exploring and finding its roots.

What roles did you play while at UE?

I was in a couple Shakespeare plays. There was an “As You Like It” (Jacques) and “Macbeth” (Banquo). I played Konstantin Treplev in “The Seagull” pretty poorly, but I got the shot to do it, which was cool. I was in a couple studio shows. I had a lot of opportunities there, in fact. I got the chance to do a lot of different things.

What classic role do you really want to play?

There are so many I want to play. There’s a couple I want to do again. I would like to play Biff Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” I would like to play Tom in “The Glass Menagerie.” I would like to play Edmund Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” again. I got to do it once a few years back. I think I got somewhere with it but I would love to get back at it. There are those parts that kind of stay with you in a weird way. They are still offering their secrets and I would love to hammer it out.

Talk about the all-star cast of Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey. What is it like working closely with them?

It’s extraordinary. They are two actors who are really playing above the rim. They work intensely and seriously but at the same time, they work with a lot of joy and fun. They challenge each other and they enjoy that challenge. They really bring all of us up, too. They are actors who really want the scene to happen when the cameras roll … It is very exciting to be making it right there. We are all trying to do our best work, and sometimes, we don’t, and that’s that. They hold it lightly and you count yourself fortunate. They are both fantastic examples of that.

What’s it like to play Edward Meechum?

It is challenging emotionally to play someone who keeps himself so very close to the chest, but still to know that he has come out of an experience — a kind of incredible and intense experience that he lives with — for that to simply vibrate in him and rumble in him without direct expression as of yet is challenging and exhausting. I am really happy to go at it every day I’m on set regardless of what I’m doing. I am very happy for the opportunity to take up the story of this guy right there in the moment. He definitely has stuff in there that’s not worked out and that’s a weird place to inhabit. You have that place in life but to actively go there is kind of something else.

Your role expanded in the second season. Tell me about your screen time and role in the third?

You will find out all that Feb. 27. That’s all I can tell you.

To watch Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum in “House of Cards,” visit netflix.com.

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A Piece of the Puzzle

UE vice president fundraises for university in former president’s home
Jack Barner is the vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Evansville.

When Jack Barner crosses the University of Evansville campus, it’s the updates and renovations that stand out to him.

As the vice president for development and alumni relations, Barner’s primary responsibility is fundraising for the university — connecting with alumni and addressing the needs of the university.

“I can walk around the campus and see the impact of this office,” says Barner. “The buildings that are there, we didn’t build those, we didn’t design those, but we kind of helped make them happen. As I walk around campus I can see the scholarship money, the endowment money. It is humbling what people do.”

Barner’s office is located in the John L. and Belle Igleheart Building at UE, which was formerly the president’s home. Built in 1928, the Iglehearts donated the funds for it to be built and his office was once used as the dining room. Wallace Graves was the last president to occupy the home before a new residence was donated in 1982 by longtime Evansville developer Guthrie May and his wife Alice, both alumni of Evansville College (now UE). (Read more about the president’s home in “Among Friends” in the April/May 2012 issue of Evansville Living.)

In his nearly 13 years at UE, Barner’s office has become an extension of his home. Decorating the walls are photographs from the previous universities he has worked, moments most memorable in his career, and of his wife Pat and their blended family.

Barner earned his bachelor’s degree at Siena College in Albany, New York, and his master’s at Saint Rose, also in Albany. He worked as a high school teacher for 19 years before being hired at Saint Rose, Colgate in Hamilton, New York, Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, and finally being hired by former UE president Steve Jennings at Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma — who he later followed to Evansville. He has served as a vice president for three universities.

Barner’s desk was a part of a donation from OFS Brands president and CEO Hank Menke who at one time donated several desks to UE. Two silver medals and a purple heart of his late father John Barner, a World War II veteran, grace the walls. Books primarily on history, wars, and leadership are seen throughout his office. Thumb-tacked behind his desk is a white piece of paper with practices of effective executives from “The Daily Drucker,” written by Peter F. Drucker. There are 15 employees that work in the Igleheart Building.

For more information about the John L. and Belle Igleheart Building and the University of Evansville, call 812-488-2361 or visit evansville.edu.

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Family First

Kevin Schwartz came home to help form Myriad CPA Group
Kevin Schwartz helped form the Myriad CPA Group in 2011.

Kevin Schwartz still has the first dollar he ever made.

Tucked in an old yet rather ornate gold frame against a simple piece of cardboard, it sits atop his desk to serve as a reminder that every task, no matter how big or small, is worth the effort.“I was probably 5 or 6 years old,” Schwartz recalls. “I went to play with a friend, and he and his dad were picking up twigs. I helped for about 30 minutes. He paid me a dollar, and I was so excited to take it home and show my dad.

“He put in that old frame, and I have kept it ever since,” he says. “He told me that if I saved it, I’d always have it to spend. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about more than just that dollar.”

A love of family and a commitment to hard work has been a running theme throughout Schwartz’s life. Every decision has come back to staying true to those two values — values that led him down the path to being a successful CPA and, now, a partner with Myriad CPA Group, one of the Tri-State’s largest accounting firms.

“When I talk to people wanting to start their own business, I can draw from a lot of experience now,” says Schwartz. “I’ve been through that psychological, emotional process of making those tough decisions. And they are tough.

“When I first started my own firm, I started it from scratch, with experience and knowledge but limited resources. But it was all worth it.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Schwartz graduated from Apollo High School in 1992. A track and cross country stand out, his image now adorns its Athletic Hall of Fame.

He went on to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where graduated with a degree in finance in 1996, but it wasn’t until he attended his brother’s graduation from Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina, that he finally felt called to a specific purpose.

“I had no military interest at all,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even come from a military family. But it was my senior year. I was 21 and going to be graduating in a few months. I was trying to figure out what kind of professional job I wanted to take. That’s when I watched my younger brother graduate from Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). I decided, then and there, on the drive back, that I wanted to join the military and serve my country, too.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, a small base whose overall purpose is to provide support to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. In civilian’s terms, he acted as a liaison between those who needed to spend money to support the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the lengthy federal guidelines to which they had to adhere.

He spent his nights working on a graduate degree from Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, says Schwartz, and volunteering to help troops with their tax returns.

But after four years in the military, opportunity came knocking, and Schwartz was offered a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the country’s Big Four accounting firms.

“It was my dream job,” he says matter-of-factly. “I mean, the training you receive at a Big Four accounting firm, the people you meet, the projects you get to work on, it was a really awesome experience. My goal was to stay there and try to make partner. I was in St. Louis. I was relatively close to home, but then everything changed.”

Schwartz’s grandfather died in 2002, and the then 28-year-old began questioning the goals he had set for himself. Family suddenly became more important, he said, than continuing to climb the Big Four corporate ladder.

“It was really the first time I’d thought about life and how important family is,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like I needed to be closer to home.”

So after a year of soul searching, Schwartz quit his Big Four job and moved home to Owensboro. He started his own accounting firm, Schwartz CPA Group, and a year later met his wife, Rebecca, also a CPA.

He focused his energies on growing his small business, picking up clients and even took on businesses from as far away as Northern Indiana. He was elected president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs and was named the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s director and entrepreneur of the year.

He also got involved in the Owensboro community, serving as a Chamber board member, on the board of trustees to Brescia University, treasurer to the Owensboro Rotary Club, and he sits on the executive board to Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. He was on the Downtown Development Committee and is treasurer to the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Then in 2011, Schwartz was at a training seminar when he met a group of four other like-minded CPAs from the Tri-State area, each with a love of community but each also with their own special brand of expertise in the field.

Their friendship grew and flourished, and later that year, the men joined to form Myriad CPA Group, a company with a broad tax and accounting-based service with offices in Owensboro, Evansville, and Henderson.

“Everything has gone so well,” Schwartz says of the partnership. “The accounting industry, public accounting, is very fast-paced, and there are lots and lots of challenges.”

But with his professional life finally coming together, Schwartz began losing control over aspects of his personal life. The one-time track star put on nearly 60 pounds. Then, in early 2012, he vowed to make a change and hired a personal trainer. He took up running once again, and he and his wife began eating clean, organic foods. In a year’s time, he dropped nearly 10 pant sizes and 60 pounds. Today, he logs 20-25 miles per week.

Schwartz turned 40 in April, and when he looks back on his journey he’s humbled by how far he has come. The decision to return home was a difficult one, but as it turns out, the path to success doesn’t always come by way of the Big Four.

“I can’t believe how fast time has gone by,” he said. “I spent all of my 30s growing the business, staying active, staying involved. And that makes you really appreciate time because it has absolutely flown by. But I guess that means I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“What I find myself reflecting on more than anything,” he said, “is that the more you give, if you give with the right heart, the more that comes back to you.”

For more information about the Myriad CPA Group, visit myriadcpa.com.

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Amy Rivers-Word

Hometown: Evansville

Job: Proprietress at Lamasco Bar and Grill, co-owner of Let The Good Times Roll Pedal Bar, co-owner of the soon-to-open The Dapper Pig, and president of the Franklin Street Events Association.

Resume: Middle school science teacher, Evans Middle School, 1997 to 2003.

Family: Daughter Isabelle, son Andrew, and sweet dog Lucy.

It would be safe to say that Amy Rivers-Word is ubiquitous on the Evansville social scene. Her Lamasco Bar is one of the premiere music and drinking establishments in the region. Her relentless work promoting Franklin Street through the Franklin Street Events Association has helped make the West Side a destination for the entire Tri-State. Her next projects include the human-powered Let The Good Times Roll and The Dapper Pig, a Haynie’s Corner restaurant with former Farmer’s Daughter (Princeton, Indiana) owner Sarah Wolfe. This daughter of teachers has learned a lot on her journey. One chat with this driven woman tells you there’s a lot more to come.

You are an Evansville native. Tell us about growing up here.
I went to Memorial. I grew up in the Lincolnshire neighborhood which is right by Reitz Memorial High School. My mother is a Vezzoso, which is a deep West Side family. My grandfather’s business, Allied Erection, was right here on Franklin Street, which is kind of cool.

It was fun. I’m the oldest of seven brothers and sisters; that in and of itself was constant entertainment. It was a great childhood. There was always adventure. My Italian roots means fabulous food and we absolutely embrace family.

When did you start to think you could be an entrepreneur?
I became a teacher and worked seven years in Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. I thought that was my only life path. But in college I bought a duplex to help get me through school with renters upstairs, so that spirit was there.

My aunt called me one day to tell me she was selling Lamasco — not in any way, shape, or form to sell it to me — she just wanted me to help spread the word. This was August of 2009. I had a dream that night that I bought Lamasco and turned it into a music venue and changed all the things. I thought, “My parents are going to absolutely kill me.” I told them that I wanted to quit teaching and buy a bar. I asked my entire family to give me 24 hours before they gave an answer. Everyone was absolutely supportive.
It was mine four weeks later.

What types of things that you’ve confronted in your business journey you weren’t expecting or prepared for?
I always use the analogy from an engineering standpoint that a bumblebee is not supposed to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it’s not supposed to fly.

Well I didn’t know that buying a restaurant during the greatest economic collapse since the 1920s was probably not the greatest fiscal decision. Having no hospitality experience, having no restaurant management experience, except I waited tables at the Ponderosa when I was 15. I didn’t know how epically it shouldn’t have worked. That really worked to my advantage. I’m a good problem solver and a good people person. When you put those things together that’s a huge part of what this industry is. I make tons of mistakes, but I try to never make the same mistake twice. Obviously, luck is a huge part of it.
And hard work.

What is your vision for your community?
The West Side was originally Independence, Indiana. That goes to the German roots and the self-sufficient nature and taking care of each other. People talk about “West Side Pride” and it’s been here for 150 or 160 years. It’s not somebody’s “vision.”

I had someone say, “We don’t even know what you’re excited and cheering about but we are jumping on your team!” You can become a champion for something very quickly and I think that’s what I’ve been able to do. Now we’re telling our story in a much better way than we have before. I love being able to be our No. 1 storyteller. We are all little beacons of light out there on Franklin Street. We put those lights together and there’s a shining mass you can’t help but see.

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Music Maker

Monte Skelton remains active in music post-college
Monte Skelton

Seven years ago, Evansville Living caught up with music prodigy Monte Skelton, who was at the time a University of Evansville student envisioning a future that would somehow involve his gift.

Since Skelton, now 28, was featured in the July/August 2007 issue, he has seen that dream become a reality. The musician, who plays 22 instruments, has worked since 2010 teaching music to students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Joshua Academy, a charter school in Evansville.

“I always had a passion for teaching for music but I never expected for it to happen,” says Skelton, whose favorite music is contemporary jazz and R&B. “I never expected to get a good teaching job and I am very fortunate to stay in Evansville.

“The best thing is giving kids the opportunity to learn about something they may not be exposed to if not for a music program — finding the diamonds in the rough and just seeing the sparkle in a kid’s eye — seeing that is phenomenal.”

Skelton stays busy teaching during the day and playing music in the evenings. He plays in two groups — Factor: Primo, a pop fusion band, and a chemistry-filled duo of Monte & Shelly with singer Shelly Long. Skelton plays bass in Factor: Primo along with fellow Evansville natives Patrick Preston, Ed Sein, and Chasen Little.

Skelton says he has been fortunate enough to gain a large group of loyal followers in Evansville that attend the many festivals and venues he plays, often as a saxophonist.

For more information on Monte Skelton, visit monteskelton.blogspot.com.

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Country Music Legend

Kenny Rogers is coming to town for holiday concert
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Rogers, with Linda Davis, will perform 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at The Ford Center.

You would know the husky voice from Houston, Texas, anywhere, of course. Kenny Rogers was calling me from the state of Washington, where he would be performing around his 50th show of the year, the following night. On Dec. 7, Kenny, 76, and special guest Linda Davis will bring their “Christmas & Hits Through the Years Tour” (Roger’s 33rd Christmas tour) to The Ford Center.

I began by telling Kenny (as he insists to be called) that I saw him perform, with the Gatlin Brothers, on April 27, 1982, at Evansville’s Roberts Municipal Stadium.

Those were good times. I’m sorry I won’t be bringing along the Gatlin Brothers in December, but I think you’ll like the show. Evansville is a beautiful city; I’ve performed there five or six times.

What will concertgoers in Evansville experience on Dec. 7?

Linda Davis is such a sweetheart; she’s such help for me. The first half of the show will be hits, and the second half of the show will be Christmas. The show also will feature local choirs. It’s not Christmas ‘til the choir sings. (The Signature High School choir under the direction of Tyler Simpson, and five students from Scott Elementary School, with their director, Benjamin Boyer, will perform songs with Kenny and Linda, according to Steve Glassmyer, band leader with Kenny Rogers Productions.)

You’re one of the hardest working people in the business. And you have identical twin 10-year-old sons! How do you do it?

The older I get, the more I work. Yes, I have twin boys, Justin and Jordan. Normally it seems they couldn’t care less about what I’m doing on the road, but today, when I just talked to them, I couldn’t get them off the phone. I thought I was going to be late for this call. They say that twins at my age will either make you or break you. Right now I’m leaning toward break.

Please tell me about your wife, Wanda.

She’s a very sweet girl. We’ve been together 22 years and have been married 17 years. She’s an identical twin herself — that is very rare — an identical twin having identical twins. We live in Atlanta. Wanda’s sister lives here, too, and that’s the reason we live there, too, as Wanda’s not leaving.

You and your old friend Dolly Parton, also very popular here, have partnered again for the title track of your new CD, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”

The title comes from a story. Many years ago, William King, of the Commodores, visited my Athens, Georgia, farm with his young son, Ryan Hanna King. Not long ago, I ran into Ryan in California; he is an actor, working in the business. He told of how visits to my farm made an impression on him, and remarked, “I realized then, you can’t make old friends.” I was so touched by that statement and I knew it would make a great song. The next day I was in New York and saw Don Schlitz (“The Gambler”), who agreed to write it. The very next day I received this incredible piece of music that was tailored just for Dolly and me.

By the end of the year, Kenny and his band will have performed about 80 or 90 shows. In January, they’ll start a world tour in Australia and New Zealand.

Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Rogers, with Linda Davis, will perform 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at The Ford Center. Visit ticketmaster.com for ticket information. An exhibit, “Kenny Rogers Through the Years,” is on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, through next summer.

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Taking Aim

Local gun maker produces historical replicas
Marvin Kemper painstakingly crafts each of his Kentucky Rifles inside his one-man shop in Posey County.

For gun collectors, the Kentucky Rifle is a prized possession. The golden age of the Kentucky Rifle was from 1780 to 1830, but antiques can be hard to find. In his shop just outside of Blairsville, Indiana, Marvin Kemper makes stunningly accurate recreations of old longrifles as well as his own creations.

Kemper spent 20 years working in the non-profit field. But he wanted to make rifles full time, and when he finally had a backlog of rifle orders big enough 18 months ago, he took the leap. His one-man operation is named Liberty Longrifles.

“I was working a corporate job and I have a master’s degree, but I wanted to do something that I loved,” he says. “I was traveling, and I’d always take a satchel full of my gun books, and sit there and study the pictures I’d looked at 100 times before. And I think that paid off in my interpretation of original art.”

Kemper says there are three types of buyers: those who want a rifle for show, those who want it for shooting, and hunters. Each rifle takes 120 hours or more of work, and Kemper usually has several projects going at once.

“I get projects that are all about historical duplication, and I do rifles that are totally interpretive,” says Kemper. “Somebody will say ‘Just make me a fancy gun. I don’t want a copy of anything.’ So I will do my own thing.”

Kemper’s father made more than 3,000 Kentucky Rifles, but he worked with just two basic patterns. Kemper’s designs are far more complex. Each one is handcrafted from a curly maple blank, with brass butt plates and trigger guards. The guns are decorated with brass and sterling silver. Kemper also crafts pistols, again modeled after the post-Revolutionary War era.

Specialists make the gun barrels and flintlocks. Kemper handles everything else. That includes the patch boxes — used to hold the greased patches wrapped around balls as they are placed into the gun barrel. Kemper says buyers now expect historical accuracy.

“Back in the 1950s and 60s, the Internet didn’t exist, and neither did all of the color books that have come out,” he says. “A Kentucky Rifle was a Kentucky Rifle. Nowadays, people are pretty smart. They’ve done the research.”

Most Kentucky Rifles were actually made in Pennsylvania. They earned their name when they were used by Kentucky soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

The rifles work almost exactly as the originals would have two centuries ago. They are muzzle loaded and are fired using gunpowder and a flintlock. The inside of the barrels are rifled with spiral grooves, spinning the ball and making the guns extremely accurate to 200 yards.

Kemper receives most of his business from word of mouth. He travels to shows and conventions for longrifles, some attended by thousands of people. He’s shipped guns as far away as Germany.

For more about Liberty Longrifles, visit libertylongrifles.com

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Horses and Hockey

Ron Geary has enjoyed business success
Ron Geary sits in front of the grandstand at Ellis Park. Geary bought the Kentucky racetrack in 2006.

Ronald Geary, 67, has done a bit of everything. During his very decorated career, he’s been a certified public accountant, a lawyer, served in a Kentucky gubernatorial cabinet, been the president of a bible college, and CEO of ResCare, a very successful, Forbes Magazine-recognized health care services company. And even after retiring in 2006, he didn’t stop. He bought Ellis Park, determined to make it a crown jewel of Kentuckiana, and a few years later, started a minor league hockey team, the Evansville IceMen.

As with seemingly everything Geary touches, each has grown exponentially under his leadership. Ellis Park now draws as many as 8,000 people on its busiest days, and the IceMen are enjoying national recognition in the East Coast Hockey League, a 28-team league with a national footprint playing premier AA hockey.

We sat down with Geary, a Louisville, Kentucky, native now living in Henderson, to talk about his professional success and the future of the IceMen and Ellis Park.

Why horses and hockey?
(Laughter) Well, I’m a Kentucky boy, so I really enjoyed horses as a kid. And I always wanted to buy horses. I have a brood mare operation. I bought a couple of wonderful mares, and my son researched stallions. We have eight horses now that we’ve raised. Some have been good, some not, but all of it was fun. And as for the hockey, people are always bringing me investment opportunities, many of them from nontraditional niches. So when a young man brought the idea of hockey to me, told me about the success of Swonder Ice Arena, about single A hockey, something I knew nothing about, I dug into it. And like many packages that have come to me, I decided it was something I could do in stages. I felt like it would be a great thing for the community. There isn’t much to do here in the winter, and I believed that Evansville really wanted a good, winning professional team of some type.

The IceMen have evolved much over the last few years. How do you see this latest ECHL affiliation providing even further benefit?
If you would have told me six years ago, when we were just a single A team, that we would be in one of the top three leagues in the country and Evansville would have a national reputation for being a hockey town, I would have said you were crazy. It’s just one of those things, everything has fallen into place, and a lot of it is because Tri-State residents, mostly Evansville residents, are really proud of their team, proud of the fact that we have a nice arena, great fans, a respectable growth-oriented franchise. I think we have some exciting times ahead of us.

You’re around professional athletes a lot. Do you enjoy that?
Yes, I think they are a special, rare breed. I like them. They’re competitive, which I am, too. They always find a way to do their best. You’ll see players, some maybe not as good as others, but they find ability from desire. They have an uncanny way of finding a way to win just because they want it more than the other guy. And that’s what life is all about.

What changes have you seen at Ellis Park since purchasing it in 2006?
We immediately set out to get national attention. So we bid on and won the chance to host a National Claiming Crown (in 2007). For that one day, the best claiming horses in the country came to Ellis Park, a whole day of racing. And on that day, we had the biggest day at Ellis Park ever, almost $700,000 in purses and $5 million in bets. It was the first time Kentucky had hosted the Crown and that got everybody back to thinking about Ellis Park on a national scale. From there we did everything we could to expand our coverage. And at the track we tried to do some new things to attract people, make it more fun, family-oriented. We set up picnic tables with umbrellas, tents, trying to give it a county fair feel. We added the popular camel and ostrich races, wiener dog races. And since then we’ve gone up substantially in attendance every year.

What does the future hold for Ellis Park, and how do you make sure it continues to compete with riverboat gambling?
We think the instant racing machines we now have can be the key to accomplishing that. We are close to getting a referendum on the ballot that would allow the people of Kentucky to vote to allow casino gaming at racetracks. Indiana Downs in Shelbyville and Hoosier Park in Anderson called themselves racinos with both slot machines and electronic gaming. They’ve done quite well, and we’re hoping that would allow us to continue being competitive.

Of all the roles you’ve held, which has brought you the most pleasure?
It has to be a tie between ResCare and working in public service. ResCare because it helps people with disabilities, and its mission was so strong, to help people live the best they could, be as independent as possible. It was such a wonderful thing to see so many of the clients we served lead more fulfilling lives. But I also enjoyed the public service aspect of being in a gubernatorial cabinet and being a secretary of revenue for Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. I loved that he was fiscally conservative. He said he wouldn’t raise taxes, and even though his administration led during a massive recession, he still kept his promise and just allowed us to run government like a business. We cut expenses and did a better job of collecting delinquent taxes. I just loved that. I felt like we were doing what was best for the state of Kentucky.