With each passing year, we mourn and celebrate the lives of members of the community who made a difference in their places of work, to civic organizations, and to their families and others. In 2021, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still were felt in local losses. We reviewed death records and obituaries from last year to find notable people whose lives have impacted the Tri-State in ways large and small.
Haley Link Brinkmeyer, 28
Jan. 21, 2021
With her warm smile, Haley captured the hearts of those who knew her, including her high school sweetheart and future husband Evan. The two were crowned homecoming queen and king while at F.J Reitz High School, and they had been married two years in 2021. A strong competitor, Haley played soccer, softball, and basketball and was an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. A member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, Haley graduated from University of Evansville in 2018 with a doctorate in physical therapy. She worked at North River Health Campus.
Isaiah Luke Mays, 19
Jan. 26, 2021
From a young age, Isaiah loved hunting, basketball, and eating out, but his number one passion was eating his “mama’s cooking.” Isaiah earned a diploma from Harwood Career Preparatory High School and worked part time at McDonalds on First Avenue. He enjoyed spending time with his close friends, playing PlayStation games, and hanging out. Passing away at 19 years old from complications related to COVID-19, Isaiah had been excited to explore a career in real estate or possibly culinary school, fueled by his love of watching the Food Network.
Susan E. (Duffy) Gathings, 79
Jan. 27, 2021
Working in the childcare profession for more than 20 years, Susan devoted much of her life to being a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and homemaker. An excellent cook, Susan took joy in sharing her favorite recipes and cooking with her extended family. Growing up, Susan was a member of the Nazarene Baptist Church and later joined her husband Wendell in ministry at Greater Norris Chapel Baptist Church in Henderson, Kentucky. Throughout her life, Susan acquired an extensive knowledge and understanding of the Bible; at a moment’s notice, she could quote a scripture to share with others.
Dr. Edward P. Lagunzad, 61
Jan. 27, 2021
Born in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, Edward’s family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in the early 1970s. He would go on to graduate from Cleveland State University with a degree in Electrical Engineering and went to work for the NASA Lewis Research Center, where he was given accolades for his work on the ATLAS Shuttle/Centaur ACTS and Space Station Freedom Programs. In 1991, he changed careers and attended medical school, graduating in 1995. He moved to Evansville in 1998 and worked at ECHO Community Health Care before moving onto Evansville Multi-Specialty Clinic from 2010-2015, when Edward began treating patients at St. Vincent Urgent Care.
Timothy K. Buecher, 74
Feb. 20, 2021
Tim grew up on Third Avenue on Evansville’s West Side, where his father owned the family business Buecher’s Jewelry Store. Tim attended Central High School before moving to the newly built William Henry Harrison High School, where he notably scored the first touchdown and hit the first homerun at the new school. He was drafted for service into the U.S. Navy and then worked at the University of Evansville’s Admissions Office and at Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana). Tim retired as Director of the Career Counseling Center and served on the Metropolitan School District North Posey School Board for 16 years. He was a longtime West Side Nut Club member and enjoyed coaching youth sports, vacationing with his family, and deep-sea fishing with his son and grandsons.
Virginia C. “Jenny” Collins, 49
March 7, 2021
Jenny married her high school sweetheart Michael, had two sons and a daughter, and served the city of Evansville under three mayors. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Evansville, she served as city controller under Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and as chief financial officer for the Evansville Water and Sewer Utility. An active member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vanderburgh County, Jenny also served on the Mesker Park Zoo Advisory Board. In honor of Jenny’s dedication to the zoo, her family requested that memorial contributions be made to the Kinney Family Penguins of Patagonia exhibit at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden.
Jazelynn Jo Jackson, one week
March 11, 2021
Although her time on earth was short, Jazelynn brought much joy to her family and loved ones and left a loving legacy. As artist David Harkins wrote, “You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived.” Jazelynn enjoyed being cuddled by her mother Tierra and father Michael and seeing her big sister, and she brought smiles to the faces of those who shared her brief time in this world.
Charlotte Faye Bentley Warren, 75
March 27, 2021
A farmer’s daughter, Charlotte was a steward of the land and never forgot her roots. A keen businesswoman, Charlotte co-owned the family’s real estate company with her husband Gene. Charlotte also gave back to her community as a generous volunteer, philanthropist, and mentor. Never meeting a stranger, Charlotte was a champion for all with her unwavering kindness and support. Although she traveled to places far and wide in recent years, Charlotte was always happy to return home. Her days on earth ended peacefully surrounded by love and beauty at the family’s Daffodil Farm, which was featured on the cover of the July/August 2016 Evansville Living.
Rose “Rosie” M. Gibson, 68
April 10, 2021
Owner of Rosie’s Diner for more than 30 years, Rosie was awarded an Evansville Courier & Press Readers’ Choice Award for “Best Breakfast” in Evansville. She was known for never letting anyone go hungry and even opened the doors of her diner on Thanksgiving Day to provide a free meal and companionship for those who needed it. Patrons who enjoyed her hospitality and delicious meals were not just customers; many became great friends and some even called her family. Rosie left a positive impact on the lives of many people who treasure their times with her.
Brenda Jean Bergwitz, 79
April 15, 2021
A patriot and lover of her country, Brenda was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a chaplain for Navy mothers and American Legion Funkhouser Post No. 8. Active in the community, Brenda volunteered with Right to Life and the local Republican Party. She was also a member of the Second Amendment Patriots. Brenda was retired from Welborn Baptist Hospital, where she worked as a rehabilitation technician. A former member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Brenda was a current member of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. At her funeral, Brenda was honored with military rites conducted by the Vanderburgh County Retired Veterans Memorial Club.
Hon. Maurice C. “Reece” O’Connor, 83
April 15, 2021
Born in Newburgh, Indiana, Reece graduated from Reitz Memorial High School and attended St. Joseph’s College before graduating from Indiana University School of Law in 1963. Reece was drafted to serve in the military, attained the rank of captain and was assigned to the Judge Advocate General Corp. He returned to Evansville and worked at the law firm of Mitchell, Stone, and Keck and in 1970 was elected as an Indiana State representative. He later became one of Indiana’s first court commissioners and the Vanderburgh Superior Court’s first court administrator. Reece was elected as Vanderburgh Superior Court judge in 1982 and was known for his unique sense of humor and his compassion as a jurist and was instrumental in helping introduce Treatment Court in Vanderburgh County. A full-blooded Irishman, he enjoyed listening to Celtic music and watching Celtic Women dances. He was also a collector of Waterford Crystal and a proud fan of Notre Dame football.
Kielyn E. Toone, 19
April 17, 2021
A 2020 Benjamin Bosse High School graduate, Kielyn attended Heritage Baptist Church as a child. Through high school, he worked at Dairy Queen, played on the football team, raced dirt bikes, and loved listening to music and playing with his dog Prada, also known as “Dow Dow.” Kielyn is remembered by the Bulldog football team for being full of laughter, jokes, and positive vibes.
Roxanne Carrell Hall, 63
April 21, 2021
With her beautiful singing voice and guitar-playing skills, Roxanne was well known at the Rosine Barn Jamboree in Rosine, Kentucky, birthplace of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. The popular musician also shared her talents by singing in the choir and serving on the production team at Crossroads Christian Church. As founder, president, and owner of Meetings Plus Inc. for almost 30 years, Roxanne hosted events all over the world but was equally happy cooking for family and friends, relaxing on her deck, drinking a good Merlot, and enjoying time with loved ones.
Dr. Emil Lee Weber, 82
May 24, 2021
Emil grew up working in his family’s hardware store on Weinbach Avenue and attended Benjamin Bosse High School and Indiana University, where he graduated from medical school. He then joined the U.S. Air Force, where he worked as a general surgeon. After his service, he decided to specialize in neurosurgery and attended Duke University to complete his residency program. Emil and his wife Jan moved back to Evansville to begin his practice. After a dedicated 34-year career, he retired from neurosurgery but stayed busy consulting for Deaconess Health System and chairing the Indiana Donor Network. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Indiana State Sagamore of the Wabash Award for his medical service.
Brett Hawkins, 35
May 29, 2021
A lifelong lover of athletics, Brett was the physical education and computer science teacher for grades 6-12 at Central Academy in Henderson, Kentucky. Born in Princeton, Kentucky, the Newburgh resident played basketball, baseball, and football at Caldwell County High School before graduating in 2004. He played baseball at Brescia University while earning his bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2008, and later earned his master’s degree in elementary education from West Kentucky University. A member of Northside Baptist Church and regular attendant at Crossroads Christian Church in Newburgh, Brett coached his daughter’s softball team and was a fixture of Tri-State community sports.
John Cletus Mills III, 21
June 17, 2021
Johnny was always smiling. A free spirit who loved his motorcycle, he attended F.J. Reitz High School and the Academy for Innovative Studies. After graduating, he worked as a cook at Damsel Brew Pub, owned by his parents Lori and John Mills II. Johnny enjoyed spending time with family and friends, including his brother Dalton and sisters Mallory and Tessa.
David Eugene Brugger, 58
June 30, 2021
Dave is remembered as a loving son, brother, and friend. Since 1983, Dave worked at Cork ‘n Cleaver steakhouse and did it all — he was a cook, bartender, server, and eventually manager. Guests have many kind memories of Dave and his self-deprecating sense of humor. As a final loving gesture, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his name were asked to be made to Heart to Heart Hospice, which provides comfort and compassionate care to those in challenging times.
Charles “Charlie” Stocker, 71
July 2, 2021
Owner and operator of Stocker’s Garden Center on Evansville’s West Side for 21 years, Charlie was beloved by the community. He was regularly featured on WEHT’s “Local Lifestyles,” where he was fondly known as “The Garden Guy.” Charlie was also an avid contributor to the community, as a 40-year-plus member of the West Side Nut Club and president of the West Side Improvement Association. He also contributed to Keep Evansville Beautiful and was chairman of the board of directors for Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.
David H. Russell, 77
July 7, 2021
David attended Benjamin Bosse High School, and his passion for Christ led him to seminary school. He was ordained as a Baptist minister and was a lifelong member of Vann Avenue Baptist Church. David worked as a shoe salesman for Kinney Shoes for a number of years before venturing off on his own with his wife Kathy and founding what is now known as Shoe Carnival. After his dream of taking the company public was realized, he retired in 1997. He enjoyed the Gulf Coast and made Destin, Florida, a second home. David cherished a good laugh and loved to hustle a game of pool.
Dr. Sanford “Sandy” Elliot Schen, 81
July 25, 2021
Graduating in 1959 from J.L. Forster Secondary School in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Sandy earned his medical degree from the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine in 1966, followed by a cardiology fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic. In 1972, he accepted a position at Welborn Hospital and moved to Evansville with his wife Jacquie to begin his medical career, culminating in his opening of Ohio Valley Heart Care. He was an avid piano and guitar player, contributing his talents as a member of several bands from his youth to retirement. He was a car enthusiast and loved flying as a private pilot and golfing.
Katherine Louise (Maas) Sharp, 83
May 2, 2021
With a passion to help others, Katherine taught kindergarten and first grade at Owensville Elementary School for more than 25 years. During her retirement, she designed and made more than 800 quilt tops that her sewing group in Princeton, Indiana, quilted and distributed to children at St. Jude, Riley Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House. She also made dresses for little girls in Africa, pillowcases for Riley Hospital, quilts with Bible verses for nursing homes, and walker caddies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Katherine made more than 1,000 masks for Methodist Children’s Home residents, medical personnel, and friends. Her sewing skills and loving heart helped make the world a better place.
Margaret Catherine “Cathy” (McDonough) Drake, 96
June 3, 2021
A former U.S. Army nurse, Cathy’s experiences during the Korean War at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea helped provide the inspiration for the novel, movie, and long-running TV series “M*A*S*H.” It was also in Korea that Cathy met anesthesiologist Dr. Dale Drake, who later became her husband of 65 years. A passionate fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Mater Dei Wildcats, Cathy enjoyed watching thoroughbred horse racing at Ellis Park, where she and Dale had a box for many years. She was an avid bridge player and a member of the same bridge club for more than half a century.
Ruth Harris, 96
June 15, 2021
In the 1940s, Ruth helped with the war effort in Evansville by building LSTs, which were essential in sea-to-land invasions in D-Day operations in 1944. For many years, Cathy also worked at Princeton’s Potter & Brumfield, a manufacturer of mechanisms necessary for the transmission of electric power. Ruth was a long-time member of the Oakland City First General Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir.
Kathleen “Kay” Marie (Sartore) Fuchs, 83
June 28, 2021
A devoted mother, Kay found time while her children were in school to earn a bachelor’s of science in public affairs from the University of Evansville. After serving as executive director of Volunteer Action Center, Kay became director of the city’s Affordable Housing Fund. In 1980, Kay was awarded a Lilly Foundation Grant to pursue her master’s degree at Indiana University, where she graduated cum laude. Kay was director of Evansville’s Department of Metropolitan Development, then a Citizens Bank loan officer until her retirement in 2005. A talented bridge player, Kay played at Gold Life Master level and loved playing with dear friends from the Evansville Duplicate Bridge Club.
Linda “Kay” Kelley, 66
Aug. 1, 2021
For many radio listeners, Linda was the voice of WROZ and WKKR, where she was a disc jockey and Evansville’s first female radio program director. Linda began her broadcast career in 1977 at WROZ-AM 1400 as Linda Kay. She moved up to WKKR-AM 1330 to host the afternoon drive. Her sense of humor and entertaining interview techniques were evident when interviewing country music stars such as Hank Williams Jr., Gene Watson, and the Statler Brothers. Linda also was very artistic and sculpted small statues of Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Sr. Her remarkable green thumb kept Linda surrounded by beautiful blooming plants.
Charles “Phillip” Raben, 71
Aug. 21, 2021
Growing up as one of 12 siblings, Phill’s greatest passion in life was family. After the passing of his father, Phill and his brothers Larry, Tom, Mark, Jeff, James, and Jon helped grow Raben Tire Company from a single location in Evansville to one of the largest tire and service companies in the Midwest. Phill served in key leadership roles with the company until his retirement in 2014. He was also a fervent golfer, serving as president of the Evansville Country Club in 2003 and winning the Past Presidents Tournament and the Old Buddy Tournament in 2004 with his longtime friend John Daniel.
Andrew Michael Hupfer, 33
Aug. 26, 2021
An employee at Mercer, Andrew earned the highest degree in actuary science and graduated from Purdue University with high honors. An Evansville native, he attended Reitz Memorial High School, where he earned the designation of National Merit finalist and graduated as valedictorian. A fan of Big 10 athletics and the University of Evansville Aces basketball team, Andrew also loved working outdoors and was known for his quick wit and sarcastic humor.
Raymond S. Norris Jr., 91
Sept. 10, 2021
If you knew Raymond well, it is likely your birthday began each year with a phone call from him singing “Happy Birthday.” A Central High School alum who met his wife of 56 years, Jeanne Boren, at a community center dance, Ray left behind a large family and a well-known motto: “As you ramble on through life, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole,” from Mayflower Donuts’ “Optimist’s Creed.” After a 41-year career with Sears, where he worked his way up from operating a freight elevator to salesman to store manager of the former Washington Square Mall location, Ray retired in 1989 to spend his time listening to Barbra Streisand and watching the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tom. D. Capshaw, 84
Sept. 20, 2021
Born in Oklahoma City, Tom moved to Evansville after receiving a law degree from the University of Arkansas. He served for more than 30 years as a member of the Evansville Bar Association and was a highly regarded Social Security federal judge. For Tom, his career was about public service. Besides working as a published trial attorney, he dedicated his time as an educator of federal judges, a hospice volunteer at Deaconess Health System, and a Boy Scout troop leader, the latter of which won him the group’s Silver Beaver award.
Joan Charlotte (Hayes) Creech, 91
Sept. 28, 2021
A consummate homemaker, Joan raised 11 children with her husband Fred. She enjoyed art from an early age and saw her work grace the 1948 Reitz Memorial High School yearbook and be featured several times in the local newspaper. Joan and Fred were skilled dancers, especially in the spirited swing dance, and she drew roaring applause from high schoolers when she kicked off her heels and jumped on the dance floor once while chaperoning a Memorial dance. Joan was a member of St. Benedict Cathedral, Rolling Hills and Oak Meadow country clubs, Central Turners, Nine Hole League, and Friday Night Dance Club.
Ruby Marie (Shelton) Rusk, 82
Oct. 7, 2021
A teacher and elementary school counselor for 37 years, Ruby assistant coached the Caze Elementary School basketball team and was a dedicated fan of her alma mater, Indiana State University, serving on the ISU Alumni Board for eight years. In 2012, Ruby received the John P. Newton Spirit of ISU Award for her service and support of Indiana State. Since she graduated, Ruby never missed an ISU homecoming. Ruby was also a basketball player herself: At age 66, she competed in the 50-55 age group on Indiana’s first Senior Olympics Basketball 3-on-3 half-court team. An avid traveler, Ruby visited all 50 states plus many international destinations.
Jesse Daniel Davis, 79
Oct. 9, 2021
Jesse accepted Christ into his life at early age and was baptized at the Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church. He played football and competed in the shotput before graduating from Lincoln High School in 1960. After serving more than 45 years with CSX/L&N Railroad and working at Whirlpool Corp. and Gus Doerner Sports, Jesse focused on his many hobbies. With a little duct tape and tenacity, the home engineer was known to fix any and all appliances, from washing machines to leaf blowers. An avid fisherman, hunter, and “beast” on the grill, his family remembers him as having never met a stranger and through his many acts of kindness.
Kathryn Rose “Katie” Proctor-Schiff, 35
Oct. 12, 2021
Known as “the ultimate boy mom,” Katie centered her world around her family: her husband, Jake, and three sons, Webber, Morris, and Payne. Owner and operator of PenPals and KnitWitts for more than 15 years, Katie left the businesses to devote her life to her boys. She served on the St. Joseph Catholic School board and volunteered her time there; in lieu of flowers for her funeral, Katie’s family requested that contributions be made to the school in Katie’s memory.
James “Jamie” Painter Morris, 51
Oct. 13, 2021
Jamie was a classically trained percussionist, a Kentucky Colonel, and a 32nd degree Mason, as well as a former executive director of the University of Louisville’s Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia-Brotherhood in Music Fraternity. The Texas Longhorn fan marched to the beat of his own drum, working at the local Boys and Girls Club and establishing his own marketing consulting firm J. Morris Consulting. As founder of the Funk in the City Arts Festival and Dragon Boat Racing, Jamie was a visionary who helped with the creation of Haynie’s Corner Arts District.
Dr. Ted Troyer, 65
Oct. 26, 2021
Ted believed in living life to the fullest. When he wasn’t performing life-saving operations, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine alum spent time with his wife and five daughters, of whom he was known to tape photos to his computer every ER shift. Ted’s medical career began with a residency in family medicine at the former St. Mary’s Medical Center in 1985. He was board certified in emergency medicine and worked for 34 years at the former Warrick Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, and Deaconess Gateway Hospital, where he founded the emergency department. He later served as medical director of emergency medical services for Spencer County, Warrick County, and Alcoa.
Sgt. First Class William VanHooks Jr., 66
Oct. 28, 2021
Known as “Bill” in his native Memphis and “Sarge” everywhere else, William devoted his life to serving God and his country. He sang in Liberty Mission Baptist Church’s men’s chorus and was a member of the Sterling Club. Most importantly to him, William voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army, moving to Evansville to initiate the EVSC Army Junior ROTC program after retiring from active duty in 1995. He led the program for 22 years and left an impact with his many memberships and connections to the organization, including being a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion, and serving as the legion’s Department of Indiana JROTC chairman.
Dorothy Parsons, 95
Oct. 30, 2021
Dorothy had a life well lived and well loved. Her hand-knit Christmas stockings hang in many homes across the U.S. and even the world. With a degree in dietetics and food, Dorothy worked as a dietician in several Pittsburgh hospitals and later taught high school. In 1960, Dorothy and her husband Robert moved to Evansville where he helped open the new Alcoa plant in Warrick County. While raising her active family, Dorothy was a substitute teacher, home economist for Schnucks Markets, and treasurer for The Hen House, an arts and crafts consignment shop run by women. Dorothy enjoyed bowling, golf, knitting, cheering on her Pittsburgh Steelers and, especially, spending time with her large family.
Diane F. Igleheart, 94
Nov. 13, 2021
A descendant of one of Evansville’s early families, Diane was affectionately known to many as “The General” and served on numerous boards, fund drives, and committees to help her hometown and state. A champion of education, Diane helped found Evansville Day School, the city’s only surviving independent school, and led the transformation of Willard Library into one of the state’s premier centers of genealogical and historical research. A dedicated environmentalist, Diane chaired the board of the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy for three years and served as vice chairman of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ State Review Board on Historic Preservation for nearly a decade.
Thomas E. Koetting, 82
Nov. 16, 2021
Never one to miss a party, Tom was the unofficial travel agent and entertainment director to his and his wife Maggie’s wide group of friends, which extended from his native St. Genevieve, Missouri, to Newburgh, Indiana, where Tom relocated to in 1981. A fan of country and bluegrass music, and rarely missing a weekly golf outing at Rolling Hills Country Club, Tom left his professional mark in the Tri-State while working as vice president of sales and marketing for Peabody Energy. After retiring in 1996, Tom volunteered with the Evansville Chapter of Service Corps of Retired Executives, also serving a term as president.
Patricia Swanson, 83
Nov. 29, 2021
Patricia lived out her love of schools and learning, first by covering education for 25 of her 40-year newspaper career, and then as an eight-year Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation board member after retiring from the newsroom. A multifaceted journalist, Patricia wrote for the Evansville Press until the newspaper ceased publication in 1998. She then joined the Evansville Courier & Press as education reporter until retiring in 2005. Patricia was known for her tenacious reporting as well as for her talents in creating interesting feature stories. Patricia’s education legacy is continued by her son, Paul, who serves as an elementary school principal in suburban Washington, D.C.
Alexis Marie Rusin, 18
Dec. 10, 2021
A Terre Haute, Indiana, native, Alexis was made of perseverance. The Boonville High School senior rose above dyslexia, combatting the stigma of learning disabilities while consistently earning a 4.0 GPA. She was a member of Beta Club, a dedicated volunteer in her church’s nursery, and a loving aunt to her four-year-old niece Hudsynn. Alexis loved to travel, and right before she passed away after one last battle with cancer, she and her family visited Disney World on a trip sponsored by Evansville’s Granted nonprofit.