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.