Skip to Content

Posted by: Steve Kimmel

Distinguished representatives of Huntington County’s past and present will be celebrated as Huntington County Honors inducts its 2021 class this month.

The public ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 23, in the rotunda of the Huntington County Courthouse. This year’s group includes 12 honorees whose lifetime achievements and works are being recognized.

Created in 2014, Huntington County Honors highlights both the famous and those who are less well-known. Candidates must have made a lasting impact on Huntington County, or brought recognition to the community through their actions or achievements in one of five categories –

athletics and recreation, business and professional, community and public service, humanities and cultural, and historical.

Huntington County Honors inducted its first class in 2016. This year’s class was originally selected in 2020, but last year’s ceremony was canceled by COVID, and the class was carried over to this year.

“In addition to recognizing outstanding individuals, we have a goal to preserve legacies that might otherwise be lost to history,” said Paul Siegfried, a member of the board of directors of Huntington County Honors. “Each year, in our research, we continue to uncover remarkable people and their stories, and we take great pride in presenting them to the Huntington community.”

This year’s class includes Kil-so-quah, the granddaughter of Little Turtle, who was one of the leaders of the Miami Nation Native American tribe. She was not removed from Indiana in the 1840s with many of the rest of the Miami tribe, and lived in Huntington County until her death in 1915 at the age of 105. She helped preserve the Miami language and history and was known as the “last of the royal Miamis.”

There are two familiar athletes in this year’s group – champion bowler E.J. Tackett and high school basketball standout Lisa Winter.

Tackett, the youngest inductee in Huntington County Honors history, has won 14 times on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, including two major titles. The 2011 Huntington North graduate was the PBA’s 2016 Chris Schenkel Player of Year, named for another Huntington County native and a member of inaugural class of Huntington County Honors in 2016.

Winter was a member of Huntington North’s girls’ basketball team that won 44 straight games over a two-year period and captured the 1995 state championship. As a senior, Winter was named Indiana Miss Basketball as the top girls’ basketball player in the state.

The Athletics and Recreation category also includes Roanoke’s Gene Hartley. Hartley started auto racing after his military service in World War II, and worked his way to the pinnacle of the sport, the Indianapolis 500. He qualified for 10 Indy races, with his best finish a 10th place in 1957.

Two honorees in the Humanities and Cultural category are connected with Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington. Francis “Bill” Fink began at OSV in the 1930s, joining his uncle, Bishop John Noll, who had started the Catholic printing company. Fink oversaw the rapid expansion of the downtown business, including the relocation to a new building.

Dale Francis began his career in newspapers, but started several Catholic publications, including the University of Notre Dame Press. He wrote a syndicated column that appeared in 23 newspapers and as known as a leading Catholic voice. He joined OSV as executive editor in 1964, and in his later years wrote the “Our Town” column on life and history in Huntington.

Clare H.W. Bangs made an impact on Huntington in many different arenas, beginning as president of Central College in 1919 when he was only 25 years old. The name of the school was changed to Huntington College and Bangs expanded the school over his five-year tenure. He later became mayor of Huntington and earned national attention when he was jailed for contempt in a fight with a commercial utility company over providing services to residents struggling to pay during the Depression.

John Crago endured more than three years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps during World War II and was a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March that took the lives of more than 1,000 American servicemen over a brutal three days. After the war, Crago served as National Commander of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

Denny Jiosa is among the most-respected jazz guitarists, producers and session players working today, known as an innovator who blends a variety of influences into a diverse style. The 1976 graduate of Huntington North has earned multiple Grammy nominations as a producer, and had issued nine albums as a solo artist while working in the American music mecca of Nashville.

Dr. Douglas Ware played on Huntington High School’s legendary 1964 state runner-up basketball team, coached by Bob Straight. He earned a football scholarship to Purdue, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in animal nutrition. His innovations in products and methods in the industry have earned him 33 patents. Ware attributes his success to a number of Huntington influences, and he and his wife, Virginia, have made numerous contributions to his hometown in the form of scholarships and other endeavors.

Orville and Ruth Merillat built Merillat Industries into one of the country’s largest manufacturers of kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. As dedicated members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, the Merillats have shared their success with faith-based and community causes. They have been major benefactors of Huntington University and contributed to a number of philanthropic projects at the school.

Father Solanus Casey was a simple, humble man of God who spent much of his life among the poor and infirm. He was known for his inspirational words and healing hand that followed him through his mission life including the 10 years he spent in Huntington at the St. Felix Friary late in his life. In 2017, Father Solanus was bestowed the title of “Blessed” in a beatification ceremony in Detroit, the final step before sainthood, which would make him the first American-born Catholic male saint.

A display featuring the 2021 class of Huntington County Honors will be on view in the Courthouse rotunda following the October 23 ceremony through November, and then again beginning in January at the Huntington City-Township Public Library. Information on all the inductees will also be available on the Huntington County Honors website at www.huntingtoncountyhonors.org.

Huntington County Honors announces a new class each year. The organization also looks for individual and corporate sponsorships to help offset operational costs. Anyone interested in sponsorships may contact the group at info@huntingtoncountyhonors.org or by regular mail at Huntington County Honors, PO Box 481, Huntington, IN 46750.