Ben Hur building rehab starting

Residents will soon see work begin at the former Ben Hur Life Building. That was the message told to Montgomery County Commissioners on Monday. 

John Anderson of Anderson Partners said work is scheduled to begin either Nov. 16 or Nov. 23.


Commission President Phil Bane said the news was good to hear.

“We will be happy to see the building back being productive,” he said.

The lead company in the restoration project is Vandalia Heritage Foundation. The company has now established Ben Hur Development LLC to oversee the project. 

The initial work on the historic building will be to stabilize the building. Indiana Landmarks has supplied a $75,000 grant for the work.

“The grant will be used to stabilize the roof and replace a metal door in the back of the building,” Anderson said. “We will also be installing a netting around the top exterior of the building, which will allow

removal of the barriers on the sidewalk.”

Ben Hur Development also has started designing the project.

Commissioners signed a contract with Ben Hur Development at the meeting since previous documents had been signed with Vandalia Heritage Foundation.

Montgomery County Attorney Dan Taylor said the final step for commissioners will be to sign over the deed to the building.

The refurbished downtown building is expected to include a hotel, condominiums, sports bar and event space on the building’s roof. 

Commissioners passed an ordinance that puts the county code in line with federal discrimination laws as established in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Taylor explained to commissioners the reason behind the ordinance.

“You already have this language in your employee handbook,” Taylor said. “But for whatever reason, this has never been inserted into Montgomery County code. Also, the federal highway program notified all government entities, who have not adopted this, that they could lose Federal highway funding if they don’t add it to their county code.”

Bane and Commissioner Jim Fulwider voted to follow the federal instructions. Commissioner Terry Hockersmith voted against the measure.

Jim Manion of Crawfordsville addressed commissioners about his concerns over county roadways. He said county roads need to be wider to allow vehicles to pull off the road. 

“Most times there are just inches between the road and the ditch on county roads,” Manion said. “I do not want to lose anyone because of county roads. I am asking you to start widening county roads to make them safer.”

Commissioners took four bids for cash renting the county farm under advisement.

Sheridan Hadley invited commissioners to the Montgomery County Leadership Academy graduation scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 22. There are 24 graduates this year from the academy.

A Sentimental Journey

MACE — For 43 years, Fred Zimmerman has been sharing the love and happiness of the Christmas season to youth and adults alike. But now, the Mace resident is ready to hang up the Santa suit and beard he has worn to hundreds of holiday gatherings. Before he does, he has a promise to honor.

Earlier this year, Fred told his wife of 50 years that he thought it was time to stop playing the part of Santa. Patty, who helped make Santa suits and make sure the head elf was dressed appropriately before he left the house, said she thought it would be best to change things up a bit this year.

She asked Fred to have one large party at the Mace United Methodist Church and let the people come to him. Fred agreed. 

Unfortunately, Patty won’t be there to assist Fred. She died in August.

“I told Patty three weeks before she passed away that I was going to quit being Santa,” Fred said with deep emotion in his voice. “I told her with my health it would be best to hang it up.”

Fred will make good on his promise good from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 14. For the last time, Fred will welcome guests  — young and old -—-- to visit with him at the Mace United Methodist Church.

Fred first began playing Santa for his family. Dressed in an old Santa suit with an old cotton beard, he remembers sitting down beside his own mother and she did not recognize him. 

“Mom had no idea it was me dressed up, even when I sat down right beside her on the couch,” Fred said. “She did not find out it was me for two years. We laughed about that for a long time.”

Fred, who retired from the General Motors and the Indiana Department of Transportation, has been Santa for many local industry parties, public parties and the Crawfordsville Christmas parade.

It was during the parade that Fred showed his commitment to the children he loved to entertain.

“I remember the one time I was Santa at the Christmas parade some kid threw a piece of candy at me,” Fred said. “The candy hit me square in the lens of the antique glasses I was wearing. It hurt. But, we kept going and I finished the parade. It was after the parade my wife rushed me to the eye doctor and he pulled out six shards of glass from my eye. That is the only time I really got hurt while being Santa.”

For the other hundreds of appearances, Fred has enjoyed every moment. Through the years he has distributed 280 large tubs of candy canes.

“I always enjoyed the kids,” Fred said. “I could be in a sour mood, but every time I put on the suit and the make-up, it would transform me. When you see the kids light up, it completely changes your attitude.”

There are many memorable moments. Fred recalls being Santa at the old Crawfordsville Boulevard Mall. When one child left his lap, there was a large wet spot was on his knee. Fred did not panic and just started sitting children on his other knee.

Next Sunday will be an emotional time for Fred. After being Santa for his own two children and four grandchildren, the 71-year-old knows someone will be looking down on him.

“I always thought Patty would be with me this last time,” Fred said choking back tears. “But, I know she will be looking down on me and smiling just like she always did.”

Fred remembers another time when he was Santa at the P.T.O. party at Russellville Elementary School. A sixth-grade student sat down and the first thing he said was that Fred was a fake and that he knew there was no such thing as Santa Clause.

Again, Fred calmly explained something to the young boy.

“My son, there really is a Santa Clause,” Fred said tenderly. “Santa can bring you many material things that make you happy, but deep down Santa really brings you that love and happiness. I never will forget that boy and how those words just came to me.”

“I have always looked at Santa being love and happiness,” Fred said. “That is why I have done this all these years.”

Next Sunday, in the Mace church where his daughter, Tammy Musche, is the Pastor, Fred wants to bring that same love and happiness to all who come see him one more time as St. Nick. And, he believes, with all his heart, the love of his life Patty, will be smiling down upon him as he spreads the Christmas love one more time. 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

UPDATE: Police arrest 2 in connection with shooting

The Crawfordsville Police Department have arrested a man and a woman in connection with the early Sunday morning shooting of a 51-year-old man at the Indy Road Pub, 1804 Indianapolis Road.

Police arrested Ciial Curley, 23, of Flanagan, Illinois, on Sunday morning. He was charged with battery. Police arrested Stacey Smith, 39, of Crawfordsville, on Monday. She was charged with false informing. Both have already posted bond and been released from the Montgomery County Jail.

Detective Bob Rivers with the Crawfordsville Police Department received a call at 3:19 a.m. Sunday of a disturbance at the bar and that a person had been shot. When police arrived at the scene they found a man with a gunshot wound to his mid-section. He was taken to Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health - Crawfordsville and was then air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with life-threatening injuries. He remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Further charges may be filed in this case. The paperwork has been forwarded to the Montgomery County Prosecutor who will decide if the person who fired the shot that injured the man will be charged or if it was a case of self-defense.

The case continues to be under investigation.

‘Start of Something New’ at Southmont Junior High

NEW MARKET — Southmont Junior High School is getting ready to pull back the curtain on its first play/musical production in the school’s history: “High School Musical Jr.”

“About a year ago now, Mary Scheidler and I were talking about the possibilities for our students who are into the performing arts,” Principal Mike Tricker said. “Mary asked if we could do a play — maybe a musical. I told her that sounded like a great idea.”

When Scheidler was preparing for auditions in the middle of September, she wasn’t sure she would even get 10 students to show up. Instead, they’re dealing with a large cast of 31 seventh and eighth graders.

Putting on a production might be new for the school, but performing in one is just as new for many of the cast members.

Similar to his character Troy Bolton, Cale Hess is new to the performing arts scene. Hess, like Bolton, is a basketball player who has found himself playing the lead role in the school’s musical.

“It’s good . . . scary,” he said. “It’s good working with Caden (Bowlin) and Beck (McIntyre) because they’re like my best friends. And I love working with everyone else.”

Bowlin, who plays Ryan Evans, is also making his musical debut this weekend. Bowlin shared his character’s ever-present excitement as he talked about his first role.

“I love it!” Bowlin said with a huge smile. “It’s fun!”

Bowlin says he’s not nervous because he knows all of his lines. However, his stage sister, Addison Charles as Sharpay Evans, is feeling a little pressure for her first performance.

“I know everything is going to be OK though because, just like the movie, we’re all in this together,” Charles said.

Charles has enjoyed developing Sharpay’s character, which was originally played by Ashley Tisdale. Charles said she’s trying to bridge the gap between Tisdale’s very sassy portrayal of the character and how she wants to represent Sharpay.

One of the show’s veteran performers, Olivia Olin, landed the other lead role of Gabriella Montez.

Though this will be her 24th production, Olin said she’s still pretty nervous. 

“It’s hard in the performing arts to say you’re ever ready,” said John Blair of the Vanity Theater, the show’s musical director. “They definitely will be fresh, and they’ll have that little bit of nervousness that will make it really refreshing.”

Olin, who has done several productions at the Vanity Theater, said it’s been fun to watch her fellow cast mates grow as performers.

“A lot of people haven’t done a lot of theatre, and they’ve come so far,” she said. “So it’s exciting, and they want to do more.”

Olin’s mother, Heather Olin, is the show’s director. Tricker said he has watched her bring out the best in his school’s students.

“She has done a great job,” Tricker said. “It is great to see the students so excited and watching their progress is something very special.”

“They work really hard,” Blair said. “I feel like each time we do it, they get better and better. And they love it! That’s the thing I think the audience will like the most — they just like being here.”

“High School Musical Jr.” opens at 7 p.m. Saturday at Southmont High School, followed by a matinée performance at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Salvation Army looks for ringers

Bells will soon be ringing for a good cause in Crawfordsville. The annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign is scheduled to kickoff in one week, but the organization is still looking for more volunteers to ring the bells.

“We have 25 churches, a few businesses, service clubs and individuals already signed up, but we still have several openings to fill,” said Salvation Army volunteer Brenda Deckard. 

Last year the Red Kettle Campaign raised $55,000, which was an all-time record. The goal for 2015 is to match the amount raised last year.

All funds are used to help needy families and individuals in Montgomery County.

Ron Hess is a volunteer recruiter for the campaign. He said the funds are used to help those in need.

“The number one thing we use the money for is to help with heating and utility bills,” Hess said. “The last thing we want is to have kids sleeping in cars during the winter because there is no heat in their home.”

Hess said other purposes for the funds include purchasing groceries, prescriptions, medical expenses and gasoline. The local group goes to great lengths to make sure the funds they distribute are used appropriately.

“We never give cash to anyone,” Hess said. “We will write the checks to the suppliers.”

There is one slight concern this year with the Red Kettle Campaign. The Indiana Salvation Army, which sets the guidelines for the local group, has decided there will be no bell ringing on Sundays this season. Hess hopes the local group can make up for the loss.

“Although we would only ring the bell for four hours on Sunday, many times we would raise more money on a Sunday than a full day of ringing,” Hess said. “We are hoping people will realize we lost Sundays so they will make sure to find us on the other days.”

Another concern Hess had about not ringing on Sunday is that is when many of the local groups, in particular church groups, could ring. Many youth groups would only be available on Sunday afternoons because so many youth are busy the rest of the week with school and club activities.

Red kettles will be located at Walmart, Kroger, Big R and County Market this season.

The ringing schedule is every Friday and Saturday from Nov. 13 to Dec. 19. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday beginning Nov. 17 will have bell ringing except for Thanksgiving. The ringing season also will be from Nov. 23-25 and Dec. 14-23.

Anyone who would like to volunteer for the Red Kettle Campaign can call Deckard at 918-2453 or board member Jan Sears at 362-3055. Messages can be left at The Hub at 362-8840.