Saturday, February 3, 2024
Builders Lumber co-founder Dennis Baker, Bill Sembach, Builders Lumber owner Brian Baker and Bob Kelly celebrate Sembach’s and Kelly’s retirements at an employee gathering yesterday at Builders Lumber, 1309 Miller Ave. Mr. Sembach worked at Builders for 33 years and Mr. Kelly for 26 years. | photo by JACK BOYCE
SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY: Alonzo Blair Pays It Forward
A train stopped in Shelbyville in the early 1860s with several children from a “benevolent society” in New York City. The boys and girls were escorted to the courthouse, where local families selected them over the course of the morning for foster care and adoption. Only one boy, 9, with dark hair, years later described in the weekly Democrat newspaper as “so thin and bony that nobody wanted him,” remained. As county officials began packing up for lunch, the boy, already missing his newfound friends, began to cry.
“There were others there, but it was (Clerk of Circuit Court) Alonzo Blair who was moved with compassion, took the poor, homeless (child) to his own home, made him the playmate and companion of his own children, (and) gave him the best educational advantages accessible…,” the Rev. George Sluter, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Shelbyville, later recalled.
The boy, Thomas Fenton Taylor, was once hurt in an accident. Blair dispatched a messenger to a local physician, who responded with “the utmost haste,” Sluter said. Nothing was fast enough for Blair. When the physician arrived on galloping horses, Blair only said, “For God’s sake, hurry, doctor!”
During the Civil War, Taylor served as Blair’s deputy clerk, starting at 12 years of age. When Taylor was 14, Blair placed him in a prestigious Indianapolis high school, and then guided him to Harvard University. Thomas Fenton Taylor graduated from Harvard and later from Columbia Law School before embarking on a successful career. He studied under famous historian and diplomat Henry Brooks Adams, a member of the Adams political family, lectured on railroads and poets and corresponded with Salvation Army founder William C. Booth during his career. The New York Times reported on some of his social events.
Despite owning multiple homes and traveling internationally, Taylor kept in touch with Blair, by then a successful attorney in Shelbyville. The sharp-witted Blair, who was “never at a loss for a rejoinder,” Sluter said, was known to always speak to local children, all by name, as they passed him downtown.
His own children were held to a high standard. “But he was deeply under the conviction that if children would not receive an education and improve the advantages of good schooling, then they ought not to receive anything else from their parents,” Sluter said, noting that Blair had once asked him to find religious evidence for this point.
Such personality traits led Blair to be misunderstood by many, Sluter said at Blair’s funeral in 1879, adding that successful people were deemed such by “thwarting” their opponents, who in turn “decry the conqueror.” Sluter surmised, “This is one of the disadvantages and sorrows of a successful man: that his reputation in the community is oftentimes below his true character.”
To that point, one not often made in today’s funerals, Rev. Sluter mentioned that hyenas were known to “feast on the flesh, even of the dead.” He added, “And so there are sometimes human hyenas who would tear up the remnants of mortality and beslime the name and fame of departed ones, and gloat in exaggerated pictures of their imperfections. But we here today are not of that number. I am persuaded better things of you.”
Despite the admonition, Blair was apparently well respected, because over 6,000 attended the funeral, including many who took a special train from Indianapolis. The service was held at his home on South Harrison St. (It was the first of many funerals in the home, which is now Freeman Family Funeral Homes). The courthouse bell rang to mark the occasion, and the funeral procession included two bands and a double line of carriages. Fifteen barrels of ice water were consumed at the graveside service, newspapers said.
Rev. Sluter, in his now-opaque address, had only one regret. “I heartily wish that I could speak of Mr. Blair's spiritual development as of his intellectual and social power,” the Rev. said. “But spiritual development is a rare, rare fruit on human soil. The censorious, bitter, fault-finding Christians are many, but the loving, charitable, forgiving Christ-like, where are they? They are few and far, far between. And when they are tempted to wreak their dislikes upon the dead, because they have been imperfect and full of human frailty, it were well to remember that the truest and best friend they ever had has himself said, ‘Let him that is without sin among you, cast the first stone.'”
Although Thomas Fenton Taylor was unable to attend the funeral on short notice, he wrote Mrs. Nancy Blair a sympathy letter.
“I am shocked to hear of your terrible and sudden loss,” he wrote. “I believe you know enough of the facts of my life to feel sure that I can fully sympathize with anybody in distress.”
After apologizing for missing the funeral, Taylor said he had “never been slow to acknowledge” his indebtedness to the Blairs, and promised to return a gift given to him long before.
“I want you to promise me that I may educate your younger boy – Lonnie – as finely as and as nearly as possible like I have been educated,” Taylor wrote. “This will be the surest way of making him a good and useful man, and the kind of a son you will like to have in your old age.”
Alonzo “Lonnie” Blair went on to earn his education, and also entered the field of law. He became Shelby County prosecutor, among other positions, and later served as a respected Shelby Circuit Court judge, overseeing the same courtroom where his father once gave Thomas Fenton Taylor a new start in life.
Candidates wishing to be on the Democrat or Republican primary ballot must file declaration of candidacy paperwork by Friday, February 9 at noon. Minor party, independent, write-in candidates will file declarations of candidacy for the November General Election later in the year, after the May Primary Election is held, the Secretary of State said yesterday.
HOOSIER NEWS: Seymour Democrat Trish Whitcomb is filing paperwork to run for Indiana House District 69, held by incumbent Republican State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour). Whitcomb is the daughter of former Indiana Governor Edgar Whitcomb (1969-1973).
NATIONAL NEWS: A new survey found that just 38 percent of Americans intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, a figure that only manages to rise to 53 percent of people who are in a relationship. (Youguv/Numlock)
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This Day in Shelby County History
2014: Some Shelby County residents tried out at America’s Got Talent in Indianapolis. Rob Springer, Erica Marcum and Meghan Schantz were among the thousands who showed up for the nationally televised show’s try-outs. Springer, the Shelbyville Redevelopment Director, said he believed someone local would get a call back.
2004: Local police were impressed with their new Mustang GT vehicles compared to their previous Crown Victorias. The top speed of 155 mph would be helpful, Officer Bob Cook told The Shelbyville News. “‘It’s gonna be a plus working traffic,’ Cook said with a kid-at-Christmas smile,” Kelley Walker Perry wrote.
1994: Hubler Ford Lincoln Mercury planned to move to its new building on East State Road 44 by March, company officials said. They planned to move about 200 cars from Hubler’s North State Road 9 location to the new home in Belaire Shopping Center. The new building would be 32,000-square-feet and have 22 service bays.
Shelby Circuit Court Judge Charles O’Connor announced plans to seek re-election to his third-six-year term. O’Connor said his only campaign pledge was to “continue the efficient operation of the Shelby Circuit Court.” He and his wife, Brenda, had five children.
1984: Shelbyville News managing editor Jim McKinney wrote about the aftermath of the Wellman strikes that had been resolved in 1982. Two employees had been arrested and convicted on a criminal recklessness charge that stemmed from the strike. Both were fired, but won reinstatement of their jobs through arbitration. By 1984, union president Tom Harding claimed the plant was reneging on the arbitration finding. Lee McNeely represented Wellman in the matter.
1974: Lengthy lines at gas stations had become a common sight around the country, but only happened in Shelbyville when a Saturday fell at the same time most stations were waiting for their next allotment of fuel. A newspaper photo showed a long line at the Swifty Station on E. State Road 44. The cars were lined up for a full block west of the station on the south side of the road.
1964: A local woman was charged with intent to commit murder after forcing her four-year-old daughter to take four adult dosage nerve tablets and to drink a mixture of water and cigarette lighter fluid. The girl went into a coma and was admitted to Riley Hospital, where she recovered. The woman had previously been found unconscious at her place of employment, in the Kennedy Car Liner and Bag Co. restroom, after reportedly downing at least 30 pills.
1954: The new Kaiser Manhattan arrived at the Herb Ivie Garage Kaiser dealership. The super-charged “power on demand” performance was a key feature. It also had a jet-scoop grille and a functional air-scoop hood.
Harry McClain, Shelbyville, and Wray Fleming, a former local resident, were invited to be among 40 Hoosier political, civil and business leaders at President Eisenhower’s White House conference on highway safety.
1944: The Fountaintown Conservation Club announced an upcoming fox drive to be held in Hanover Township. The group would meet at Newhouse Hardware Store in Morristown. “A large crowd is desired to participate because many farmers have reported that foxes are killing numerous chickens and pigs,” The Republican said.
1934: A sum of $149 was raised from the President’s Ball, held at the Elk’s Home, which was sent to a Georgia sanitarium to be used for the treatment of infantile paralysis. Approximately 125 local couples attended the ball, which was co-sponsored by the Lions Club.
1924: Recent thaws and wet weather had left county roads in bad condition. “With the present brand of weather it is almost impossible to keep gravel roads,” The Republican said.
Many locals tuned in to hear Gael Lemmon, a Shelbyville graduate attending Hanover College, sing on the radio. He was singing from a Louisville radio station.
1914: A Fairland man and his sister-in-law were arrested by night police at a boarding house and charged with adultery. They were both fined $15. Police had been tipped off by a former “paramour” of the man, who “had been cast into the discard for (the sister-in-law),” The Republican said. The man and his brother-in-law had been central figures in a summer 1913 incident that generated a lot of talk throughout the county. The brother-in-law had shot a load of beans at the man while passing his home. The man did not know what type of ammunition was in use and had “started to run as fast and as far as possible,” The Republican said.
Son Ok Slevin, 73, of Shelbyville, passed away Wednesday January 31, 2024 at Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. She was born May 21, 1950 in South Korea to Chong Yun Kim and Yong Sun Kwon.
Son loved to cook and work in her garden. Her favorite thing to do was to spend time with her family.
She married John Slevin on November 22, 1985, and he survives. Son is also survived by her daughter, Lesley Slevin; her sons, Christopher Slevin and John Slevin Jr.; her grandchildren, Jessica Belcher, Ashley Jackson, Alex Chance, Katyln Chance and Jason Holtz; her great-grandchildren, Andrew Perry, Elizabeth Yax, Israel Jackson and Annabeth Chance. She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers, Won Tae Kwon and Chu Tae Kim; her sister, Tae Ul Kim; her father-in-law, Samuel Slevin; her mother-in-law, Doris Slevin and her daughter, Elizabeth (Slevin) Chance.
Funeral Directors Greg Parks, Sheila Parks, Stuart Parks, and Darin Schutt are honored to serve Son’s family. Online condolences may be shared at www.murphyparks.com.
Donald “Edmund” DePrez Sr., 92, of Greenfield, passed away Friday, February 2, 2024, at Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenfield.
He was born October 5, 1931, in Shelbyville, the son of Elmer and Gwendolyn (Sawyer) DePrez. On January 1, 1953, he married Catherine E. Kemper, and she preceded him in death on November 28, 1995. Edmund is survived by his three sons, Donald E. DePrez Jr. and Bobby D. DePrez and wife, Mary Ann, both of Greenfield, and Roger DePrez of Long Beach, California; brother, Joseph DePrez and wife, Sherrie, of Shelbyville; seven grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; eight great-great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. In addition to Catherine, Edmund was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Eva Jean Theobald; and brothers, Lloyd DePrez and Eugene DePrez.
Edmund was a U.S. Army veteran. He formerly worked at Design and Build, for 10 years in construction. Edmund loved motorcycles and shooting pool.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, February 9, 2024, at Freeman Family Funeral Homes and Crematory, Carmony-Ewing Chapel, 819 S. Harrison St. in Shelbyville. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m., Saturday, February 10, 2024 at the funeral home, with Bishop Paul Weiss officiating. Interment will be at Forest Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville. Memorial contributions may be made to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, 3 Columbus Circle, 15th floor, New York, New York 10019. Online condolences may be shared with Edmund’s family at www.freemanfamilyfuneralhomes.com.