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Change, big plans in motion for Wakarusa Historical Society

January 2, 2011

WAKARUSA — The future is looking quite bright for a local institution that cherishes and celebrates the past.
This was a very productive year for the Wakarusa Historical Society, and in preparation for another momentous year to come, a new slate of officers was chosen during its November session.
Wakarusa police officer Steve Greenawalt was on hand to execute the changing of board members during a gathering on Veterans Day. The incoming president will be Todd Scheets; Reid Eby will serve as vice-president; Diana Smith retains her position as secretary; and Bob Glenn will oversee the workings of treasurer.
Greenawalt read aloud a list of duties that are synonymous with the responsibilities of each officer, with each inductee responding that they would “accept this position and execute the duties to the best of (their) ability.”
Among the list of projects the Historical Society anticipates for completion will be the new Bird’s Eye View Museum. Owner and creator Devon Rose donated his handcrafted artistic renderings of panoramic local historic visions and landscapes to the Society in 2008. It has been crafting a building to house his collections.
“The building proper is complete, thanks to much donated labor,” new vice-president Eby said. “Landscaping is also completed thanks to donated labor, and a grant received from the Elkhart County Community Foundation.
“Funds are being sought for display stands and glass covers to display the Bird’s Eye collection. Then, each model building will be thoroughly cleaned and repaired before being placed in the display. This will take many hours of volunteer labor.”
Along the exterior of the new Bird’s Eye building, there will eventually be facades to capture the spirit of the community, reminiscent of a century ago. 
“The outdoor facades, three-quarter-size small-town fronts of the early 1900s, will be designed and built to cover the east and south outdoor walls of the Museum,” Eby said. “Donors are being sought and designs are in the works to accomplish donor wishes.”
Some events the Society is working to sponsor and host in 2011 include “Education Days,” to be held March 14-17. The museum will be open for special hours of operation to accommodate school groups, church members, senior citizens and other organizations that wish to visit. A similar schedule will occur during the Maple Syrup Festival, which is slated for April 15-16. 
Looking ahead for the year to come also warrants a change in leadership, an issue the board also addressed during their recent meeting. The membership unanimously chose to honor longtime community activist and founding Society member Helen Klein as “President Emeritus,” which is defined as one who carries this distinction in reverence and respect of the previous office held. Klein’s title will remain with her for life.
Klein passed along a ceremonial hammer to Scheets during the transition in which Scheets will become the new president. The board chose to use a hammer rather than a more traditional gavel, to symbolize the dedication to the physical efforts that the Society invests in the museum and the community it represents.
The moments of transition represented a somewhat bittersweet occasion, as Klein was one of the original members of the Wakarusa Historical Society when it was founded Sept. 9, 1975. Klein, along with Larry Smith, Floyd Drake, Jack Hess and Robert Ehret, gathered at the Lienhart Funeral Home for the first meeting, during which they discussed their plans to secure and restore the former Wakarusa Depot.
Exactly one year later, the depot was donated to the Society by Richard Ross of Norfolk and Southern Railroad, and the museum was well on its way to becoming one of Wakarusa’s most esteemed landmarks.
More than 35 years later, the Society continues to evolve and expand their vision and their museum to include many facets of Wakarusa’s bygone days. 
For more information on how to become involved with the Wakarusa Historical Society, or to make a donation, contact the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce at 574-862-4344.

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