CULVER — Culver’s Chamber of Commerce continued a several years’ old tradition last Tuesday evening as plummeting temperatures outside contrasted with the warmth and good cheer inside Cafe Max, site of the Chamber’s annual community awards dinner.
Outgoing Chamber President Greg Fassett, Administrator of Miller’s Merry Manor in Culver, opened the evening’s program by introducing Bobetta (“Bobbie”) Washburn Ruhnow, whose literal lifetime of continuing service to Culver appropriately earned her the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born and raised in Culver, Ruhnow described a childhood “on and in Lake Maxinkuckee,” in her written autobiography, read by Fassett. Ironically, her grandfather Milton Ewald was one of the first presidents of Culver’s Chamber, which began in 1925. He owned Ewald Grocery for many years, said Ruhnow, downtown next to today’s Gladie’s Deli. Ewald also served on the Culver town council, and Ruhnow said her father was a volunteer fireman as were her uncles.
“I believe this background gave me the desire to participate in the community,” she added. “My work ethic probably came from my mother (the late Caty Cummins) who retired at the age of 90 after many years of working at the McKinnis and Mr. T’s Pharmacy.”
Ruhnow was born and raised in Culver, and has lived here most of her life. She has two children, four step-children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren; she married Bud Ruhnow in 1994.
Ruhnow served on the Culver Plan Commission and the Culver Board of Zoning Appeals since 1986, is a lifetime member of Finney-Shilling VFW Auxiliary and past secretary and president. After 12 years as Clerk Treasurer of the Town of Culver, she became a correspondent for the Culver Citizen and Plymouth Pilot newspapers (see sidebar on this page). In 1997, she became the secretary for the Chamber of Commerce in Culver and continues to serve in these capacities today, as well as serving as secretary for the Second Century Steering Committee at its inception. She’s presently a member of the Union Township Advisory Board, an elected position she’s held since 1998.
Receiving the award, Ruhnow told the audience she’s worked “in a lot of different places in my years. Of all the places I worked and people I’ve worked with, I’ve never met a nicer group than our (Chamber)...board of directors and members. Thank you for the honor; it means a great deal to me.”
Fassett introduced Bill and Cheryl Rhodes (noting co-owner and Bill’s brother Dennis couldn’t attend the event), owners of Park N’ Shop supermarket in Culver, discussing the debut last year of the greatly remodeled store.
Rhodes and his brother Dennis, said Fassett, took the store over from their late father, Charles some years ago, after the elder Rhodes opened the first Park N’ Shop building at 115 East Jefferson Street, the building most recently home to the Culver Cabana restaurant, starting in 1959.
In May, 1963, having purchased and razed the M.R. Cline Builders store just east of the first Park N’ Shop (on the site of today’s Culver Cove), Rhodes opened the new, steel Park N’ Shop building he’d had constructed there. In April, 1981, Park N’ Shop opened its doors at its present location, having taken it over from the Alford’s IGA supermarket for which the building was originally built in 1976 (thus ending a brief price war between the two stores).
The Rhodes also continue to operate five Sav-A-Lot and other grocery and convenience stores in Knox, Rochester, South Bend, and LaPorte.
“The work they did on the expansion (of Park N’ Shop) was outstanding,” added Fassett. “They offer a great service to our community; they went over the top with the remodel.”
Bill Rhodes, noting the family has “been in this town a long time,” said he remembers working in the Cabana building in the grocery’s early years as well as the “steel store.”
“We’re pushing 50 years in this community,” he added. “It’s been a good time. We really do appreciate you guys honoring us. Thank all of you for that.”
Lauded as Volunteers of the Year were Mike and Connie Overmyer, President and CEO (respectively) of JMC Engineers.
Describing their Culver journey by way of information supplied by the Overmyers, Fassett noted the couple returned to Mike’s childhood home in Culver following a stint in the Air Force. Here, he became active with Culver’s Jaycees and — after that organization disbanded — the local Lions Club. Connie held offices and was active in the Junior Women’s Club until it disbanded, and later Culver’s Tri Kappa chapter. Both were charter members of the Culver Rough and Hilly Farmers, Mike serving as Area 2 Director for the Indiana Young Farmers Association. The couple also became active supporters of their growing children’s (Sean, JB, Heather, and Garth) sports endeavors, both taking coaching positions at various points (they continue their support, though now for their granddaughters, “sometimes going to two different games in two different towns in one night”!).
Both Overmyers were involved with the local 4H in leadership positions, and Mike served on the Marshall County 4-H Fair Board for a number of years.
In 1987, Mike began his involvement with the Maxinkuckee Players and the Maxinkuckee Singers, followed four years later by Connie (both have held positions on the board).
About six years ago, they were approached to take up the reins of Culver’s Lake Fest, which might end without a new committee to steer it; since, they have worked as leaders of that committee ever since (Mike was on the committee that formed the Lake Fest over 28 years ago). Mike also served on the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council. Both have been active members of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Culver since 1971 in a number of leadership positions. They have also helped with Junior Achievement in the Culver Elementary School, and have served on the Gift of Warmth committee behind the Lake Maxinkuckee Film Festival. Since July, 2006, their business, JMC Engineers, have supported a host of local charities financially as well.
“I’m a lifelong member of this community and (the award) means a lot to me,” Mike told the Chamber audience, adding at his 45th class reunion recently, those in attendance “all felt so lucky to have grown up here. There are a lot of new faces, and they all have added something to this community.”
During concluding remarks, Fassett praised the many volunteers in the community, including members of the Chamber. He also acknowledged incoming Chamber President Dawn Brockey for her assistance in the organization, including as program manager for the past four or five years. He added thanks to past President Mike Stallings for his work, as well as Chamber member and past treasurer Rick Tompos.
Appreciation was also given to the staff of Miller’s Merry Manor for supporting him in his work with the Chamber.
Fassett, who was applauded by the audience for his work as President, called Culver “a great town,” noting he’s been President of three Chambers of Commerce in Indiana, and “by far this is the best. (It’s) very active, involved, and a great place to be. It’s easy to promote a town like this.”