Friday, September 1, 2023

'A few tears and a lot of thank-yous': Three inducted into SHS Hall of Fame

Pat Gunning, Judy Pettit and Mike Asher unveil Hall of Fame plaques honoring their family members in the Shelbyville High School atrium last night. 

The Asher men - Mike and sons Brian and Scott - remember their reaction after receiving the news Jan Asher would be inducted into the Shelbyville High School Hall of Fame.

“We were speechless,” Brian Asher said of the notification meeting with John Hartnett and Shelbyville Central Schools’ Andy Hensley. They eventually collected themselves. “There were a few tears and a lot of thank-yous,” Brian said.

That reaction aptly describes last night’s heartfelt ceremony at SHS, where the inductions of Jan Asher, class of 1967, who passed away in April; Wilbur Pell, class of 1933, who died in 2000; and Kenneth Gunning, class of 1933, who died in 1991, raised the number of Hall members to 41.

Pell had practiced law in Shelbyville with his father for nearly 30 years after graduating from Harvard Law School and serving as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. He was appointed to serve on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by President Richard Nixon.

Local attorney Jeff Bate, who accepted the award on behalf of Pell’s sons, Chuck and Bill, recalled his own father, Charles Bate, also an attorney, first suggesting Pell for the Hall of Fame. “(Charles Bate) said, ‘You’ve got Charles O’Connor, you’ve got Lee McNeely, you’ve got Phil Brown. I don’t know why you wouldn’t put Wilbur Pell in,’” Jeff Bate recalled.

Two of Pell’s nephews, Jim Pell and John Pell, and a niece, Judy Pettit, shared anecdotes about their uncle.

Pell’s office building was on West Taylor Street near the courthouse and jail, most recently the site of the late Robert Arnold’s law office, and is now for sale.

Bate also explained some of Pell’s critical court decisions. “I like to see Wilbur Pell as one of those people from Shelbyville High School who added to our history,” he said.

Gunning was another graduate from the class of 1933, where he succeeded in multiple sports, playing on J.M. McKeand’s undefeated 1932 football team and winning the Paul Cross Award in basketball. He went on to be the leading scorer for the Indiana University basketball team for three seasons and was recently inducted posthumously into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gunning’s daughter, Pat Wilson, spoke on behalf of the family, recalling stories about her father racing against Jesse Owens in time trials. She added that her dad had also been a fitness instructor on a military aircraft carrier on which he had been in Pearl Harbor two days before the bombing.

Gunning is also mentioned in “But They Can’t Beat Us: Oscar Robertson and the Crispus Attucks Tigers.” In one story, Gunning promised his underdog Connersville team he would run home from Rushville if they won.

“Partially true to his word, (Gunning) got off the bus a mile away and ran the last mile,” John Hartnett said to laughs.

Gunning’s nomination was first suggested by former SHS basketball coach John Heaton.

Many attendees last night were connected to the Asher family. Jan Asher, who died at age 73 this year, taught 41 years for Shelbyville Central Schools, including stints at the old junior high school and middle school, high school and Loper Elementary. She was SHS’s first volleyball coach and coached several other sports.

“And anything else they asked her to do,” Brian Asher said.

She also created the nationally-recognized SHAPE physical education program at SMS.

At one point, Brian said, he and his brother, Scott, and family tried in vain to determine the number of students their mom had taught. “We finally came up with somewhere close to 10,000."

Asher said his mother, a long-time advocate for girls’ sports, would have been honored to be joining fellow female Hall members Mary Anne Richey, Jean Ann Dellekamp, Jo Webster, Marilyn Hendrick, Dr. Phyllis Fleming and Sandy Allen, the latter also a former student of Jan’s.

“Mom also joins a group of excellent educators tonight in the Hall of Fame, including people like Roland Stine, Jerry Higgins, Gene Sexton, and those are all people Mom taught with side-by-side,” Brian said, noting, though, that his mom would have been “embarrassed” with all the attention.

“She is one of many educators, past and present, who have and will continue to make a positive impact on kids’ lives. This award belongs to all of you,” Brian said before thanking “everyone who was part of our mom’s life.”

Past Hall of Fame inductees Hartnett and Gary Long were in attendance, as well as James Garrett, representing his uncle, Bill Garrett. Hall of Fame members will also be recognized at half-time of tonight’s home football game.

Hensley, SCS Director of Student Services, said the Hall of Fame inductee list included “mentors, trailblazers, business leaders, philanthropists, and teachers,” and represented strong values in education. “These are qualities we instill. We want our graduates to have these qualities,” he said.

John Pell, nephew of Wilbur Pell, shares memories at last night's Shelbyville High School Hall of Fame ceremony.

The Latest Digitized SHS Courier Editions

May 24, 1961 | October 3, 1962 | March 17, 1967 | Feb. 23, 1971 | May 15, 2013 (including senior wills)

The latest edition featuring the current student staff will be published next week. Look for a "new" retro edition to be uploaded each school day here. Also, follow the Squib & Courier on Facebook for archive photos and editions!

This Month in Shelby County History

2018: Shelbyville won its homecoming game by one point against Greenfield-Central. Former coach Pat Parks was honored for his dedication to the program and community between the first and second quarters.

2013: The Shelby County Council discussed funding to rebuild the fairgrounds' grandstand, which had been destroyed by fire in 2012. Shelby County owned the land, and the fair association owned the buildings, including the former 133-year-old wood-frame, covered grandstand that perished in the fire.

2008: The Shelbyville High School class of 1938 celebrated its 70-year reunion at Fiddlers Three. Members present were Richard Wagner, Duane Murphy, Viole (Linville) Ross, Mary Ann (Cossairt) Wasson, Helen (Richardson) Amos, Martha (McKenny) Coers, Mary Jean (Huber) Jones, Frances (Parker) Cherry, Dale Hamner, Martha (Briggerman) Jones, Mignon (Edwards) Dismore, Charles Worland, Ruth (Shadley) Crane, Florence (Barlow) Habig and Kenneth Butler. Several members toured the Strand Theatre and Grover Museum after the dinner.

2003: Patriotic banners on light and utility poles downtown Shelbyville caused a flap because the banners were from an out-of-state company. The 74 banners were paid for by local sponsors. Local business owner Jeff Sponsel noted there were "at least six places locally" to obtain the graphics.

1998: The Shelbyville News featured several food vendors at the Bears of Blue River Festival. Pictures included Kathleen Coulston and Margaret Cole serving bratwurst and sauerkraut and Douglas McDuffey Sr. and Douglas McDuffey Jr. serving barbeque.

1993: City officials announced they were considering annexing 235 acres on East State Road 44, including PSI Energy, the Shelbyville Animal Clinic, Farm Bureau, property owned by First Presbyterian Church, Big Foot, and a trailer park owned by Bernard Coers. Mayor Bob Williams said the project would allow for growth along I-74.

1988: Hildebrand Addition was annexed into Shelbyville. A majority of homeowners in the 22-home addition had sought annexation after their wells went dry.

1983: A bicycle motocross had been built by Bill Schneider and Jim McColley next to Blue River Park, and was quickly gaining fans. Shelby County BMX Raceway charged $5 for all-day racing and $1 for parking.

1978: Mayor Ezra Dagley declared "war" on Conrail, stating "at 8 a.m. on Sept. 18, all rough and bad railroad crossings in the city will be covered with blacktop - starting with the ones on Broadway." He said two years of phone calls to the railroad had not produced any progress. Dagley said Conrail could slice through the blacktop to continue rail travel. "That's their problem," he said.

1973: The Chamber of Commerce board discussed moving from 204 Carney Building on Public Square due to its second-floor location. Chamber president Carlos Craven said the organization had the option of purchasing a building at 33 E. Washington St. for $26,000, and that income from three upstairs apartments would offset operation costs.

1968: A home being moved to Manilla down E. State Road 44 was stuck due to being taller than the telephone lines. Indiana Bell employees were summoned to raise the lines. The home had been moved to make room for a new branch of the Rushville National Bank.

1963: The Little League Optimist Club baseball team was pictured in the newspaper. Team members included Monte Wertz, Bob Buckley, Rick McColley, Richard Sosbe, Maynard Jones, Bob Lorenz, Tom Metzger, Richard Mount, Richard Alexander, Kevin Goble, Robin Gahimer, Dave Inlow, Gary Tucker, Glen Hall, Bill Cherry and Richard Keckler. Bill Tucker was coach, W. Robert Glidden was manager and Mike McKee was assistant coach.

1958: The street department installed 235 new street signs in Shelbyville. The new signs reflected light at night.

1953: Following a letter to the editor in the newspaper criticizing the city for not displaying American flags downtown for July the Fourth, City Council discussed the apparent break-down in communication. There had been some disagreement between the fire department and the Chamber of Commerce about who would put up the flags, Mayor Philip Banawitz said.

1948: The local draft board asked for registration volunteers. Over 600 local men had registered within the previous week. "Many of these men take time out from their jobs to come in here and register. We don't want to hold them up any longer than necessary," Albert Kennedy, board chairman, said.

1943: School times were announced for the year, with all grades beginning at 8:30 a.m., and a two-hour lunch for grade school students and hour-and-a-half break for junior high and high school.

1938: Local WPA leaders planned the annual boys bicycle trip to Brown County. The boys would leave City Hall on Thursday, 8 a.m., and return Friday evening. Written permission from parents was necessary, the leaders said.

1933: Great States Corporation in Shelbyville began manufacturing Nurane water softener units, a new business venture incorporated by local men D.H. Whitcomb, T.P. Nickell and T.N. Gibson.

1928: Local public schools were set to open Sept. 10. Most teachers had arrived and were working on living arrangements. Nearly 50 students from the townships were enrolling at Shelbyville, more than usual. The senior class would include about 110 students. If 100 of them graduated, it would be the largest class in school history, W.F. Loper noted.

1923: About 25 "old-time" stockholders and officials of the Blue Ribbon Fair gathered in the amphitheater to reminisce about the Shelby County Fair. Four of them had been on the board for over 50 years: Jap Carlisle, Jasper Heck, Appolis Kinsley and A.J. Ensminger. Hugh Dobbins and William Cochran, of Jackson Township, had attended every Blue Ribbon Fair.