Our facilitator had the best of intentions. “What do you think it will take for Elkhart County to become a world-class place to live?” he asked as he warmed us up for his presentation on one of the area’s latest community improvement initiatives. Imagine his surprise when my response was “I believe we already are.”
Frankly, I would not be here if I felt any other way. I am blessed to have a choice. I choose to stay. No, I am not peering through the proverbial rose-colored glasses. I am well aware of our many challenges. Some neighborhoods are functioning better than others. Our infrastructure is in dire need of immediate attention. We see too many of our young people die on the streets. Our discourse, political and otherwise, could certainly be more civil.
Yet I truly believe Elkhart County remains a world-class place to live. Why? I believe it because our greatest resource remains human resources. We have world-class people. Always have. Hopefully, always will. But facilitators are in love with things they call “metrics” and “measurables” as they promote their respective initiatives, so I probably need to come up with a few.
I offer the late Bill Darwin as Exhibit A. Hundreds of former WTRC radio listeners and WSJV television viewers poured into Faith United Methodist Church to pay respects, mourn together and most importantly, laugh together at his May 13 funeral. Bill would have abhorred the first two. He would have loved the latter. Bill laughed. He laughed a lot. He laughed at himself and he laughed with his guests behind a microphone or in front of a camera.
Bill Darwin also loved a lot. He loved radio. He loved the community. He loved his darling Ginger. (Sometimes it appeared Bill loved in exactly that order, but smiling Ginger never seemed to mind. She always knew Bill belonged to us.) Bill had time to chat and when he was chatting with you he never looked around for a more important person to engage. You were already that person. It may be true Bill was a big fish splashing in a small media market pond. He splashed joyfully nonetheless.
Bill Darwins can only be found in world-class communities.
I offer Dr. Bruce McArt as Exhibit B. We lost “Doctor Mac” shortly after we lost Bill. In my vision of an afterlife, Bill is already interviewing the good doctor about the many things he experienced in the Philippines during World War II or he is soliciting stories from the glory days of Elkhart high school sports. Did future Alabama All-American Rich Wingo really hide a broken leg from the team doctor to play the last half of his senior season with the Blue Blazers?
I first came to know Dr. McArt as the team physician at Elkhart Central. He was truly at home on the sidelines of Rice Field or North Side Gym and his quiet smile was often in contrast to the otherwise loud celebrations. Many others got to know him in times of deep despair. It comes with the territory for a surgeon. In either case, the people of Elkhart knew how much the good doctor cared.
Bruce McArts can only be found in world-class communities.
I offer Craig Fulmer as Exhibit C. News of Craig’s passing came while I was in the middle of writing this column. Craig had a passion for preservation. He cast a vision for our future while honoring the past. The historic downtown YMCA served as his office, his home and a hands on example of what can be done in our downtown. He was a leader in the restoration of the Lerner Theatre, leading and encouraging those who shared his dream.
Craig lost a long, painful battle with disease but he never stopped living while fighting the fight. He demonstrated a faith no sermon or eulogy will ever be able to replicate. We shared teaching duties for a Sunday School class full of teenagers many years ago. The kids got cheated when it was my turn. My apology to St. Francis, but it was Craig who preached the Gospel at all times. Only when necessary did he use words.
Craig Fulmers can only be found in world-class communities.
I migrated to Elkhart County in 1977 to be a sportswriter writer for The Elkhart Truth. My life’s journey has since taken me to WTRC Radio, Bashor Children’s Home and now MutualBank — four very different pursuits with one common denominator: People.
I have met so many incredible people along the way. People who care deeply. People who give generously. People who volunteer tirelessly. People who dream endlessly.
People like Bill, Doc and Craig who never stopped believing we are a world-class community. I promise you, Mr. Facilitator, there are many, many others.
Vince Turner is regional manager at MutualBank. He is a former Elkhart Truth sportswriter and WTRC-AM sports director.