“We have many, many stars who shine bright” in this area, Ripley County Chamber of Commerce Secretary Gerry Nordmeyer told a crowd of 130 at the 19th anniversary annual meeting Nov. 15.
Three Pillars of the Community were honored.
Educator of the Year Chad Moeller, the six-year St. Louis School principal, is determined “to guide and encourage students and staff alike to attain higher learning, achievement and spirituality,” she reported. With the Batesville resident at the helm, SLS has received a state progress rating of exemplary and ISTEP results most recently were in the top 1.8 percent in Indiana.
He has implemented many programs, including Homework Connection, a before and after school tutoring initiative. “Chad is there every morning sitting with these students himself, enjoying the relationships he builds ... When the buses arrive, he is at the door, greeting each student by name.”
Preschool teacher Maureen Esser told Nordmeyer she remembers scraping wallpaper and painting the rooms at the former Weigel Funeral Home with Moeller and other volunteers. She reported, “His humor lifts us up and his kindness keeps us grounded.”
Nordmeyer has learned, “His door is always open and he’s always ready to listen. Chad leads by example, treating others with respect and kindness.”
Prior to his current position, the 46-year-old earned a graphic design degree at the University of Dayton and teaching certificate at IUPUI, then taught art in public and parochial schools. After gaining a Ball State University master’s degree, he became principal at St. Michael’s School, Brookville.
At the podium after accepting his plaque, Moeller wondered, “Why me? I don’t really feel different or special. Today I was trying to figure out what I could say to thank you. I give the kids and staff and parents everything I’ve got. That’s not bragging. That’s what educators do. Every person in my building does the same thing. I’m still very humbled by this award.”
He introduced mother Mellonne Gillman, in-laws Paul and Connie Deal and his family (wife Paulla and daughters Lizzy, 16, and Anna, 9), noting they understand “what kind of sacrifices and support it takes” to lead a school.
Citizen of the Year Owen Menchhofer, Holton, “is always willing to serve when he is called on,” Nordmeyer noted. The Holton Community Water Co. president is Osgood Lions Club treasurer and was president; Ripley County Historical Society treasurer; and Ripley County Area Planning Commission vice president.
Menchhofer, who attended South Ripley High School and Purdue University’s School of Agriculture, serves on three boards: Frank Tarter Trust Fund, Herman and Crum Trust Fund and Osgood Historical Museum. He has been a Ripley County Farm Bureau past president and board member. The honoree and his wife, Della, have hosted several foreign exchange students from Brazil and Germany and been on outreach mission trips to Brazil.
The Tanglewood Baptist Church and cemetery association trustee is also a Master Gardener program graduate.
The hog and grain farmer and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agent is a former 4-H leader, Ripley County Extension and Jac-Cen-Del Ag Advisory board member.
Menchhofer admitted, “I’m not home much. My wife tells me I need to learn to say no. The community has been very, very good not only to me, but my family. Doing things for the community is a way to give back.” Echoing Hilary Clinton, he reminded attendees, “it takes a community to raise a child ... to do anything in the community is a group effort.”
Nordmeyer announced that Scott and Cindy Neal, Osgood, are the chamber’s Business Persons of the Year. “Scott Neal was born to be an entrepreneur. At the age of 16, he bought a gas station in Osgood and hired someone to run it while he was in high school!”
Later Neal bought and sold a pawn shop, salvage yard and liquor store. After marrying Cindy Weir, a registered nurse, they established a car lot in Osgood. Nordmeyer reported, “Over the years, they have rehabbed dozens of homes in Osgood and Versailles, improving both communities and creating local jobs.”
A few years ago, Marc Rulli asked the couple to construct a business plaza on property they own in Versailles so he could open a Gold Star Chili there. After much thought, they built Neal-Weir Plaza. The restaurant opened there last summer and the building also boasts George’s Pharmacy and Pizza King.
He told attendees, “We went through quite a project of many hours” getting the structure finished. “I think it’s quite an addition to the community.” His speech ended with laughter after Neal unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal he was wearing a Gold Star Chili T-shirt underneath.
Six county foundations that have impacted residents’ quality of life also were recognized. They will be profiled in The Herald-Tribune Nov. 29.