NORTH WEBSTER — An estimated 250 people came to North Webster Library Sunday afternoon, Sept. 9, to participate in the 12th Annual North Webster Cemetery Walk. The participants came from all over Kosciusko County and neighboring counties as well as Indianapolis; Kalamazoo, Mich.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Horseshoe, Texas.
This year’s walk honored Hazel Gants, Ralph Scott, Henry Willis, Ira Rothenberger, Homer Graber, Harriet Earll and Charles, Tressa and Marguerite Gilliam. A three-minute presentation was given at each grave site by enactors. Members of North Webster American Legion Post stood at the grave sites of Homer Graber and Harriet Earll, military veterans. Dennis Ulrey played civil war music and hymns on the cornet, as guests neared the grave sites of the Gilliams and Earll.
The walk also included a stop at the grave of an infant who died in 1945. The child, found in a channel in Syracuse, was brought to North Webster for an autopsy. Death was determined due to possible homicide. It is unknown if the child was a boy or girl. Featured in last year’s walk, a patron started a fund to have a marker for the infant, which has been purchased and placed on the grave.
A Little About The Honorees
Scott, born in 1893, was a farmer and bus driver taking children to Hickory Grove and Oak Grove schools, he also hauled coal and gravel, and graded roads in Washington Township. He and his twin brother, Ray, were born in Syracuse.
Gants, born in 1897, grew up on the farm owned by her grandparents, David and Elizabeth Lewallen, now the site of Tri-County Game Preserve. She was a school teacher at Hickory Grove School from 1920-23, before going back to farming. She became friends with Eli Lilly, who purchased the old African School on the family farm, moving it to Conner Prairie. In return she received a pole barn, a sidewalk and a remodeled home, including indoor bathroom facilities.
Graber, a singer, member of a quartet and gospel group, Living Word, along with participating in the choir, Liberty, was owner of the Sweet Shop, Homer Lounge and Camelot Lounge. He was a farmer and had a bread route. Garber was born in 1935.
The Gilliams lived at a home on the site of the now Shoop Diner in Warsaw, before it burned to the ground. Tressa Gilliam, born in 1881, was an elementary teacher at North Webster, and went to Brown University, now known as Valparaiso University. Her husband, Charles was born in 1879.
Earll, born in 1915, enlisted in the Navy on May 31, 1943, being discharged in 1945. She was among 84,000 women who served in WAVES and 8,000 women who were officers during World War II. After the service, she worked for Chicago Telephone Service for 25 years.
Willis, born in 1877, was the son of Henry Willis who operated the Boydston Mill. Willis held various jobs, but also operated flour mills in North Webster, Warsaw, Leesburg and Elkhart and worked with a construction company that built the hotel at Epworth Forest. Willis was township trustee from 1931-1938 and served as deputy county recorder.
Rothenberger, born in 1876 in Turkey Creek Township, owned the Ira Rothenburger Mortuary and was the undertaker for the town of North Webster. He and his brother also operated a restaurant and grocery. He was married to Stella Gilbert. Following her death he married Clara Kiser Cripe and then following her death, he married Martha Elizabeth Banning, who was a teacher at North Webster.
Guests were led in groups of 26 by tour guides Molly Barth, Debbie Conner, Janette Stackhouse, Teresa Brown and Faye Myers.
Prior to the tour, each group was greeted by Phil Metcalf, library board president, who went over the past, present and future of the library. He presented facts of how far the library has come since its beginning in 1978, and the future that includes the building of a new library. Metcalf stated construction on the new library will take place in the spring with a January 2020 completion date. “Take what we have – the arrangement and programs now, make it better and bigger, a more modern building that we have control of and something the community can be proud of and provide more opportunity…”