WARSAW — Flags are at half staff around Warsaw, honoring four community men who died in a plane crash Friday afternoon, Oct. 2, en route to the Notre Dame-Clemson football game. The crash occurred near the Georgia-South Carolina border.
It didn’t matter where you went over the weekend, conversations included disbelief in the tragedy, the great loss and heartfelt sympathy for the families. Their Facebook sites are filled with remembrances. The four were honored at the start of the Notre Dame/Clemson game with a moment of silence, as well as at other local events.
The four left a legacy in the community and no tribute can truly represent what they have done and the memories they have created.
The crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA officials. Their findings may not be known for some time.
Looking out his window, he doesn’t see his neighbor, friend and colleague. Joe Thallemer, mayor of Warsaw, states it “really hasn’t hit me. Not until I keep not seeing him there.” Thallemer said Charlie was always doing something outdoors and the two would spend a lot of time talking. “I would be mowing my yard and he would be out there grilling,” or the two would go out on the boat together. “I’d give him a tomato from the garden and he would pop it in his mouth, eat it and then give his smile. I will miss my neighbor.”
Thallemer remembers the last time he saw Charlie, at the board of public works meeting Friday morning. “That Friday meeting, with his daughter there was incredible and touching. It may have been the last time they seen each other.”
As a councilman, Thallemer noted Charlie was “progressive, a detail-oriented leader,” he is sure came from his coaching and bank days. “He retired several years ago (from the bank). He had a lot of things going in his retirement but in his busy schedule he kept time for the meetings. He was not sure he would run again, but I’m not sure if he would regret it if he didn’t. It speaks of his commitment to the community. He came prepared to the council meetings with all i’s dotted and t’s crossed … I’ve seen him change his mind (on a decision), he was open to discussion. He may have had his decision mapped out, but if you presented your thoughts and he thought you were right, he would change his mind. He was the type of leader who made decisions that were right for the community.”
“The tough part is replacing him on the council (and other boards). He was a great leader. We won’t find any one like that.”
Former Warsaw Mayor Ernie Wiggins was a close personal friend with several of those lost in the crash. “It’s going to be a big void to fill in the community. We lost some good friends. Charlie was a close friend when I served as mayor. He was a trusted adviser and confidant … there wasn’t any individual on the council who did their homework more than Charlie Smith. He was very vigilant, pulling out all the little details. He had the heart of the community. All of us are going to miss him.”
On a personal level, Wiggins had the opportunity to go with Charlie and Scott to Notre Dame trips. I knew Tony fairly well, he used to come in for coffee at BMacs. He was well respected, as they all were.
“More than anything I will miss him as a good friend. It’s hard to believe he is not going to be around.” Wiggins added Charlie was generous in inviting others to Notre Dame games and he often flew to games with Charlie. Charlie was an excellent pilot.
Wiggins added that Charlie went to most of the Notre Dame games which were within flying distance, and Scott would fly with him.
“Far too soon, four good men have left us with a rich inheritance of many lessons on how life should be lived,” stated former Mayor Jeff Plank. “And now, we best honor their lives by learning from each one … for by so doing, they will live on in our hearts, our minds and through “our” actions … and many lives will feel their touch for years to come. … May God bless the families.”
Jeff Grose always referred to him as “coach,” during the board of public works and common council board meetings he served with Charlie. “I respected Charlie’s approach as a public servant. He listened, always wanted to assist and help others and he always focused on doing what he believed was best for the entire community. A good example for all of us. Like so many others in this area, I have lost a friend and I will greatly miss him.”
Councilman Mike Klondaris responded “This is a heavy blow to our community. I am stunned and saddened. These were all good men. They contributed. They were businessmen, coaches, civic leaders, philanthropists, sons, fathers and husbands. They were givers. They all exemplified the best this community has to offer. They will be missed. My heartfelt condolences go out to all those family members affected by this tragic event.”
“Charlie was all about development, bringing jobs, jobs, jobs to the community. He affected everyone, whether they knew him or not.”
“My first thought was deep sympathy to his family, having lost a father and son,” said Tim Meyer, who served with Charlie on the city’s redevelopment commission. “The community has lost a fine leader who dedicated countless ours behind the scenes for the betterment of our entire area. Even if one did not agree with his point of view occasionally, you always knew that his motivation was the absolute bets interest of our community.”
Another redevelopment commission member, Rick Snodgrass, stated “I have known Charlie Smith since my banking days when I was with First National Bank of Warsaw and he, Lake City Bank. We were tough competitors, but both interested in cooperation concerning community matters. I have had the privilege of working with Charlie on the Warsaw Redevelopment Commission for many years, admired his forward looking thinking and watched what he and the commission have been able to accomplish over these many years.
“I and the community will miss Charlie a great deal and I and the other commission members will keep Charlie, his family and the other victims and families in our thoughts and prayers. Charlie died doing what he loved, flying and going to a sporting event.”
“This was such an incredible loss to our community and area. Charlie was a long time and dear friend. I had just seen him for lunch on Wednesday and sat next to him that day on the KEDCO Board. He was fiercely competitive but a loyal and great friend,” stated George Clemens, also on the redevelopment commission. “ He was always fun loving and giving to his friends. I thought of him as a mentor in my growing business at the time and my 11 years on city council. It was always my goal to whisper something at him that would get him laughing during the council meetings.”
Jerry Frush, city councilman, stated he had known Charlie “for only a few years and we got along well. I knew of him when he was with the bank as I would see him at some of the meetings. It is a great loss for our community.”
“Charlie Smith was a colleague who demanded excellence, from himself first and then from those around him. It was always a challenge to work with Charlie,” said Warsaw City Council President Diane Quance. “His commitment to our community raised the level of all our service. He knew so much and he was always willing to share that so we could all serve our community to the best of our collective ability. He will be deeply missed for months to come. His passing is a call to all of us to stop up our game to try to fill.”
Cindy Dobbins, city council member, stated “on a personal level I loved the special glow Charlie transmitted when he talked about football and his family. Professionally, as a new council member, I appreciated Charlie’s willingness to sit down with me and share his expertise on economic development and financial matters. He will be missed in so many ways.”
Lake City Bank Chairman of the Board, Mike Kubacki, “loved Charlie Smith. He was a great man. He was very inspiring to all of us in the bank. He embodied the Lake city Bank spirit that we have. He had a huge part over the growth of the bank over his career. We’re all going to miss him terribly. Charlie was a great man, he just was. That’s the truth.”
“Charlie was every body’s cheerleader. He made every one feel the best about themselves. It wasn’t about him he made you feel you were the most important person,” said Rebecca Kubacki. “You always knew when he entered a room. When he came in a room it lit up. That was in his spirit.”
“Scott was an intern with me in the prosecutor’s office long before he was a lawyer,” stated David Kolbe. “I loved his spirit and his energy.” Koble recalls during Scott’s law school days he worked as a legal intern for Kolbe’s sister, Joan.
“After he got into the law, he dedicated himself to it. He was a gentleman to work with. I’m in shock. I will miss him. We are all in shock and my deepest sympathies to their families.”
Kosciusko Superior 1 Judge, David Cates, maybe said it best for everyone. “I think everybody is still in shock.” Cates described Smith as having a positive attitude and “always had a smile on his face and was a pleasure to work with. He dealt with things professionally, but in a friendly and positive way and you always knew that.”
Wiggins described Scott as someone who never “knew a stranger.” He recalls attending football games with Scott and his father and regardless where he was at participating in tailgate parties, “he was infectious and was treated very generously.” He recalled Scott having horse costumes. Scott and good friend Chad Patrick and others would dress as the four horseman of Notre Dame and would draw a crowd. Wiggins also remembers Scott wearing an expensive Irish kilt to a Notre Dame/Michigan game. “He was a big Notre Dame fan and would wear that and be the part.”
Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton stated “I had the pleasure of knowing Scott as a deputy prosecutor, defense attorney, colleague, and friend. Scott always wore a smile and his zest for life was contagious. It was impossible to have a bad day when Scott was around.
“I will always remember Scott for the compassion with which he treated the people around him, and the way he never stopped advocating for his clients. Scott always tried to see the best in people and was always trying to find ways to make their situation better. His loss has been deeply felt by my family, and my staff at the Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the Smith, Elliott and Bibler families.”
Joe Sobek, who has been a lawyer in the community for several years, recalls “one of the best things I remember is he was very nice and welcoming. He helped me out with tips,” continuing stating Smith helped him not only in the profession but in the community as well. He added Scott was always friendly and he never heard him make a rude comment.
There are many who also knew more than just one of the individuals. One such individual is Mike Loher.
“I first met Scott back in the 90s when he was working his way through law school at Gordys — our ‘group’ always met there for Friday night karaoke. Scott didn’t know a stranger, when he was talking to you, whether visiting or taking your order, you were the only one in the room. On special occasions you might see him sing a song. Great friend.
“Through Scott I met his dad Charlie, I sought advice from them both many times during my time on the fair board — they were always eager to help. One of the highlights was when they agreed to take some of our artists and band members out on Winona Lake in their boat before a concert for the fair and for our ‘Day at the Lake for St Jude,’ they always had a stocked cooler! Once in a while that crazy Tony Elliot would be there too — come to think of it — they were all very willing to hang out with us when Kellie Pickler was in town. Always accommodating.
“After Charlie retired and Scott had his law practice, it worked out several times that Charlie, Scott and some of their friends would be in Florida when our “group” was there for spring break, they always made it a point to come visit with us and hang out at our resort for the day. Great memories.
“Here at home, you would always see Scott and Charlie supporting their friends and family in their ventures and also supporting this place we all call home, sometimes in ways that no one knew about. Community servants.
“I will miss those texts and calls letting me know that the ‘Not Guilty Pool Bar’ was open for business or ‘hey we are at B-dubs to watch the game — we have a chair for you…’ Full of life.
“I still haven’t been able to wrap my mind around this. I guess you could say that it is a blessing and a curse to be in such a tight community — everyone is connected in some way. Gods plan.
“I also knew Tony, I am good friends with his sister, it’s not easy to watch your friends hurt. Brokenhearted.
“I will miss our time together, laughs and friendship – thanks for being great friends and an example of living life to the fullest. Inspired.”
Clemens also knew Scott Smith and Tony Elliott. “Scott was also a very likable fun loving guy, quite a character. Tony Elliott lived three doors down from me here on Country Club Lane. He and his wife Cindy would probably win the popularity contest in our neighborhood. Very well liked and respected.”
Dave Baumgartner, teacher, former coach and member of the city’s plan commission, remembers both Charlie Smith and Scott Bibler. “As teachers and coaches Charlie and Scott were not common men, they were leaders who shared their talents and leadership with young people to make them better people, Too all they affected it is now your job to pass on what these great men taught you and to make it a better world. That is the greatest tribute you can pay forward to these men as we suffer their loss.
Tony Elliott Remembered
The death of Tony Elliott went beyond the local community. It also reached a national level. The United States Auto Club Racing put out the following statement about the crash “It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of Tony Elliott and three others in a plane crash in South Carolina last night. Elliott, one of USAC’s greatest ambassadors, was a two-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1998 and 2000) and scored 26 Sprint victories plus nine in Midgets and five in Silver Crown competition. The 2000 and 2001 Hoosier Hundred winner, his “traditional” wins also included the 1999 “Ted Horn 100” at DuQuoin, the 1998 and 2000 “Sumar “Classic” at Terre Haute, the 1998 “Hurtubise Classic” Sprint at Terre Haute and “4-Crown Nationals” Sprint races in 1987 and 1993 at Eldora Speedway.
“He also was the 1999 Indiana Sprint Week Champion. A sponsor and supporter of both USAC participants and events with his company, Elliott’s Custom Trailers, he was still a familiar face at many USAC racing events throughout the season, including last weekend’s ‘4-Crown Nationals’ at the Eldora Speedway. USAC extends its sincerest condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed by all.”
Brian Barger, Winona Lake, remembers Tony Elliott. “He always had that smile overtime you saw him. He was always giving back to the racing community by sponsoring some local kids and you can’t go to a dirt track race without seeing an Elliott trailer that one of the drivers is using. Being a two-time USAC champion and multiple-time track champion at Warsaw and Kokomo, he is definitely one of the all-time greats in the sport. He will not only be missed by his family and friends, but the racing community as a whole.”
“Tony was a childhood hero of mine,” said Jason Fuller, Milford. “When I was a kid, dad would take us to Warsaw Speedway to watch the sprints. I remember he used to give his trophies away under the fence to the kids if he won. Later in life, I was fortunate to have raced against him. He was a helluva racer and one of the nicest guys in the pits. Always joking and smiling with anyone. He would help you any way he could no matter if you were his competition or a young rookie looking for an answer.”
“When I was new to broadcasting Valley football and hosting “On Board with the Vikings,” Bibs would come in on Saturdays and whisper a tip or two about things to talk to each kid about,” recalls Roger Grossman, sports director for 102.7. “He wanted to help me and help his kids. It says everything you need to know about Scott Bibler that he gave up coaching football to focus on helping kids in the Tippecanoe Valley community and other communities. I cannot imagine being at Valley for basketball in November and him not being there.”
Mike Deak, sports editor for Ink Free News, stated: “Win or loss, rain or shine, Scott Bibler was incredibly accommodating to those that needed his time. Most recently, I covered Scott as he returned to Valley to coach football, and Valley had one of the worst win/loss seasons in its history. But you would never know it, he coached with grace, he loved his kids and his community. The loss really hurts not just the Tippecanoe Valley community, but all of the hundreds of networks he’s made around the area.”
Jeff Yalden, a motivational speaker, spoke at Tippy Valley last year. He shared this video over the weekend to Tippy Valley and for the community: https://www.facebook.com/HDRoadCaptain/videos/1047526385308287/?pnref=story
Ben Shriver has given us permission to share a video, an old game highlight film, he posted on his Facebook page over the weekend. You can see the video here.
Rita Price-Simpson wrote, “I am still in shock. We were handed a note at the end of the broadcast tonight. I looked at it and could hardly comprehend what it said. Tonight, I lost three of my dear friends. Charlie, Scott Smith and Scott Bibler were a big part of my life. Charlie … the first football coach I knew and he taught me so much. Scott, his son, who was a great athlete at Valley. I knew him from the time he was just a little guy … and my dear friend and coach Scott Bibler … they all left this earth today. My heart breaks for their families and many friends. Seeing coaches and kids weep after a game puts everything in perspective. These guys made such an impact on my life, I can’t imagine this world without them. They all believed in the Valley family … now that family has gotten much larger as we grieve together. God bless all of them and bless the Valley family as we face another great loss. We all want to believe that when we leave this earth, we leave it better. You can rest assured they left it better. It was a privilege to be their friends.”
Brett Boggs, superintendent of Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation provided these thoughts: “Our prayers are with the loved ones, families, and friends of Scott Bibler, Charlie Smith, Scott Smith, and Tony Elliot. Special prayers for Scott’s wife, Stephanie, and their daughters, Chelsea and Meagan.
“Scott Bibler was one of the most caring, sincere, and genuine men I have ever known. He had the rare ability to make everyone he encountered feel like they were a personal friend. He truly and sincerely cared about others.
“During the past couple of years our schools and the community have dealt with numerous tragedies. Because Scott cared so much about our kids and the community, he was at the forefront of our efforts to help others heal and to prevent further tragedies. In moving to his new position with Crosswinds, he felt he could have an even greater impact on families and the community than he had as a school counselor.
“Scott made a tremendously positive impact on many young men and women during his time on earth. We are forever grateful for the difference he made at Tippecanoe Valley.
“Scott lived his faith every day and is now in the presence of our savior. He will be missed by many left behind to grieve his passing.
“Charlie Smith was the first head football coach at Tippecanoe Valley High School. He was an outstanding teacher and a highly successful football coach, leading the Vikings to an IHSAA State Championship in 1979. Coach Smith is a legend in our community. He also served a four-year term as a member of the Tippecanoe Valley School Board from July 1, 1986, through June 30, 1990.
His son, Scott Smith, is a Tippecanoe Valley High School graduate. Prior to his death, Scott served as a member of the TVHS Distinguished Alumni Committee.”