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I lost another friend last Friday. Dave Epley passed away Friday night after battling cancer. (You can read his obituary and find funeral arrangements here.) Dave was a carpenter with Easterday Construction Co., Inc. from November 1989 to December 2012. 23 years of service is special and something to be noted. We worked together to make a lot of projects come together. Dave could be a craftsman and took pride in the work he completed. The detail work he completed often pulled the project together.
Dave could be counted on to have a tool for anything and prided himself on the obscurity of some of the things he had. He was always up for a challenge. The area was always a mess where he was working, but the things he produced were often art. For most people, the picture to the right is uncharacteristic, because the other thing that Dave could be counted on for was a smile. Going through my collection of pictures proved that he was somewhat camera shy, because I couldn’t come up with a better one!
Many of the projects where his legacy will continue are in the Churches we’ve worked on. We were contracted by the Faith United Methodist Church in Wanatah to renovate their entrance and install a chair lift. During construction, we found a round stained glass window that had been salvaged and placed in the attic. Since it was a custom size, there was nothing off the shelf we could use as a frame. I asked Dave about it and he said, “Let me take it home and see what I can do.” He came back with the window framed in oak as you see to the left. (Click on that picture to enlarge it to see the detail. For a picture that shows the scale, click here.)
At the Grace Baptist Church in Plymouth I asked him to install new railings on the stairs in the Sanctuary. The railings were laminated oak with wood balusters and newel posts. They had to be anchored to the concrete floor at the base and attached to the carpeted stairs and wood daise at the top. The west railing had to follow the curve of the baby grand piano they were protecting and then the east railing had to mirror that curve. (The east railing is shown to the right.) I had no doubt Dave could handle this challenge due to his previous work on the long sweeping curved stair rail at the Logansport – Cass County Public Library. (Seen here) The Church was extremely pleased. Pastor Elliott said, “They look so nice people don’t even want to touch them! They look like they’ve always been there.”
We were asked to look at adding a chairlift at the First United Methodist Church in Winamac. During planning we discovered existing stained glass windows that had been buried during a previous Narthex addition. It was determined that we wanted to expose those windows as part of the renovation. Unfortunately we found that the stone sills had been removed from the smaller flanking windows. In order to retain the same mass as would have been there with the stone, Dave built heavy wood sills with base panes as shown at the left. (Click on that picture to enlarge it to see the detail.) Those windows sit above a catwalk we built across the face of the sanctuary. Dave also built concealed hinge doors to allow the area under the catwalk to be used as storage.
Dave will be missed by the Easterday Construction family and by many of our clients that knew and respected him.
My friend Eric Freeman used to say that when he stepped down as Culver Chamber President, he would take on Burr Oak. The title of this post was to be his motto for Burr Oak’s renaissance. He thought “If it ain’t Burr Oak, don’t fix it!” would catch on. Unfortunately for Burr Oak, Eric changed jobs and moved to Indy before he could lead them to greatness.
I drive through Burr Oak daily without giving it much thought unless I’m stopped by a train. The recent hub-bub about new NIPSCO line routes and the expansion of the NIPSCO substation adjacent to Burr Oak have had me thinking about it more lately. This is partially due to the county-wide discussions promoted by MCEDC (Marshall County Economic Development Corporation) and how to make our communities more conducive to development. MCEDC is constantly working on a dialogue with Marshall County communities about how to make themselves more conducive to positive development and economic growth. There is a lengthy checklist of what industry looks for, but if you apply some of the big ones to Burr Oak, there is potential.
Rail Access - Check! Burr Oak not only has rail access, but has an existing rail side track - something difficult to obtain and expensive to build these days. Plus getting a new one approved that crosses an existing state highway would be nearly impossible in today’s regulatory environment. Norfolk Southern runs as many as 35 trains a day through Burr Oak on this track.
Electric Service Capacity - Check! Just hit the above NIPSCO link to see the amount of power that will be passing through the new substation. (All routes lead through Burr Oak. There is a map showing the routes considered here.)
Available Workforce - Check! Marshall County as a whole draws much of its workforce from adjacent Starke and Pulaski counties. Burr Oak’s location towards the southwest corner of Marshall County and its close proximity to State Road 8 make access to the labor force convenient.
Good Schools - Check! Burr Oak sits between Culver and Plymouth. Plymouth is becoming known throughout the state as one of the better and most progressive public school systems in the State of Indiana. Culver is home to one of the preeminent internationally known private schools in the nation.
Quality of Life - Check! As MCEDC often promotes, Marshall County in general is a nice place to live. Burr Oak is close to Culver for recreation, restaurants, golf courses, etc. Rural living around Burr Oak is available and economical. Lake shore residences are available in nearby Culver and the Chain of Lakes area including the Lake Latonka development just minutes away.
Highway Access – Semi-Check… Burr Oak suffers from the same perceived negative as the rest of Marshall County - No Interstate access. But look at what they do have… They are on a State highway, within a few miles of two other state highways and within 10 miles of two four-lane state highways. There are 12 million people within 100 miles! (Source)
From here, the list becomes spotty. There isn’t a water system or sewer system in Burr Oak. While not every industry needs these infrastructures for production, many require them for fire safety. Which brings up emergency services. They would need to be provided by Culver which still remains a mostly volunteer service. There isn’t high speed internet service. The recently approved expansion of the Metronet into Plymouth and Marshall County is positive for those area, but expansion into southern Marshall County is at least several years away. Burr Oak proper doesn’t have much to offer in the way of commerce, but it is ripe for something to happen.
So, what makes a community thrive or die? As I’ve listed here, Burr Oak has a lot of positives. In some cases positives that outweigh those in other Marshall County communities. Personally I think it is the drive of community leaders. Burr Oak needs an Eric Freeman with a vision for the community! Every community talks about wanting a strong economy, but few are doing something about it. Communities often rise and fall as community leaders appear and disappear. Many times these leaders are shooting stars. They come on to the scene out of nowhere and burn brightly. To continue the analogy, some of them disappear on the horizon as they are recognized and drawn to bigger challenges, while others fizzle out when their passion or support disappears. It is unfortunate that communities often don’t recognize these forces until they’ve lost them. (Source)
Plymouth had PIDCO (Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation) in the late 50′s and through the 60′s and 70′s. They aggressively pursued community involvement encouraging small investments from people in the community in order to gain broad acceptance of goals. They bought land, partnered with the city to get infrastructure in place and then pursued and captured new businesses for Plymouth. Unfortunately they have become less of a player and are no longer as aggressively pursuing these opportunities. They are suffering from some mission drift and divided attention. Their name still contains “Industrial” but their website has been renamed “Plymouth Alive” and talks about downtown commercial business pursuits.
Culver also once had an Industrial Promotion Committee as part of the Culver Jaycees. This group was responsible for bringing McGill Manufacturing Co., Inc. from Valparaiso to Culver with a new 60,000 sf facility. (The building is currently occupied by Elkay.) But from all indications, the group fizzled quickly after that first success and the Culver Jaycees as a parent group has been dissolved as well. (Source)
MCEDC is attempting to fill the voids left by these groups, but sometimes it is difficult when there is not engaged community leadership. The County Development for the Future meetings that MCEDC has sponsored quarterly is an attempt to foster new stars in each Marshall County community. The biggest success story so far is the Town of Argos and their purchase of 75 acres for future development. (Annexation Article) They are well on their way to making this a Shovel Ready Site registered with the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corporation). Following their example, Bourbon is in the process of annexing additional property for development. Who will be the next community to step up to the challenge?
Someone asked where I got the “head banger” that I used in my NYE post… and again to the right. It’s one of those gifs that randomly come in emails. I liked it so I saved it to use in the blog. It seems familiar to me and I would guess it was lifted from an old Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated short or one of Disney’s Silly Symphonies. Considering that it’s in black & white, it is probably pretty old. This dude was whipping his hair long before Willow Smith. Maybe Ms. Smith would like “Everything Old is New Again”.