We remember and honor those we have lost
Every year the city loses leaders who contributed with their hearts, hands and minds to improve the city and the lives of its people, as new leaders step forward to continue the good work. Fort Wayne Magazine pauses at the beginning of each year to honor the memory of the people who gave so much to the community during their lifetimes. They are leaders in business, the arts, education and sports, and together their contributions make Fort Wayne a vital, viable city. Losing them matters to their families and friends and to the city as a whole.
Because of our publication schedule, this list begins in December 2015 and extends through December 2016.
The Rev. Mike Nickleson
The Rev. Mike Nickleson was a leader in the civil rights movement and a supporter of educational opportunity for young black people as, for example, a founder of the Timothy L. Johnson Academy charter school. He was active in the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, tackling issues of social inequality and community violence. He served the congregation of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church for decades. He died Dec. 16, 2015 at 63.
Victure L. Scruggs
Victure Scruggs led by example, encouraging others to civic engagement and activism by being involved throughout the community himself as a founder and president of the city’s A. Philip Randolph Institute chapter, as a City Council member, with labor union committees, the NAACP, his neighborhood association, the Jennings Center, his church and others. He died Dec. 27, 2015.
Bishop Dwenger High School principal Fred Tone literally left his mark on the school by raising funds for two major facility upgrades. As a teacher and coach, he made a difference in the lives of students, too. He launched the school’s wrestling program and coached it for 20 years, also serving on the football coaching staff. He became the school’s third principal in 1994, retiring in 2010. He is in the Indiana High School Wrestling Hall of Fame. He died Dec. 29, 2015 at 70.
Janet D. D’Italia
Her 30-year career as program and community affairs director for WPTA TV, Channel 21, enabled the entire community to share Janet D’Italia’s zest for her native city. She is remembered for her Community Salutes, highlighting area towns; the Festival of Trees, Holiday Fest, Three Rivers Parade and Focus on Health. She died Jan. 3, 2016.
Vivian Schmidt, the second woman elected to Fort Wayne’s City Council in 1971, served for 10 years in an at-large seat. In 1980 she was elected by her peers to serve as Council president. In 1982, she and her husband Bill moved to St. Louis, where she continued her career of political and government service. She died Jan. 17, 2016, in Bartlesville, Okla., at 80.
Walter P. Helmke
Walter P. Helmke continued and enlarged the tradition of community service and leadership begun by his father Walter E., serving as county prosecutor and state senator and fathering three-term Mayor Paul Helmke. He practiced law in Fort Wayne for 62 years and was active in many community groups, including the chamber of commerce, bar association, Parkview Hospital and Leadership Fort Wayne. He was a strong supporter of IPFW and a graduate of North Side High School. He died Jan. 20 at 88.
J. Timothy McCaulay
Fort Wayne is bigger and its residents’ First Amendment rights are better protected thanks to the legal career of Tim McCaulay, who served the city as a deputy prosecuting attorney and city attorney. He was the architect of major annexations and won cases that affirmed citizens’ rights to post political signs in their own yards. He was a partner with Helmke, Beams, Boyer & Wagner from 1977 to 2003. He died Feb. 5 at 66.
It was a natural pairing. Norman Atz owned and operated both Puritan Ice Cream in Kendallville and Atz’s ice cream shops in Fort Wayne for 70 years. A Red Cross volunteer and World War II veteran, he was an active member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. He closed the ice cream shops in 2014. He died Feb. 28 at 90.
Fort Wayne’s Eugene Parker understood top athletes, and they appreciated his support and chose him as their professional representative, attorney and friend. A standout basketball player at Concordia High School and Purdue University, he was drafted by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs but ended up in law school instead after beginning collegiate coaching. Roosevelt Barnes, who became his partner in Relativity Sports, was his first client. He died March 31 at 60.
Ron Venderly left his mark on Fort Wayne, Indiana and the world in four careers: the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, teaching and coaching at Concordia and Central high schools here, a career in finance as a broker and an avocation as a philanthropist. He and his wife awarded project funding and financial aid to students at IPFW, Ball State, Purdue and Indiana universities, in addition to other organizations including the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Children’s Zoo, local theaters and ACRES Land Trust. He died May 12.
For 23 years, Bill Kratzert and the Mad Anthonys Charity Classic were inseparable because Kratzert hosted it as PGA pro at the Fort Wayne Country Club. As a central figure in the local golf scene, he is remembered as helping put the Fort Wayne on the golfing map because of his keen eye for talent and ability to help develop it, including his children, Bill and Cathy, who became tour players. He died Aug. 21.
Maury Keltsch was known for the Keltsch Drug Stores, which he and his late brother Donald grew from their father’s single store beginning in 1959. He was also respected for his service on boards including Artlink, Lutheran Hospital, the AIDS Task Force (now Positive Resource Center), Fort Wayne YMCA, Helen Van Arnam Foundation and local chapters of the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association. He died Aug. 22 at 89.
Janet Bradbury served 14 years on Fort Wayne’s City Council, beginning in 1982, adding to her career as a teacher at Jefferson Middle School. She said her social liberalism was rooted in her gratitude for federal programs that helped her improve her life as a teenage wife and mother. A Democrat, she pushed as hard against then-Mayor Win Moses on some issues as against the Republicans on council with her. She died Aug. 27 at 77.
As partner and inspiration for her husband Jerry, Linda Vandeveer helped run their business, The Wood Shack, and was part of their community activism, most notably establishing the Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial on Wells Street. She was an active campaigner on behalf of victims of domestic violence and participated in many fundraisers. She died Sept. 29 at 66.
Roy Buskirk, an Allen County Council member since 2002 and a retired buyer of rights-of-way for road projects all over northern Indiana, found his way to adopting electronic devices as tools of the trade, but in his heart he remained a traditionalist: a servant of the people who elected him. A champion of controlling government spending but spending on what mattered, Buskirk was proud of the 82 percent approval rating the city and county permitting process is receiving from people who need business and construction permits, after he was one of the founders of the Joint Permitting Oversight Board five years ago. He died Nov. 4 at 72, too close to the Nov. 8 election date to be removed from the ballot. He was re-elected, leaving the Republican party to replace him in a caucus.
The end of a 63-year career causes big ripples, and minor league hockey got a shock when Bob Chase, the voice of Fort Wayne Komets hockey since 1953 when he joined WOWO radio, died this year. The team and 7,181 fans watched a tribute video before the home game that night, and the game went on. Chase would have been proud of them. They won. He died Nov. 24 at 90.
An accomplished Modernist architect, Carl Bradley left Fort Wayne a legacy of the new St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the original portion of the Allen County Public Library Downtown which was incorporated by Gwathmey Siegel’s expansion in 2006 and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, which was the largest passive solar structure in the nation when it opened in 1983. He served two terms as national vice president of the American Institute of Architects and was honored for his service to the profession. He died Sept. 6.
Though it wasn’t his name or his family name on the business, Ed Dahm, who built Mike’s Carwash with his brother Joe from Indiana’s first automated car wash in 1950 into a corporate group of modern car washes, still family owned as Mike’s Carwash, is the epitome of what a small business person can accomplish. He was president of the International Carwash Association and is in the Carwash Hall of Fame. He earned the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999 from Junior Achievement and was inducted into the Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame in 2001, receiving the Donald Wolf Award in 2014. He died Dec. 22 at 86.
First appeared in the February 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.