FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21)-While you’re giving thanks around the dinner table tomorrow give thanks for your neighbors out in 21 Country, who work at making our world a better place. Like Loren Kruetzman, 91 years old, fit as a fiddle and healthy as a horse..a retired farmer living on the Wells County farm he was born on in the house his father was born in, the house his grandfather built in 1880. Stability that provided an idyllic childhood for young Loren.
“Friends would come over and we’d take the bicycles and ride down to the St. Mary’s,” he says, “spend the afternoon down there fishing for catfish.”
Last summer the state of Indiana awarded the Kruetzman farm a ‘Hoosier Homestead Farm’ designation honoring Loren and his ancestors for their part in building our state
Jack Pace is another neighbor to give thanks for, he led the effort to save the old Five Points School house in southern Wells County, the first brick school built in the county, in 1876. Abandoned for decades, used as a pig shed for 70 years the building was a shambles…restored by jack and friends and neighbors who thought the former school and grange hall should be saved. Today Five Points hosts school classes, wedding receptions, reunions and family picnics, still serving the community it has served for 140 years.
Fifty miles to the East there is trouble brewing at the magnificent Salamonie River State Forest south of Lagro. The thousand acre oasis boasts waterfalls, pristine lakes, hiking and camping built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. State officials plan to log this heaven on earth, clear cutting much of it. Jean Gernand has come here since she was five years old, sat with the CCC boys as they built the park and is devastated by the prospect of seeing it logged.
“I’m really upset about it,” she says. “I think it disrupts the wildlife tremendously and I think it will destroy the natural beauty that we have here.”
Jean Gernand’s part of an effort to save the forest. Stay tuned. All across 21 Country passionate people are rescuing our stories from oblivion, preserving historic buildings, beautifying our world with works of art and tomorrow, giving thanks for long lives of public service. We hope you’ll do the same. This is Eric Olson reporting.