From its inception to the present day, Howard County has given birth to a long and unbroken line of legendary sons and daughters.
Six of the most remarkable will be inducted into the Hall of Legends in August, joining inventor Elwood Haynes, author Norman Bridwell, actor Strother Martin, journalist Steve Kroft, entrepreneur George Kingston, and 15 others.
This year, the Hall of Legends Selection Committee has selected one of the county’s founding fathers, along with three contemporary community leaders, an adventurer and heroic military commander, and a CEO who pushed the boundaries of technology in telecommunications.
The founding father is none other than David Foster, the county’s first merchant and largest landowner. His gifts included land for the county seat along the banks of the Wildcat Creek, as well as the Normal School and Grace Methodist Church in Kokomo.
The hero is Major General William Kepner, who ran away from home and joined the Marines at the age of 16. His career took him from the infantry in World War I, to the Army Air Corps as a pilot of balloons and dirigibles, to World War II as a pilot of fighter planes and bombers and commander of all air forces over Europe. He was decorated for bravery in two wars, won national and international balloon races, and piloted a National Geographic balloon flight that set a new altitude record before a near-disastrous crash landing.
The CEO is Bob Knowling, who was born in Kokomo and credits the Kokomo YMCA for much of his success later in life. Knowling worked through the ranks at Indiana Bell, became VP of Network Operations and Technology for Ameritech and eventually the CEO of Covad, one of the companies that helped build America’s broadband infrastructure. He recognized early on the potential of digital technology in telecommunications and pushed its acceptance and development throughout his career.
John Hingst is one of the three contemporaries being honored. Sadly, his recognition is posthumous. After a stint in the Army during WWII and a wound suffered at Normandy, John graduated from Purdue University. He met his wife, Hilda, at Purdue and moved to her hometown of Kokomo where he went into business. His leadership benefitted education, social services, economic development, and business, and his philanthropy was frequent and generous.
Del Demaree is the chairman of Syndicate Sales, one of the nation’s largest distributors of floral and horticultural products and the largest family and locally-owned business in the county. Demaree has shared his experience and success in uncountable ways, benefitting education, social services, the arts, and economic development. His company played a key role in the 1994 centennial of Elwood Haynes’ first test drive of his “Pioneer”, which brought that car and numerous other early Haynes vehicles back to Howard County for a month.
E.P. Severns, Jr., is a Howard County native, as well. He started working in the family business, the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo, at the age of 17 - and became President in 1959. Like Hingst and Demaree, he has dedicated much of his life to serving the people of the Howard County. He’s been honored by the county’s Sports Hall of Fame, and received a Foster Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Community Foundation, and the 2012 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts. Severns has been a strong supporter of the Carver Center, We Care, and Saint Joseph Hospital among many others.
The induction banquet for the 2013 class of the Howard County Hall of Legends will be held on Friday, August 16th in the Casa Bella dining room at Pastariffic, on South Webster Street in Kokomo. Tickets and information will be available online at howardcountymuseum.org or at the Howard County Historical Society, 1218 W. Sycamore, Kokomo.
Over the next two weeks, the Perspective will publish profiles of each of the inductees.