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Briggs a key figure in Geneva history

April 18, 2011

The late James D. Briggs Jr.

    Moments of silence often last only 15 or 20 seconds, but the one observed on Thursday evening at Geneva for influential banker and civic linchpin James D. Briggs Jr. was lengthier than usual, running at least one minute.
    The solemn tribute to Briggs, one of the most veteran financiers in Indiana, came less than one hour after he died, at age 89, in Adams Memorial Hospital.
    Briggs led Bank of Geneva for decades and his son, Andrew, is the current bank president.
    The moment of silence at the annual meeting of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce was requested by Stan Mosser, executive director of the Chamber and of Geneva Proud. He was a longtime employee and official at Bank of Geneva and knew Briggs extremely well.
    Mosser eulogized Briggs as "one of the most instrumental people in this community. He was a great friend. I will miss him tremendously."
    Mosser, master of ceremonies at the Chamber event, recalled that Briggs was the guiding light behind the creation in the 1940s of the Limberlost Conservation Association (LCA) and was a key figure in getting the LCA to buy the two-story log cabin in Geneva built in the late 19th century by author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter and her husband, Charles, who also was an important banker in town history.
    The idea behind buying the cabin, said Mosser, was not just to preserve it, but to give it to the state for public use. The cabin is now the Limberlost State Historic Site.
    Later in the meeting, Randy Lehman, manager of the site, reported that, in 1947, Briggs helped start it.
    Just last year, Lehman added, when the community was trying to raise $200,000 as the town's share to help the state create a visitor center at the LSHS, it was Briggs who collected and/or assisted in donating $75,500 and it was his son, Andrew, who gathered and/or contributed another $49,500.
    "It was amazing to me," Lehman said, and it was "surprising" to state officials when he drove to Indianapolis and gave them three checks for a total of $200,000.
    Briggs was involved in innumerable beneficial ways in Geneva in the second half of the 20th century and well into the 21st.
    His death came less than a month after the passing of another key personality in Geneva for many years, Ivan Nevil.

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