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The family of Spc. Nicholas Taylor, killed last year in Afghanistan while serving as a member of the Indiana National Guard, on Tuesday evening accepted on their son's behalf the 2012 Citizen of the Year award from the Berne Chamber of Commerce.
Taylor's parents, Tim and Stephania, his brother Drew and sisters Holly Morgan and Sophia Aiwen, made no public comment in accepting the award, and told a chamber representative only that "there aren't many words that can be said" at receiving such an honor.
Also honored during the chamber's annual membership was Limberlost Construction, owned by Mike and Dayon Schwartz, as its Business of the Year.
Spc. Taylor, a graduate of South Adams High School, and Spc. Sergio Eduardo Perez of Crown Point died July 16, 2012, in the attack that included rocket-propelled grenade fire and small arms fire in the Kandahar Province. Both men were members of the 713th Engineer Company, headquartered in Valparaiso, and were assigned to clearing military supply and combat routes.
Taylor’s funeral was held in the South Adams gymnasium, which was packed for the event. He was posthumously presented with Bronze Star for meritorious service, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Badge. During the funeral, General R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard called Taylor “a hero, in every sense of the word, because freedom is purchased with the lives of patriots."
During Tuesday evening's banquet, Berne Chamber of Commerce Vice President Floyd Liechty said Taylor intended to pursue a career in criminal justice "and started working towards that goal as he joined the National Guard. Soon he was deployed to country of Afghanistan for active duty. However, as opposed to the occupation of criminal justice, the Lord chose eternal justice for Nick in the very near future as his final occupation."
Leichty quoted a verse from the Bible to describe Taylor, saying, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. This was Specialist Nicholas Andrew Taylor. Thank you to our beloved, the late Nicky T. Please join me as we stand honoring Specialist Nicholas Andrew Taylor and his family, the recipient of the 2012 Citizen of the Year."
Business of the Year
Limberlost Construction celebrated its 30 anniversary in 2012 and has been involved in many historical renovation projects throughout the state during that time. In 2010 Limberlost was named lead construction firm for the clock tower and Muensterberg Plaza project, an endeavor that remains its crowning accomplishment.
Andrew Briggs, president of the Bank of Geneva, said Limberlost Construction "changed the landscape of Berne forever" by serving as the general contractor for the clock tower project."
Mike Schwartz recalled the humble beginnings of Limberlost Construction, formed by Schwartz and his brothers Kenny and Marvin. He remembered nervously going to the Bank of Geneva to see Jim Briggs, Andrew's father and bank president at the time, about a $9,000 loan to start a fledgling construction business.
"We crawled into the Bank of Geneva and pled our case, our vision and hopes," Schwartz said. "And Jimmy gave us the loan, saying, 'You boys come from good roots and I think you know what you're doing.'"
Schwartz, who now owns the business with his wife Dayon and son Eric, credited much of his success to others.
"I owe so much of what I have been able to accomplish to so many others. You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with," said Schwartz. He credited his father among those "because of his positive attitude" and his ability to think and work "outside his comfort zone." And Schwartz said the employees of Limberlost Construction "are second to none."
"I am truly honored," he said. Thank you. It has been a privilege to forge the relationships Limberlost Construction has built in this community."
Schwartz said that while he is proud of all the accomplishments of the company, "The clock tower project will hold near to my heart for a long, long time."
Also recognized by the chamber were premier members, members of the month for 2012, member milestones and chamber board members.
Officers of the Berne Chamber of Commerce for 2013 include: Matt Henry, president; Floyd Liechty, vice president; Mark Settlemyre, secretary; and Jason Hilty, treasurer.
Board of directors include Jeanne Akins, Andrew Briggs, Ron Habegger, Brad Lichtenberger, Sharon Neuenschwander, Berne Mayor Bill McKean, Chris Reusser, Jenn Reusser, Tracy Roudebush, and Jack Sloan.