Fighting back tears on more than one occasion, veteran banker and community activist Larry Isch on Thursday evening accepted the 2010 Stephen Decatur Award, presented annually by the Decatur Chamber of Commerce for outstanding civic contributions.
Mayor John Schultz presented the award, which Isch termed "a great honor." The recipient then paused briefly in an attempt to get his emotions in check.
"I don't do things to get recognized," he said. "I would just like to thank God for giving me the strength to get involved in so many projects ... and my family and friends for their support and encouragement."
Isch retired last year after 19 years with the First Bank of Berne. He is president of the Decatur Parks and Recreation board, treasurer of the Adams-Wells Crisis Center, and is a member of the Adams County Healthy Families, Decatur Comprehensive Plan Committee, United Way of Adams County and is president of the Worthman Scholarship committee.
He has been a member of the Callithumpian Parade comitee for 35 years and was last year's parade grand marshall. Isch served for 18 years as a member of the North Adams school board and was chairman of the Decatur sesquicentennial committee. He has been named as a co-chairman for this year's celebration of the city's 175th birthday.
"This past year has been big for me. I retired from the bank, then had the privilege of serving as grand marshall for the Callithumpian parade, and now the Stephen Decatur award. Thanks to all the people who helped me garner these honors," said Isch.
"I've been asked why I get so involved in so many things, and it's because I believe in our community. There are so many neat things happening here."
Accepting the chamber's Humanitarian Award was Marvin Baird, chief executive officer at Adams Memorial Hospital.
The award was presented by Larry Macklin, director of the county economic development office. He credited Baird as the driving force behind the efforts to construct a new hospital in Decatur, as well as follow-up work to establish a cancer center, physicians' building and other advancements in the medical field. "It is fitting that we recognize Marvin tonight for what he has done for Adams County and our health care," said Macklin.
Baird, a native of Oklahoma, came to Adams County in 1989 to head up the local hospital operations after 20 years as a consultant. He recalled coming to Decatur with a preconceived vision of how a "horizontally integrated health care system" should be implemented, only to see that vision debunked by the realities of Decatur's largely rural hospital service area.
He then altered his vision to establish a system "to meet the majority of health care needs for the majority of our community."
"But a vision without accomplishment is only a dream," said Baird. "To complete the vision, it was necessary to have a new state-of-the-art hospital that provides the community with outstanding health care. In 1995, the community did support that dream" by backing the construction of the new Adams Memorial facility.
Baird credited hospital employees, physicians, board members and county officials with making the dream become a reality.
"The people of our community have accepted the hospital and have taken ownership of it," said Baird. "They believe it is their hospital, and it is. It's locally owned, locally operated and locally controlled."
The Humanitarian Award is not presented annually by the chamber.
Large and Small Business Awards
The chamber's Large Business and Small Business awards for 2010 were presented to Ideal Suburban Homes and Rebecca Cochran CPA, respectively.
Accepting the Large Business award was Kevan Biggs, third-generation owner. Established in 1959, Ideal Suburban Homes focuses on building entry-level houses for first-time home buyers. In 1961, Ralph Biggs assumed leadership of ISH, which had been founded by his father-in-law, Clark Smith. In 2004, Kevan became the chief executive officer and began managing the company.
ISH diversified to create a real estate company called Ideal Realty as well as an investment company called Biggs Inc., which handles development of housing subdivisions and the management of apartments owned and operated by Ideal.
Biggs accepted the award "on behalf of my father, my family, the incredible team players in all our businesses, and Steve Kriegh, a business partner of my father who has been so instrumental in the growth of the businesses."
Cochran's public accounting business is an offshoot of the business partnership she had with Ted Brehm. Cochran started working for Brehm in 1981 after she graduated from the Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne campus.
She became a partner with Brehm when she received her CPA certificate in 1984. Brehm and Cochran CPAs split into separate firms in September of 1991, with Brehm moving to Fort Wayne and Cochran forming her current firm.
Cochran thanked her family, employees and staff, her clients, and "the IRS, for my job security."
A surprise plaque was presented during Thursday's banquet by 2011 Chamber President Carl Stevens. The President's Award, given for "exemplary assistance rendered to the president and to the chamber," was presented to Ron Storey, publisher of the Decatur Daily Democrat.