News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 16, 2013

History restored as new plaque proclaims earlier efforts at Otter Creek schools

TERRE HAUTE — When Fred Weaver Jr. walked through the halls of Otter Creek Middle School last summer, he noticed something was missing — a bronze plaque that paid tribute to his late father and others responsible for construction of the original facility more than 50 years ago.

His father, Fred Weaver, had served on the Otter Creek Township Advisory Board, which at that time — along with the trustee — oversaw Otter Creek Township Schools.

The township officials had dedicated significant time overseeing design and construction of two schools, an elementary and junior/senior high. Because of school consolidation, the high school was never realized, and it opened as a junior high in 1962. The elementary opened in 1957.

When Weaver Jr. noticed the plaque missing, he began to inquire, and ultimately, officials theorized that the plaque was misplaced during a school remodeling several years ago.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos offered to remake the bronze plaque, which bears the name of then trustee Lawrence King and advisory board members Weaver, Roy Trout and Gerald Stone.

On Monday, Weaver Jr. and school dignitaries attended a rededication of the plaque. Weaver, overcome with emotion, initially struggled for words as he spoke during the short ceremony.

He thanked Tanoos, School Board President Paul Lockhart and others for their effort. “A lot of school boards would have just passed it off as progress,” he said. “The school board and Mr. Tanoos recognized the value of history to the community and went to bat and did it right.”

The Educational Heritage Association of Vigo County also assisted with research.

Weaver, 62 and a retired social studies teacher, recalled how his father and the other township officials would meet at his house and study blueprints for the new schools. The gym was a scaled-down model of the Indiana State University arena. The goal was the “best athletic facility this school could have,” although intended for a high school, Weaver said.

He also described how his father was hurt in a farm explosion in 1958, with burns over 60 percent of his body. His dad was in the hospital for six months, he said.

His mom was raising five kids, and he was the oldest — in second grade. He described how supportive the North Terre Haute community was, providing food for the family each evening and bringing truckloads of coal or firewood. Residents of Clinton harvested his parents crops.

“It’s called community,” Weaver said.

Weaver’s father died in 1996.

Otter Creek Middle School students are carrying on that tradition of giving, and they recently raised enough funds to distribute 50 Thanksgiving food baskets, he said. “To me, that continues the spirit of community.”

The new plaque is prominently hung near the school’s front entrance and close to the principal’s office, so people will notice it as they walk in.

Tanoos said that sometimes in his job he gets “to play the Wizard of Oz and to right a wrong,” and in this case he was able to right a wrong that occurred several years ago when the plaque was lost.

Tanoos said when he talked to Weaver early on, “He was passionate. You could tell how deep this was rooted in his heart,” to ensure the efforts of his father and other township officials were not forgotten.

When the old plaque couldn’t be located, “we figured the right thing to do was for the school corporation to have a new plaque made,” Tanoos said. “We need to give thanks for those who paved the way for us to be the great school system we are today.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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