News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 31, 2012

Kiwanis honors Newlin’s years of service

Handclasp highest award group bestows

TERRE HAUTE — For most people in the Wabash Valley, John T. Newlin’s name is synonymous with the real estate business. But Newlin, honored Thursday by the Kiwanis Club of Terre Haute, has actually had four successful careers in his eventful life.

At its weekly meeting at the MCL Cafeteria, the Kiwanis Club named Newlin the winner of its 2012 Handclasp Award – the highest honor it gives.

Newlin, 91, accepted the award with his family and friends in attendance.

“I was surprised and honored,” Newlin said. “And when I saw the list of [past winners] I was joining, I was overwhelmed.”

The Handclasp Award, now in it’s fourth decade, recognizes professional and civic service. The five most recent winners are Bob Baesler, Bill Felts, Joe Minnis, Ron Reeves and Marylee Hagen.

Newlin graduated from (then) Rose-Polytechnic Institute as an engineer in 1943. Newly married just months before to his high school sweetheart, Marjorie, Newlin was soon serving in World War II far from home as a member of the U.S. Army.

“You never saw a more homesick kid than I was,” Newlin said of those first weeks in the Army. “I had never been away from home before.”

After completing officers training school, Newlin was deployed as part of a construction battalion to Milne Bay in New Guinea, the scene a couple of years before of a pivotal battle in the war. Newlin’s battalion helped build roads and other infrastructure for the war effort in the Pacific. Two years later, his battalion was in the Philippines building a hospital when the war ended.

“The war ended and, thankfully, that hospital never got used,” Newlin said. It was being constructed in anticipation of an allied invasion of Japan that never happened, he said.

Newlin returned home after the war and took a teaching position at Rose. He also earned an advanced engineering degree before joining his father’s successful real estate business, Newlin-Johnson Co, Inc. in 1952.

Newlin has also made his mark in real estate as an appraiser and as one of the four people who organized the Terre Haute Multiple Listing Association. He is currently chairman of the board of Newlin-Johnson Co. Inc.

In addition to those activities, Newlin is also an emeritus member of the Indiana State University Foundation. He has also served as a member of the Board of Managers of Rose-Hulman and was a 1978 Honor alumnus. Newlin has also served as chairman of the board of the Wabash Valley chapter of the American Red Cross and as vice president of the Covered Bridge Chapter of the Girl Scouts of America.

His marriage to Marjorie, with whom he will soon celebrate a 70th anniversary, his stint in the Army, his teaching days at Rose and his real estate career add up to four careers, Newlin said.

“As far as I can tell, they’ve all been successful and maybe, if you add them all up, I do fit in with those others who’ve received the Handclasp Award,” he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or

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