Longtime Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra supporters Laney and Lu Meis and Jack Ragle received the THSO’s Gift of Music Award at a May 19 dinner in the Country Club of Terre Haute at Allendale.
With about 150 friends and THSO supporters present, the three honorees received a specially designed “Gift of Music” award and the ovation of the audience. Music, performed by John Spicknall, Joe Deal and Eddie Ludema, included specially arranged versions of “Luck Be A Lady,” “On the Road Again,” “Try to Remember,” and “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
The celebration included a tribute to the award winners by Stephanie Salter.
“Friends: In their own way, they are a classical trio: Terre Haute natives Jack Ragle and Lu Meis, and Lu’s wife Laney, who has called Terre Haute home since 1965”.
Although none is what Laney terms “a Symphony aficionado,” the three longtime friends and neighbors consider their 93-year-old hometown orchestra a civic treasure. Over several decades, they have invested their time, talent and treasure to ensure THSO’s health, welfare and future.
“I actually like Broadway music,” says retired businessman Lu. “But I learned years ago, when interviewing people for Meis (the family’s retail department store company), how important the arts are to people who are considering moving to Terre Haute. One of the things they looked at as a major asset was the Symphony.”
Lu credits Laney with “getting me involved with the Symphony, many years ago.” Laney, who left St. Louis with a teaching degree for deaf education, says her commitment to the Symphony and arts in general, sprang from simply wanting to be a useful member of her new community.
“There was no deaf school in Terre Haute,” she says, so she earned a master’s degree in speech and hearing and taught for a while at Indiana State. A friend, Rose-Hulman chemistry professor Benjamin Benjaminov, who was on the THSO board, suggested she get to know the anatomy and physiology of a symphony orchestra and serve as THSO’s Director of Development.
Laney hasn’t looked back, advocating for the Symphony in a variety of roles, including a stint as executive director. At one point, during some especially trying financial times for the orchestra, “I just asked everyone I knew for $1,000,” she recalls.
It was a desire to help end that era of what Lu calls, “the Symphony paying this year’s bills with next year’s ticket sales,” that inspired the Meises and Ragle to create a new WVCF “Fund for the Future” endowment. In doing so, they hope to inspire others to join them in supporting the new fund with major gifts.
Jack, a retired developer, shares Lu and Laney’s belief that a robust symphony orchestra is an effective recruiting tool for a city that wants to grow and thrive. A lifelong music lover – all his children grew up playing musical instruments – Jack feared economics would be the undoing of the orchestra. “I didn’t want to see the city lose the THSO,” he says.
Like Lu, with whom he shares an office as well as a neighborhood, Jack says he was impressed with not only the artistic caliber of THSO maestro David Bowden, but with Bowden’s 24-7 commitment to the organization’s financial health.
As Lu puts it, “Watching David hit the pavement, seeing him work to turn the whole picture around, Jack and I wanted to do something that would help the Symphony for years to come.”