Rush County resident and volunteer Larry Stout is the most awarded preservationist in the state of Indiana, having recently received the prestigious Sandi Servaas Memorial Award from Indiana Landmarks.
The Servaas Award is Landmark's highest honor given annually for individual preservation service.
Local historian Eleanor Arnold, in nominating Stout for the award, wrote, "A sign on Ronald Reagan's desk said, ÔThere is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.' These lines describe Larry Stout perfectly. There are more words - quiet, unassuming, incredibly hardworking, persistent, patient, dedicated, motivational, selfless, tireless - all these describe a great leader."
Indiana Landmarks agreed, and Stout, who serves as long-time president of Rush County Heritage, brought home to Rush County a third Servaas award, more than any other county in Indiana.
Two prior Servaas awards were given for saving the covered bridges and rehabilitating the Booker T. Washington Community Center where Stout met us to share his latest trophy.
The award was given Sept. 10 at Indiana Landmark's annual meeting at their new headquarters on the corner of Central and 12th streets in Indianapolis.
Among Stout's enduring accomplishments are helping save the Kennedy covered bridges; Beech Church, birthplace of AME denomination in Indiana; historic schools in Mays and Milroy; and in Rushville, the Booker T. Washington School, the Knights of Pythias Hall and more.
No one would be surprised to learn that Stout also has his eye on future historic preservation efforts.
Arnold's nomination details the immeasurable contributions Stout's 25 year leadership of Rush County Heritage have brought to communities throughout the county.
A falling down African-American Booker T. Washington School became a vibrant community center, Arnold wrote.
The whole community, black and white, worked together to restore the school which was closed in the 1930s.
The facility now houses ICAP, Head Start and serves as a community center. This project, in addition to a prior Servaas award, also received the National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award. Stout served as vice president of that project.
The last remaining train depot in Rush County was moved to a living history train museum in Connersville with help from Heritage.
Also among Stout's accomplishments are his years of work with the Moscow Covered Bridge Festival and arranging for former First Lady Judy O'Bannon to speak at the launch of the Main Street program in Rushville; having downtown Rushville added to the National Register; thwarting attempts to remodel the Rushville Public Library; and serving on the board of the Eleutherian College restoration, which resulted in it becoming a national park.
When a tornado destroyed the Moscow covered bridge, Stout immediately began work to get it re-erected and there are countless other projects that his tireless hand has helped to nurture in this community.
Stout was born in December, 1943 to Ray and Katherine Myers Stout of Rushville, or, as Stout says, the one year the white penny was made.
He traces his mother's family's arrival in Rush County to 1821.
His father was from Jefferson County, the location of the Eleutherian College Stout is involved with. The college was built in the 1850s by people involved in the underground railroad to help bring slaves to freedom.
Eleutherian was the first college in Indiana to admit both women and African Americans.
Already, $500,000 has been raised for that restoration effort.
Stout grew up in the Gowdy area in Orange Township. An accountant, it was an emotional tie to "our bridge" that brought the preservationist out in Stout.
He attended school in Moscow for eight years and graduated from Milroy High School in 1952. He went to Indiana Central Business College in Indianapolis before working for a small C.P.A. firm there.
A few years later, in the 1980s, he worked for Hall-Hottel, insurance and real estate company, and also a former client in Indianapolis. After that, Stout went on his own and has done taxes for clients.
Stout served in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.
"It was a helicopter unit and we trained at Ft. Knox. We went over as a unit, on a ship," he said.
Stout said he served in Vietnam for seven months.
"It was scary. I was an S-1 Clerk in the headquarters, in charge of casualty reports. I'd be out in the field as well. There was a least one time we were shot at. It was scary never knowing ... just two weeks after I left they attacked the base I was at and three guys were killed on guard duty. If I had been there, I would have been pulling guard duty. I feel like I wouldn't have been around if I'd been there two more weeks," Stout said.
So what led Larry Stout to this mission in life?
"It got started on the covered bridge issue. In Ô86 is when the commissioners said they were going to tear down four of the six covered bridges. About two years earlier than that they had closed what I called Ômy' covered bridge, the Forsythe Bridge, down in Gowdy. The commissioners closed it and I got with Jack Clarkson. We went to the meetings. He did most of the talking and he got it opened up again. Two years later the commissioners tried to pull the same stunt with tearing down four of them. I sent a letter to the National Trust branch in Chicago."
Stout says he was asking if anything could be done.
The National Trust forwarded the letter on to Marsh Davis who had just started with Indiana Landmarks doing a survey of Rush County. They surveyed all the historic places and houses in Rush County. A copy is available at the Rushville Public Library. The same Marsh Davis now serves as the organization's president.
"We brainstormed between the two of us and called a meeting in the courthouse, not knowing how many people would show up. The (Rushville) Republican was very helpful. They were 100 percent behind us, even giving us free ads. They put the word out and we got speakers from covered bridge society as well as an engineer. There were over 100 people that showed up at the meeting at the courthouse. Everyone was gung-ho wanting to do something. We started meeting every week. The second meeting we elected officers. I got put in as president which I haven't been able to get rid of since."
Eleanor Arnold became vice president and still is.
Thus, Rush County Heritage was born.
First they saved bridges, and later helped save much more of Rush County's history Ñ history that once gone can never be replaced.
Thanks to petition drives to save bridges; his role as the church historian at Big Flatrock, originally built in 1852; and projects that came knocking on his door soon after becoming involved in saving the bridges, Larry's passion was ignited and remains strong.
He is Rush County's champion, preserving the heritage of entire communities, one building, one bridge, one memory at a time.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 932-2222 ext. 107.