Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tribute to Charles Warburton

                Rarely do you see historians, researchers, or academics dive heavily into personal stories because for the most part we like to look at the broad stokes of history and how events and people affected them. You see it a little more now as people research their genealogy and discover these personal stories. There are so many unique and great stories out there to be told. I want to tell you a short one of an individual who impacted the world around. And although few in this world had the opportunity to meet him he left a lasting impression on those who knew him. I want to write about my grandfather Charles Warburton who passed away Monday, August 27th at the age of 78.

                To stay objective and historical I will attempt to call him Charlie as everyone knew him but occasionally I will refer to him as grandpa in here and that’s because I loved him. In order to understand who Charlie is you have to understand a little of where he came from and to know that you have to know the Newkirks. Charlie’s mother was Martha Newkirk, she was in the middle of 16 brothers and sisters. If you have ever been to one of their monthly get-togethers (which I had the privilege of doing a couple times) you would understand quickly how wonderful this family is and the bond in which they shared. Martha was one of the sweetest most endearing women this world has ever known. She was a tough cookie though, known for cheating at Flinch, cutting the heads off of chickens without hesitation, and telling it like it was because it needed to be said. But she cared so deeply for her family. She treated everyone with respect and love that only a grandmother could do. I know a few people that considered her their second mother or second grandmother because of the way in which she loved on them. This influence on Charlie carried over into every aspect of his life, including his fear of birds. When he was younger working on the farm his mother was cutting the heads off chickens as is normal practice on a farm. If you know anything about this process once a chicken loses its head it will convulse and dance for a short period of time. On one of these occasions Charlie’s mom cut the head off and the chicken seemed to aim itself right for Charlie, dancing on his head and chest. Needless to say this moment was forever etched in his mind and he refused to be too close to a bird for the rest of his life. My mother could talk hours on end about her Grandma Martha and Grandpa Joe. They were such an amazing pair and demonstrated that by raising Charlie with a solid work ethic, strong character, and steadfast integrity.

                Charlie’s work ethic could be seen in the various jobs he had throughout his life and the intense effort he put into each one of them, first and foremost though he was known as a farmer.  As young as ten years old Charlie recalled driving the tractor around the farm helping his father out with various jobs on the farm. In 1953, at the age of 19, Charlie had to start taking over the responsibilities of his father’s farm because his eyesight was declining. In that same year Charlie married the woman he would spend the next 59 years with Margaret Kelley. Together they had three children Steve, Myra, and David (my mom is Myra :). Charlie continued farming on what would be considered a sharecropping deal known as the Bratton farm. Charlie would spend the next 3 years there until 1957 when he and his family moved to a brick home in rural Boone County Indiana where he began to farm 350 acres. The previous season was tough and many farmers were hurting due to low yields from the previous year. Because of this farmers got together and would put their crops out as a team, one would discus and the other would plant to save time and money. A man by the name of Joe Edwards joined Charlie for the next three years in putting out their crops together. Sam Hirschman and John Freeman, friends of Charlie and Joe were doing the same thing down the road. They all agreed to finish on the same day and whichever group finished last had to make homemade ice cream for all four families. So as they started Joe gets the idea that he was going to really let them know when they finished so he grabbed a stick of dynamite. As Charlie finished his last row Joe began mounting the dynamite on a tree and started to run. Half way to the tractor Joe stopped to grab a rock and grandpa started thinking what in the world is he doing (turned out to be a large Indian arrowhead). Finally the explosion goes off and the sound could be heard for miles and miles, blowing the tree half off and signifying them as the winner. What they did not take into account was the farm nearby by and their nearly 1000 chickens which all simultaneously stopped laying eggs, going into a molt. Despite their shenanigans Charlie was a well respected farmer in the community and known by about everyone.

                Charlie’s impact on history goes beyond a blown up tree and a thousand scared chickens. Charlie also became the youngest trustee in the county in 1962 at age 28. It was during this time that states were consolidating schools from those one room school houses to city or county-wide school districts. Charlie along with other township trustees signed off on the consolidation to form a school district in rural Boone County Indiana known as Western Boone. Along with that the men became the first members of the school board, serving for the next three years. There are fewer long term impacts an individual can make than on the education system and Charlie was integral in that process. So many lives we affected through this position and we probably did not even realize it.  

Over time and with his various influential positions he became well known in Boone County and Lebanon, Indiana. I remember growing up in Lebanon, Indiana and no matter where I went all I would have to say is that I was Charlie Warburton’s grandson and everyone knew me. I was convinced when I was younger that as long as I was Charlie’s grandson I could run for mayor and more than likely win. Charlie did not get all of his notoriety from being a farmer and trustee. By 1969, farming was becoming much more difficult to sustain financially so Charlie was forced to get work elsewhere. It was then that he started working at Boone County State Bank in downtown Lebanon. Within only a matter of years he worked his way up to Vice-President and Head Cashier thereby putting himself in a position that he could give up farming. As sad as a day as that was for the family to leave the farm, opportunity was awaiting in the banking world. As banks in Indiana started to fall to bigger banks from Ohio, Boone County State Bank became no exception and was bought out by Ameritrust. This transition worked out perfect for Charlie as his skill and knowledge kept him in the game. Finally after the third buy out by Key Bank he was placed in charge as head of security for all of central Indiana. He oversaw nearly 45 branches and his responsibilities included internal and external fraud as well as all robberies that might occur. Charlie worked as an investigator, getting to the truth and prosecuting individuals if necessary. Charlie even helped put former Colts quarterback Art Schlichter behind bars as well as countless other individuals. When sitting down and talking with him last year I realized quickly he valued his time as a farmer but he was most proud of his work as head of security for Key Banks. He talks with such excitement and pride about how far he moved up and how much he accomplished.

                My memories of my grandfather were of him as a banker and I remember a couple times I would ride my bike from their house into downtown Lebanon and have lunch with him at a local restaurant. See my July 4th, 2010 blog about my fond memories of our celebrations on Independence Day. I remember spending the night at their house, making wooden swords with my uncle, and Christmas Eves. I remember my first wallet I got from my parents and my grandfather wanted to see it and realizing it was empty gave me a few dollars to put inside. I remember cookouts, riding the lawnmower in circles around the driveway, and grandpa trying to teach me how to fix things. What I will remember more than anything about my grandpa is the impact he had on people and his family. I will remember the numerous people that spoke so fondly of him. I will remember how many people relied on my grandfather both personally and professionally. Isn’t this what history is all about, the impact that people and events have on a society. My grandfather had that kind of historical impact. It might have only been on a small community but his influence has touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. There are so many more stories and events of Charlie's life that he has told me and the family. Stories that impacted others and stories that further show his historical impact on the community around him. I know he touched my life and I am honored to have called him my grandfather. Thank you Charles Warburton for being the man you were, for showing this world what it means to be a man of integrity and a man of honor.    

Obiturary (picture): http://reporter.net/obituaries/x143111486/Mr-Charles-William-Warburton

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