COLUMBIA CITY — A project one year in the making came to fruition last week, as the Whitley County Historical Museum debuted its Local Legends exhibit, which is located on the second floor of the Thomas Marshall home.
Eight displays for “local legends” can be viewed, including Oscar: the Beast of Busco, actor Dean Jagger, U.S. Marine General Keller Rockey, basketball star Bill Schwarz, football player Leonard Barnum, singer Janie Fricke, author Lloyd Douglas and artist/businessman Shinzo Ohki.
From start to finish, it took about a year for Aaron Mathieu, Dani Tippman, Pam Cook and Jenaca Wolfe to gather all of the artifacts and set up the displays.
The Local Legends program began at South Whitley Community Public Library and grew into what it is today — and the collection will continue to grow.
“What is the definition of a legend? To you and me, we’re going to have different definitions. For us (at the museum), a legend is someone who has done something above and beyond — a good role model kids can look up to,” Mathieu said.
Each display has its own unique feel, as if one is stepping into the legend’s own environment.
Frike’s display includes a mannequin wearing one of her actual dresses. Jagger’s display has a film reel and film contract and a signed basketball sits atop the display of Columbia City High School’s long time leading scorer, a record he held for nearly 60 years.
“So many people don’t realize the number of people from Whitley County that are so famous,” Cook said.
The group is continuing to collect items for other local legends who can be rotated in and out of the display.
“It’s a story about all of Whitley County,” Tippman said.
The museum sees several hundred students each year, and museum leaders hope the exhibits will serve as an inspiration to children especially.
“The biggest thing, you can see that even if you come from a small community, you can accomplish great things,” Mathieu said. “You can go out and achieve your dreams. You just have to work hard at it.”
The exhibit was made possible thanks to the construction of the support from the community in the addition of the extra museum building on the Marshall property. Items were moved from the second story of the Thomas Marshall home, freeing up space for the exhibit.
“We’ve been blessed,” Mathieu said.
The display is open to visitors during museum hours: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m.-noon. The museum is located at 108 W. Jefferson St., Columbia City.