Recognizing that this was a special circumstance, the LaGrange County Corn School Committee voted to award its 2012 Citizen of the Year posthumously to Philip Spreuer, who passed away in February of this year.
The committee noted that “Some nominees have sought to avoid the honor, deeming themselves unworthy in spite of the efforts by others to acknowledge them for their work and generosity. This year’s recipient was one of the most humble and the most reticent people to ever be nominated. While the long-standing policy has been to make this award to only living persons, the committee unanimously agreed this year to make an exception for a truly exceptional individual.”
Spreuer was a lifelong resident of LaGrange County and a native of Shipshewana. He was a veteran of WWII, where he served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was a former prisoner of war and received numerous medals during his service, including the Purple Heart. “His service to his nation, as great as it was, was only a small gesture in comparison to his lifetime of service to his fellow man,” the committee said in presenting the award.
Over his lifetime, Spreuer worked in his family’s business, building it and other manufacturing plants into successful and profitable businesses. When it came time to step back from the everyday operation of his business, he made it possible for his longtime employees to purchase the operation, thereby ensuring that the employees would still have jobs and the community would benefit from the continuing presence of a successful enterprise in its midst.
Because of his own health problems and the illnesses of both of his wives, he developed a sixty-plus year relationship with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic located in Rochester, Minn. He credited them with restoring his health and extending the lives of family members who had exhausted medical treatments locally.
For those whom he personally referred to the Mayo Clinic, and in many cases flew them to Rochester for medical treatment, he was a “lifesaver.” His genuine concern for those he made arrangements for, and interest in their well-being led him to not only to gain their admission but to secure for them the same world-class treatment that he and his family received. Any efforts to repay him for his generosity were always refused – he only wanted to help. And help he did, making many large financial donations as well as many, many referrals of local citizens to Mayo, all without fanfare or personal gain.
When local organizers established Elijah Haven for victims of domestic violence, he quietly supported their efforts and even made a physical location available for housing of families who were displaced by violence.
In recent years, he donated a parcel of real estate on Old SR 9 at the north edge of LaGrange for construction of a community center by the LaGrange Communities Youth Center (LCYC) for both the young and senior citizens of the county. At the time of his death, he made arrangements for a million dollar trust fund to be set up to ensure that the ongoing operating expenses of the youth center would be sustained through the interest payments, while maintaining the principal balance for posterity. A lasting legacy that will ensure an ongoing effort to make this community strong. He never asked that anything be named for him or that his gifts be made public. He sought only to give back to his community.
At the time of his death on Feb. 20, 2012, he provided for his church and other charities which were near and dear to his heart, making it possible for LaGrange County to thrive because of his success and his generous spirit.
Spreuer joins a long list of notable LaGrange County Citizens in being named the 2012 Citizen of the Year.
Past winners of this award include: 1963 - Mrs. Karl (Mildred) Gilbert, 1964 - Glendon Sears, 1965 - Robert Pierce, 1966 - Edythe Gappinger and Oma Knauss, 1967 - Paul Riddick, 1968 - Mary Jane Sell and Riley Case, 1969 - Mrs. Fred (Carlie) Deal, 1970 - Rev. M.D. Kilver, 1971 - Helen Adams, 1972 - Rev. Carldean Merrifield, 1973 - Ned Stump, 1974 - John Storck, 1975 - Nina Walter, 1976 - Bob Schott, 1977 - Charles Park, 1978 - Dora Giggy, 1979 - William (Bill) Hart, 1980 - Rev. Wilbur Yates, 1981 - Ray Culp, 1982 - Russell (Bud) Howe, 1983 - Don Sherman, 1984 - Ruth Johns, 1985 - Katherine Lewis, 1986 - Betty Oakley, 1987 - Edgar Franklin, 1988 - Rev. Lowell Anderson, 1989 - Carmen Abrahamson, 1990 - Robert Sleeper, 1991 - LeRoy Schultess, 1992 - Shelli Yoder, 1993 - Dennis Wagner, 1994 - Paul Hostetler Jr., 1995 - Elsie Willard, 1996 - Richard White, 1997 - David L. Christner, 1998 - Robert Lovaas, 1999 - Florence Notestine, 2000 - Frances Prough, 2001 - Harriet Warren, 2002 - Mahlon Dunkel, 2003 -Rollin (Sam) Carney and Estella Carney, 2004 – LuLu May Carney, 2005 - Donald (Pete) Curtis, 2006 - James McKibben, 2007 - William (Bill) Connelly, 2008 - Robert Meeks, 2009 - Ted Strawser, 2010 - Mont Arnold, and 2011 - Eugene (Gene) Mory Jr.