Although they no longer work in a classroom, a group of retired local educators tapped into their ongoing encouragement for youth by giving a standing ovation to a high school student.

More than 80 members of the Bartholomew County Retired Teachers Association (BARTA) gathered at Four Seasons Retirement Center on Tuesday to celebrate a half century of fellowship and support.

Their standing ovation went to 2017 Columbus East valedictorian Aaron Villiger, who spent 47 hours compiling a digital history of BARTA, which he shared with the group at their anniversary celebration.

When Villiger ended his historical overview, he noted the organization has been the recipient of 32 local and state awards over the past 50 years recognizing such things as recruitment efforts, outstanding group projects and communications efforts.

Story continues below gallery

Governed by an executive board of 14 officers and committee chairs, BARTA has 330 members who live as far away as Arizona and California, communications director Joyce Heckman said.

In 2016, BARTA contributed 39,375 volunteer hours with an estimated in-kind value of $984,375 to the community, she said.

Outstanding volunteers recognized Tuesday were Ora Pemberton and Tom Hadley. Another BARTA member, Larry Klebenow, was recently honored as one of the most outstanding Hoosier volunteers by the Indiana Retired Teachers Association.

With former BCSC and Flatrock-Hawcreek teachers eligible for membership, the association largely sees itself in the 21st Century as a friend and advocate of education, Heckman said.

For example, members dig into their own pockets to provide up to $1,500 annually in grants to teachers and administrators. Those funds might be used to pay for such things as classroom materials, field trips, guest speakers and conference expenses, their website stated.

In addition, BARTA provides annual grants to non-profit groups that support education and students that usually range from $450 to $600, Heckman said.

Last year, grants were provided to Turning Point Domestic Violence Services for its shelter, Simmons Schoolhouse in Hope, and Little Lambs Preschool at Sandy Hook, Heckman said.

This year, the organization has chosen the Book Buddies program at BCSC as its community service project. Support will also be extended to the High School Equivalency Exam program in Columbus high schools.

While they may not like to boast, members of BARTA’s legislative committee still participate in advocacy efforts for retired teachers at the state level, especially in issues dealing with pensions.

“Our legislators know us,” Heckman said. “Not all of us are quiet.”

In Villiger’s presentation, he noted it was important to note the history of BARTA began two decades before the organization’s founding _ in post-World War II America.

After the war ended, retired teachers were advocating for pension reform, tax benefits, housing improvements and health insurance coverage.

That prompted the first female high school principal in California’s history, Ethel Percy Andrus (1884-1967), to found the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947.

Three years later in the Hoosier state, retired educators got together in Fort Wayne to follow Andrus’ lead and create the Indiana Retired Teachers Association.

Those two organizations had to suffice during the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras. It wasn’t until the last half of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration that two prominent retired school administrators in Columbus decided a local association was needed.

Among BARTA’s most well-known local founding members were Luther A. Lockwood (1893-1985), former Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. superintendent, and L. Frances Smith (1901-1971), former supervisor of elementary education.

Since 1958, the library at what is now Columbus North High School has carried Lockwood’s name. Ten years after honoring Lockwood, BCSC announced it would name the colorful, tubular elementary school off Waycross Drive in honor of Smith.

The Bartholomew County Retired Teacher’s Association was created on Sept. 26, 1966 to promote the welfare of retired teachers in Indiana, with a strong emphasis on creating fellowship, according to the organization’s constitution.

However, the document also calls for BARTA to “serve as an instrument through which retired teachers could lend support to their local schools.”

Memorial

During the 50th anniversary of the Bartholomew County Retired Teachers Association, special recognition was given to the 22 retired educations who have died over the past 12 months:

Cheryl Dieckman

Judith Gaskins

Martha Francisco

Millicent Harden

Scott Hill

Annette Hungerford

Myrna Jackson

Irene Johnson

Helen Kittle

William Kreinhop

Julie Litton

Sherleen McKinney

Bruno Milakovic

Martha Milakovic

Lois Mires

Sarah Newkirk

Linda O’Connor

Michelle Orr

Janet Janene Plumm

Smith Snively

Dianna Sweany

Janet VanNatta

New officers

The 2017-2018 officers approved Tuesday by the Bartholomew County Retired Teachers Association are:

President: Joe Nicholson

Vice president: Judy Richardson

Secretary: Lynne Fleming

Treasurer: Janet Smith

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.