A 1940s era photo that accompanied a follow-up column on the return of the Noblitt-Sparks World War II memorial marker to Columbus rang some memory bells for a number of local residents.
The photo was of a woman worker shaking hands with a soldier in front of a large sign listing the names of employees of the Columbus-based manufacturer who had entered service in World War II. Noblitt-Sparks was the forerunner of Arvin Industries, which was eventually merged into ArvinMeritor.
The marker that was returned was a bronze plaque listing the names of Noblitt-Sparks employees who had been killed during World War II. Following the dropping of the Arvin name from ArvinMeritor, the bronze plaque had been stored in the original Noblitt-Sparks headquarters building on 13th Street. A portion of that building (which was donated to the United Way of Bartholomew County) was destroyed in a fire, and the plaque disappeared, only to resurface last month when it arrived at the Bartholomew County Historical Society. It had been returned by a Vietnam veteran in Illinois who had obtained it from the family of someone who had worked on the demolition of the United Way building.
The picture of the woman and the soldier printed in the follow-up article was provided by Arvin Industries historian Larry Ruble. It had appeared in magazine and newspaper advertisements, but the people in the photo were not identified.
Half of the mystery has now been solved. The woman was Shirley Sipes. Later she would marry Billy Bush, of Bush’s Market fame. The identification was reported by a number of readers, including Rick Bush.