The Town of Ferdinand and Chamber of Commerce jointly (and annually) honor one outstanding individual with a “Community Service Award,” the highest accolade bestowed by these two entities for all this person has done for the Ferdinand Community.
Rather unfortunately, the honor is always awarded on a Wednesday night, after the Ferdinand News has gone to press, but to stay relevant we always promise to keep mum and hold our online edition until the last possible moment so as not to spoil the big surprise.
Last year it didn’t work out so well. Tom Schipp, for reasons unbeknown to everyone who had tried to keep the secret, wandered down to the Post Office to pick up mail. Because the newspapers are delivered early Wednesday to the post office, the News was tucked into Universal Design’s postal box and there, for Schipp and all the world to see, was the announcement that he was the honoree.
This year the intended recipient made others plans for the evening. Cajoling didn’t work to get him to change his plans, so the proverbial beans had to be spilled.
He is being honored tonight (Wednesday, November 8) during the Chamber’s annual dinner, featuring keynote speaker Doug Bawel, CEO of Jasper Engines and Transmissions (always fascinating), with a message from FBI Special Agent (and Forest Park graduate) Marla (Auffart) Vanderbunt, recipient of the Alumni Award from the Chamber of Commerce.
So, who is the “he” being honored?
Most know him as Andy Olinger (actual first name, Robert), who, ironically, jointly nominated Tom Schipp last year with attorney Francis Lueken.
Olinger said then, “There would probably not be a north side [18th Street] Park if not for Tom.”
Au contraire, Andy. From the scoop the News got, you were almost equally instrumental in the development of the park.
But to begin at the beginning …
Robert “Andy” Olinger was born November 27, 1935, the second oldest of Tony and Frieda Olinger’s six children. His siblings include Jim “Bouncer” and Jerry Olinger, Mary Lee Meyer, Barbara Helming and Norma Steinhart.
A 1953 graduate of Huntingburg High, Andy went to work for his father and his Uncle Emil, who had purchased the 7-Up Bottling Company from its founders, Andy’s grandfather, Andrew Boeglin and Ben Laake. Andy started as a route salesman and was promoted to District Sales Manager in 1961.
In 1968 he made a career switch, joining DMI as Customer Service Manager, then Director of Distribution, Traffic Manager and finally, Vice President of Distribution before his retirement in 2006 after 38 years.
Of course all work and no play would make Andy a dull boy and that description just does not fit.
On the “fun” front he wed the former Nancy Gerber about 56 years ago and to the couple four children were born, Kelly (husband Louie) Hildenbrand, Kristy (husband Chris) Dilger, all of Ferdinand, Nick (wife Leah) Olinger and Amy (husband Jason) Stamm, all of Jasper.
Yep, no doubt about it, he was a busy young man, even before his marriage.
In fact 57 years ago, Andy became a charter member of the Ferdinand Jaycees. To those who are very young or somewhat new to the community, the Ferdinand Jaycees helped make the town much of what it is today. Not just a member but also a leader, Andy served as president of the organization and was also honored with a JCI Senatorship. In addition, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 1984.
During his tenure, he led a committee within the Jaycees who approached the Town Council to rename certain streets in town (putting them in a more orderly, cohesive fashion) and then headed up fund-raising to purchase new street signs, co-chairing with another Community Service Award winner, Jim Uebelhor. These signs were erected in the 1960s under Andy’s leadership.
Back to that earlier comment about his involvement with 18th Street Park.
Yes, Tom Schipp got the ball rolling and immediately sought Andy Olinger and Lee Begle’s assistance. At the time Andy was president of the Ferdinand Park Board.
“Although we served together in the Jaycees for about four years, my connection with Andy started when we were on the Park Board together, developing 18 Street Park,” recalls Lee Begle.
Andy served on the Ferdinand Park Board for eight years, and was board president and grants coordinator during the period when the 34 acre north side (18th Street) Park was built.
“Tom wondered, do we develop this property as residential or something more significant for the town? That was in 1984 and we incorporated shortly after, then began the quest to raise $60,000 to buy land. That went really well and we continued raising money to build the Community Center, opening in September of 1989.”
Lee added, “We held lots of meetings and received lots of support from all over Dubois County. We started with 350 charter members, now that number is over 800.”
Schipp was president of the Community Center Board of Directors and Andy Olinger served as vice president. When Schipp retired from the board, Andy was elected president, serving for five years. This was not a role Olinger relished, so when election time rolled around again Andy talked Lee into becoming president and he went back to serving as VP — an office he holds to this day (36 years total). In addition, prior to Community Center events, Andy often is in charge of organizing the details.
With regard to his value as a board member, Begle notes, “Andy is a stickler for details, that is why he is assigned the task of monitoring our rental invoices at the FCC. He is also a board member who is not afraid to voice an opinion, even if it is contrary to majority opinion, which makes his value to the board so important.”
Begle concludes, “I think Andy is well deserving [of this award]. All his years on the Park Board, through Jaycees [in which he was also instrumental in the addition of SIRS to the community], the street signs … he was very active long before I got there. The length of time he has given back to the community speaks volumes, and he is still volunteering his time at almost 82. Fortunately he stays involved.”
Although retired, he is still very active. For example, when the town’s Christmas decorations began to look less than festive, Andy again partnered with Jim Uebelhor and together they raised the funds (over $25,000) in about three weeks.
When contacted, last year’s recipient, Tom Schipp, reminisced about his earliest exposure to Olinger. “In his younger days, when he was at 7-Up, Andy hired me to move trucks when I was a senior in high school. I spent a year working under him.”
That was the start of a years-long partnership and extremely close friendship.
“He’ll disagree with you in a heartbeat,” Tom asserts. “I asked him one time why he always disagreed and he responded, ‘If I didn’t we’d both be wrong.’ He’s that witty!”
Tom adds, “Andy, he’s still going strong, there’s no other match for him, bar none. I don’t know anybody else [in his age group] who hasn’t slowed down as far as doing free work and raising funds. He’s always thinking and commenting on what improvements should be made for the town, and then doing.”
Schipp continues, “He’s a best friend and a ball of fun!”
His memberships beyond the community center board includes Christ the King Parish (he’s a lifer) and its St. Joseph’s Society, as well as the YMI. Olinger is also a charter member and served as first president of the Forest Park Athletic Booster Club.
An avid Forest Park Rangers fan, he enjoys attending his grandchildren’s sporting events. Since youngest grandson Carter Stamm is a sophomore at Jasper High School playing baseball and basketball for the Wildcats, Andy has also become a fan of the black and gold.
By the by, in addition to Carter, Andy is grandfather to Emily (Hildenbrand) Freeman, Colin Hildenbrand, Elliot, Adi and Chloe Dilger, Maranda and Nathan Helsley, and great-grandfather to Grace Freeman and Theo Dilger.
So what else does Andy do for fun? According to his daughter, Kelly, Andy Olinger’s hobbies are playing cards, traveling and woodworking in his shop in addition to working to better his community and cheering on local athletes.
Congrats, Andy — the honor is well deserved!
More great stories at Ferdinand News.