The longer I stayed here, the more likely I thought I would never be saying goodbye, but I guess it goes to show that one never knows what the Lord has planned for us.
After a few months shy of seven years, my wife, Julie, and I will be going home. We’re not returning to South Dakota, where we moved from to Indiana. We will be returning to Oklahoma, where I grew up but have not been for more than 33 years. My mother, stepdad, brother and his family still live there. It had always bothered me I didn’t have an opportunity to spend more time with my dad during his final years. I am not going to make that mistake with the rest of my family.
With that being said, I must confess Julie and I feel like we are leaving family here. We both love Northwest Indiana and all the friends we have made. These friendships will endure long after we have physically moved. If I started naming names it would probably require additional pages to the paper as the list is very, very long.
We’ve had a lot of fun making things happen, and my hat's off to all the wonderful people who have been responsible. My challenge to everyone is to keep the positive going. Many of our local mayors and legislators are terrific people doing very tough jobs, and we need to help them help us. Sometimes that means giving a little for the good of all ... and in the long run that is good for you.
Remember the kids. I cannot wait to come back and enjoy the opening of the Tolleston building in October as the new Boys & Girls Club, but it doesn’t need to stop there. Everyone is important, but our youths are our future. We need to give them every chance of being successful.
I want to thank my employees and management team. Everyone always says they have the best employees, but I really do. They have made the tough times with no raises and cutbacks bearable, and I am proud to have had an opportunity to work with them. They also happen to be the best in the business at their jobs. I always looked good, but it was because of them.
I want to thank my church family, including Father Roger Bower and Mother Michelle Walker at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Valparaiso. There are many fantastic congregations in Northwest Indiana, but St. Andrews takes the cake. If you have a church then great, but if you are looking for a spiritual home, give St. Andrew’s a try. This church congregation and leadership will be one of the biggest drivers in Julie and me possibly coming back someday.
Finally, I want to thank Julie. I can’t count the numerous hours and evenings I have spent in meetings and working on projects. She has never once complained. In fact, she has jumped in and donated her own time and money to help the causes that are important to her in Northwest Indiana. And now she is following me to Oklahoma just like she followed me here. And she is doing it supporting me 100 percent even though a large part of her heart will still be here.
I always said we would retire back home. When it is all said and done, retiring “back home” may mean coming back to Northwest Indiana.
Take care, and God bless Northwest Indiana.