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Callahan family continues legacy

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Ora Callahan
Ora Callahan

Bill and Lorraine Ewing show off the John Deere 40S that will be auctioned to raise funds for the Ora Callahan scholarship fund. (Joe Hornaday / Daily Reporter)
Bill and Lorraine Ewing show off the John Deere 40S that will be auctioned to raise funds for the Ora Callahan scholarship fund. (Joe Hornaday / Daily Reporter)

McCORDSVILLE — Ora and Shirley Callahan started recognizing local high achievers in 1963. Now, their family is continuing that legacy through an endowment that will award six scholarships each year, along with the popular Callahan 4-H awards.

“My dad, Ora, was a strong believer of learning by doing, so the 4-H program, FFA and vocational ag fit the mold for him and many 4-H members over the years,” said his daughter, Lorraine Ewing.

Ora Callahan died in 2013. For decades, the Callahan family has sponsored awards that go to 4-H’ers to recognize their achievements, leadership and citizenship.

“Those were the things that Mom and Dad wanted to focus on,” Lorraine Ewing said.

Now, his surviving family members are working to raise funds for the Ora V. Callahan Family 4-H Award and Scholarship Fund by donating a tractor at the Hancock County 4-H Fair.

They will auction a 1953 John Deere 40S tractor that has been reconditioned by Lorraine Ewing’s husband, Bill Ewing. The auction will take place at 5:45 p.m. Friday, June 27, in the Show Arena at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds. Proceeds will support the Callahan scholarship, a component fund of the Hancock County Community Foundation. The auction will take place shortly before the annual livestock auction to end the fair.

The tractor also will appear in the 4-H Fair Parade at 2 p.m. Sunday, and it will be on display in the Pioneer Building at the fairgrounds throughout the fair.

The Ora V. Callahan 4-H Awards annually honor the top two Hancock County 4-H’ers in each of the three categories.

“When he established the awards in ’63, that was his goal,” Lorraine Ewing said. “He wanted to encourage kids to stay in, thinking they would stay in 4-H if there some kind of award or recognition.”

Ora Callahan was born in 1926 and was a 50-year resident of Hancock County. He grew up on a farm in Rush County and was a 12-year 4-H member when he was young man. He won two trips to the National 4-H Club Congress, and in 1945, he was one of two National 4-H Achievement winners.

“He kind of lost interest in 4-H when he was in junior high, and he told me one time that an acquaintance in the county invited him to Junior Leaders, and his interest sparked in 4-H,” Lorraine Ewing said.

He was a Purdue University graduate who moved to Hancock County to be a vocational agriculture teacher at Mt. Comfort High School. He later started a township 4-H tour and partnered with Purdue to create a “How to Plan a 4-H Tour” film featuring crops, tractor maintenance, animals and more. He was also an educator and public relations manager for Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op before serving on the Hancock County 4-H Fair Board. During his time on the board, he helped build the 4-H Bowl, set up the first 4-H Meditation Service at the fair, and in 1961, he was the Indiana State 4-H Alumni winner.

When his five children began their own 4-H projects, they found some they liked and some they did not. But their parents always expected them to finish the projects, and if something did not go as planned, the kids would be left to solve the problem themselves with guidance.

“If we did not like the project, Dad would say (to put that on the) list titled ‘Jobs I Do Not Want To Do Someday,’” Lorraine Ewing said.

Ora’s time in 4-H was an important part of his life. For 50 years, he handed out the awards personally. He never missed an occasion to celebrate the young people’s achievements.

“It was really important for him to be there,” Lorraine Ewing said.

The 4-H tradition has been passed on to his grandchildren, fifth-year 4-H’er Layne Ewing and second-year 4-H’er Tommy Ewing. Ora’s spirit touched everyone he met.

“He was my other grandpa,” his daughter-in-law Meagan Ewing said.

His grandkids had nicknames for him, including “Papa C.” Tommy said one of the things he will always remember about his grandpa Ora is his love for sharing ice cream with his family.

“When we all got together, there was usually ice cream,” Lorraine Ewing said. “He also loved the county; he loved doing things for other people; and he loved teaching.”

But Ora was always best known for having a wealth of knowledge about the county and the state.

“His claim to fame was being able to name every county (in the state) and every county seat, and he could always tell you where to get the best piece of pie,” Lorraine Ewing said.

Now, the family is working to build up the endowment and continue Callahan’s long legacy of supporting the local 4-H program. He wanted kids to stay in 4-H and realize the benefits the program offers.

When the family was trying to think of ways to spur interest among people to donate, that’s where the tractor idea came in.

At the parade, which is where the public will get its first good look at it, the tractor will be pulling a David Bradley wagon that dates, the family thinks, to the 1940s. Bill Ewing just recently refurbished the wagon, which was purchased from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.

The big project, however, was repairing the tractor.

“I’ve been on it for a month,” Bill Ewing said of the 1953 tractor.

His family likes to show off his skills when his projects are completed.

“He’s a self-taught engineer,” his granddaughter-in-law Meagan said.

Keeping Ora Callahan’s legacy going was something the family always wanted to do.

“We talked to him about it when his health started to fail, and he told me that he wanted to make sure we continue to give the awards each year,” Lorraine Ewing said.

He was never sure an endowment was a possibility, but his family has pulled it off. It was started in 2013.

“If this works out, then other people who are trying to get endowments, might start next year,” Bill Ewing said.

With Ora Callahan gone, his family will rely on their favorite memories of him, as well as the new ones they make as they continue to honor his memory.

“(His) favorite line was: ‘You are making memories today. Some are great and some are not, but they are still memories,’” Lorraine Ewing said.


The tractor auction, which will be held at 5:45 p.m. Friday, June 27, in the Show Arena at the fairgrounds, isn’t the only event at the fair to raise money for the Callahan scholarship fund.

The Color Me Green 4-H Dash, a 5K Run/Walk, will take place on Friday, the first evening of the fair. Check-in will begin at 5 p.m. at the 4-H Bowl; the event will begin one hour later.

The course will take participants through Riley Park and the Hancock County Fairgrounds. Proceeds will go to the Ora V. Callahan Family 4-H Award and Scholarship Fund.

More information is available at www.yourhancockfairgrounds.com.

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