This page is dedicated to the optimist members of the Optimist Club of Evansville, Downtown, who faithfully served our club and the youth in our community.Their memory is cherished by all members. They will not be forgotten. Each Memorial Day Weekend, our members place an American Flag and our club identification on all of the graves of members who have proceeded us.
Robert K. LeviRobert Levi passed away peacefully at VNA Charlier Hospice on April 22, 2013. He was born in Evansville on March 18, 1929, to Louis B. Levi and Selma Kahn Levi. He graduated from Indiana University in 1950 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and went to work with his father at Guardian Insurance. He was later joined by his brother Richard Levi in creating Levi Brothers Insurance. He also was the proprietor for many years of Rivertown Antiques in downtown Newburgh.Bob was a long-standing member of Temple Adath B’Nai Israel, where he served on the Board and as a past president.He was very active in community service as a member of the Jaycees and the Evansville Downtown Optimist Club. He joined the optimist club July 1, 1969. He was the photographer for the Downtown Club for many years and a past Board of Directors member. Bob was a very faithful member attending all meetings and volunteering for the extracurricular activities of the club. He volunteered at Mended Hearts and as a driver for cancer patients in the Road to Recovery program. He was also a docent with the Evansville Museum and served on docent board there.Bob is survived by his devoted companion of 21 years, Helen Ann Siegel; his son Josh Levi and daughter in-law Lori and their three children, Nicholas, Lillian, and Abigail; his daughter Robynn Levi Merkel and her husband Monte and their two children, Aidan and Phoebe; his brother Richard A. Levi of Chicago; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Gladys Emery Levi in 1991.Graveside services were held following visitation, Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at Rose Hill Cemetery, Evansville with Rabbi Helen Bar-Yaacov officiating.. Paul Leon JenningsPaul Leon Jennings, 99, of Evansville, passed away Friday, March 5, 2010, at Deaconess Hospice Care Center. He was born November 8, 1910, in Farmersburg, Indiana.He was an educator with 42 years of public school experience in Indiana, with 26½ of those years in the Evansville Vanderburgh County School Corporation. He graduated from Farmersburg HS in 1928, where he was president of his senior class. He studied mechanical engineering for two years at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cookeville, TN before graduating in 1933 from Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana State University, with a Bachelors degree in Education. In 1945 he received a Masters degree in Education from Indiana State University.Mr. Jennings began his teaching career in Farmersburg in 1933 before coming to Evansville in 1939 to teach industrial arts at Howard Roosa School. He was transferred to Benjamin Bosse High School in 1945, where he taught math and industrial arts until 1952 when he was appointed Principal at Wheeler Elementary School. He was Principal at Wheeler for four years before being named Assistant Principal and Dean of Boys at Bosse in 1956. After becoming principal at Bosse in 1961, he remained in that position for 14 years until his retirement in 1975. Professionally Mr. Jennings served as President of the Evansville Teachers Association, two terms as First Vice President of the Indiana Classroom Teachers Association, and was Salary Committee Chairman for the Evansville Teachers Association. In 1967-68 he was President of the Southern Indiana Athletic Association and became the first President of the Association of Educational Administrators-Evansvillein 1971. He was a member of the National Education Association, Indiana State Teachers Association, Indiana Classroom Teachers Association, the American Association of School Administrators, Evansville Retired Teachers Association and Phi Delta Kappa.Paul was a member of the board of directors for the Downtown Optimist Club. He joined the Downtown Optimist Club on June 1, 1956 and was their oldest member. Paul was also a member of Reed Masonic Lodge 316, Evansville Past Masters' Club, Hadi Shrine and Evansville Kennel Club. He also served as a Democratic Precinct Committeeman.He was married to the former Virginia Moreland from 1938 until her death in 1994. He married Lois Rust in 1995, and she survives.Mr. Jennings enjoyed gardening, fishing, sporting events, traveling and golfing. He received his first hole-in-one in 1998 at the age of 88!He was preceded in death by an infant son, Stephen Edward Jennings.Paul is survived by two daughters, Connie Jennings Ayers of New Albany, Ind. and Kathleen Jennings Pate of Annapolis, Md.; sister, Joyce Jennings Shewmaker of Bradenton, Fla.; grandfather of five, Jeff Ayers of Evansville, Chris Ayers of Conway, S.C., Matt Ayers of Louisville, Ky., Amy Hyatt of Charleston, S.C. and Ashley Brosey of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; great grandfather of seven; four nephews, Don Jennings of Terre Haute, Ind., David Shewmaker of Flower Mound, Texas, Terry Shewmaker of Elkhart, Ind.; and Scott Shewmaker of Aurora, Colo.Services were held, 11am, Monday, March 8, 2010, at Alexander East Chapel, with a private burial. Memorial contributions were made to Deaconess Hospice Care Center, 600 Mary Street, Third Floor, Evansville, IN 47747 or Benevolence Fund at Christian Fellowship Church, 4100 Millersburg Road, Evansville, IN 47725. Eric Alan ThorntonEric Alan Thornton, 51, of Evansville, died Wednesday, March 25, 2009, at St. Mary's Medical Center.He had worked at Bristol Myers. In recent years, Eric owned his own Rental Property Business.Eric had been a member of the Downtown Optimist Club for several years. Currently, he was on our Board of Directors, and served on our Tri-Star Soccer Committee. Due to his health issues, Eric was not able to be involved in many of our club activities in recent months.Eric was known by members as a person who was not a quitter as he constantly was fighting different health issues. Although he had several years of health problems, his positive attitude will be remembered by the members who knew and loved him.Eric had a passion for Corvair cars. He owned several Corvair convertibles including one that was previously owned by Yankees baseball player, Don Mattingly. Eric had Don sign the car after he learned that it had been owned my him.Many members celebrated his birthday July 2006 at his home. He received this cake with a picture of one of his Chevrolet Corvair convertibles on it.Surviving are parents, Bobby Sr. and Mary; a sister, Michelle Howell; and brother, Bob.Funeral services wereheld at a later date. Pierre Funeral Home handled the arrangements.Comments from his fellow Optimist Club members: Eric was a very giving person, as we can all recall he always brought lots of items to the meetings for prizes when we was Sarge. Eric always kept a very positive, Optimistic attitude about everything, in addition, he always was a big help at our annual picnic with bringing grills, food, and cooking . He always made fun of Todd's little grill!! lol I know there was a lot of times Eric did not feel good, but he still came to the meetings and contributed. I will miss him a lot, I do already. He was a good friend! - Dan Phillips I will remember him as a witty, friendly and outgoing individual that was a real contributor to Optimism! - Don JulianEric came in to my office just a few weeks ago and left me a message about returning to the Optimist meetings (in fact, I want to call it a friendly threat!!). He was just so awesome and enjoyed life. We can all learn from him and keep his legacy alive by being good and kind to one another and to others. I am blessed to have such wonderful folks to call my friends and Optimist Buddies! Let's be good to each other and to ourselves. I will try and obey Eric and get back to those good ole Wednesday Optimist meetings! - Marilyn Robinson Eric had a Cardinal on his Thornton business card...thus I nicknamed him "Redbird". - Todd WahlHe was also a big collector of die cast car models - Gary Burk Paul RitchelPaul joined our club in 1940. He was President in 1972 - 1973 and served many terms as a board member. For over 60 years, Paul was one of our most "optimistic" members. Paul's attitude was always positive and upbeat. He was committed to our club not only in donating his time, but the resources of his printing company, Creative Press. Paul donated the design and printing of our weekly newsletters for many years. Our newsletter has won numerous awards over the years partly because of it's professional design. He also designed the booklet for your club's 60th anniversary. For many years, our club would write and present "skits" at our new president's induction. Because of Paul's background as a musician and singer he always volunteered to play a role in these productions.His advice as a person, as a professional, and optimist was always welcome. He will be greatly missed.Paul K. Ritchel died February 21, 2008, at 92 years of age. He was born January 27, 1916, to Jesse and Ruth France Ritchel in Boonville, and grew up in Evansville.Mr. Ritchel was retired from the presidency of Creative Press, Inc. His career in the printing business began at Keller-Crescent when he was 18 years old and just graduated from high school. He began as a compositor, did purchasing and estimating, was a sales assistant and, for nearly eight years, an account executive with the company. In 1946, he established a printing company with Orla Heim, called Heim and Ritchel, on First Street in Evansville. In 1950, he acquired the company and renamed it Creative Press, Inc., which eventually expanded to three facilities in the Evansville area. In 2001, the family-owned company was sold.In the 1930s and 1940s, he played and sang with the Charlie Kroener Orchestra, where he met his wife, the former Mary Lou Walter, vocalist with the band. They were married for 62 years. Mr. Ritchel was also a violinist and a charter member of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.He was a longtime member of the Downtown Optimist Club and served both as its president and on its board. He held membership in several civic and business organizations, and the Petroleum Club and the Kennel Club of Evansville. He enjoyed gardening, golf and wintering in Fort Myers, Fla.Paul was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Lou, a son, Patrick, and a sister, Helen Hillman.He is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Susie and Dale Oberbeck of Newburgh; sons and daughters-in-law, Gary and Lynn of Evansville and Mike and Gina of Bloomington; grandchildren, Susan Jane Oberbeck of Kuttawa, Ky., John Oberbeck of New York, N.Y., Michael Oberbeck of Long Beach, Calif., Heath and Tyler Ritchel of Evansville, Maria Dahlgren of Evansville, Tony and Tom Ritchel of Bloomington, and Elaine and Sean Ritchel of Albequerque, N.M.; and great-grandchildren, Colin Camacho, Caitlin Jent and Christian and Aidan Kopec. He is also survived by nieces and nephews.Mr. Ritchel will be remembered for the friendliness and kindness he extended to everyone, his optimistic personality, and for his generosity. His family would like to acknowledge the care and consideration shown to Paul by the staff at Angel River Health and Rehabilitation, Deaconess Gateway Hospital and Deaconess Hospice.Visitation was 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 24, at Ziemer Funeral Home East Chapel, 800 S. Hebron Ave. Private funeral services were held Monday at Ziemer East Chapel. Burial was at St. Joseph Cemetery.In lieu of flowers, friends made memorial contributions to the Alzheimer's Association, Albion Fellows Bacon Center, or their favorite charity.A dedication was held at Cortegra (formerly Creative Press) in Paul Ritchel's memory on August 14, 2009. A tree was planted, and bricks surrounding the tree came from the former building. A plaque was dedicated in Paul's memory.Lori Carroll BryantLori joined our club over 15 years ago and served on many committees. This past year, Lori served as Invocation Chairman for October 2006, Program Chairman for January, was a member of the Orientation and Assimilation Committee, Sunshine Corner Committee.Lori Carroll Bryant, 47, of Evansville, passed away peacefully Wednesday, August 29,2007, at Deaconess Hospital Hospice after a six year battle with breast cancer.In her youth she attended Emanuel Lutheran Church and was a 10-year member of Vanderburgh County 4-H. At Reitz High School she was involved in many activities and was a cheerleader for four years graduating in 1978. She continued her cheerleading career at ISUE (USI), was a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority, AMIGO, president of the Student Government Association, Board of Trustees Student Representative, Homecoming Queen in '82 and graduated with a BA degree in 1982.Upon her graduation Lori was employed at ISUE as an Admissions Counselor. She worked for Community Action Program of Evansville since 1988, where she was the director of the Foster Grandparent Program, CAPE Literacy Center Coordinator, Deputy Director and Director of Community Partnerships & Systems, and most recently was responsible for monitoring CAPEs Children's Services.She was a member of the Indiana Adult Literacy Coalition, Evansville Literacy Coalition, Indiana Literacy Foundation, Evansville Vanderburgh County Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, 4-H Vanderburgh County Fair Board, 4-H Advisory Council, 4-H leader of Perry M&M's, '93 graduate of Leadership Evansville, Downtown Evansville Optimists, SINE Advisory Council, Work One Partners Consortium, Vanderburgh County Step Ahead Council, and Board of Directors of the Big Blue Boosters for Reitz High School. Lori was a member of Simpson United Methodist Church, attended a women's Bible study group, was an elementary Sunday school teacher, and Sunday school superintendent. As a victim of breast cancer, Lori also counseled other women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.Lori is survived by husband of 23 years, Kevin R. Bryant of Evansville; daughter, Kourtney Bryant of Evansville; son, Erik Bryant of Evansville; parents, Louis and Kay Carroll of Evansville; sisters, Rhonda Dest and her husband, Steve, of Georgetown, Texas, Jody Kissel and her husband, Rick, of Evansville, and Sandy Danks and her husband, Jack, of Evansville; her in-laws, Merle and Susan Bryant and Alice and Gerald Fuchs and a very special cousin, Robin Lannert.The family wishes to express their gratitude to Dr. Browning and his staff, as well as the nurses in Deaconess Hospice unit. Thanks also to the dear friends who showed their love and support to Lori and her family throughout her illness.Funeral services were held Friday, August 31, 2007, at 11 a.m. at Simpson United Methodist Church, 2201 W. Illinois Street, with Pastor Joe Mitchel officiating. Burial was at Memorial Park Mausoleum.Visitation was August 30, 2007, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Browning Funeral Home, 738 Diamond Avenue. Visitation on August 31, 2007 was from 9 to 11 a.m. until service time at the church.Memorial contributions were made to CAPE LITERACY CENTER, 12100 N. St. Joe, Evansville, IN 47725 or Reitz High School Athletic Department, 360 N. Dreier Blvd., Evansville, IN 47712.
(top left) Paul Ritchel with Bish Thompson, 1974 - pictures from our 60th Anniversary booklet, 1981, produced by Paul's printing company, Creative Press. Above picture is from 1954 as the club welcomed Optimist International President, Maurey Perkins.
Betty A. Strickland Jun. 16, 1947 - Jul. 14, 2014 Betty A. Strickland, 67 passed away Monday, July 14, 2014 at St. Mary's Medical Center in Evansville. She was born in Evansville to Aemilian and Matilda (Will) Elpers. Betty resided in Haubstadt most of her life. She worked as a L.P.N. at New Harmonie Healthcare. She liked to collect Betty Boop merchandise, elephants and angels.She was preceded in death by her parents and an infant brother, Joseph Elpers.Betty is survived by one daughter, Amye Strickland (Fiancé Wayne Schieve) of Princeton. Two sons, Heath Strickland (Becky Ward) of Merritt Island, Fla. And Ansyn Strickland (Sonny Field) of Fort Branch. 8 grandchildren; Tyler Ward, Adreyan Harris, Isis Strickland, Kimberly Strickland, Tyler, Gracie and Matthew Field and Anakin Schieve. Two sisters, Mary Agnes Gries of Dale, IN and Kathy Elpers (Ward Harbin) of Evansville. Betty was Past President of the Downtown Optimist Club of Evansville, 2004 - 2005. Betty also several several terms as Lt. Governor of Zone 8 of the Indiana South District. She also was instrumental in starting the Optimist Club in Gibson County. She also served as president of that club. She was known for her “antics” at the Indiana South Optimist conventions. She won the “boo boo” award several times. She was very giving of her time to help others.Betty served others as a nurse for many years. She was a very caring person.A Mass of Christian burial was held 11:00 AM Friday, July 18 at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church with Fr. Tony Ernst as celebrant. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Friends viewed from 4 to 8 PM Thursday, July 17 at Wade Funeral Home with a Rosary service beginning at 3:45 PM. On line condolences may be made at www.wadefhinc.com John Francis O’LearyJohn Francis O'Leary, 91, of Evansville, passed away Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at Deaconess Gateway Center.He was born July 27, 1922, in Pond Settlement, Gallatin County, to John H. and Mary (Beer) O'Leary.John retired as President of Riverside Supply Company in 1985. He served as President of Serra Club, Catholic Education Foundation, and was President of the Evansville Downtown Optimist Club from 1988 - 89.John was preceded in death by his first wife, Marjorie Elizabeth (nee Gass) in 1982; second wife, Dorothy Woolsey (nee Diehl) in 2012; and daughter, Susan Elaine Metz, in 2009.He is survived by his sons, John Michael (Sharon), of Evansville, and Tim (Angie), of Sanford, FL; daughter, Michal Ann (Micky), of Decatur, GA; sisters, Gertrude Walter, of Murphysboro, IL, and Virginia Drone (Bob), of Ridgway, IL; grandchildren, Christopher Hodges (Joycelyn), of Washington, DC, Nathaniel Hodges, of Atlanta, GA, Jacob Metz (Amanda), of Charlotte, NC, Joshua Metz, of Chattanooga, TN, Joseph Metz, of Evansville, Emily, Laura, and Megan O'Leary, of Evansville, Katie and Max O'Leary, of Sanford, FL; two great-grandchildren; stepdaughters, Barbara Christmas (Charlie), Jesslyn Woolsey (George Reilly), Amy Woolsey and Nancy McCormick (Marc).Visitation was from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday July 9, 2014, at Ziemer Funeral Home East Chapel, 800 S. Hebron Ave., Evansville, IN 47714, and from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Thursday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 2301 N. Stockwell Rd, Evansville, IN 47715.A Mass of Christian Burial was held 10 a.m. Thursday, July 10, 2014, at the church, with Fr. Zach Etienne officiating. Burial was at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Ridgway, IL.Memorial contributions may be made to Catholic Education Foundation, 520 S. Bennighof Ave, Evansville, IN 47714, or Alzheimer's Assoc, 6100 Dutchmans Lane, Ste 401, Louisville, KY 40205. Published in Courier Press on July 9, 2014