ONE OF THE WONDERFUL THINGS about living in a small community like Switzerland County is that you get the chance to meet and get to know many different characters.
Some may be rather eccentric, while others are almost reclusive. Some are funny; while others are very serious. No matter what the personality trait, all of them add together to make up the fabric of the community.
It’s an old saying, but life would be pretty dull if everyone was exactly the same.
Switzerland County lost two of its characters this week with the passing of Harold DeNoon and Thurmen Roberts. Both men impacted this county in vastly different ways — but in their passing both leave a big hole in our identity as a community.
Harold DeNoon was an educator who loved the children that he taught. Students in his school learned about many things that would impact their lives after high school — and many times those lessons weren’t taught in the classroom. He was a leader and a mentor to many high school students, both here in this county and at all of the other school systems that he was a part of.
When I moved to Switzerland County, Harold had left for Pendleton, Indiana, where he worked with at risk students through the Department of Corrections.
When he returned to live on the hill near Mount Sterling, I got to know him through my friendship with Wayne Daugherty.
I remember one particular winter day when we were out driving through the snow drifts when Wayne decided that we needed to pay Harold a visit. Breaking through the snow on the driveway, we got about halfway up before we decided to park and hike the rest of the way to the house.
Now you wouldn’t exactly be expecting company on a snowy, blustery day; but Harold welcomed us in as if he had been expecting us; and the afternoon passed with a house filled with old stories and plenty of laughter.
If you knew Harold DeNoon, you knew that he had multiple sclerosis. If you knew him at all, you also know that he never stopped to wallow in this handicap — probably because Harold refused to call it a handicap.
He worked tirelessly on a variety of issues and committees that were important to the welfare of this community and its citizens; and because of his hard work, he leaves us a much better place.
That’s probably the true test of a life well lived — is there a mark left showing others that you were here, and that you cared.
Harold DeNoon certainly left an indelible mark on this county and its residents, and he will be greatly missed by many.
If you ask me to identify “characters” in Switzerland County, Thurmen Roberts would have definitely been near the top of the list.
My earliest memories of Thurmen are of his small blue car rolling slowly through the streets so that he could pass the Louisville papers to his customers.
The swimming pool at his home on Dupraz Lane always seemed to be filled with children during the summer, and Thurmen always seemed to be on top of the latest information circulating through the county.
On occasion — even in the past few months — the newspaper’s phone would ring and I would hear Thurmen’s voice on the other end of the line. He would have some tale to tell or information to pass along, and he would always remain on the phone for a few extra moments to see how things were going around town — and to see if there was something that he wasn’t aware of.
I once interviewed Thurmen about his service to his country during World War II. It was a wonderful and wandering tale of a young man out seeing the world; and although some of what he saw wasn’t pleasant, he still looked through to see the good in all people.
I was talking with Lowell Wayne Sullivan earlier this week, and he told me stories about how Thurmen coached Lowell Wayne’s little league team many years ago (50?). He said that Thurmen would often load up his old car and take a bunch of kids to Cincinnati to see a Reds game; and Lowell Wayne chuckled at the memories of a man who was his coach and later was his neighbor.
Lowell Wayne said that some evenings he and Rita would be sitting in their home when they would hear the sounds of a basketball thumping against the concrete court in their back yard. Thinking it was some neighborhood children, they would look out the window, only to see Thurmen out on the court shooting some baskets.
Minor repairs on Thurmen’s home were traded for swimming pool time; but there was one memory that brought back a smile and some laughter.
As Lowell Wayne tells it, one snowy winter day Thurmen showed up at the Sullivan back door with a request. Would the Sullivan boys go out to the basketball court and pack snow around the perimeter, in essence creating a raised border around the court?
It was an unusual request, since the winter snow had put a thin sheet of ice on the court, so Lowell Wayne couldn’t resist asking why Thurmen wanted the snow piled around.
The answer? Thurmen had determined that if the concrete got a little colder, it could be flooded with water, which, held in by the packed snow, would form an ice skating rink.
“He had his ice skates thrown over his shoulder, he was ready to go,” Lowell Wayne Sullivan laughed.
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, but we should always be mindful that with each person’s passing, another piece of the fabric of this community it lost.
I’ll miss Harold and Thurmen. Each had a unique and special place within Switzerland County.
If all of our personalities indeed do create a fabric of the community — then today we truly have a hole in our cloth.