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Frank Schuler: Still a big part of county landscape

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C-T file photoFrank Schuler, show here taking the oath of office as a Henry County Councilman in the 1980s, was a driving force behind agricultural leadership here for many years.
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Frank Schuler, show here taking the oath of office as a Henry County Councilman in the 1980s, was a driving force behind agricultural leadership here for many years.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

“Everywhere he went, people knew him.”

Frank Schuler was not born here, but a trip through The Courier-Times archives offers evidence he was Henry County through and through. The quote above came from long-time Courier-Times writer Betty O’Neal Giboney, whose articles over the years show just how much Agricultural Agent and Administrator Frank Schuler meant to Henry County.

And, after leaving here to become an agricultural agent in Orange County, near where he grew up, the fact that Schuler returned to retire in Henry County showed just how much this place meant to him.

Often people compliment long-time servants by saying they were “part of the woodwork.” In Schuler’s case, he was “part of the landscape.” In fact, he still is, because one of the busiest places in Henry County during the upcoming 4-H Fair will be the Frank Schuler Show Arena, named in his honor.

Schuler died Nov. 18, 1986, at the age of 69, but his impact looms as large as some of the animals people will see during the fair next week.

Youth involved in activities at the show arena bearing his name may wonder “Who was Frank Schuler?”

That question can’t be answered in a single sentence.

Schuler was a World War II veteran who began his extension career in Henry County. His efforts included:

n Helping bring the Soil and Water Conservation District Office to Henry County. “Without the SWCD, there would have been no upper Big Blue River Watershed plans developed, no Big Blue River Conservancy District and hence, no (Summit) lake,” an article published Aug. 1, 1972 stated.

n Helping start the annual Henry County 4-H Livestock Auction, which has been a highlight of the fair now for many years.

n Helping start a school for veterans in Henry County.

Long-time farming enthusiasts here would no doubt agree Henry County hit the jackpot not once, but twice with leaders in agriculture here. When W.G. Smith left his agricultural agent post after 30 years, it was Schuler who replaced him in 1957.

During his tenure, he was praised in various newspaper articles for his warmth, “constant willingness to help,” his scientific expertise, his graciousness and tact, as well as “being a diplomat and a trouble shooter.”

Giboney wrote that for a number of months during Schuler’s tenure, Henry County was without a home economics agent, a position traditionally held by a woman. 

“Not daunted, Schuler filled in, conducting meetings, delighting the women who, for the time being, feminized his name to ‘Frances,’” Giboney wrote.

His wife, Viola, was also popular here and was a teacher in the New Castle school system. One of their children, Tom, was accepted at prestigious Harvard University, causing Frank to quip, “We’re all Purdue graduates. He double-crossed us.”

Schuler was always proud of advancements made in farming. He pointed out in a 1979 newspaper article that “each farmer feeds 51 people.”

“When I first came here, it was 40 people,” Schuler said. “We have released people from farms to do other things – to make automobiles and TV sets and perform services to add to the good life for all of us.”

Today, 40 years after Schuler’s statement, estimates show each farmer now feeds 155 people.

In 1973, Schuler left Henry County for a similar position in Orange County, a southern Indiana location nearer to where he and his wife grew up. But he came back here to retire some six years later.

“It wasn’t the same when we went back there,” Schuler said. “Henry County had become our home.”

Schuler’s desire to serve led him into the political field after he came back to Henry County. He was elected to the Henry County Council in 1984 and also worked in Henry Superior Court as an assistant probation officer.

So that’s the Frank Schuler whose name is on the show barn, a place he’d no doubt be thrilled with because it is focused on two of his greatest passions – youth and farming.