By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — Six people who have been influential in the development of Kokomo and Howard County, from their inception to the present day, will be inducted into the Howard County Hall of Legends in August. They join inventor Elwood Haynes, author Norman Bridwell, actor Strother Martin, journalist Steve Kroft, entrepreneur George Kingston and 15 others.
This is the fourth year of inductions into the Hall of Legends. David Foster, Maj. Gen. William Kepner, Bob Knowling, John Hingst, Del Demaree and E.P. Severns Jr. join men and women who have had an impact on the city, county and the nation.
This year, the Hall of Legends Selection Committee tapped one of the county’s founding fathers, three contemporary community leaders, an adventurer and heroic military commander, and a CEO who pushed the boundaries of technology in telecommunications.
The induction ceremony will take place Aug. 16 in the Casa Bella dining room at Pastariffic, on South Webster Street in Kokomo. Tickets and information will be available online at howardcountymuseum.org or at the Howard County Historical Society, 1218 W. Sycamore St.
“There is always a good group of inductees, but this year’s class is outstanding — a lot of remarkable people that have come from Howard County,” said Dave Broman, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society.
Broman said he was surprised Foster wasn’t among the inaugural inductees into the Hall of Legends, but noted the first few years included the obvious choices from the community.
“The three business owners in the class, in particular, have had a large impact in the community,” he said of Demaree, Severns and Hingst. “Not only through their businesses, but through their involvement in the community.”
Craig Dunn, a member of the selection committee, said there are still a significant number of people in the community to recognize in future years.
He said, as the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame has proven, there are new legends made every year.
The founding father in this year’s class of inductees is none other than David Foster, the county’s first merchant and largest landowner. His gifts included land for the county seat along the banks of the Wildcat Creek, as well as the Normal School and Grace Methodist Church in Kokomo.
The hero is Maj. Gen. William Kepner, who ran away from home and joined the Marines at the age of 16. His career took him from the infantry in World War I, to the Army Air Corps as a pilot of balloons and dirigibles, to World War II as a pilot of fighter planes and bombers and commander of all air forces over Europe. He was decorated for bravery in two wars, won national and international balloon races, and piloted a National Geographic balloon flight that set a new altitude record before a near-disastrous crash landing.
The CEO is Bob Knowling, who was born in Kokomo and credits the Kokomo YMCA for much of his success later in life. Knowling worked through the ranks at Indiana Bell, became vice president of network operations and technology for Ameritech, and eventually the CEO of Covad, one of the companies that helped build America’s broadband infrastructure. He recognized early on the potential of digital technology in telecommunications, and pushed its acceptance and development throughout his career.
Hingst is one of the three contemporaries being honored. Sadly, his recognition is posthumous. After a stint in the Army during WWII and a wound suffered at Normandy, Hingst graduated from Purdue University. He met his wife, Hilda, at Purdue and moved to her hometown of Kokomo, where he went into business. His leadership benefited education, social services, economic development and business, and his philanthropy was frequent and generous.
Demaree is the chairman of Syndicate Sales, one of the nation’s largest distributors of floral and horticultural products and the largest family and locally owned business in the county. Demaree has shared his experience and success in uncountable ways, benefiting education, social services, the arts and economic development. His company played a key role in the 1994 centennial of Elwood Haynes’ first test drive of his “Pioneer,” which brought that car and numerous other early Haynes vehicles back to Howard County for a month.
E.P. Severns Jr.
Severns is a Howard County native. He started working in the family business, the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Kokomo, at the age of 17, and became president in 1959. Like Hingst and Demaree, he has dedicated much of his life to serving the people of Howard County. He’s been honored by the county’s Sports Hall of Fame and received a Foster Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Community Foundation and the 2012 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts. Severns has been a strong supporter of the Carver Center, We Care and St. Joseph Hospital, among many others.