For people who love Madison and its history and people, the death of Spence Schnaitter on Friday, marks the loss of a figure seemingly already bigger than life and a man whose love for Madison was more than just talk.
Born in Shelbyville on Jan. 21, 1932, Spencer J. Schnaitter, 88, died just six days short of his 89th birthday in Cincinnati.
A high school sports hero, local attorney and statesman and a supreme storyteller, Schnaitter talked a good game and put his words into action — especially for the Madison community he called home.
“I think that when he got up in the morning he was thinking of Madison, and how he could make it better,” said Julie Berry, who got to know Schnaitter when he was city attorney for Madison in the 1980s while she was assistant to Mayor Markt L. Lytle.
“Spence Schnaitter has been an icon, as far as I am concerned, since the glory days of Madison High School,” Madison Cub historian Harold Lakeman said in a video for the Hoosier Hardwood blog. Schnaitter was the center on the Madison Cubs basketball team that won the 1950 state championship.
“If they had kept stats for rebounds back in those days, he might have held the school record,” Lakeman noted.
Spencer Schnaitter was not just a large man — his 6-foot-3 frame was fairly tall for his era — but because of his effort and heart.
“As a kid, I just called him, ‘Big,’ ” said Jennifer Bates, owner of Colonial Flowers.
But Schnaitter was larger than life for many other reasons.
“Spence was the greatest of ambassadors for his state and his hometown of Madison. I was fortunate to be a lifelong friend of probably the finest scholar/collegiate athlete to ever represent our city,” said Tony Dattilo. “This man was a statesman, a soldier, an athlete, a scholar and brought Madison a state title in 1950. Spencer Schnaitter checked all the boxes.”
After graduating from Madison High School, he went to Yale University where he played baseball and was leading scorer for the basketball team. He also had offers to play professional baseball.
Schnaitter then served as an active-duty artillery officer for the US Army before going to law school at Indiana University, where he became friends with Birch Bayh, who would become Indiana’s US Senator (1963-1981). After finishing law school in 1959, he returned to Madison, where he practiced law for more than 60 years.
Schnaitter’s return to Madison was more than a return home. It was a chance to make a positive impact on a place he loved and make life better for Madisonians.
“He was dedicated to public service and the right kind of public servant,” said Berry. “He was a good man. He was in it for all the right reasons. He wanted to help people.”
Schnaitter served five two-year terms as a Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives, including time as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He was influential in the creation of Ivy Tech Community College that led to education opportunities not just in Madison, but all over the state.
Another significant way Schnaitter made an impact was through the Madison Railroad. In 1978, it appeared that the railroad would discontinue operation, but Schnaitter was instrumental in making sure the line remained operational, which he thought was essential to local industry. “It allowed Madison to attract Arvin Sango (in 1988), and 800 well-paying jobs,” his daughter, Edie Britton, said.
Schnaitter provided legal representation for the Stucker-Fork Water Conservancy District serving Jefferson, Jackson, Jennings, Scott and Clark counties, the Madison Port Authority and the Telegraph Hill-Rykers Ridge Regional Sewer District. And also provided assistance to the Indiana Rural Water Association.
“In his day, there was no better utilities attorney in the State of Indiana than Spence,” Berry said.
Schnaitter served as Madison City Attorney for 10 years (1960-1966 and 1985-1987), and was Jefferson County Attorney three different times.
Berry said Schnaitter’s knowledge of local government and local history made him an incredible asset in both posts.
Schnaitter was well-known for his gift for conversation as he frequented stops around the city. Bates got to know him when he would visit Colonial Flowers as a customer.
“He would come in with a flower order and leave three hours later,” Bates said, noting that she and others loved the stories Schnaitter not just told but told so well.
“He had strong long-term memory,” said Britton, adding he was “one huge historical resource” on Madison history and much more.
In his later years, as his health declined, there were people all over Madison who looked out for Schnaitter, making sure he was OK and helping him as much as possible.
“We called it ‘Team Spence’,” Bates said. “There were so many in the community on Team Spence. We loved him dearly.”
“Honoring a man like Spence will not be easy but it’s important, beyond civic recognition, that his family knows just how revered this man was, to so many,” Dattilo said. “From my standpoint, no one will miss him, more than I.”
Funeral arrangements are pending at Lytle Welty Funeral Homes & Cremation Service in Madison, www.lytle welty.com.
Kelsey Bilz became just the fifth individual in Madison High School history — and first Cub wrestler — to win a state championship when she claimed the 106-pound title at the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Championships at Hamilton Heights High School on Friday (See coverage on Page A4).
Bilz, a senior, became just the third female in the state’s history to reach 100 career wins two weeks ago and was the first female in Madison wrestling history to qualify for the IHSAA Regional when she did so last year. She has wrestled in the IHSGW State Finals each of the last three years, finally breaking through with the title this year.
Bilz joins four other Madison Cubs to win state titles in their high school careers at the school: Dave Collins, 2-mile run, 1973; Mary Beth Ricketts, 50-yard freestyle, 1980; Mike Kemper, boys golf, 1991; and Christian Poling, boys golf, 2006. In addition, Madison has won state team championships in boys basketball (1950) and baseball (1999).
Bilz’s season isn’t done. She will compete in the IHSAA Sectional — primarily against boys — on Jan. 30.
A 35-year-old Madison man died and a 23-year-old Madison man was injured in a two-vehicle accident on US 421 north of Madison Sunday night.
Robert Ray Goins was pronounced dead at the scene while Nathaniel T. Farris was seriously injured and transported to an area hospital for medical treatment after the vehicles they were driving collided just south of the entrance to the former Jefferson Proving Grounds shortly after 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Police and EMTs were dispatched to the crash at 7:08 p.m.
Indiana State Police Accident Reconstructionists were requested to assist in the investigation due to there being a fatality and a serious bodily injury in the collision.
Police know that Goins was traveling south and Farris was heading north at the time of the collision but other details are not being released and the crash remains under investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by ISP, Hanover Police Department, Madison Township Volunteer Fire Department, Madison Fire Department, King’s Daughters’ Health EMS, and Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.
A police pursuit early Sunday morning in Gallatin County, Kentucky, ended when the vehicle being pursued failed to negotiate a curve on US 42 and crash the vehicle, resulting in injuries to the driver and a passenger and the death of a second passenger.
A Warsaw Police Department officer observed a Toyota passenger car speeding on US 42 but when he attempted to stop the vehicle the driver refused to stop. A pursuit continued on US 42 until the driver of the vehicle failed to negotiate a curve and collided with a concrete wall.
The driver, Josh Hodges, 31, of Florence, Kentucky, and a front seat passenger, Tiffany McNeil, 34, also of Florence, were both injured and transported to an area hospital for medical treatment. Both were wearing seatbelts.
A third passenger, Shanda Withrow, 54, of Hamilton, Ohio, was not restrained and was pronounced dead at the scene by the Gallatin County Coroner.
The pursuit and crash took place at about 1:21 a.m. Sunday.
Kentucky State Police were assisted at the scene by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Warsaw Police Department, Gallatin Fire Department, Switzerland County EMS, Carroll County EMS and t he Gallatin County Coroner.
The investigation is ongoing by the Kentucky State Police Post 5 reconstruction team with charges pending.
Kentucky State Police at Post 5 in Campbellsburg, Kentucky, are seeking information in a rash of recent break-ins and vehicle thefts in Carroll, Trimble, Henry, Gallatin, Owen, and Oldham counties.
The vehicles that have been entered were reported to have been left unlocked so the KSP is requesting people be sure to lock their vehicles and to secure weapons and other valuable items somewhere other than in a vehicle when it is unoccupied.
Anyone with any information on the thefts is asked to contact Post 5. Officers are asking anyone with video surveillance cameras to review the footage from the las couple of nights for any suspicious activity such as but not limited to unknown vehicles or persons on or near your property.
Those with information to provide are asked to call the post at 502-532-6363.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is investigating an apparent hunting accident that claimed the life of a Bartholomew County man on Jan. 10.
When John Walker, 54, failed to return home from a hunting trip a family member went to look for him and found him unresponsive.
Conservation officers were dispatched to the 9200 block of South State Road 58 at about 9 a.m. and found Walker with a gunshot wound that an initial investigation suggests came from an accidental discharge of his firearm.
Officers are awaiting autopsy results and the investigation is ongoing.
The Jefferson County Health Department is reporting that 1,346 county residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and another 266 have now been fully vaccinated with both doses of the inoculation.
The Health Department, which was closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day, will resume giving vaccinations by appointment today. Those eligible are first responders, medical workers, nursing home patients and residents age 70 and over.
In addition, King’s Daughters’ Health has been approved to begin giving vaccinations the first week of February as the state ramps up the delivery of the vaccine with more and more doses available per week.
Appointments to get the vaccine at the Health Department are available by visiting www.ourshot.in.gov or calling 2-1-1 to schedule appointments. Appoints to get the shots at KDH will begin February.
Meanwhile, healthcare professionals are urging residents to continue to mask up, social distance and hand wash and sanitize to curb the spread of the virus.
So far that practice seems to be helping. Jefferson County’s number of new cases dropped to 24 on Monday, giving the county 2,531 overall. There have been 38 total deaths but none in recent days.
The county’s 7-day positivity rating has dropped from up to 15.8 on Jan. 6 to 10.1 on Jan. 18 and the seven-day positivity among unique individuals fell from 19.8 on Saturday to 15.5 on Monday.
Elsewhere, Carroll County in Kentucky has seen a spike in its numbers after an outbreak was reported last week at the Carroll County Regional Detention Center in Carrollton. There are currently 162 active cases in Carroll and 12 deaths.
Trimble County currently has 35 active cases, 464 cases overall and five deaths.
Madison Courier editor Mark Campbell announced Monday the return of Madison native and award-winning journalist Bob Demaree to the newspaper’s staff.
Demaree, who has served two previous stints at The Madison Courier — including a combined 10 years as an award-winning sports editor — as well as two years as managing editor of Vevay Newspapers Inc., has accepted a position on the news staff and is relocating to Madison after living and working in Indianapolis the past 20 years.
“Today is a little surreal. I am back at The Madison Courier, which I left more than 23 years ago when I moved to Indianapolis. A lot of great people are gone. People from the Courier like Graham Taylor and Jane Jacobs. Legends like Dick Naylor and John Collier. Great people like my Mom and Dad. So it’s different,” Demaree said. “But life goes on, and we carry on because of what we can do to make our communities a greater place. When we look at what we have, there’s a lot of beauty where we live. What we do with good journalism is for the love of our community, and making it better. That’s why I am looking forward to the work I will be able to do at the Courier.””
“Bob has successfully pursued several different careers over the years but he’s always been a newspaper man and Madisonian by heart,” said Campbell, who worked with Demaree in each of his previous tenures with the newspaper and has known Bob for parts of five decades. “It’s what he loves to do and what he does best and Madison is where he belongs so it is great to have him back home at the Courier and in Madison. He will make the paper stronger with great reporting and photography skills and a thirst for news and love for the community.”
Demaree graduated from Madison Consolidated High School in 1976 and received his bachelor of arts in journalism and political science at Franklin College in 1990. He graduated Sullivan College with an associates degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1992 and completed his master of science degree in new media at IUPUI in 1999.
In addition to working at newspapers in Madison and Vevay, he is a former city editor at the Starke County Leader in Knox, Indiana, and was an online web producer for The Indianapolis Star. He has also worked in marketing for hhgregg, education for Indiana Virtual School and most recently served as an administrative assistant for his church, the First Baptist Church of Indianapolis.
Demaree edited the Hoosier State Press Association’s Best Sports Section among Division II daily newspapers for The Madison Courier in 1986, 1988 and 1990 and won awards for feature writing, deadline news and non-deadline news while managing editor at Vevay Newspapers.