Plaque will honor legacy of Charlene Daugherty

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By Sandi Butler | For The Times-Post

At 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, there will be an unveiling at Charlene’s Corner with a plaque in memory of Charlene Daugherty and the passion she had for Falls Park. It will be at the corner of Water Street and Pendleton Avenue.

Charlene Daugherty

Charlene Daugherty passed away in 2012; however, her impact of creating a beautiful park is truly her legacy.
Charlene (Beeson), having just graduated from Ball State University, arrived in Pendleton on a dark and rainy Sunday afternoon in 1944, having come to replace a pregnant English teacher at Pendleton High School for only four months.
Her son, George Daugherty Jr., remembers his mother telling him that Pendleton looked so gray and dismal on that first glimpse that she immediately started counting the days before she could leave.
Fate, however, would intervene. Very shortly after coming to Pendleton, she met the dashing Lt. George Daugherty, District Commander of the Indiana State Police, stationed at the Pendleton Post.
He was so taken with her that he marched into her classroom in full dress uniform and presented three dozen roses to the beautiful new school teacher in town. (Students who were there told and retold the romantic story of this event for the rest of their lives.) She married George and stayed in Pendleton for the rest of her life.
Ron Barnhart shared this conversation: “When Charlene had first come to Pendleton to teach, she rented a room across from Falls Park in the Taylor House; even at that time she thought the corner across the street should be part of Falls Park instead of the ugly gas station.”
Decades later, in the 1970s, as a park board member, she encouraged the board to purchase the corner.
The DX Gas Station building was in derelict condition with broken windows and overgrown weeds.
Years later that memory came to be.
Charlene’s corner was completed and unveiled in 1975; her son, George, conducted a free symphony orchestra concert in the park, which added to the celebration.
The corner has been currently renovated using the same design; the only thing missing is the small water fountain.
After Charlene left the park board, she became Falls Park landscaper for many years.
Her passion for beautification using flowers and trees was the foundation for our beautiful park today.
I remember asking her why the park’s flowers always looked beautiful even though just planted. She explained the key was to plant flowers close together; that way it continuously looks full.
Each year, she and her helpers would also plant thousands of “Apricot Beauty” tulip bulbs throughout the park; they were her favorite color, which would come to be known as “Charlene Pink.”
Charlene created the Falls Park Memorial Tree Program, which allows family or friends to plant a tree in memory of a special person. As you walk through the park, take time to look at the name tags hanging from the trees. It is a beautiful gesture of remembrance.
Charlene was a woman who gave of her time, not only at Falls Park but also elsewhere in the community.
She was the Fall Creek Township trustee for three terms (12 years), not only helping families in need with their bills, but also overseeing township administration and business.
She was the force behind the new firehouse, new fire trucks and ambulances, which included applying for and securing state funding.
As an active member of Historic Fall Creek, Pendleton Settlement (HFC,PS), she hit the pavement knocking on doors for signatures for the important petition to put Pendleton on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. It was successful! On June 27, 1991, Pendleton became the second community in the state to have the entirety of its early boundaries included on the register.
As a member of Tri Kappa, she was the point of delivery and pickup for flowers sold.
She was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon. She received the Indiana Jefferson Award from an Indianapolis newspaper for her charity work.
She also was named the Pendleton Lions Club Citizen of the Year for Community Service. She was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Even Charlene’s home was exceptional. Her home on State Street was built in 1949. It was designed by William McVaugh, an intern of the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
As of this year, her family home has been sold, and once again it will have laughter, love and life within its walls.
Charlene loved children. Her only daughter, Mary Elizabeth, died shortly after birth in 1950. George Jr. came along in 1955; he has been successful as a world-renowned orchestral conductor, conducting all over the world, as well as a 5-time Emmy Award-winning/nominated producer, director and writer. (Do not miss “Bugs Bunny on Broadway” if he returns to the stage in Indiana.)
Charlene was instrumental in the formation of The Pendleton Festival Symphony, conducted by her son, which brought world-class performing artists to Pendleton for 10 years in the 1980s.
George Jr. — who also received a Sagamore of the Wabash honor — completely credits his mother for his accomplishments, saying “Nobody would have guessed a boy from rural Indiana could go on to conduct 250 major international orchestras around the world. My mother’s belief that I could is solely responsible for my career.”
In 1950, Charlene saw the need for a kindergarten, as Pendleton did not have one.
Charlene converted the family garage into what would become “Mrs. Daugherty’s Kindergarten.” For several years, she taught 90 kids a day there, in three classes of 30 students each. George estimates more than 2,750 students gathered in her classroom through the years. It closed in 1995.
Photos were taken each year with students lined up on her back porch, standing on bricks that were discarded when State Street was paved.
Yes, Charlene was a preservationist at heart.
I cannot close this column without mentioning the Easter eggs hanging from her tree during the Easter season. They might be resurrected to Charlene’s Corner.
Sandi Butler is a cofounder and board chairwoman of Historic Fall Creek, Pendleton Settlement Inc., a historical preservation group focused on preserving historic buildings and culture in the area.