Editor’s Note: Each year the Brown County Democrat celebrates an aspect of Brown County history in our Founders Day section. This year, we’re writing about residents in their 80s or older, who have amazing stories to share and who define the “character of Brown County” in one way or another. If you have a suggestion for someone to appear in the next issue of Founders’ Day, send them to [email protected] or call us at 812-988-2221.
Wayne O’Hara Jr. still lives in the cabin his parents bought in 1959 and is renovating it in the hopes that it will one day appear on Indiana’s Register of Historic Sites and Structures.
O’Hara has done historical research on the cabin over the years. The original structure was built in 1850 and work has been done to maintain its structural and historical integrity. There are two houses on the property.
According to O’Hara, the cabin is where Richard Lieber, a German-American businessman behind the Indiana state park system, came up with the idea of creating parks of State in Indiana circa 1910.
Once their current renovation is complete, O’Hara plans to register it with the state as a historic structure, he said.
O’Hara has been well known in the county since the 1980s. He has worked as a commercial real estate broker in the area for years.
O’Hara joined the Marine Corps in the late 1950s, serving four years before moving to Brown County with his family and working in Bloomington.
His parents, Wayne Sr. and Gladys O’Hara, had purchased a cabin on Jackson Branch Road in October 1959. They had traveled to Brown County from Indianapolis to visit friends, but when the opportunity came up is presented to move south, they seized it. .
“They came to visit them quite often and I guess they fell in love with the whole country and decided to buy a log cabin,” O’Hara said.
After moving to Brown County with his parents, he started dating his future wife, Karen, who lived in Indianapolis. O’Hara eventually moved to Indianapolis where the couple got married and he started working with a telephone company.
In service, he had worked on airborne fire control radars, from which his love of electronics was inspired.
From the telephone company, O’Hara then moved on to Naval Avionics, the Navy’s overhaul center for Polaris missile guidance systems for atomic missiles. He started out in real estate part-time and then moved on to full-time.
“I really didn’t want to spend my career working for the government,” he said.
Wayne would bring his family to visit his parents and siblings. In 1980 Wayne and Karen moved to Brown County with their sons Craig and Dennis.
After the move, O’Hara began work on the development of the West Hill Mall in Columbus, where Jay C Food Store is located on the west side.
“A few years later I was done with the project and had the opportunity to go where I wanted to work,” O’Hara said. “But the kids had come here, so we thought about selling the house in Indianapolis and staying here.”
O’Hara has traveled to Indianapolis to work since 1983, as a real estate broker specializing in shopping malls and tenant representation.
The late businessman Andy Rogers lived on O’Hara Road and was Rogers’ broker for years.
“He trusted me,” he said.
O’Hara handled sales of the Seasons Lodge and Conference Center from Rogers to Kevin Ault and the Brown County Inn to Barry Herring.
He also negotiated the land for the Brown County Music Center.
“I had to hunt down every piece of land we could build this thing on,” he said.
To be involved
Wayne and Karen ran the campground store in Brown County State Park for eight years, taking it over after Bonds.
Karen would figure out what they needed to carry and Wayne had to reconfigure the space to make everything fit, he said. “Eggs, bread and milk, even the basics took a lot of maneuvering,” he said. “We just figured out how to keep it in stock all the time. “
Karen loved to talk to campers and tourists, Wayne said. With campers returning the same week each year, Wayne said Karen has made a lot of friends in this position.
“When she quit she had to find a job in town in a store because she couldn’t help but talk to tourists. She enjoyed this interaction, ”he said. “She was a human person.”
Karen passed away nine years ago in February.
She loved the Brown County Humane Society, so every year on her birthday, Wayne sends them a check in her honor.
She was one of the founding members of the Fabulous 50 Giving Circle. The women’s group meets once a year to donate $ 200 to a cause. At the rally, each donor writes a cause they would like to support on a piece of paper and three pieces are pulled from a basket to be this year’s donation candidates. Then the members explain to the group why their candidate deserves.
“She was one of the original members, so I’m keeping that to herself,” he said.
Wayne reflected on the education of his sons in Brown County. He said there were a lot of “pluses and minuses” to raising them in the county, with the school system not being as good as it is today, he said.
They had gotten used to a stricter environment at Catholic School in Indianapolis, and then they were brought to a property with a stream and deep forests. “It gave them a place to play,” he said.
Her two sons graduated from Brown County High School.
Wayne got involved with schools in myriad ways, seeing there was a need in certain areas.
Around 1985, he raised funds for the first six Pionex computers in schools. Schools did not have computers at that time.
He also started the Junior Achievement program in Brown County.
The program was designed to give high school students their first glimpse into the business world. The students involved have started a business and designed to manufacture and market a certain product.
Students were in charge of all aspects of the business, including research, ordering supplies, accounting, promotion, and other business matters. The adults acted as counselors. The Cummins Engine Foundation gave Wayne a one-time grant of $ 500 to start the Success Here program.
Now there is a business education program in schools.
“It was always fun,” Wayne said.
“I ran into a few students who took this program after they got out of school and they always said ‘Man, I learned so much in this business class’.
Wayne was chairman of the first board of directors of the Career Resource Center. After his tenure, he began attending all school board meetings.
“You can ask many school board members and they would say, ‘He watched us like a hawk,’” he said. “I get agitated a lot, but someone has to do it.”
“It was something I could do for the community that I knew. I just tried to be a complement to bring more opportunities if I could. “
Of all the factors that made someone stay in Brown County, Wayne said it was his family’s cabin for him.
“My brothers and sisters grew up there, my children grew up there,” he said. “I have always loved it. … Why live in Indianapolis when I don’t have to?
Wayne’s brother, Michael, also lived in Brown County and died in April. Michael was a Marine who received three Purple Heart Medals and volunteered with many different veterans organizations.
Michael had worked to ensure that the community never forgot the name of his friend Larry C. Banks. He and a committee of classmates were tasked with having the Brown County High School gymnasium renamed in Banks’ honor. Banks was the only Brown County resident to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Wayne described Brown County as unique and changing.
The past, he said, was “a little different” from what it is today.
“It was a bit slower,” he said. “Except in October. … This was back when traffic was slowing down State Road 135 to Bean Blossom and to the freeway on State Road 46 East.
“That is changing, too,” he said of the county now. “Change just happens. No matter where you are, things will change.
When asked if he plans to stay in the area, he replied, “I’m putting new 36 inch doors in the cabin, if that means anything to you. Large enough to take the stretcher in and out.
Wayne O’Hara Jr.
Place of birth: Indianapolis
Spouse: Karen O’Hara
Children: Craig Alan (deceased in 2020) and Dennis Patrick
Parents: Wayne and Gladys O’Hara
Siblings: Michael, Patrick, Brian, Kitty Lu and Penny Sue
Professions: Electronics; immovable
Hobby: Fishing, collecting spinning wheels and fountain pins. mushroom hunting.