[Nameplate] Partly Cloudy ~ 52°F  
High: 56°F ~ Low: 43°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Alumni of children's home like family

Monday, June 15, 2009

Darrell Tony of Greencastle still keeps a photo of himself and other children who lived at the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' home in Knightstown in the 1940s in his room at The Waters of Greencastle. Pictured with Tony is Patricia Towne, who also lived at the home as a child and is now a volunteer there.
Darrell Tony spent his entire childhood at the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown.

He arrived at the home as a 3-month-old baby, and remained there until he turned 18.

Today Tony, 78, lives at The Waters of Greencastle, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility.

Many of his memories may have faded, but he still recalls much from his time as a boy at the home.

The Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home -- referred to as "the home" by those who live or have lived there -- is a residential and educational facility that was founded in 1865 by Indiana Gov. Oliver Morton for veterans of the American Civil War.

Two years later it was renamed the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphanage, and in 1930 it was given its current name. At that time, it was also decided to open the home to any student with a close relative who had served in the United States military.

When the home closed last month, it was painful not only for the 96 youth who were housed there at the time, but also for the hundreds of adults who passed through it as children.

"People from the state just came in to explain that the home would be closing," said Patricia Towne, an ISSCH alumnus who lived at the home from the ages to 10 to 18 and now volunteers there. "Meetings were offered to discuss helping them find other jobs, but the employees there are so dedicated to helping the children that they had no interest in finding other jobs. Their first concern was helping the children."

By chance, Towne, who lives near Danville, found out Tony lived in Greencastle (her neighbor works as Tony's caregiver). She first met him recently when she went to The Waters to visit him and fill him in on the home's closing.

"He told me it hurt his heart," Towne said. "And I knew how he felt. He's an alumnus too ... he's one of my brothers."

On a recent visit, Tony showed Towne a framed picture of a group of children on the home's lawn, taken in the mid- to late-1940s.

"Guess which one is me," he said with a playful smile.

It only took Towne two guesses to identify Tony as a spritely blonde boy in the back row of the photo.

Tony's brothers Bruce and Alfred and sister Mary also went to the home. As a young man, he worked at the home's bakery.

When he left the home, Tony moved to the Indianapolis area. He has been at The Waters since 2004.

Towne and Tony both went to the home after their mothers died.

"In my case, my mother died and left 11 kids, four of whom were young enough to still need care," she said.

Towne said no one should think the home was a horrible place.

"It wasn't Charles Dickens," she said. "I had a great childhood. I learned to ballet and tap dance. I was in the choir."

Towne can rattle off much of the home's history.

"I'd heard that the youngest child to ever go to the home was 3 months old," she said. "Then I come meet Darrell, and I find out it was him."

The fighting Towne and her fellow alumni have done on behalf of the home just may have worked -- it has tentatively been put back into the state budget, which has yet to be approved.

"Time will tell if it goes through," Towne said. "But if it doesn't this time, we'll keep writing letters, making phone calls and fighting. We have to just keep reminding them that we're not going to go away."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: