I grew up here in Bloomington and Monroe County. Bill Sturbaum was my high school social studies teacher – all three years. Forty-three years later, he is sitting on the Bloomington Township Board, I am the Township Trustee, and I’m working with him as a PEER. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
Throughout all those decades, he was contributing, helping to build, a better community. Besides teaching history and English at Bloomington High School…South, he bargained contracts as a member of the teachers’ union. He helped transform Prospect Hill when it wasn’t cool to live there. He served on the Bloomington Plan Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Indiana State Teachers Association, and the Indiana Retired Teachers Association. He served on the Bloomington Township Board for 17 plus years.
|Bloomington Township Board Meeting 2015 (L to R)|
Kim Alexander, Barbara McKinney, and Bill Sturbaum
During his time with the Bloomington Township Board, the Bloomington Township undertook a major expansion and renovation of the Fire Department’s Station 5 on Old N. SR 37, which quadrupled the facility’s square footage and added sleeping, fitness and training areas for the 24 hour firefighters. The Township’s emergency family shelter, Rosie’s Place, was rebuilt and modernized. He was a member of the Township’s leadership who saw it through the difficult economic crisis of the last decade.
Bill’s commitment to lifting the burden on low-income people was unwavering. Every year the Board had to approve the Township Assistance Guidelines and every year Bill would challenge the rules and regulations that we were required to list in the Township’s guidelines. He felt they should be simplified and more humane; thus, Bloomington Township’s guidelines more often use the verb “may” versus “will” or “must.” He asked good questions and took time to understand the relevant information. As you would expect of a natural-born teacher, he was always learning, even to the end.
At his last board meeting, we needed him there to have a quorum to adopt the Township’s 2016 budget. He had told me he wasn’t feeling well and hoped the meeting would be short. We had one item that I knew might take time but it was only informational and so I put all the action items, which would take no time at all, at the beginning, so that he could leave as soon as that was done. However, after the action items were done, our guests were there and he signaled them to begin and before long he was fully engaged, asking all sorts of challenging questions, and having a hearty discussion about the ideas presented. I kept looking to see if his energy would flag and we could bring the session to an end, but his interest and engagement didn’t. We closed the meeting after an hour and a half, an hour longer than I thought he would last.
|2014 Bloomington Township Volunteer Firefighters|
Breakfast with the Bunny with (L to R)
Alexander, the Easter Bunny, Sturbaum, Henegar
Like a natural born teacher, he encouraged me and others to run for office, to be always asking good questions. He will be remembered for his good, sincere heart, his sense of humor, his optimism and happy demeanor. He was so proud of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. When our paths crossed four decades after my high school years, I walked into his lovely cottage on Third Street and felt the warmth and comfort of his and Helen’s journey together.
I was in my 50s and had lived in different parts of this country before I came to appreciate what was so special about growing up here in Monroe County. I grew up surrounded by men and women who served as volunteers on the Hill or in schools, in elected office or on boards and commissions, in a variety ways to make this a better community for all. They took elected office because it was a part of what one did as a member of a community. You took your turn. It was what grown-ups do. I believe that there was a “greatest generation” and that Bill Sturbaum was one of them.
*"In the region of the blest" comes from a poem included in Bill Sturbaum's obituary which appeared in the local paper, Herald Times. The poem is "A Happy Man" by Edwin Arlington Robinson.