Elmer Funk, Civic Leader
by Virginia Zuck
Times Union Feature Writer
Elmer B. Funk, lifetime resident of Warsaw and chairman of the Lake City bank's board of directors had a birthday today-his eighty-second.
Years don't really signify, say those who know him best, as Mr. Funk is one of the most alert, informed, young-thinking men of the community-and easily one of the most popular.
Slender and muscular, this man with white hair, twinkling blue eyes and warm smile, has been a steadfast worker for community and religious projects all his life.
He didn't want any fuss over his birthday, so there was none. Sunday after church, he and Mrs. Funk dined out with their son, Edward and daughter-in-law, Mary Edith, of Warsaw. Edward, who is a contract representative at the Veterans hospital in Marion, is here only on weekends and holidays.
Since this tribute is a birthday surprise for Mr. Funk, we couldn't check with him on his schedule for the day-without giving away the secret. Instead, we made some inquires elsewhere and are using a biography written by Miss Janet Foresman a few years ago for a high school English assignment, supplementing with reminiscences we coaxed from Mr. Funk some time back.
One of Indiana's best known bankers, Elmer Funk has a most remarkable affection for his home community. Men admire him because of his integrity, keen mind, his interest in all things that concern the farmer-weather, crop progress, marketing condition. He's just as concerned with the problems and well being of the industrialist and the businessman; those who work in factories, offices and stores; young folks who graduate and those who seek advanced schooling; newly-married couples establishing their first home; the middle-aged couples whose children have gone out into the world; and older folks who appreciate a reminiscent chuckle about by-gone days when life was more simple, when there seemed to be more to know about your neighbors and townsmen.
He will Remember
If your family settled here generations ago, chances are that Elmer Funk will remember your grandparents and share a little story about them, some little anecdote that warms your heart, a tribute to the folks who by faith and hard work, made this community in Indiana a better place in which to live.
If you are a woman, you will be charmed by an old-fashioned courtesy and gentleness of manner in Mr. Funk's greeting.
The old Funk home, where Elmer grew up, was on West Main street on the site now occupied by the senior high school. Elmer was the son of Florence (Sapp) and William Bramwell Funk. His father usually called Bram, served Kosciusko county as treasurer and auditor, later became president of the Lake City bank. Elmer would have preferred being called Bram like his father but it didn't work out that way.
Bram Funk was jovial and generous, fond of music, fishing and politics. He sang in the Methodist choir and was its director for many years. He knew every voter in the county by his first name (women had not yet won the ballot). He liked to read and owned a fair library.
The Funk family, originally Quakers in Pennsylvania, moved here from Ohio in 1844. The first to come was Bram's brother Joe who had a general store on South Buffalo street, where the Gamble store is now. To replenish supplies he would go to Fort Wayne by canal boat or with a team over the rough road east. He brought back sugar, tea, coffee, salt, bolts of cloth and numerous other items for his thriving business. Merchant Joe Funk was also chief of the volunteer fire department.
Quite a Place
The Bram Funk house was situated on a terraced knoll with a grove of evergreens in front. Birds refreshed themselves in the spray of a large circular fountain and pool where brightly colored fish darted to and fro or hid beneath clumps of watercress. There was an orchard of cherry, apple, peach, plum and pear trees at the back. On the northwest corner of the tract were the barn, cow shed, buggy shed, granary and chicken coops. The Funks usually kept a couple of cows as well as a horse named Comet who had racing blood. Comet was excitable, served as a pacemaker on the race track.
While still a small boy, Elmer started helping with the chores. He learned to ride a horse rather well, but preferred his pony, small brown and swift, and no saddle. One afternoon when he was rounding up some cattle they came to a large mudhole. Elmer decided to go right but the pony had other ideas and the rider was dumped into the mud.
At West Ward his teachers included Lura Davenport and Mrs. J. D. Kutz. Later he went to high school on East Market where Union Tool Co. is located. James Henry was superintendent. Elmer liked math and English best of all his studies.
Summer was a wonderful time of year for the Funk children, Charles and Elmer, Jeannette and Ruth, because the family camped out in Spring Fountain park, now the town of Winona Lake.
The Beyer brothers, prosperous farmers who built up a huge produce business supplied hotels and retailers in eastern states, had acquired the land and erected a hotel. Spring Fountain park became a popular resort, much favored by convention groups.
At first the Funks spent only a week or two. After they built Seven Oaks cottage they lived there all summer. All the land east of Chestnut street was a cornfield on Melvin Wilcox farm. When he went after milk, Elmer sauntered through an orchard, now the site of the Presbyterian church.
Know Gen. Carnahan
The most resplendent figure at the park was Gen. Carnahan who had fought for the Union in the Civil War. Carnahan was commander of the Uniformed Ranks of the Knights of Pythias in Indiana. Pythian encampments drew thousands of men and their families.
Drills were conducted on the fairgrounds on McDonald Island. On important occasions there were elaborate parades. For a youngster to be allowed to participate was sheer glory. It happened to Elmer at 12 or 13 when Gen. Carnahan made him an adjutant. His principal duty was to deliver messages to the officers with all the military formality he could muster.
In the earliest days at Spring Fountain people lived in tents on the hillside and prepared their meals in a community tent. Some families just brought a picnic lunch and stayed for a day. As crowds got bigger and stayed longer, more attractions were added to the park.
Winona Inn a Stable
Winona Inn was the stable for horses in the popular harness races. Many a local man used the track for exercising and testing his horses several months of the year.
Horse racing wasn't the only sport for younger males. Elmer and his friends were interested in running, wrestling, and tumbling, but boxing was most favored. Enthusiasts included Frank Lynch and Wes Light, sons of Methodist pastors. Charlie Woods, Quincy Hanna and Elmer's cousin, Charles Sapp. They were earnest about their training which Wes supervised rigorously. Elmer was a pretty good boxer, light, but quick and accurate with his fists. He perfected his swimming until he could swim the entire length of Winona Lake.
Probably the first bicycle in Warsaw was a homemade one, built by Ray Trish, a wagonmaker by trade. Elmer believes his "high wheeler" ordered from Chicago by his father, was the first "store bought" model seen here. Learning to ride the newfangled machine was a tricky business and he collected plenty of hard bumps when he fell from the lofty perch. Along came the safety bike, with its strong frame, wheels of equal size, air-filled tires and a chain drive. Bicycle clubs were organized and racing became popular with Bill Daniels capturing most of the prizes. Elmer has had several bikes since and rode one daily to and from the bank for years and years.
When football was organized he trained as a quarterback. In winter it was fun to organize a bobsled expedition to Pierceton or Leesburg. You needed lots of straw, hot bricks, two strong horses to pull the sled and perhaps an oyster supper at the end of the ride.
Elmer has always found great pleasure in music. He sang with a glee club and the Methodist choir, became its director in 1899 and continued as such for 30 years. He still sings every Sunday.
His band work began when he played clarinet for the Fourth Regiment band in the Indiana National Guard. In 1898, the Spanish-American War started and his outfit was hustled down to Indianapolis. It was April and so cold they nearly froze in their tents on bivouac at Fort Benjamin Harrison. It seems that for two weeks they had no heat and no food except for hard tack. Once a wagon load of onions came through and they raided it, hiding the loot under their mattresses.
Fellow musicians included Eff Sharp, Lawrence Swihart, Harry Edginton, Bill Stewart and Percy Mumaw, a brother of Clark, veteran businessman. Elmer played in and directed Warsaw bands for 25 years.
Career starts in 1895
After high school graduation Elmer attended business college in Indianapolis. His banking career began in October, 1895 when at 19 he became a collector and assistant bookkeeper at the Lake City. It was a logical choice of jobs in a familiar atmosphere. As a youngster he had enjoyed squirming through the spindles that separated the bank lobby from his father's office. Brother Charles, 10 years older, had been bookkeeper there for some time.
When Elmer joined the staff, the assets were about $200,000 and all bookkeeping work was done by hand. Now assets are well over $10,375,000 and the bank uses a great deal of electrical equipment such as comptometers, posting and proof machines and the recordak which photographs all checks.
One day Elmer was on usher duty in church and a pretty young Miss asked friends who he was. When she heard his name, she said with disdain, "Funk? If I had a name like that I'd have it changed." This attitude didn't last, however, because in 1899 the young lady, Miss Mae Floyd, became Mrs. Elmer Funk. At that time she was cashier in the county treasurer's office. Later she served as deputy city treasurer under Mr. Funk.
Earns $50 Month
When they were married Elmer's wages were $50 per month which covered living expenses, tithing for the church and insurance. Band friends gave them a nuptial serenade at their first home, a duplex on South Indiana street where the Methodist parsonage is now.
He has been president of the Kosciusko County Bankers Association, the seven-county group, and Region One of the Indiana Bankers organization; chairman of the state banking division and vice president of the American Bankers association of Indiana
For 25 years he was chairman of the County Vigilantes, a group of men under the sheriff pledged to help in case of an emergency. Their adventures still pop up occasionally when veteran newspaper men start recalling exciting stories of the past.
Always of Service
It would be difficult to name any worthwhile organization or project in which Mr. Funk hasn't had a hand sometime or another. He was on the Salvation Army advisory board for 50 years, was a charter member and treasurer of the Go-To-Church Movement, and treasurer of the Warsaw-Winona Lake Youth for Christ. He's a member of the Masonic Lodge and Knights Templar, a charter member of Kiwanis. For more than 60 years he has been of service to the Methodist church, the Lake City bank and the Winona Christian Assembly.
Despite all the banking honors bestowed upon him he treasures even more his memories as Winona's first official gatekeeper and the 30 years he directed the Methodist choir.
As an Assembly officer he has met many interesting and famous people such as Admiral Richard Byrd, John Philip Sousa, Madame Schumann-Heink, Ruth Bryan Owen, Gladys Swarthout, James Melton, Albert Salvi, Billy Graham and Will Rogers, to name but a few.
While Mr. Funk no longer takes such an active part in musical events as he formerly did, music and books are still very important in his life. His fine classical records are played very often. He reads a lot of books (non-fiction only) as well as business and news magazines, "In fact," says an admirer, "he's up on everything from rock `n' roll to satellites, local, national and world events, new westerns or what have you. "He's simply amazing!"
The community agrees and offers a respectful and loving birthday salute to one of its most esteemed citizens.
Mrs. Elmer (May) Funk
Warsaw High School Graduate
Edward Funk, son of Elmer Funk and grandfather
William Bramwell Funk
Warsaw Times Union Monday
January 20, 1958
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