Fleck remembered as caring community man


Leon Fleck

Leon Fleck was well respected in Dubois County.

“Leon always had the best interest of the county and the people of the county at heart,” said Martha Wehr, former county auditor and councilwoman.

“I had a lot of respect for Leon,” said County Councilman Jerry Hunefeld. “We were in different parties, but that didn’t matter. We worked well together.”

“Oh, you could write a book about Leon Fleck,” said Dan Mundy, former Dubois County chairman. “He was quite a man.”

Leon died Wednesday at age 85. He was laid to rest Saturday.

Mundy was a teenager when he met Leon, who was about 15 years older than him. Leon was very involved in the Dubois County Democratic Party, and 16-year-old Mundy was starting to go to party rallies, meetings and activities.

“He was county chairman for a while, and that was back in the time when the county chairman ran the license branch,” Mundy said. “As chairman, you had to work with your officeholders. You had to work with your candidates. You had to be a cheerleader. You had to raise money. He was good at that.”

Leon was a Dubois County Commissioner for four years and a Dubois County Councilman for six years. Most of that time was in the early 2000s.

“He was a good commissioner and councilman,” said Wehr, who was auditor at the time. “He was very thorough. He looked into things. And if he didn’t agree with someone, he’d voice his opinion, but went with whatever the majority voted on.”

Former commissioners Jim Kemper and Larry Vollmer attested to the same.

“He was a go-getter, that’s for sure,” Vollmer said.

Vollmer said that as commissioners, they were proud of getting the work release building completed. “He’s the one who brought it to my attention, and to Jim Kemper, to go ahead and build it and try to keep the costs as low as we could,” Vollmer said. “And we did.”

Leon was commissioners president at the time, Vollmer recalled. “He asked me to be in charge in seeing that it got built,” Volmer said. “I appreciated that from him, because he had enough confidence to let me take charge of that.”

Kemper remembered when plans for a new Portersville Bridge were in the works and archaeological diggers found Native American artifacts. What to do about the bridge in light of that found Kemper and Leon on opposite ends of the opinion scale.

“We disagreed about that,” Kemper said. “But we were able to find a solution and build around the site. You have to discuss the issues, even if you don’t agree. And Leon always looked into the issues before we acted on things. He was very inquisitive, really good.”

Leon’s insight did help on different matters. “He was a very effective person to work with,” Kemper said. “I enjoyed working with him. He had a good head on him.”

“He had his opinions. Sometimes you agree, and sometimes you disagreed,” Vollmer said. “But we always got along. There’s no doubt about that. And he had some great ideas for the county.”

Hunefeld said that Leon’s insight was helpful to the county council.

“Leon had really good common sense when it came to making decisions,” he said.”The issues were the important things, and what was best for the county, regardless of what party was making the presentation. Leon was always on top of it with his thinking process and decision making.”

After Wehr was auditor and stepped away from county government, Leon reeled her back in.

“I ran for council at large when he decided not to run again. He encouraged me to run. And I think he encouraged some others to run for seats. Getting encouragement from one person is all you need sometimes. And he was very supportive of me running.”

She said that Leon and his wife, Elfrieda, were always supportive. “They’re the best of people,” Wehr said. “They’d do anything for you.”

Leon also served Dubois County through his 43-year career as a banker. He worked at and retired from Dubois County Bank, which is now Old National.

“If I had questions or problems, I went to see Leon. Many people did,” Mundy said. “You could walk in the and say, ‘Leon, I need a house loan.’ And he’d write up the paperwork, I sign the paper and off I went. He made sure you had the loan.”

Supporting his community as much as he could was important to him, Mundy said.

“Once you got to know Leon, you knew he was a man that could be trusted,” he added.

Leon served his local community in many other ways. He was a founding member of ROJAC, which strives to preserve historical charm in Jasper. He served on the Jasper Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, including in the position of vice president. Leon was a past president of the Jasper Kiwanis, Jasper Jaycees and the Dubois County Chapter of the American Heart Association. He was a charter member of Holy Family Catholic Church, and served the parish through numerous activities and church organizations. He was a fourth degree member of the Jasper Knights of Columbus.

“He was involved in so many activities. Whenever there was anything going on in the Jasper community, he was there,” Mundy said. “And I’m not just talking in the last few years. I’m talking the last 50, 55 years. He’d done that pretty much all his life.”

Leon supported his community through state-level positions. Leon served on the state board of education as well as the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commission and Indiana Lottery Commission. He was also regional staff assistant in southwestern Indiana for former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh.

“He and (the late) Birch Bayh became close friends,” Mundy said.

Leon also served his country through his nine years as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, in the 82nd Airborne Division. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserves at the rank of Sergeant First Class. He was a member of the American Legion Post #147 in Jasper.

He was born and raised in Jasper, married here and lived here all of his life on his family’s farm. That resulted in a 60-year-long marriage to Elfrieda (Schwinghamer), the birth of five children, Karen, Denise, Noel, Kevin and Jon, and him ultimately becoming grandpa to 17 grandchildren and great-grandpa to eight great-grandchildren, with another great-grandchild on the way. One daughter, Madonna Fleck, preceded him in death.

The last time Mundy visited Leon, who lived down the road from him, was a few months ago.

“We spent a while talking politics,” Mundy said. He doesn’t like what’s going on, but we live with it. He loved talking about politics.”

Mundy echoed the others’ thoughts when he talked about how he will miss Leon.

“When I think of Leon, I always think of him as a very honest person,” he said. “I know a lot of people would say, ‘Well he was in politics.’ But Leon was a good, honest person. And he did anything he could to help the community.”

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