Former mayor calm, quiet, trustworthy

Photo Courtesy of Terry Seitz
Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz, left, posed for a picture with former mayor Frances “Benny” Sermersheim last year at Jasper City Hall. Sermersheim, who served as a city councilman before a four-month tenure as mayor, died Saturday in Jupiter, Fla. He was 102.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — The man who stepped in as Jasper mayor when needed and brought cable television to Jasper has died.

Francis “Benny” Sermersheim, 102, died Saturday in Jupiter, Fla., where he had lived for the past 10 years.

Sermersheim was a Democratic at-large Jasper councilman from 1960 to August 1963, when then-mayor Edwin Knies died in office. The council elected Sermersheim to finish the last four months of Knies’ term.

“It natural that Benny stepped in there,” Vic Knies, Edwin’s brother, said Wednesday. “The whole thing was unexpected. But he had been on the council for some time already, so the (mayoral) job didn’t throw any curves at him. He knew all the issues and could handle the job.”

Vic Knies was chosen to finish Sermersheim’s council term. “We worked well together, we all did,” he said of his initial city council experience. “They helped me out quite a bit.”

Knies said that Sermersheim was well known. “We had four precincts at that time,” he said, “and Benny seemed to know all the people in them.”

Sermersheim was born in 1911 to John and Josephine Sermersheim of Jasper. He was the third youngest of eight children and the last living sibling. He grew up in a log cabin on Newton Street near St. Joseph Catholic Church.


He married Louise Lein of Loogootee in 1939 and they had one daughter, Gail. Louise died in 2002.
Sermersheim and one of his brothers, John Jordan “Junie” Sermersheim, operated Sermersheim Auto & Home Supply store in Jasper. Through that, Sermersheim started Dubois Cablevision, a television sales and installation business at Ninth and Main streets, which eventually brought cable TV to the area. Sermersheim helped form the Lions Club here, coached baseball and was a Boy Scout leader.

Those who knew him said Sermersheim wasn’t outspoken. “He was not a fiery guy,” Knies recalled. “You could have a very decent conversation with him.

Rich Eckerle, who entered county politics the same year Sermersheim became a councilman, said the same.

“He wasn’t a real outspoken person,” Eckerle said Wednesday. “He was a quiet fellow; he talked with a mild voice. But you could always believe what he said. You could trust him.”

Sermersheim stayed active throughout his life, even after retirement.

“I never could tell how old he was because he just didn’t seem to age,” Beth Boehm Waltz, who lived nextdoor to Sermersheim on Mill Street from 1983 until he moved to Florida in 2003, said Tuesday. “When our paths crossed, he always took time to speak with me, especially about golf. Besides his family, I would say that golf was the love of his life.”

He moved to Jupiter, where his daughter was living, the year after his wife died. While living there, he took dance classes and played golf weekly. He visited Jasper as recently as last year.

“I knew Benny for a long time,” Knies said. “He has always been a busy person and a calm person.”

Sermersheim’s funeral will be held July 6 at St. Joseph Catholic Church. His obituary is here.

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