Nordhoff awarded Sagamore of the Wabash

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Art Nordhoff Jr. of Jasper, left, shakes the hand of Dubois County Commissioner Elmer Brames of Jasper after receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash award at the Dubois County Museum's dinner in Jasper on Thursday. Nordhoff said he felt "tremendous" after receiving the award, which was a surprise.


JASPER — A Jasper man received one of the state’s highest honors on Thursday night.

Surprised, humbled and appreciative — Art Nordhoff Jr. graciously accepted a Sagamore of the Wabash award at the Dubois County Museum’s annual membership dinner.

For decades, he has provided his legal expertise to school and government boards. Helping people is their job, Nordhoff said.

And helping people is his job, too.

“That’s what lawyers are supposed to do. Help the public,” Nordhoff said reflectively after the event. “That’s what I’m supposed to do, is help the public.”

He is also known locally for his love for and commitment to preserving Dubois County history. Nordhoff was part of the group that started the successful, local museum, an accomplishment that is dear to him.

But even though the award was addressed to Nordhoff, he was quick to praise the people who have helped him over the years.

“Most of the things I’ve done for people, there was a lot of people helping me,” he said after the event. “So it just wasn’t me.”

The Sagamore of the Wabash is presented to distinguished citizens for exemplary public service to their community and to the state of Indiana. The award was created by former Indiana Gov. Ralph Gates nearly 75 years ago, and each governor since has presented the award to worthy recipients.

Dubois County Commissioner Elmer Brames explained during the surprise presentation that the term “Sagamore” is borrowed from the Algonquin-speaking Native American tribes of the northeastern United States. It was used to describe “a lesser chief or great man in the tribe to whom the chief could look for wisdom, advice and guidance.”

“When I first read this, I couldn’t help but think of how accurate this reflects Art Nordhoff,” Brames told dinner attendees in a speech. “But before you react to the word ‘lesser,’ remember that this is referring only to a title. There is nothing else that could be described as lesser about this worthy award recipient.”

Brames said before the event that he nominated Nordhoff for the honor because he has been serving the public and public officials for years. Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, ultimately presented the nomination to Gov. Eric Holcomb for consideration, and Lindauer passed the award off to Nordhoff on Thursday.

Brames said that while Nordhoff has never been elected to a political office or held a school superintendent position, he has helped dozens, maybe hundreds of decision-makers move on actions that affected the people of Dubois County and surrounding areas.

The commissioner added that the contributions of Nordhoff’s wife, Patty, also deserve recognition, as she has displayed support and patience while her husband served many agencies. Nordhoff’s office members also deserve recognition, Brames added, for helping him stay on top of a busy schedule.

Nordhoff earned a degree in accounting from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Indiana University-Bloomington. He and Patty married after he earned his accounting degree.

He worked as a tax attorney at Arthur Andersen in Indianapolis for two and a half years before coming back to Jasper in 1967 to practice law with his father and uncle, who ran Nordhoff Law Office. He still works at the office today.

Receiving the Sagamore award was validating for the longtime attorney.

“It makes you feel real good,” Nordhoff said. “It makes you feel that you’ve been successful in what you’re trying to do.”

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