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Indiana mourns Gov. O’Bannon

Indiana mourns Gov. O’Bannon
Indiana mourns Gov. O’Bannon
Gov. Frank O'Bannon and First Lady Judy O'Bannon dance with granddaughter Demi, 2, at the 1997 inaugural ball in Indianapolis. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon of Corydon ‘ a ‘good and decent man,’ ‘Hoosier to the core,’ and consummate politician who considered servant leadership a high calling ‘ died Saturday, Sept. 13, 2003, at 11:33 a.m. (CST) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, five days after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage and another brain injury from a subsequent fall in his hotel room. He was in Chicago to open a U.S.-Japanese trade development conference.
His wife of 46 years, First Lady Judy O’Bannon, was at his bedside when he died. Out of respect for his last wishes, he was not kept alive on life support.
O’Bannon had been in a medically induced coma for days and was generally unresponsive when brain swelling began again while his blood pressure and heart rate dropped early Saturday morning. He had made his body available for organ and tissue donation, and his body was cremated. His ashes will be interred later at a private ceremony at the family plot in Corydon’s Cedar Hill Cemetery.
Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan of South Bend, a close friend and confidant of Gov. O’Bannon for years, was sworn in Saturday at 6 p.m. as the 48th governor of Indiana by Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm in the Statehouse. Judy O’Bannon flew to Indianapolis for the ceremony and hugged Kernan afterward.
Kernan, 57, declared Sunday a day of remembrance for O’Bannon and called for 15 days of mourning. Flags at government buildings now fly at half-staff. There were respectful moments of silence everywhere, including an extraordinary five minutes before the Indianapolis Colts-Tennessee Titans football game Sunday in the RCA Dome. A brass choir played ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ and the National Anthem. O’Bannon’s career was shown on the large screen above the field. All activities came to a halt at the Lanesville Heritage Weekend Festival Saturday afternoon when the announcement was made that O’Bannon had died.
O’Bannon had 15 months left in his second four-year term.
On Thursday at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, the governor’s official portrait will be displayed in the Rotunda along with significant artifacts from O’Bannon’s life. The public has been invited to file past the display from noon to 10 p.m. Visitors can write messages or memories in a book.
On Friday, an interfaith service will take place at noon (Indianapolis time) on the west steps of the Statehouse, where O’Bannon was first inaugurated in 1997, when the temperature was 10 degrees below zero.
On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the public will have a chance to view a pastel version of the official portrait of Gov. Frank O’Bannon at Corydon United Methodist Church and sign a memory book.
On Sunday at 2 p.m. a memorial service will begin at the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand on the Corydon town square. In case of rain, the service will be moved to the Corydon Central High School gymnasium.
President Bush, who visited Indianapolis recently, said O’Bannon was ‘a good and decent man’ who ‘served the people of his state with integrity and devotion.’
Former Indiana Ninth District Congressman Lee Hamilton was a close friend since both attended the Indiana University School of Law together. He said O’Bannon was ‘Hoosier to the core’ and reflected basic Hoosier values: common sense, down to earth, lack of pretense. ‘He was comfortable with kings and paupers. He was a great public servant who, like his father, devoted his life to public service, and we’re all the better for it.’
Those who wish to make memorial gifts in O’Bannon’s name can send donations to the O’Bannon Foundation, Union Federal Bank, 45 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.
The Foundation has been established to raise money and provide grants to causes important to the late governor. Jonathan Swain, chief of staff to Judy O’Bannon, told the Indianapolis Star that education and community development will likely garner a lot of attention from the Foundation. Both of those issues were important to Gov. O’Bannon.
In lieu of sending flowers, the family suggests those who attend callings in Indianapolis Thursday and Corydon Saturday donate school and art supplies, including pens, pencils, paper, paint and paintbrushes.
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The Harrison County Public Library is compiling a memory book for the O’Bannon family. If you have a personal story about the late governor or thoughts you would like to share, please visit the library in Corydon and complete an entry in the book. For more information, call the library at 738-4110.