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In Indianapolis, a memorial service and a celebration

In Indianapolis, a memorial service and a celebration
In Indianapolis, a memorial service and a celebration
Judy O'Bannon and and her family listen to the 'Star Spangled Banner' sung by Indiana State Police Supt. Mel Carraway. (Photo by Randy West)

The impressive memorial service for Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon of Corydon Friday in Indianapolis was part state funeral, part celebration.
The solemn parts:
‘ To begin the one hour and 10-minute program, a solitary Scottish bagpiper emerged from the west entrance to the Statehouse, playing ‘Amazing Grace.’ He walked slowly down the steps, past the O’Bannon family, dignitaries and a hushed crowd estimated at 5,000. He walked off and played into the distance, his sound becoming more faint until it was gone.
‘ The playing of ‘Taps’ and the sounding of artillery fire, 19 rounds, which resounded heavily in the plaza between the massive North and South Government centers.
‘And most poignant of all, when the tears flowed, was a flyover by four Indiana Air National Guard F16 fighters jets, which streaked over the Statehouse at 330 mph. At the last second, one jet flew straight up and disappeared immediately into the lowering clouds ‘ just as the governor was taken from us suddenly, on Sept. 8, when he suffered a massive stroke and lapsed into a coma at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He died five days later. He was 73 and in his second term as governor.
But there were many uplifting moments that reflected O’Bannon’s extraordinary life of servant leadership, statesmanship, and dedication to all Hoosiers and the state of Indiana. It was a program that emphasized the hopefulness of youth, the satisfaction that comes from serving others, and dedication to improving community, whether it’s family, church, county, state or nation.
‘ The program planned by long-time O’Bannon aide Donna Imus had laudatory speeches by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Evan Bayh, and Gov. Joe Kernan, O’Bannon’s running mate the past seven years, who was sworn in as governor hours after O’Bannon died on Sept. 13. Shepard said they were there to say goodbye to ‘Indiana’s best friend.’
‘Former First Lady Judy O’Bannon and her family emerged from the Statehouse with many fourth graders, symbolizing O’Bannon’s abiding interest in early childhood education. He’d invited thousands of fourth graders to his two inaugurations to enhance their study of Indiana history, and he’d pushed the effort to provide health insurance for thousands of poor children.
‘ Judy O’Bannon smiled frequently, applauded and nodded her head in affirmation as O’Bannon’s friends and colleagues in state government spoke of his political achievements and praised his selfless character and generous spirit.
‘ Gov. Kernan said, ‘We all know the definition of the word Hoosier. It’s Frank O’Bannon.’
‘Clergy representing the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths also spoke eloquently, reflecting O’Bannon’s strong spiritual life (he was a lifelong United Methodist) as well as his belief in diversity, tolerance and inclusion.
‘ The Key Strummers, a group of young musicians who played ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ on ukeleles, provided a singularly happy moment. They had the crowd standing, smiling, singing along and clapping their hands at the end of the service.
Among the dignitaries there were four former governors: Bayh, Dr. Otis Bowen, Edgar Whitcomb and Robert Orr.
The day before, Thursday, Judy O’Bannon and her children made two appearances at the Statehouse in Indianapolis to view the official state portrait of O’Bannon, painted by Michael Chelich of Hammond. Thousands of people filed past the portrait in the echoing Rotunda, beneath a huge American Flag. State and local police officers and firefighters from around the state volunteered for the honor guard. A string quartet, saxophonist, and a trumpeter provided appropriate music.
Visitors looked at about 100 photographs of O’Bannon’s life and career, and they were invited to sign memory books at tables outside the governor’s office, which was also open for visitors.
John Goss, director of the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, got permission to bring the portrait to Corydon for viewing Saturday at the ‘calling’ at the O’Bannons’ home church, Corydon United Methodist, and again on Sunday in the First State Capitol. Goss planned the memorial service Sunday in Corydon.