Out of the Board Room with John Edwards
EnergyLines July 2017
A conversation with John – Hoosier Energy Board Director for two years
John Edwards walks out to greet two visitors with a big smile and a slight admonishment that he and his wife Deb really are not very interesting people.
Dexter, the couple’s 7-year-old rescue dog, echoes the sentiment, then settles into the visit, parked between the two of them.
Dexter is as much a part of the Edwards family as the woodpeckers, hummingbirds, finches, turtle doves, squirrels, deer and occasional red fox that visit their backyard wooded retreat.
Quite the contrary, this endearing couple and their protective Schnauzer epitomize the cooperative way of life – always ready with a kind heart and helping hand.
John and Deb love their church, helping friends, family and neighbors – she with home-cooked meals for friends and he with handyman skills when needed.
“In small communities, you tend to know people. It’s not like living in big places where people don’t want to know each other really,” explains John. The retired claims specialist for Farm Bureau Insurance is quick to help neighbors or family on any project, big or small. “I love building; I love doing,” he says. “If I can help somebody with their projects, I enjoy that.”
The middle child of three boys, John grew up onDaviess-Martin County REMC lines on his grandfather’s 25-acre farm in Lawrence County just six miles from his current home in Mitchell. The third generation gentleman farmer and all-around country boy kept the grounds of his boyhood home meticulous – like a golf course, he says.
“This has always been my community,” says the Daviess-Martin Counties REMC director who has represented the co-op on the Hoosier Energy board since 2016.
Eventually the homestead was becoming more than the two wanted to handle, so John and Deb decided to downsize. John had built their first two homes with the help and expertise of his father and father-in-law. “My dad was a carpenter, so I grew up with a hammer and saw as toys. I was fortunate enough to have learned many of his skills. Dad was good!”
Deb grew up near Spring Mill Park and was an Orange County REMC member. Both remember going to co-op annual meetings. One year, she and her family sang at the annual meeting. “I don’t know how much entertainment we were,” she says rolling her eyes. She still loves to sing, passing along her passion for music to hundreds of students during her 30-plus year career as a music teacher at Orleans Community Schools in Orange County.
Their shared musical talent brought them together, in a roundabout sort of way. The couple, now married 33 years, both laugh as they recall their first meeting. Both were asked to sing at a wedding. When they met to rehearse, the bride played matchmaker. A year later, John and Deb were the ones walking down the aisle.
“I tell people I knew the honeymoon was over before it ever began,” Deb says with a wry smile. “He courted me on a Honda Gold Wing and then as soon as we got engaged he sold it and got a tractor.”
“Priorities change,” John counters with a twinkle in his eye.
With faith a strong part of his upbringing, the only time John wanted to leave the area was to study at a small Christian college in Michigan, finishing his degree in education at another small Christian college in Arkansas.
He fully intended to teach, but the job market was slim for the mid-year graduate, so he ended up in several community service roles before settling on insurance.
Contemplative by nature, some might say stubborn, he’s not one to be easily swayed by one fad or another. Quite the contrary, learning from others, especially his elders, inspires him, he says.
John likes to fly, but the desire took a long time to nurture.
Years ago, he was a passenger in a small twin-engine plane when suddenly a door flew open on takeoff. The unnerving experience left him leery of flying for quite some time until his wife and a family friend and pilot talked him into going up one day. He finally conquered his fear of flying – when his friend sat him in the co-pilot’s seat.
Soon he obtained his pilot’s license and now the couple participates in the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Oshkosh, a weeklong fly-in that attracts more then 10,000 airplanes and their passionate enthusiasts from around the world. If it flies, you will see it at Oshkosh and the Edwards will be there with John now in his 10th year as a judge of experimental aircraft.
This self-effacing man attributes his life’s events as more happenstance guided by providence. Take his current role as an REMC director.
He became a member of the Daviess-Martin County REMC board in 1997 after another director resigned. When the vacancy occurred, he and several others felt strongly that Lawrence County should be represented on the board. At the urging of other members, John in his quiet, understated way, stepped up and into the role.
Stepping up and helping others is as natural to this contemplative man as training bird dogs or learning to fly – both passions he’s enjoyed doing and learning about through the years. The trait comes in handy for an REMC director, he adds. “It’s been fascinating work. It’s far more complicated than what I could ever have imagined and what most people think.”
When asked his thoughts on the greatest invention of the 20th century, he pauses, thinks for a moment, and returns the question.
“What can you name that’s better than electricity? If you want to really start thinking about it, take this away, what would life be like?” he asks.
He continues to emphasize the importance of the topic. “Without it, we don’t cook. We don’t have heat. Those things have become not luxuries but necessities. I wouldn’t want to try to live without electricity.”