Chesterton Tribune



Community members honor Judy Chaplin with memorial garden at visitor center

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The Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission on Thursday dedicated a section of its outdoor gardens to the memory of its late and beloved board member Judy Chaplin.

Chaplin was still serving on the board as the Duneland representative when she died on May 21 at age 72. She was appointed by the three towns in Westchester Twp. -- Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor.

Chaplin operated Shady Lawn Florist and Greenhouse in Chesterton for many years.

Lorelei Weimer, executive director of the PCCRVC, said Chaplin joined the board 11 years ago and wanted to make a positive impact on her community.

“She loved the Dunes, she loved the Duneland area and wanted to see it grow and succeed,” Weimer said.

The memorial garden includes a hydrangea tree, rose bushes, a few other flowers, and a plaque that reads “In memory of Judy Chaplin -- Great things bloomed during her service on the tourism board.”

The memorial and plants were designed and installed by Bonnie Lee of The Gardener LLC in Chesterton.

PCCRVC Board President Mitch Peters felt the memorial was most appropriate given Chaplin’s occupation.

Peters spoke of the admiration the board members had for Chaplin who helped new members like him find their bearings.

“We all loved Judy and we miss her way too much,” Peters said. “We’ll never be able to replace her. She was a special person in all our hearts.”

Weimer added that Chaplin was on the board when the new visitor center was built in 2006 at the U.S. 20 and Ind. 49 intersection. Attendance has grown from 7,000 visitors annually at the former visitor center to 80,000 visitors at the new location.

Chaplin was proud of what the PCCRVC board was able to accomplish together, Weimer said, and had strong character.

“She was a fighter. She always fought for what she felt was right,” Weimer said. Whoever will be Chaplin’s successor on the board she said will have “very large shoes to fill.”

“There are a lot of things we will miss about Judy. We will miss her smile, her laugh, her positive attitude and the strong passion she lived her life with,” Weimer said.

In attendance, Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton told the Chesterton Tribune the three towns have heard the charge to appoint a new PCCRVC representative but have yet to agree on an appointment. It is required that the person be involved in the hospitality industry.

Ton reflected on the decision to first appoint Chaplin years ago. “We knew Judy would be an outstanding representative for not only Chesterton but all of the three towns. She would support the environment and would do everything to maintain its integrity. She will be sorely missed,” he said.

Also in attendance were Porter County Northern Commissioner John Evans and his wife Laurie Wehner-Evans, Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela, Burns Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan and employees of Shady Lawn Florist.

Joining together for pictures in front of the memorial were Chaplin’s husband Jim, daughters Jennifer Nearly and Kathy Pliske and son James Jr.

State award

In addition, Weimer announced that Chaplin will posthumously be awarded the Hoosier Hospitality Award this Friday from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, one of the highest honors one can received in the travel, tourism and service industry in Indiana.

The PCCRVC was planning to nominate Chaplin for a 2015 Hoosier Hospitality award and decided to proceed with the nomination after her death.

The award will to be presented to Chaplin’s family by Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.


Posted 8/24/2015




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