Chesterton Tribune

Porter County leader William Carmichael dies at 77

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William Carmichael, a fixture in local and county government for more than 30 years, a world-champion muzzle loader, and a key player in the efforts to save the  troubled South Shore passenger service from a shut-down in the late 1980s, died Saturday after a lengthy illness.

The long-time Chesterton resident was 77.

Carmichael, a Morgan Park resident, was currently serving his 12th year as an at-large member of the Porter County Council. Prior to his work on the county council, he served 16 years as North Porter County Commissioner.

Carmichael attended what used to be known as Liberty Center School and graduated from Chesterton High School in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy for five years aboard a submarine tender during the Korean conflict. He returned to make his home in Chesterton, where, as a 1969 Chesterton Tribune put it, he “married his high school sweetheart, Suzie” and  later opened Carmichael Dental Laboratory on Calumet Road.

Carmichael’s political work dates back to at least the early 1950s, when he worked on the  Eisenhower campaign in Washington, D.C. In 1969, he assumed the post of Westchester Township Republican chairman, which he held for a number of years.

As a Porter County Council member during his three terms, Carmichael often championed county  funding for social service programs and court programs assisting troubled juveniles. His interest in the well-being of the community goes back for decades, having served in such positions as post-prom chairman, Sunday School teacher, Cub Scout master, coordinator of a local Bike Rodeo, and leader of the 1968 United Fund drive in Westchester Township.

Carmichael was also a founding member of the local YMCA, having helped form the Westchester branch in 1965. In a 1969 Chesterton Tribune story, he was called “one of the community’s young men most responsible for the Y’s progress to date.”

“Bill has chaperoned countless Y dances and taught arts and crafts for two years on Saturday mornings,” the story said. “In addition to all of these responsibilities, he has always been available to help out in any emergency .... If limited to three adjectives that best describe Bill, his friends might well select personable, talented and versatile.”

In 1971, Carmichael ran for Chesterton Town Board. When asked in a candidate interview why he was seeking the office, he answered: “I am deeply interested in the people and believe in the future of this town. People in this community want to be informed as to what is going on in the town hall. They want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.”

Though Carmichael didn’t get on the town board, he did serve as a Chesterton Plan Commission member for four years as well as on the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals. He also served on the Porter County Mental Health Board.

In 1976, he ran for North Porter County Commissioner and won -- and kept the seat for the next 16 years.

“A politician once said, ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Well, I enjoy the heat,” Carmichael told former Chesterton Tribune reporter Jim Hale in a candidate interview when Carmichael ran for re-election as commissioner in 1984.

In that interview, Carmichael cited as one of his greatest accomplishments an issue that did bring him much heat locally: The establishment of a county-wide ambulance service without the local service that was in place at the time, the North Porter County Ambulance Commission (NOPAC).

Carmichael was also instrumental in building the Porter County Expo Center and establishing the county’s first county park board and he named these as two of his other accomplishments as commissioner.

He also helped lead the Porter County fight against casino gambling.

Carmichael’s greatest legacy may very well have been his role in saving the South Shore passenger service.

A long-time member and president of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, Carmichael was among those who dealt with the crisis in the late 1980s, when the then-privately owned South Shore service was on the brink of shutting down. Carmichael lobbied then-Indiana Gov. Robert Orr against legislation that would have allowed the owners, Venango River Corporation, to take control of the passenger service from NICTD, a public board that funneled grant money for the service. Then, when the passenger service went up for sale and was threatened with a shutdown, Carmichael and other NICTD board members successfully negotiated for a NICTD acquisition of the service, bringing the trains under public ownership.

In his personal life, Carmichael’s hobby was competitive shooting. He gained international acclaim as a muzzle loading champion.

He helped write a book, “Muzzle Loading, Shooting and Winning with the Champions.”

He and his family often traveled to the U.S. national range in Friendship, Indiana.

In 1978, in matches in Madrid, Spain, he shot the first perfect score ever in an international muzzle-loading competition. “But the next year, at Bisley, England, Carmichael surpassed himself,” reporter Hale wrote in a 1982 story headlined Champion Carmichael’s record won’t be broken.

“He shot 20 straight clay birds in individual competition, blasted an extra five the rules allow perfect shooters, then knocked 20 more out of the sky in team competition. Even a pair of back to back misfires failed to interrupt the amazing run.”

This year, in the Republican primary, Carmichael emerged as the top vote-getter among the five candidates who vied for the  three seats on the county council. In one of the questions asked by the Tribune, Carmichael seemed to sum up his decades of public service.

“I am an experienced Porter County Council member seeking re-election. I stand firm for good government and for fair play. I owned my own business for 40 years in Porter County until my retirement -- and our children and grandchildren live here. My roots are deep.”

An obituary for Carmichael appears below:


William Carmichael

service set

Bill Carmichael, a Chesterton native and Porter County Council member, died Saturday, December 6, 2008. He was 77.

He was born on June 19, 1931 to Ralph and Mary (Southworth) Carmichael. He is survived by his wife, Suzy, of 56 years; sons Steve (wife Tammy), Scott (Lois) and Hal (Cathy); grandsons Robbie Conklin, Aaron (wife Kasie), Ryne, Matt, Dane, Jordan, and Ian Carmichael, and Nick Conklin; and granddaughter Ali Carmichael.

Bill will most be remembered for his love of country, his commitment to community service, his love of God and family traditions. He was a most beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, and he will be deeply missed by all.

He dedicated his life to community service through Porter County politics. He served as a Porter County Commissioner for 16 years, and as a Porter County Council member for 12 years. He served many years on the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Board after the re-organization of the South Shore Railroad in 1977. He was involved with the formation of the Chesterton YMCA and was a Rotarian and a charter member of the North Porter County Conservation Club. He was a U.S. Navy veteran and a dental prosthetics technician,  having learned his trade in the Navy. He also owned and operated his own dental laboratory in Chesterton for many years.

His hobby was competitive shooting. He was a life member of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association. He  was selected to the U.S. International Muzzle Loading Trap Team in 1977 and competed in Spain, England, Holland, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and South Africa, holding world records in percussion and flintlock trap-shooting. In 1996 he was inducted into the Muzzle Loading Hall of Fame in Friendship, Indiana and into the Safari Club International Muzzle Loading Hall of Fame in Reno, Nevada. Bill passed on the love of muzzle loading to his entire family. Each summer the entire family would gather at the camp grounds of the skeet range at the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association in Friendship for a camping vacation, skeet competition, music, and story-telling around the camp fire.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, December 10, at 11 a.m. at Liberty Bible Church, 824 N. Calumet Ave. (old Ind. 49), with Pastor Bob Nienhuis officiating. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, December 9, from 2 to 5 p.m. and from  6 to 8 p.m. at the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton. Memorials may be made to Liberty Bible Church Focus on the Future.


 Posted 12/8/2008