As expected, there was plenty of good news shared during Draper’s annual meeting March 14. Last year was yet another record year and the prospects for 2019 are even better. The biggest news of all, however, came as a complete surprise to the 720-plus people packed into the former high school gymnasium in Spiceland, Indiana.

Near the end of the meeting, Draper president John Pidgeon introduced state representative Tom Saunders (R-54). Saunders was ostensibly present to honor a Draper employee. But once that item of business was taken care of, Saunders made his surprise announcement: he was also there to give company president John Pidgeon Indiana’s highest civilian award, the Sagamore of the Wabash. This honorary award was created in the mid-1940s by Indiana governor Ralph Gates. Recipients have included presidents, artists, musicians, business people, and everyday citizens. The list of honorees includes race car drivers Arie Luyendyk and Jeff Gordon, television host and comedian David Letterman, former Rotary International general secretary Herbert Pigman, Riley Children’s Health surgeons, and singer Willie Nelson.

“In January, I started receiving letters from members of the community and employees wanting to nominate John Pidgeon for a Sagamore of the Wabash,” Saunders said. “I’ve gotten to know John and his family over the years of working and living in Henry County. Mr. Pidgeon has always [gone] above and beyond to help his community whenever and wherever he can. He’s a great businessman, leader, and asset to the community but most of all a great human being!”

John and Jane Pidgeon with Indiana state representative Tom Saunders (R-54) (center).

In addition to his contributions over 50 years of service to Draper, John was also honored for his service and leadership in the community. Beverly Matthews, president of the Henry County Community Foundation, pointed out John’s work on helping grow the foundation’s assets from $190,000 to nearly $40 million.

John spoke to New Castle Courier-Times editor Darrel Radford following the meeting.

“I have been reading articles in the Courier-Times about recipients of this award for years and years, but I never dreamed I would be one.”

In typically humble fashion, John moved quickly from his own accomplishments to the strength of Draper and its employees.

“I think we have a somewhat unique and very desirable situation here,” he said. “I think being located in Spiceland, a small town, is a big advantage for us. We have an excellent workforce. We have very low turnover. We don’t have to deal with some of the problems manufacturers in big cities have to deal with. We count our blessings.”

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb was in Belgium and not able to make the presentation in person. Saunders assured everyone that the governor hopes to visit the facility later this year.

John wasn’t the only person honored for selfless service. Saunders also presented a resolution from the Indiana House of Representatives honoring Calvin Parham, a member of Draper’s shipping department.

Calvin Parham gets a laugh while thanking Tom Saunders for the Indiana House of Representatives resolution in his honor.

On January 11, on the way out of his Ogden, Indiana, home, Calvin smelled smoke coming from the direction of his elderly neighbor’s house. Instead of shaking it off and hurrying on to work, Calvin investigated, and wound up becoming a local hero as he rescued his neighbor.

““I smelled the smoke and over by Ed’s house, there was a light,” Parham said. “It wasn’t a fire at that time, but just a glowing and it caught my attention as I was leaving to go to work. I went from standing outside to going inside yelling for Ed. I don’t remember making the 911 a call but obviously I did.”

Parham found the neighbor he’s known for decades and helped get him out of the house. He had to carry him part of the way. Ed had been sick and bedridden over the past few days before the fire.

Calvin’s reaction before his co-workers was typically humble and humorous.

“I’ve been humbled by this experience,” he said. “The good Lord put me in the right place at the right time. I’m very grateful that my neighbor, Ed, is doing well.”

“I hope this qualifies me for an extra vacation day,” he quickly added to the sound of applause and laughter.

To read our full blog post about Calvin, click here.

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