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Longtime Fort Wayne neighborhood leader Bud Mendenhall honored for his service

Fort Wayne Police Capt. P.J. Smith, front right, congratulates Bud Mendenhall, after unveiling the Circle of Corydon award given to Mendenhall during a surprise presentation Wednesday at the dedication of the new Franklin School Park, 1903 St. Marys Ave. The award honors Mendenhall for his longtime work for Fort Wayne neighborhoods. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

The event was planned Wednesday as a dedication ceremony for the new Franklin School Park on St. Marys Avenue. It also became a bit of a surprise party.

Bloomingdale Neighborhood Association President Bud Mendenhall stood in front of the audience with city and other officials speaking at the park dedication ceremony. Then Fort Wayne Police Capt. P.J. Smith stepped to the podium and began recalling life highlights of a surprised Mendenhall.

Smith concluded by asking Mendenhall to join him next to nearby easel, where Smith removed a cloth to unveil a large Circle of Corydon award honoring Mendenhall for his longtime work for Fort Wayne neighborhoods.

“This was such an honor,” Mendenhall, 83, said afterward. “It was an honor to just be part of this,” he added, referring to Franklin School Park and its new pavilion.

Some leaders of the Neighborhoods United Group (NUG), including John Modezjewski and Kay Smith-Shoemaker, worked with Indiana Rep. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne to nominate Mendenhall for the award. Mendenhall also is an active member of the NUG.

Gov. Eric Holcomb created the new state award to allow himself and Indiana General Assembly members to jointly recognize Hoosiers “who have made notable contributions to better their communities,” Carbaugh, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said in a letter read aloud by Smith.

The city of Corydon, which is located in southern Indiana near the Ohio River, was Indiana’s first state capital.

“Fort Wayne, through the years, has been recognized as one of America’s most livable cities,” Carbaugh said in his letter about the award. “That only happens because of people like you! Selfless service is a hallmark of Fort Wayne, and you are one of our great examples.”

Carbaugh said Mendenhall is the first person he has recommended for the Circle of Corydon award. General Assembly members each can nominate only two people per year for the award, so Mendenhall is one of only a few Circle of Corydon recipients so far, Carbaugh added.

Mendenhall and his wife, Jean, both are longtime city residents. They got involved in their Bloomingdale neighborhood association in 1990 and have been active with it ever since.

Jean, who is the association’s current treasurer, had started taking a neighbor lady who wanted to attend the Bloomingdale association meetings, Bud said. He soon started going, too.

“The people in the neighborhood, they wanted to keep active, and I enjoy working with people,” he said.

Bud Mendenhall went on to push for the city to adopt an ordinance restricting truck traffic in the city, Smith said. He has been active with the city’s Great American Cleanup program since it started, and he worked with city and neighborhood officials and others to preserve the Historic Wells Street bridge in downtown Fort Wayne.

The metal span since has been incorporated into the city’s Rivergreenway trails system.

Franklin School Park is the latest completed project with which Mendenhall has been involved.

“I like to see accomplishments in neighborhoods,” Mendenhall said, “and it makes you want to do more.”

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