Judy O’Bannon reflects on small town life and historic preservation

Many Hoosiers remember Judy O’Bannon as Indiana’s First Lady. But the impact she has had on the state goes far beyond her stay in the governor’s mansion. O’Bannon has been one of Indiana’s most vocal historic preservation advocates for nearly six decades and, as Around Indiana reporter Mary-Rachel Redman discovered, she is equally passionate about small town living, civic engagement and Hoosier pride.

“People don’t realize the gifts of living in a small town. I think this is a key moment to raise awareness about this. People who have worked from home have had a revelation about what they can do from anywhere,” O’Bannon said from his home in Corydon.

She lives in an 1866 log barn that her husband, former Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon, helped restore and transform into a modern living space. This is where his passion for historic preservation comes from.

“I like old things that people have touched against them. And they left their mark when they did what I call their dance of life.

While this passion for history continues to resonate in O’Bannon’s voice, she also speaks fervently about the communities that currently provide amenities and resources to retain young residents and workers.

“Within that community, to make sure that you have things that people want to hang around for too,” O’Bannon said. “If you don’t have intellectual stimulation and growth opportunities, who wants to stick around for that if they’ve graduated from college and are ready to graduate again. We have to make sure that those things that create lifestyles or quality of life are in our small communities.

After more than a century, the O’Bannon family still owns the local newspaper, the Democrat Corydon. Judy O’Bannon believes that small town residents need their own local source of information.

“I also believe it’s the messenger, the facilitator for people to know what’s going on in their community. How can you login [when] you find out which family home has burned down and needs help. You’re not going to read that in the Wall Street Journal.

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