The phone rang at the shop, last Jan and the secretary to Tony Cook, our region’s state representative, was on the telephone to tell me that I had been selected to receive the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Governor Eric Holcomb. The Sagamore Award is the State of Indiana’s highest citizen award. A tradition in Indiana, it was presented to me for a variety of reasons. Mostly to do with our carvings which represent some of the finest craftsmanship Indiana has to offer for more than 30 years. And the time I invested in restoring The White River fishery for 5 years.

Several speakers were present at this event:

1st Bill Kent, PK USA, where he currently serves as VP of Corp. Relations. PK USA is a Japanese automotive supply company located in Shelbyville, Indiana.

“Our relationship with John and Valerie goes back to the beginning for ducks have always had a special meaning to the Japanese. Ducks are a symbol of good luck and prosperity in the Asian culture.” Various governors have used the Bundy Ducks as diplomatic gifts since 1983, representing the state of Indiana.

2nd was Bill James, “I was serving as the Chief of Fisheries for the Department of Natural Resources. We were brought together 20 years ago after the devastating fish kill that began in December 1999, to one of Indiana’s natural treasure’s – the White River.

John had a positive and constructive purpose. He understood fundraising and he understood people and used his skills as an artist to create a mallard carving and create a symbol of White River, from the sale of which, were used to buy fish and restore the River. Today the White River is a fishing destination once again.”

Last but not least was my friend, Richard Parker. He has lived just down the road from me and knows about marketing my carvings and my efforts to work with the communities and the state of Indiana during the recovery process, speaking to dozens of organizations to raise awareness and cleanup White River.

Today I am still making carvings that the Governor uses for gifts for visitors to Indiana, the Walnut Bison, representing the one seen on the State Seal.