by Eric Stearley
For those who have been involved in 4-H or veterans’ affairs in Wabash County, Duane Truss is a household name. After receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash award on April 9, Truss will now be known by people across the state.
Family and friends surprised Truss at the courthouse Wednesday, but when he walked through the door of the Commissioners Meeting Room and saw representatives from the local VFW and Wabash County 4-H standing with Senator Jim Banks, he had an idea why he had been asked to come.
“You have a lot of friends,” Senator Banks said to Truss as he began to present the award. “What I like to emphasize…in a ceremony like this is to talk about how rare this award truly is, given to only a handful of great Hoosiers across our state.”
Sagamore of the Wabash is an honorary award given by the governor to Hoosiers who have demonstrated great leadership, service and dedication to making the Indiana a better place to live. It is the second-highest honor the governor can award a citizen. Its name comes from an Algonquian word used by Native Americans tribes to describe an individual within the tribe that the chief looks to for guidance. Senator Banks read from Truss’ award, where it states that he is “distinguished by his humanity in living, his loyalty in friendship, his wisdom in counsel, and his inspiration in leadership.”
“This award is for individuals, for Hoosiers, who have made a tremendous difference, a substantial difference, for the state of Indiana,” said Senator Banks. “[It is] very well [deserved] by an individual who has led and who has served in so many different capacities.”
Truss has been a 4-H leader for 52 years. He has also served as 4-H Council president and Wabash County Fair Board treasurer. All three of his sons were 10-year 4-H members. He also has a grandson who is a 10-year member, and a second who is in his eight year.
“I was a 4-H leader and worked along with him for 35 years,” said Wabash County Purdue Extension Services Educator Curt Campbell. “I wanted to have the most years as a 4-H leader in the county, and I finally gave up, because I knew that I was never going to be able to beat what you had,” he said to Truss. “We want to congratulate you on this award. It is well deserved. You are Mr. 4-H for Wabash County”
White’s Residential and Family Services CEO Dee Gibson was present to congratulate him on the award as well. From 1987-2007, Truss and his wife, Bonnie, opened their home to more than 50 foster children through White’s.
“Your quiet, steady mentoring and persistent leadership in the lives of these young men over the last 30 years is just incredible,” said Gibson. “On behalf of White’s staff and foster parents, we just want to thank you for the incredible investment you’ve made behind the scenes. You did this without any intention of being recognized, and that’s what makes this such a great honor to award. You did it because of a calling in your life to help young people.”
In addition to his work with youth, he served as VFW post commander for a record 17 straight years, serving as district commander for three terms. He also serves as a volunteer at the VA hospital and commanded the county’s honor squad for many years. One of Truss’ sons followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the military. Current VFW Post Commander Herb Mullen had only great things to say about his friend and mentor.
“As far as veterans are concerned, Duane has been very active over the years,” said Mullen. “The thing about it that’s so important is that the VFW went through a period of time in this community when it looked like it was going to fold. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have a VFW here,” Mullen said as he turned toward Truss.
Truss was overjoyed, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed with the honor. His history of involvement in the community shows that he is a man of action. As is often the case, Truss is also a man of few words.
“I didn’t know this was going to happen,” he said with a smile. “I know it’s quite an honor.”
“He’s an extraordinary person,” Senator Banks said after presenting Truss with the award. “What a well deserving honor for a great Hoosier. I was happy and proud to be over here today and recognize somebody that deserves the honor.”