Joe Delon couldn?t have been blamed if he had thought it was all over after he closed the door of Rushville City Hall behind him on his last day as mayor. After all, he had done plenty. He had been elected to two terms in the mayor?s office by his friends, neighbors, and townspeople who, if they didn?t know him personally, as many of them did, probably knew of him either from the days when he ran a service station on Second Street or from his busy first term as mayor, when new factories and new jobs coming to town seemed to be in the headlines almost regularly. But after his reluctant bid for a third term failed, Delon?s days in public life seemed to be over. He remained in politics as chairman for the Rush County Democratic Party, but much of his time was devoted to his ailing wife, Lyda, who died just a few weeks ago. Wednesday night, however, Delon got a surprise. A big one.
Outgoing Rush County Chamber of Commerce President Ron Sowder tried to keep the crowd in suspense at the annual Chamber banquet as he listed the accomplishments of the Outstanding Citizen for 1992. His short speech was rather vague, speaking mainly of service to city and country. When Sowder called Joe Delon?s name, nobody in the room appeared to be any more surprised than Delon. Visibly stunned by the honor, Delon wove his way through a standing ovation to accept his award at the head table.
?I am very much surprised,? he said. Sowder noted that Delon had been ?instrumental? in bringing both Fujitsu Ten of America and INTAT Precision, Inc. to Rushville. After a few years of fledgling industrial recruitment efforts, Rushville landed the Fujitsu plant in 1985. It went online September of 1987 and recently manufactured its 1 millionth audio unit. Today, the plant employs more than 200 people.
A few years later, INTAT located in the former Dana plant just north of Rushville and expanded the facility into a foundry, employing more than 200 people. Other smaller industries, such as American Cab also came to town during Delon?s tenure.
Delon appeared humbled by the Outstanding Citizen honor. ?What a privilege it is to live in Rushville and Rush County.? He said. ?For what little I?ve been instrumental in what?s happened in Rushville and Rush County, I?m very thankful for.?
The name of the Chamber award was changed from the Citizen of the Year to the Outstanding Citizen to denote lengthy service to the community rather than a single year?s contributions, Sowder said.