The staffs of the Nappanee Public Library and Wa-Nee School system were recently surprised by a donation from one of Nappanee’s native sons. More than $196,000 was given to the two institutions as part of the estate of Richard G. Callander of Scottsdale, Ariz., who died in June of 2009.
Though he rarely visited his birthplace after moving to Arizona as an adult, Callander’s final gift is a testament to the happy years he spent there as a youngster.
The “Class Prophesy” from the 1948 Nappanee High School yearbook, The Napanet, predicted that then-senior and Napanet editor, Callander, would go on to become a famous Broadway star after graduation. The stars, however, aligned a bit differently for the young journalist.
After high school, he served in the Army during the Korean War and then went on to receive a degree in accounting from Indiana University. In 1958, he moved to Arizona to pursue a master’s degree at Arizona State University.
During the summers for nearly 20 years afterward, Callander would work in accounting for Yellowstone National Park and later at Glacier National Park in Montana. His winters were spent working for Camel Back Inn in Scottsdale.
His niece, Janice Cunningham, of Nappanee, remembers spending time hiking with her uncle and daughter near his home in Scottsdale and described Callander as a very thoughtful man who loved young people and valued education highly.
Mark Johnson, who credits Callander as his mentor, expressed a similar opinion.
He described him as a voracious reader who, once enamored with an author, would read everything he could find from the writer.
He said that Callander subscribed to the Nappanee Advance News and would often talk about his hometown and visiting the public library as a young man.
Johnson, who was executor of Callander’s estate and cared for him during his illness, also stressed that his friend was very young at heart, always staying up-to-date on current affairs and popular culture. He shared that while his grandparents were at home watching Lawrence Welk, Callander was picking up the latest CD from Dave Matthews.
A current student in accounting at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the two met while Johnson worked as a night auditor at the Glacier Park Inn. Callander encouraged the young man to pursue a bachelor’s degree and later gave Johnson the opportunity to stay in his home while he continued his education.
“He meant a great deal to me, and I truly miss him,” Johnson said.
“We are truly humbled and grateful for Mr. Callander’s bequest,” Nappanee Library Director Lissa Krull said. “We appreciate that Nappanee residents will be the beneficiaries of his love of the library and of his hometown for many years to come.
The library staff is in the process of deciding how best to honor Callendar’s legacy.
The Wa-Nee Board of School Trustees voted to establish a Richard Callander endowment scholarship fund in the amount of $98,000 through the NorthWood High School Dollars for Scholars board. Initial plans are to reward an annual $5,000 scholarship to a senior planning to pursue a business/accounting degree. The first scholarship will be awarded in the spring.
“We are grateful for Mr. Callander’s generous gift, which will provide scholarship funds for students for years to come,“ said WaNee Superintendant Joe Sabo.
Jessica Flores is communications specialist at the Nappanee Public Library.