By VICKI URBANIK
William Carmichael, a
fixture in local and county government for more than 30 years, a
world-champion muzzle loader, and a key player in the efforts to save the
troubled South Shore passenger service from a shut-down in the late
1980s, died Saturday after a lengthy illness.
The long-time Chesterton
resident was 77.
Carmichael, a Morgan Park
resident, was currently serving his 12th year as an at-large member of the
Porter County Council. Prior to his work on the county council, he served 16
years as North Porter County Commissioner.
Carmichael attended what
used to be known as Liberty Center School and graduated from Chesterton High
School in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy for five years aboard a submarine
tender during the Korean conflict. He returned to make his home in
Chesterton, where, as a 1969 Chesterton Tribune put it, he “married
his high school sweetheart, Suzie” and later opened
Carmichael Dental Laboratory on Calumet Road.
Carmichael’s political work
dates back to at least the early 1950s, when he worked on the
Eisenhower campaign in Washington, D.C. In 1969, he assumed the post
of Westchester Township Republican chairman, which he held for a number of
As a Porter County Council
member during his three terms, Carmichael often championed county
funding for social service programs and court programs assisting
troubled juveniles. His interest in the well-being of the community goes
back for decades, having served in such positions as post-prom chairman,
Sunday School teacher, Cub Scout master, coordinator of a local Bike Rodeo,
and leader of the 1968 United Fund drive in Westchester Township.
Carmichael was also a
founding member of the local YMCA, having helped form the Westchester branch
in 1965. In a 1969 Chesterton Tribune story, he was called “one of
the community’s young men most responsible for the Y’s progress to date.”
“Bill has chaperoned
countless Y dances and taught arts and crafts for two years on Saturday
mornings,” the story said. “In addition to all of these responsibilities, he
has always been available to help out in any emergency .... If limited to
three adjectives that best describe Bill, his friends might well select
personable, talented and versatile.”
In 1971, Carmichael ran for
Chesterton Town Board. When asked in a candidate interview why he was
seeking the office, he answered: “I am deeply interested in the people and
believe in the future of this town. People in this community want to be
informed as to what is going on in the town hall. They want answers to their
questions and solutions to their problems.”
Though Carmichael didn’t get
on the town board, he did serve as a Chesterton Plan Commission member for
four years as well as on the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals. He also served
on the Porter County Mental Health Board.
In 1976, he ran for North
Porter County Commissioner and won -- and kept the seat for the next 16
“A politician once said, ‘if
you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Well, I enjoy the heat,”
Carmichael told former Chesterton Tribune reporter Jim Hale in a
candidate interview when Carmichael ran for re-election as commissioner in
In that interview,
Carmichael cited as one of his greatest accomplishments an issue that did
bring him much heat locally: The establishment of a county-wide ambulance
service without the local service that was in place at the time, the North
Porter County Ambulance Commission (NOPAC).
Carmichael was also
instrumental in building the Porter County Expo Center and establishing the
county’s first county park board and he named these as two of his other
accomplishments as commissioner.
He also helped lead the
Porter County fight against casino gambling.
Carmichael’s greatest legacy
may very well have been his role in saving the South Shore passenger
A long-time member and
president of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District,
Carmichael was among those who dealt with the crisis in the late 1980s, when
the then-privately owned South Shore service was on the brink of shutting
down. Carmichael lobbied then-Indiana Gov. Robert Orr against legislation
that would have allowed the owners, Venango River Corporation, to take
control of the passenger service from NICTD, a public board that funneled
grant money for the service. Then, when the passenger service went up for
sale and was threatened with a shutdown, Carmichael and other NICTD board
members successfully negotiated for a NICTD acquisition of the service,
bringing the trains under public ownership.
In his personal life,
Carmichael’s hobby was competitive shooting. He gained international acclaim
as a muzzle loading champion.
He helped write a book,
“Muzzle Loading, Shooting and Winning with the Champions.”
He and his family often
traveled to the U.S. national range in Friendship, Indiana.
In 1978, in matches in
Madrid, Spain, he shot the first perfect score ever in an international
muzzle-loading competition. “But the next year, at Bisley, England,
Carmichael surpassed himself,” reporter Hale wrote in a 1982 story headlined
Champion Carmichael’s record won’t be broken.
“He shot 20 straight clay
birds in individual competition, blasted an extra five the rules allow
perfect shooters, then knocked 20 more out of the sky in team competition.
Even a pair of back to back misfires failed to interrupt the amazing run.”
This year, in the Republican
primary, Carmichael emerged as the top vote-getter among the five candidates
who vied for the three seats on the county council. In
one of the questions asked by the Tribune, Carmichael seemed to sum
up his decades of public service.
“I am an experienced Porter
County Council member seeking re-election. I stand firm for good government
and for fair play. I owned my own business for 40 years in Porter County
until my retirement -- and our children and grandchildren live here. My
roots are deep.”
An obituary for Carmichael
Bill Carmichael, a Chesterton native and Porter County
Council member, died Saturday, December 6, 2008. He was 77.
He was born on June 19, 1931
to Ralph and Mary (Southworth) Carmichael. He is survived by his wife, Suzy,
of 56 years; sons Steve (wife Tammy), Scott (Lois) and Hal (Cathy);
grandsons Robbie Conklin, Aaron (wife Kasie), Ryne, Matt, Dane, Jordan, and
Ian Carmichael, and Nick Conklin; and granddaughter Ali Carmichael.
Bill will most be remembered
for his love of country, his commitment to community service, his love of
God and family traditions. He was a most beloved husband, father,
grandfather and friend, and he will be deeply missed by all.
He dedicated his life to
community service through Porter County politics. He served as a Porter
County Commissioner for 16 years, and as a Porter County Council member for
12 years. He served many years on the Northern Indiana Commuter
Transportation District Board after the re-organization of the South Shore
Railroad in 1977. He was involved with the formation of the Chesterton YMCA
and was a Rotarian and a charter member of the North Porter County
Conservation Club. He was a U.S. Navy veteran and a dental prosthetics
technician, having learned his trade in the Navy. He
also owned and operated his own dental laboratory in Chesterton for many
His hobby was competitive
shooting. He was a life member of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle
Association and the National Rifle Association. He was
selected to the U.S. International Muzzle Loading Trap Team in 1977 and
competed in Spain, England, Holland, France, Germany, Japan, Italy,
Switzerland, Australia, and South Africa, holding world records in
percussion and flintlock trap-shooting. In 1996 he was inducted into the
Muzzle Loading Hall of Fame in Friendship, Indiana and into the Safari Club
International Muzzle Loading Hall of Fame in Reno, Nevada. Bill passed on
the love of muzzle loading to his entire family. Each summer the entire
family would gather at the camp grounds of the skeet range at the National
Muzzle Loading Rifle Association in Friendship for a camping vacation, skeet
competition, music, and story-telling around the camp fire.
Funeral services will be
held on Wednesday, December 10, at 11 a.m. at Liberty Bible Church, 824 N.
Calumet Ave. (old Ind. 49), with Pastor Bob Nienhuis officiating. Visitation
will be held on Tuesday, December 9, from 2 to 5 p.m. and from
6 to 8 p.m. at the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway,
Chesterton. Memorials may be made to Liberty Bible Church Focus on the