Supporter Story: Barbara White’s Good Life

The Bob White Farm is tucked away in the far northwest corner of Rush County, closer to Greenfield than to Rushville. But our community has always played a central role in the life of its owner, Barbara White.


Her home is filled with photos, accolades, and mementos, including a collection of artwork depicting the bobwhite quail. Every item has a story. At 92, Barbara’s recollection is razor sharp. Her memories are what she treasures most. With an endearing smile and a twinkle in her eyes, “It’s been a good life” she says multiple times during our visit. And she means it.


Barbara grew up one of six children on a farm filled with love in southwestern Rush County. It’s been in her family since 1825. She was always involved in 4-H and showed hogs. From age 13 on, she was her dad’s trusted farmhand.


She remembers sewing clothes for her dolls when she was just seven. With natural talent and a keen interest in fashion, her skills developed as she followed the latest trends. Her father was one of the founders of the REMC (Rural Electric Membership Cooperative), bringing electricity to his neighbors and other rural parts of the county. For Barbara that meant an electric sewing machine – along with a respect for progress and change.


She became quite a seamstress. She laughs as she recalls a Home Economics teacher that made her change the neckline of a shirt. Barbara didn’t agree but followed instructions anyway. Looking at a photo of herself wearing it, even today, she notes that the teacher was wrong. Barbara has always stood firm in her convictions.


During World War II, skirts were short with fabric being expensive and in short supply. After the war, a Parisian designer revealed an unexpected design, the “New Look,” – a long dress. Always ahead of the fashion curve, Barbara made one, too – white Swiss dot fabric with pink rosebuds.


She wore that dress at a 4-H Roundup at Purdue and definitely turned heads. A young man approached the table where she was sitting with friends. He asked, “Did anybody get a load of that gal in the long white dress last night?” Standing up, she proudly replied, “That was me.”


He asked her to go with him to get a Coke. His name was Bob White, and he lived on a farm. In Carthage, of all places.


Even though they were both from Rush County, they lived at its opposite ends. It wasn’t until another 4-H event at the State Fairgrounds that they met again and had their first real date. Bob took Barbara downtown for a movie. They saw Gone With the Wind, – a choice as storied as the movie itself.

A photo of Barbara on her wedding day in the dress she made herself

A photo of Barbara on her wedding day in the dress she made herself


Bob didn’t just fall in love with Barbara. As an only child, he fell in love with her large family, too. The couple married in 1950, with Barbara wearing an exquisite dress she made herself. That same dress would be worn five years later by her younger sister and then 25 years later by their daughter Mindy on her wedding day. They moved to his farm to start a family of their own.


After serving two years with the military police during the Korean War, Bob and Barbara returned home and had four children – Mindy, Mark, Mike, and Missy. The White siblings enjoyed a close knit, picture-perfect childhood despite some age gaps. Barbara continued sewing, making all their clothes. Mindy admits to not stepping foot in a clothing store until she was an adult!


Barbara remembers when Carthage was a thriving town with a paper mill and five grocery stores. “When they took the railroad spur out, businesses started closing,” she reflected.


She recalls how other transportation decisions eventually contributed in part to Rushville’s economic decline in the 90’s. Throughout her life, Barbara has understood the need for change.


While Bob managed the operations on their farm, Barbara handled the books. The Whites’ passion for 4-H continued into adulthood. Barbara served on the Extension Board and also as a 4-H Leader. Her service extended to the Extension Homemakers County Council, serving as president.


A relief carving of a horse's head inlaid in a brick wall.

Memento from a remodeled State Fair horse barn given to Bob


Bob’s interest in agriculture also led him to the Board of Directors of the Indiana State Fair. He served from 1964-1972, including a term as president in 1971. State Fair time often meant that the Whites packed up and lived on-site for two weeks in August. They ate, slept, and breathed the fair – a dream come true for Mindy and Mark. As a toddler, Mike learned how to walk in the sheep barn.


Bob was very personable and a good listener. He didn’t just remember you, he remembered something about you,” Barbara said. “He was a quiet leader who rose to the top of every organization he was involved with.” Like his father-in-law, Bob served on the board of directors of Rush County REMC, beginning in 1976. He was vice chairman of Rush/Shelby Energy from 1999 until retiring in 2013.


In 1999 Barbara began a partial term on the RCCF board to fill a vacancy. She served two terms, took a year off and then served two more. She laughs noting that she was the “Keith Perin (current longest-serving board member) of her day!” She served with both Wilma Jo Kile and Phil Mitchell, claiming that she and Phil had longevity. “I have gotten to know so many fine people through the Foundation and I cherish that,” she smiled.


2005 RCCF board of directors


While on the board, she made it her mission to be Ripley Township’s biggest advocate. “I always bugged them not to forget us,” she winked. She served as secretary and sat on various committees including executive, grants, community awareness, and scholarships. One decision over a scholarship almost caused her to resign. “But I couldn’t help anybody by leaving,” she admits. As always, her vision was fair and future focused.


When her brother passed away, memorial contributions were to be made to Harvard University. Barbara sent hers to RCCF. “I thought my community could use it more,” she said. Throughout the years, the Whites continued their financial support, including donations of grain, which supported the Foundation and provided them with tax advantages.


Barbara admits to being interested in RCCF and its mission from the beginning. “I just like people. I think what Lilly Endowment did for the State of Indiana is mind blowing! The Foundation has grown beyond any expectations,” she marveled.


After spending 68 years loving each other and working their farm together, Bob passed away in 2019. Family is their foundation and means everything to the Whites. Barbara beams remembering last year’s Christmas. Her children, seven grandchildren, their spouses and partners, and two great grandchildren spent the holiday together at the farm – just like they used to do with her parents. “Besides time, the best gifts are family things,” Barbara said. “When I graduated from high school, Bob gave me a three-piece Parker Pen set. Ballpoint pens were new at the time. I gave that set to my oldest granddaughter. I know it means something special to her.”


Although Barbara was financially minded, keeping the books for both her dad and Bob, her large family couldn’t afford life insurance. For Bob’s family it was a priority. Early in their marriage, they took a small policy out for Barbara. It has since grown to more than five times its original worth.


Farming has been good to us. I can’t think of a better place to leave it than the Foundation,” she said. Her legacy gift will be donated to the Ebert H. and Bessie M. Schroeder Fund started by her friend, Wilma Jo Kile. This fund will support the ongoing needs of the REC Center once it’s open.


I think the REC Center will help so many people – with more room for the Library, with an indoor pool, so the high school can have swim teams again, and little kids can have lessons, with many services available in one place, and a as a community gathering place.”


Barbara’s love of community will live on forever with this generous gift.


With nine decades of life behind her, Barbara is still focused on the future. “I am just so pleased to see how the Foundation is growing – so far beyond what the founders imagined. I have followed from the beginning and hope that I can see the REC Center become real.”


Supporting RCCF is a family affair. Barbara’s daughter, Mindy Vogel, is a former board member and currently oversees First5’s diaper pantry as a volunteer. When her son Mark’s father-in-law became terminally ill, he and his wife Diana searched for a way to honor him. Both Barbara and Ercell Bever, another long-time RCCF supporter from Carthage, suggested starting a fund. The Robert L. Winters Scholarship Fund was established. Diana was able to share the news with her father before he passed away. Since 2013, it has paid out more than $6,300 in scholarships. Diana also later served on the board. Jessica Vogel, Barbara’s granddaughter-in-law, serves on the grants committee. “My biggest reward is that I helped inspire the next generation of my family to become involved,” she smiles.


Holding an open mind to change. Wanting and doing what’s best for her community. Caring about people and wanting them to have a good life, too. These qualities make Barbara an ideal supporter and advocate for RCCF. More importantly they make her a wonderful person.


We’re so grateful to Barbara for all the many ways she has supported the Foundation, including naming RCCF in her estate plans. By donating a life insurance policy that has outlasted its original purpose, she will support her community forever with a gift that won’t cost her or her family anything.


To learn more about options for fulfilling your charitable wishes, please contact Chris May, Executive Director, at (765) 938-1177 or Visit our legacy giving page, or stop by our office at 117 N. Main Street in Rushville. We’d love to hear about your dreams and how we can support you.

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