BKD’s Indianapolis office served as the headquarters of legacy firm Olive, LLP from 1917 until 2001, when Olive merged with BKD. Jack Kroeger retired from this location in 1991 and proceeded to serve as a member of the Spencer County Council in Rockport, Indiana, for the following 24 years. During that time, he helped manage and plan the county’s financial activities, taxes and economic development as well as find valuable tax incentive opportunities, which involved significant collaboration with the Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation (LEDC).
His work with various LEDC economic development projects produced millions of dollars of investment in Spencer County and created innumerable employment opportunities. One of his most heartfelt achievements was helping to create Think Lincoln, Inc., a corporation dedicated to promoting Abraham Lincoln’s legacy in Spencer County and all of Indiana.
Retirement looks different for everyone, but for Jack, it’s all about doing something constructive every day. Sometimes that means fixing a leaky faucet, and other times it means planning the bicentennial celebration for Spencer County’s anniversary or Lincoln’s birthday.
CEO Ted Dickman worked alongside Jack during their years in Indianapolis.
“Jack is one of the most extraordinary retired partners who has continued to serve others in his community at an even greater level during his retirement years. He’s always had an amazing level of energy and truly exemplifies all of the qualities of a BKD Ambassador,” says Ted.
Finding passion from the past
Many people associate Lincoln with the state of Illinois, considering he moved there when he was 21 years old and eventually became a lawyer and got involved in politics. Most people also know Lincoln was mostly self-educated. But Lincoln’s formative childhood years were spent in Indiana’s very own Spencer County.
It was common courtesy in the 1800s that if your family moved to another area on the frontier, you’d first obtain a letter of recommendation from your current church before joining a new one. Some of Jack’s direct descendants were on the church council that wrote a letter of recommendation for the Lincoln family’s move to join a church in Illinois.
“I feel a connection to Lincoln through my ancestors. While I didn’t grow up in Spencer County, I spent a good portion of my early life here listening to stories relating Lincoln’s impact on my family’s lives and the surrounding area. This is where Lincoln grew his passion for the reading and writing that developed his mind, so I feel passionate to promote his legacy here,” says Jack.
The key to the South continues
Think Lincoln helps fund and coordinate various programs, activities and events throughout Indiana. The organization supports the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Indiana’s Lincoln State Park, Lincoln Amphitheatre (located in the state park), Lincoln Pioneer Village and the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Several officers, directors and members of Think Lincoln include individuals involved in the local Lincoln educational school curriculum. Jack has been the organization’s treasurer since it formed in 2005.
One of Think Lincoln’s most notable events was Lincoln’s 200th birthday celebration. In honor of his memory, members and donors made the same excursion down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The initial trip, also known as the key to the South, was Lincoln’s first real encounter with slavery and nearly cost him his life.
“One of the donors had the boat built, and then we took care of the motors and other necessary costs. They made the same stops Lincoln did on his trip,” says Jack.
In 2013, the Association of Indiana Counties recognized Jack with an Outstanding County Official award for his services to all 92 counties in Indiana. In addition to his efforts as an outstanding councilman, Jack also is an artist, focusing on pencil drawings, paintings and wood carvings. For the birthday celebration, held in the Indiana Statehouse rotunda in 2009, Jack signed and presented a series of Lincoln sketches and granted exclusive reproduction rights to the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association. The funds of any reproduced prints are given to the Lincoln Amphitheatre to help fund its operations. As of early 2020, the theater had nearly sold out all tickets for the remaining year.
At the bicentennial celebration for Spencer County in 2018, Jack and his wife Debbie donated a life-size bronze statue of Lincoln sitting on a bench, with an open space for visitors to sit next to him. Jack mentions even teenagers ready to attend their high school prom come along to take photos next to Lincoln. Visitors to the courthouse can hardly wait to have their pictures taken with the life-size Lincoln On The Bench.
“Debbie and I purchased the statue at an art gallery in Wyoming, and it was officially revealed during the bicentennial closing celebration inside the courthouse. The county celebration was an incredible success and truly a life experience,” says Jack.
Several county officials, including Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, U.S. Senator-elect Mike Braun, Commissioner Jim Seiler and Councilman Blake Bunner, either spoke or were in attendance.
Pianist, runner and family man
Believe it or not, Jack also makes time for several activities outside of his significant public service. He continues to play piano for personal relaxation as well as for the funeral visitations of friends and family. He values time with family above anything else, and is the proud father of six living children. Jack and Debbie had seven children; sadly, one passed away at age 36. With seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, it’s a wonder he finds room for anything else!
The couple enjoy exploring the mountains at Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.
“Forty years ago, my wife and I were driving through Wyoming and stopped to attend an unexpected event near Wind River Valley. We found the most gorgeous, unbelievable mountains. We’ve returned almost every year since then to hike, fly fish and explore the area,” says Jack.
He’s grateful to be blessed with good health, so he can stay active and keep improving.
“Jack was one of the best handball players in the U.S. while he was a partner with the firm,” says CEO Ted Dickman.
Sure enough, racquetball has been one of Jack’s greatest interests before and after retirement. The year he retired, he was the racquetball champion at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. He’s competed in various state championships and finished third in the nation for his 55 plus division.
In 2017, BKD’s Indianapolis office asked Jack to participate in the team’s Corporate Challenge track meet at the Indianapolis 500 Speedway. He competed in the 5K and half-mile races within the 60–70 division, as an 80 plus division wasn’t available. At 81 years old, he placed first in both events for the 70 plus age bracket, and third in the 60 plus. With 75 years of physical conditioning under his belt, those accomplishments were more than earned.
If you ever want to talk family, Lincoln or fly fishing, look for Jack at Christmas Lake in Santa Claus, Indiana, or in Wind River Valley pursuing the activities he loves.
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