Dr. Robert M. Abel
Nov. 10, 1924 - Jan. 14, 2017
WAKARUSA - Dr. Robert M. Abel, age 92, of Wakarusa, died at 2:30 am, Saturday, January 14, 2017 at Elkhart General Hospital. He was born November 10, 1924 to Ralph M. and Edna (Pletcher) Abel in Wakarusa and grew up on a farm near Wakarusa.
On August 13, 1948 he married Betty Ann Hattery in Martinsville. She preceded him in death November 4, 2014.
Dr. Abel was a 1942 graduate of Wakarusa High School. He then attended Goshen College for 2 years before joining the United States Army and serving overseas during WWII. After returning home from the Army he graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1950.
Dr. Abel began his medical practice in Wakarusa, July 1, 1951 and in 1957 built the Wakarusa Medical Clinic. In 2010 he opened the WaNee Medical Walk In Clinic, continuing to practice until December 27, 2016.
Dr. Abel was a member of AMA and Indiana Medical Association for over 60 years. He was a member of the Elkhart General Hospital staff for over 66 years. He proudly delivered approximately 10,612 babies to local families. He served as the Medical Director for Bashor Home of the United Methodist Churches for 60 years. In 1995, he was elected to the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame for his years of service as team medical doctor and in 1996 was elected to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
Dr. Abel's love for his hometown of Wakarusa was shown in many areas. He was a member of the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce, Wakarusa Lions Club, Historical Society, and Friends of the Wakarusa Public Library. In 1989 he was instrumental in Miller's Merry Manor coming to Wakarusa and building a 132 bed nursing home, and in 2000 adding a 40 unit assisted living complex. He served as the medical director for these facilities. In 1989, he developed Orchard Park for 19 new homes and Orchard Park Apartments. In 1982, he bought the closed Wolfberg Stores in Wakarusa and renovated them into offices and retail stores to serve the town. In 1999 he was honored as the Citizen of the Year by the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, WaNee Community Schools dedicated and named the NorthWood Middle School football field “Doc” Abel Field in honor of his life-long commitment and service to our communities.
Dr. Abel was appointed by the Judge of Elkhart County in 1962, to develop the WaNee School System under the new School Reorganization Act and served on the school board for 34 years - 18 years as the president, which is one of the longest tenures in Indiana.
Dr. Abel was active in Indiana 4-H since 1934 as a member, leader, and advisory board member. He was a past president and was still serving as a member of the Elkhart County 4-H Board, and the review and expansion committee. From 1980 to 1986, he served on the Indiana 4-H Foundation Board and served his last 5 years as president. This board also serves with the Dean of Agriculture of Purdue University. In 1985, he was awarded the Outstanding 4-H Alumni Award by Purdue Extension Service. In 1985 he was elected to the Hall of Fame for State and County Fairs.
Dr. Abel was the recipient of 3 Sagamores of the Wabash awarded by 3 different governors and in October, 2016 was a Torch Bearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.
Surviving are his children, Nancy (Tom) Roeder, Robert Abel II, Randy (Jane) Abel, all of Wakarusa and Michael (Linda) Abel of North Platte, Nebraska; grandchildren, Andrew (Billie) Roeder, Charlie (Kristin) Roeder, Molly (Dave) Wilson, Samantha Abel, Spencer Abel, Lacy Abel and Tyler (Jackie) Abel; and great-grandchildren, Owen, Anna, Olive, Pia, Urban Roeder, Jesse, Miriam, Hudson, Holden Wilson, and Taytem and Rylee Abel. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; sister, Kathryn Weaver; and brother, Paul Abel.
Abel Family Prior to First Trophy Game between NorthWood and Jimtown
NorthWood football coach Nate Andrews proudly displays the “Doc” Abel trophy to his team.
NorthWood, Jimtown Honor Beloved “Doc” Abel
NAPPANEE – You would be hard-pressed to find a man who loved the NorthWood and Jimtown football programs more than Dr. Robert Abel.
You would even be harder-pressed to find a man who was loved more by the Wa-Nee and Baugo communities than the man simply known as “Doc.”
That love for Doc, who passed away this past January at the age of 92, was apparent Friday night as the pair of Elkhart County rivals squared off at Andrews Field to open the 2017 high school football season.
The two tradition-rich programs, which have combined to win five state championships, paid a fitting tribute to the selfless man who gave so much of himself to thousands of families.
Prior to the game, which NorthWood won 31-0, NorthWood athletic director Norm Sellers unveiled a traveling trophy that will go the winner of the game each season. The trophy is one of Doc’s medical bags with the names of NorthWood and Jimtown on each side of it, the pair of schools that he served as team doctor for.
Jimtown athletic director Nate Dean praised the tireless work ethic of Abel, who gave freely of himself for decades with the Jimtown football program. He spoke of how Abel would see injured Jimtown players many times after games on Friday night, regardless of the time of night.
Many members of Abel’s family stood at midfield Friday night, some wiping away tears, as a tribute to Doc was shown on the new video scoreboard as both teams stood on the field learning more about a man who was a role model.
Abel, a 1942 Wakarusa High School graduate, was simple a pillar in the community. He served on the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Board for decades, as well as the Wa-Nee School Board. He also delivered more than 10,000 babies during his unbelievable tenure as a true hometown hero.
Abel, who played baseball in high school, truly loved his football.
“This is emotional,” said NorthWood coach Nate Andrews when asked following the game what it meant to win the trophy. “It means a lot. Doc meant so much to my family and really everybody’s family. He did a lot for me as a person, I know that.”
Andrews, now in his fourth season as the NorthWood coach, was a three-sport star athlete at NorthWood. His father Jim, for whom the NorthWood field is named and a member of the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, coached the Panthers from 1972-92.
“It’s a great tribute to him,” added Andrews, who played football at Ball State. “We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure we keep that (the traveling trophy).”