GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

These Southside community members left a legacy of service to our community when they passed away in 2020

The Southside Times is honoring Southsiders who passed away in 2020 and made a significant difference in their community. From two American immigrants, a Philippines doctor and a Greek restaurant owner, to an owner of the oldest bar in Indiana, Slippery Noodle Inn, to an active volunteer and member of the Southport Flag Committee and a veteran and co-founder of the St. Francis Healthcare Foundation to a former Beech Grove mayor to the first Hoosier to die of COVID-19, each one of these Southside residents has made a lasting difference and touched the lives of others fortunate enough to have known them.

Annie L. Singleton

By Angie Norris

This past summer, the Southport community mourned the loss of a strong city advocate remembered for her diligent work with the Southport Police Department and Southport Flag Committee.

Annie L. Singleton, a longtime resident of Southport, passed away June 10, 2020. She was 81. Annie was born Sept. 17, 1938 in Indianapolis to Arthur and Mildred Winburn.

Annie graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis in 1956. She married Wayne Singleton on Dec. 6, 1981. He preceded her in death in 2014.

Annie drove a school bus for Perry Township Schools for 31 years. She also spent 15 years working for Immediate Care, where she was an operations and facilities manager. She was also a servant to her community. Annie advocated for the Southport Police Department, served as treasurer for the Southport Flag Committee, volunteered in several areas at Southport Heights Christian Church and delivered Meals On Wheels. She was also an avid Red Hatter and well known for bringing donuts from Long’s Bakery to her new neighbors as a welcome gift.

“Annie was out delivering meals to a Perry Seniors client. She went into the client’s mobile home on a very hot summer day,” said Jamie Riederman, former director of Perry Senior Services. “The client was elderly and had no air conditioning. Annie left there and went and bought an air conditioning unit. She made the chief (Southport Police Department Chief Tom Vaughn) clear his schedule and install it for our client that afternoon. I want to be just like Annie someday.”

“I have heard so many wonderful things about Annie,” added Melissa Johnson, current director of Perry Senior Services. “She had a great smile and was so kind and generous.”

Annie Singleton. (Submitted photos)

“She was involved in more than I could list,” said Nicole Davis, former managing editor for The Southside Times. “She had a bright and cheery personality everyone loved.”

Singleton was a volunteer for Perry Senior Services, attended city council meetings and served as the city’s Fourth of July parade co-grand marshal several years ago.

“She was a part of the Southport Flag Committee for many years, making sure the flags were displayed properly throughout Southport,” said David Hawkins, Annie’s son. “Mom never knew a stranger or met someone she didn’t like. She was a caregiver; if you were sick, she would be there with food to make you better. Mom loved people the same as she loved her family. Family was first at all times, so if you were considered her family you were at the top of her list. Tom and Jane Vaughn were at the top of her list from the day they came to Southport. Mom always gave Tom a hard time, telling him he was on probation with her when he first became chief of Southport Police. She would lock herself out of the house constantly, then call Tom to help her get into the house. Tom always was there to help her in many ways, and check on her daily. The two of them became family very quickly.”

Hawkins added that his mom loved being a school bus driver and enjoyed getting to know the kids on a personal basis. “Kids from when she first started driving would show up at her door from time to time just to say ‘hi’ and have a short visit with her,” he said. “She was a Southport resident for 61 years and grew with the town day by day. If Mom saw you on the street or sitting on your front porch, you knew it was her.”

Annie is survived by three sons, three daughters, 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Her obituary stated that “she was a servant to all, and had a heart as big as all outdoors,” and that “she never met a stranger, and will be loved and missed by all.”

“I love and miss you, Mom, every day,” Hawkins said.

Annie was buried with honors by the Southport Police Department, and memorial contributions were suggested to go to the police department after her death, as well.

Charles Wilson

By Angie Norris

Longtime Southside resident, Charles E. “Chuck” Wilson will be remembered for his love of family, quick wit, contagious laugh and genuine concern for others. Chuck passed away Nov. 17, 2020 at the age of 83 years old.

Chuck was born May 26, 1937, in Indianapolis to Paul J. and Margaret Mary Wilson. He graduated from Cathedral High School in 1955, and then went on to graduate from St. Joseph College in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Chuck served in the Indiana Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserves for six years. While at Chambley-Bussières Air Base  he fell in love with Europe, and went on to visit nearly every country in the region.

In 1965, Chuck graduated with distinction from the Indiana University School of Law (Indianapolis) and was admitted to the Order of the Coif honor society. During law school, he worked full-time at Lawyers Title to support his family. He understood the sacrifices of others who pursued their education while earning a living. After graduation, he joined Ice Miller (then known as Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan) and later became a partner. He practiced commercial real estate law there for 36 years before retiring in 2001. Following a one-year break, he started a private law practice. Altogether, Chuck practiced law for 55 years.

Highly involved across the community, Chuck was a Sagamore of the Wabash, and a  member of the American Legion and the Knights of Columbus. He was also a member of the Wine and Food Society of Indianapolis, the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and the Indiana State Bar Association. Check was also honored in the Who’s Who in America among Real Estate Lawyers and the Who’s Who in Commercial Real Estate in the Indianapolis Business Journal. He was voted best Commercial Real Estate Lawyer in Indianapolis several years in a row, in an Indianapolis Monthly survey of his peers.

Charles Wilson.

Chuck believed wholeheartedly in giving back to his community. He served as chairman of the St. Francis Hospital Advisory Board. In 1995, he co-founded and was first chairman of the St. Francis Healthcare Foundation board. He also served on the Franciscan Health Hospital boards in Lafayette, Ind. and Crawfordsville, Ind. Chuck was active in capital building fund campaigns, where he donated funds for creation of a new patient room in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit in memory of his parents. Chuck once commented, “Over the years, St. Francis has continued to combine capable leadership with the on-site influence of the Sisters. I’m glad to be a part of something that has been a blessing to so many others.” Chuck also served on the Central Indiana Regional Board, the Healthcare Foundation, the Board of the Gibault School and Home for Boys in Terre Haute, Ind. and the Indiana University School of Law Indianapolis Board of Governors, where he was also an adjunct professor. He also served as chairman of the board of WFYI public broadcasting and the St. Elizabeth Home near Beech Grove.

“Chuck was thoroughly dedicated to the St. Francis organization,” said Philip N. Smith, close friend of many years and fellow Southsider. “He worked tirelessly to embrace and further the hospital’s mission. Chuck was a natural leader and spent many years as co-founder of the hospital’s foundation and later chair of its advisory board, where he succeeded in gathering support for several of its projects. He spent most of his adult life on the Southside, where he enjoyed the company of family members and many friends. Chuck loved the Southside and worked hard to make a difference to improve the quality of life here.”

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Karen Lynn Schmidt Wilson, four daughters and six grandchildren. A private Mass of Christian Burial was held at SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, and a celebration of his life is planned for the spring of 2021.

Elias George Stergiopoulos

By Angie Antonopoulos

The Greek words “philotimo” – to do good and express unconditional love and “philoxenia” – love of strangers, are words Elias George Stergiopoulos lived by. Born in 1932, in Perigiali, Greece, “Papa Louie,” didn’t know a stranger, his daughter Angela Stergiopoulos said.

Before his death in April 2020, he operated two businesses, New York Pizza in the 1980s and Greek Islands, on the Southside of Indianapolis, which has been in business for more than 30 years.

“He was a big part of showing hospitality,” said Angela, who now runs the family business along with her siblings. “He didn’t care whether they [customers] bought a coke or a meal.”

Louie’s specialty was cooking meats – lamb chops, lamb shanks and Greek souvlaki, or kebobs. He also made “Exohiko” – braised pork with carrots and celery. She said her mother Fofo, Louie’s wife of 58 years, made a good team.

“We have customers still coming to the restaurant from the beginning and they bring in their families,” Angela said. “They become an extension of your family.”

Eric Weisfeld, a former reporter at WRTV in Indianapolis who anchors the evening news at WMBF News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., waited tables at Greek Islands while in college. “The family environment was like nothing I had ever experienced,” Weisfeld said. “At the helm was Papa Louie, a man who immediately took me in and made me feel at home. The family dinners we all shared after the restaurant was closed for the night were amazing. His love for his family, employees and guests was huge. Coming to his restaurant was more like dining at his home.”

Elias George Stergiopoulos.

Louie’s son George Stergiopoulos said his father lived by two mottos: “My strength lies in the love of people” and “Go in as strangers and leave as friends.”

George said his father would never turn away anyone who was hungry and needed food.

“My dad’s strongest asset was that he never forgot where he came from,” George said. “He motivated and inspired a lot of people and made people feel good about who they are.”

Louie started out as a farmer in Greece, but wanted to see the world, so he joined the Merchant Marines and worked in the boiler room. He married his wife Fofo in December 1963 in New York and moved his family to Indianapolis in the 1980s. Together, they raised their three children, George, Angela and Penny Stergiopoulos and have two granddaughters, Fofo and Angeliki. Louie made sure he stayed well for his granddaughters to know him and learn about their Greek culture and instill values of respect and good citizenship. He was a proud American and would say, “God bless America,” and would help anyone in need, Angela said.

Sharon Kottaridis Sexter, a Greek Islands customer and second generation U.S. resident living in Indianapolis, said she coordinated her first visit to Greece while Louie was there, so she could find their relatives in Pidima, Greece. “We didn’t know how to find them,” Sexter said. “Without him being there, we wouldn’t have been able to find our family.” They met near Corinth and swapped rental cars at Hertz. While chatting to the gentleman at the Hertz counter, Louie discovered the man dated one of the daughters of Sharon’s relatives. Soon they made it to the village where they would talk to two families, and Louie helped them figure out how they were all related. “He translated back to us,” Sharon said. “They were basically cousins. I couldn’t have imagined taking that trip without him.”

At his request, Louie was buried in his village, Perigiali, next to his parents. Memorial contributions can be made to the Elias and Fofo Stergiopoulos/Greek Islands Restaurant Scholarship for the IUPUI School of Physical Education and Tourism Management.

Hal Yeagy, Jr. 

Amy Moshier

Harold Raymond “Hal” Yeagy, Jr., owner of the Slippery Noddle Inn on the Southside of Indianapolis, will be remembered by many: from coworkers enjoying happy hour on a Friday night and friends gathering to dance to a son or daughter enjoying the blues with their parents who relived earlier years through jazz and blues artists popular both present and decades earlier. They all had their own favorite memory of Indiana’s oldest bar.

Hal was born Aug. 10, 1957, to Harold Raymond Yeagy, Sr. and Lorean Yeagy. Older brothers Bill and Terry were as shocked as their parents at the arrival of their sibling, nearly 20 years younger. A Catholic education culminated at Cathedral High School, and he remained close to his Cathedral classmates, leading milestone reunions. Hal attend college at Purdue University.

He started a job at Eli Lilly and Company on the janitorial staff. Following the untimely passing of his father in 1984, who had purchased the Slippery Noodle Inn 21 years earlier with Yeagy’s mother, Hal left Lilly to help run the noodle full time. Over the decades, Hall grew the Slippery Noodle from a one-room lunch counter to the world famous Slippery Noodle Inn.

According to Hal’s obituary, he will also be remembered by countless musicians as one of the most hands-on venue owners and blues lovers they’d ever met; by hundreds of staff members, who learned, failed and were given a second chance; by the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Purdue Boilermakers as a devoted fan, regardless of the season record; and by a whole host of thousands of strangers as the guy who created a place where they met their significant other, believed in ghosts, found a new favorite musician, or can trace any other number of life-altering events.

Well-known musicians who played at Slippery Noodle include Luther Allison, Magic Dick, Jay Giles, John Mayall, Albert Collins, Buddy Miles, Charlie Musselwhite, Junior Wells, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, James Cotton, Yank Rachell, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Johnny Clyde Copeland, to name a few.

Many friends of the Slippery Noodle Inn have favorite memories. “I remember going downtown, and went you went to downtown Indy, you had to go to the Slippery Noodle Inn,” said Diana Miller, formerly of Indianapolis.

Hal Yeagy, Jr.

Chris Fields of Gulf Shores, Ala., jokingly said he spent “a little too much time there” and appreciated the role of live blues music in Indy. “We would not have blues music in Indianapolis if it weren’t for the Noodle,” he said.

Tricia Hutton, a former Indianapolis resident now living near Chicago, remembers going to the Noodle with her parents, and feeling proud and grateful that she could go with them because they all appreciated the music and the chance to visit, she said.

Hal’s wife, Carol, said he felt strongly about the role of live music to get into the fabric of the city.

The building, once a spot on the Underground Railroad, was bought in 1850, according to Carol, a former nurse at St. Francis Hospital. She left the hospital because the Noodle was growing, and she never went back.

Hal and Carol brought high-end, fine dining to the Southside of Indianapolis in the form of a restaurant called Hal’s Famous Vegas, complete with the famous Las Vegas sign. Though the restaurant closed five years ago. “(People) weren’t quite ready for it,” Carol said.

Hal and Carol had five children, and 11 grandchildren. He made many accomplishments in just 63 short years. Hal’s legacy lives on.

J. Warner Wiley

By Nancy Price

A former Beech Grove mayor and chief of police will fondly be remembered in his local community by strong leadership abilities, civic commitment and a love of sports, including the Indianapolis Colts and IU and Butler basketball.

On June 12, 2020, the city mourned as J. Warner Wiley, 83, passed away. He was a resident of St. Paul Hermitage at the time of his death.

Wiley served Beech Grove in many capacities for 47 years. He was a police chief for 11 years and a safety and security director at St. Francis Hospital for 17 years; he also served as president of the Beech Grove Parks Board, was an advisory board member for the Beech Grove Senior Center and a board member for the Beech Grove Public Works and Safety and Beech Grove City Council. He was also a president of the Lions Club, the Beech Grove High School Alumni Association, the Central Indiana Inter-Local Association and the Indiana Hospital and Security Association.

Wiley served on Our Lady of Grace Monastery Advisory Board and the Amtrak’s Mayors Council Advisory Board. He was also a life member for the International Association Chiefs of Police, the FBI National Academy Associates and the Knights of Columbus. In addition, he was a member of the FBINA Executive Board in Washington, DC. Former Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon presented Wiley with Indiana’s highest award, the Sagamore of the Wabash.

“Warner was a wonderful servant who loved the city of Beech Grove and worked very hard to develop it and maintain our autonomy,” said Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley.

Born in 1937, the lifelong Beech Gove resident attended Beech Grove High School. At the time of his graduation in 1955, Wiley was a member of the school’s last undefeated football team. He earned an associate degree in criminal justice from the University of Louisville, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Indiana Central University (now the University of Indianapolis)

Wiley married Janet Behler on June 21, 1958. He referred to that date as “the true beginning of his life,” according to his obituary. They had four children, Jeanine, Michael, Craig and Ryan.

J. Warner Wiley.

In 1965, he was selected to attend the FBI National Academy in Washington D.C. and Quantico, Va. By then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and in 1974, named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by Lewis-Schmidt American Legion.

As police chief, Wiley was instrumental in the construction of a new police facility in 1974, according to Buckley. He also worked to achieve national accreditation.

In 1984, Wiley served as president of the FBI National Academy Associates of Indiana and was elected as national president of the FBINA. He also received the Beech Grove Jaycee’s Distinguished Service Award and named Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2003 by the Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce.

Wiley was the sixth mayor of Beech Grove when he was inducted in 1992. He served three terms.

Under his leadership as mayor, Wiley’s accomplishments included:

  • Infrastructure– “The thing that I was always impressed with, he was really big on infrastructure,” Buckley said. “He did a lot of sidewalk work and paving (around 6th, 8th and 9th avenues). He also rebuilt the Beech Grove Senior Citizen Center at 602 Main St. “It allowed for more seniors to access the center and a lot more programming and transportation. He remodeled the old Olympia Club (now Hornet Park Community Center).”
  • National accreditation – “The Beech Grove Fire Department became nationally accredited while he was mayor. We were only the second ambulance service in Indiana to obtain that accreditation,” Buckley said.
  • Retaining local employment – “He did a lot of work with the Amtrak Task Force for 12 years and he was instrumental in saving a lot of jobs. While he was mayor, there were around 522 jobs (with Amtrak),” said Buckley.

Long after his retirement, Wiley aided Buckley in building a new police facility. In 2019, the Beech Grove Police Department was renamed the J. Warner Wiley Police Station in his honor. After his death, Wiley’s family decided to honor him by establishing a scholarship for a Beech Grove High School graduating senior entering the field of law enforcement.

Nestor Reyes

By Amy Moshier

A Center Grove doctor is remembered by friends and family for his generous and humble nature.

Nestor C. “Eddie” Reyes, MD, 89, passed away earlier this year at his residence. He was born in 1930 in Aparri, Philippines, to the late Felicimo and Maria Reyes.

“What I remember most about my dad is the small stuff,” said Nelson, Reyes’ son. “In business, and in life, we are taught to ignore the small stuff. But what I’ve learned from the patriarch of our family is that it’s the little things that matter the most in life. The small stuff that defines my dad – strong work ethic, sharp wit, compassion, love and commitment to family.”

“He didn’t have a normal childhood growing up doing what most kids do,” said Nelson. “My dad was a schoolboy when Japan occupied the Philippines during World War Il. He was forced to stop going to school and his family hid for two years until Gen. McArthur liberated the Filipino people. “Things eventually returned to normal, and he was able to return to school. My dad was highly intelligent, and had a vision of improving his life for himself and his family and living the American Dream.”

Reyes attended medical school at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, where he met his future wife, Violeta Upano. After dating just one month, the couple married. “Mom said Dad initially hinted before they were even officially dating by typing ‘When will u marry me?’ while helping her in a report during dental school,” Nelson said.
“Dad knew what he wanted; he wasn’t going to let the newly crowned Miss Buguey get away!”

Nestor Reyes.

Upon his graduation in 1957, Nestor was the first person in his family to immigrate to North America. He began his residency in Bristol, Conn. in 1958. He opened his own private family practice in the Philippines in 1961.

“In between completing his education and residency training, he managed to have six children – Jean, Lizette, Bobby, myself, Jerry and Vivian,” said Nelson. “We were a ‘party of eight.’ We eventually settled in Greenwood in 1972, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He was a highly regarded physician who touched many lives. He worked hard to support our family, teaching us to be strong, independent people. I also remember having a paper route in middle school. It was tough work back then – cold Indiana winters and unruly dogs – this was back in the day before invisible fences and electric bikes and scooters. I wanted to quit that job so bad! My dad wouldn’t let me. He got up with me at 5 a.m. and drove me around to deliver papers. I am certain the money he spent on gas was more than the $14 a week I earned, but the life lesson was that if you start something, you must finish it. I carry this with me today and instill it in my sons and as a wrestling coach.”

“My dad will also be remembered for his acts of compassion,” Nelson continued. “He sponsored many family members who also immigrated to the U.S. and helped to get them settled. He also never forgot his roots and generously sent money back home to family members in the Philippines. My dad’s legacy continues with the three generations he created. There are many lives that will be forever impacted. The original party of eight, which turned into 32, plus the countless other lives he touched – he truly fulfilled the American Dream and gave us all the opportunity to succeed. This is a celebration of his life and a reminder that his legacy must continue.”

Roberta “Birdie” Shelton

By Nancy Price

Stephanie Dolan contributed to this article

Friends, family and acquaintances of Roberta “Birdie” Shelton remember her as a generous, compassionate and friendly person who enjoyed planning fundraisers, listening to local musicians on the weekend and spending time with her friends and family.

Shelton, once full of life, passed away on March 16, 2020 of COVID-19. The Beech Grove resident was the first person in Indiana to die of coronavirus.

“Birdie was loving, caring, compassionate in any situation and she would find the good in everyone,” said Penney Bray, Shelton’s friend. “She never met a stranger! If you met her you were immediately drawn to her and you instantly became a part of Birdie’s family.”

Shelton was born in Indianapolis in February of 1951. She graduated from Northwest High School in 1970 and worked for several local companies, including the Department of Corrections as a correctional office and IndyGo as a dispatcher. She was most recently employed by Enterprise as a driver.

A sociable person, Shelton relished time spent with her fiancé, Tony, as well as her niece and great-nephews, whom she considered “her kids” and her cousins. She loved attending family reunions, and enjoyed genealogy.

In her spare time, Shelton was actively involved with the Beech Grove Moose Lodge, volunteering for the women’s board. She also helped others with funeral and medical expenses and led fundraisers, including one for the family of Delphi, Ind. residents Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, who were found murdered near the Monon High Bridge Trail in Delphi in February 2017.

Roberta “Birdie” Shelton.

A band promoter, she also enjoyed gathering local musicians together to play gigs at local bars, including her fiancé. Shelton combined her passions for music and helping others to organize fundraisers with entertainment.

“She was able to produce a party/celebration and bring people from all walks of life together to help a family that was in need,” said her friend, Phyllis Devine. “She would raise thousands of dollars at her gatherings, round up bands to play and supply the donations and packages to auction off. She did everything. She never received anything but a hug and a ‘thank you.’”

Shelton was also instrumental in helping to keep the Beech Grove Moose Lodge open when it nearly closed a year ago.

“She genuinely and so heartily loved that lodge,” Bray added. “She brought so many people through those doors to keep the business going so the doors would stay open. That lodge will never be the same.”

This past fall, Bray, along with mutual friend Terry Sellars, found a silver lining during COVID to keep Shelton’s memory alive. They started One Love Charity, inspired by Shelton’s desire to give back to the local community. This fall, Bray and Shelton held a car show at Manual High School and raised over $6,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. They have plans to help local families in need, as they did at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“She is the one who inspired me to do fundraisers,” Bray said of Shelton. “I just sat back and watched her. She did a lot of celebration of life and fundraising for people who didn’t have money to bury their family members. It amazed me how she dedicated hours on end to do raffles to make sure families had money to bury their loved ones.”

March 16, 2021 will mark one year since Birdie passed. “At that time, I’m going to host a huge celebration of life in honor of Birdie,” Bray said.