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The Versailles Republican

June 25, 2015 • Headlines

South Ripley Elementary Principal Mark Collier, Assistant Principal Amy Linkel and Superintendent Rob Moorhead are surrounded by students and staff for the $20,000 check presentation.
Town Marshal Joe Mann was on hand to show the official Town of Versailles Police car to kids. They took turns sitting in the driver’s seat, had a chance to see what it was like to ride in the back, and even got to turn on the official police siren! Read the entire article in The Versailles Republican on page 3. SANDY DAY HOWARD PHOTO
Pictured above with their winning entries, are sitting from left Paul Borchelt, Emily Ulrich, Nance Widdowson; and standing from left Peter Hertel, Jarett Hooten and Jim Hunter. Several of the winners were not present for the photo. Read the entire article and see the full photo in The Versailles Republican on page 6. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Happening this weekend

The first official weekend of summer is starting off with a little something for everyone to do in Ripley County.

• The Southeastern IN F.A.R.M. Club kicks off the weekend on Friday with the start of the Antique Machinery Show at Ripley Co. Fairgrounds, Osgood. The show continues through Sunday. One of the highlights of the show is The Battle of the Bluegrass Pulling Series Summer Nationals on Friday starting at 7 p.m. and Saturday starting at 5 p.m.

• Versailles Courthouse Day will be on Saturday on the courthouse square beginning with the Ripley Co. Chamber of Commerce 5K Walk/Run at 8 a.m. New this year will be the Farmers Market, which will be held in the courthouse annex parking lot. The Versailles Masonic F&AM #7 will also have an all-you-can-eat breakfast at their building one block west of the square. The Versailles Lions will be having their annual Chicken BBQ beginning at 11 a.m. Visitors can also enjoy the Versailles American Legion car show that will be going on throughout the day.

• Hopefest, a new event in Versailles, will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Tyson Activity Center. The event will feature Grammy nominated Rhett Walker Band and speakers from area churches. The event is free to all.

• Also on Saturday, there will be a benefit for Olivia Youngman at Solid Rock Bible Fellowship of Napoleon. Doors open at 3 p.m. and meal at 4:30 p.m. with a live auction at 6 p.m. Fundraiser proceeds will go to offset medical expenses for Youngman, who is recovering from brain surgery after being diagnosed with California Encephalitis.|

For more information on these events, check out the ads inside today’s paper.

The lost art of handmade wedding gowns
Seamstresses recall making dresses for local brides

Mary Mattingly

It’s the fairy tale dream of most little girls: Walking down the aisle, all eyes on you in your exquisite, beautifully fitted wedding gown with your handsome, young groom anxiously awaiting to take your hand to begin life together as a couple. Many describe their wedding day as what it must feel like to be a princess or even queen!

Photos from museum
Pictured above, wedding photos like these from the Hoff-Dirks wedding in 1945 and Monica Dirks wedding to William Weberding are on display at the museum in Batesville. Pictured left, is one of the vintage brown wedding dresses donated by Mary Mitchell Hillenbrand.
Dress from museum


The key to look that way, many brides believe, lies in the dress. The gown has to be perfect; a perfect fit, a perfect style for the bride to make her feel she looks her very best for the all-important life event. For many in this area those dresses were often custom-made by seamstresses, someone gifted with handling lace, satin, tulle, beading and most important, anxious brides! There are very few of these seamstresses or perhaps more aptly called “dreammakers” left today.

Sandy Werner is one and believes sewing, and not just wedding dresses, “is a lost art.” The Batesville woman started making dresses for others in 1982. She had actually taught sewing at Oldenburg Academy for years when her room, and the skill, got replaced with a computer lab. “I was at one of those business expos and several girls came up to my table and said ‘oh my grandmother sews.’ It wasn’t my mother does, but my grandma! That’s how far gone this skill is.”

Emma Huntington of Friendship was the go-to dream-maker for many southern Ripley County brides before she passed away in 1997. She created thousands of gowns and wedding party attire, and never used a pattern. She too taught others to sew at the vocational school for years, but she switched to quilting in her later years due to arthritis. “The first dress she made was for a blind girl. The girl paid in pennies. Word then got out and I think she made thousands. I wish we had kept count,” said her only daughter Jeannette Thayer of Dillsboro. Big-time department stores eventually got wind of this gifted seamstress, but she wanted none of that. She was a simple, plain person, as her daughter says, and she barely charged anything. “She just loved to see the girls happy,” Jeannette said, but acknowledged her mom was good at what she did. “She had the talent and could have probably been famous!” Jeanette still has the dress her mother made for her. She and Delmer have been married 53 years. There was a lot of detailed handiwork on it, with tiny buttons and appliquéd pearls, a dipped waist and full skirt with a handmade rose in the back. “I did feel like a queen for a day!” she recalled. Her husband told her that day, “He almost cried when he saw me.” Her mother also made Jeannette’s daughter’s dress, her daughter-in-law’s dress, and the veil for the other daughter-in-law. Jeannette sometimes helped with the veils. Otherwise, she said she didn’t have the patience.

Janice Linkmeyer of Ripley County bought the material from Emma Huntington, but she made her own wedding gown. It was of cotton lace with a lace-heart-shaped bodice and hooped skirt. She felt beautiful, even though it was difficult to maneuver in the car! She too took up the trade and sewed for others as extra spending money up until about 20 years ago. She learned from her own mother and also from a home economics teacher, and from being in 4-H for 10 years. “I loved to sew. It was just something we did with nine kids growing up, just like gardening, canning or farming,” she said. Her dress has not lasted as long as her 50 years to Wayne. She didn’t have it preserved (it was in a storage chest) and when she took it to the dry cleaners, it came back tattered.

Rose Grunkemeyer also put up her sewing kit about three years ago after making wedding dresses for over 50 years. She still does alterations, as long as it’s simple, and she may be convinced to make her granddaughter’s some day. The Morris resident kept a book of pictures of the dresses she’s designed over the decades, which shows how styles have changed. There were mini dresses, tea-length dresses, long dresses, suits and even shorts. There were some odd requests over the years. One girl got married on a horse and wanted a short ruffled dress she wore with cowboy boots. “It was actually very cute,” said Rose. Handkerchief hem dresses were trendy, but those are difficult to make, she recalled. Another gown had a 12-foot train and matching long veil. “I thought it was too much dress and overwhelming.”
She often kept her opinion to herself though, unless asked. “One gal had the dress so tight, and I told her you’re going to bust it, but she insisted, and it happened on the wedding day. I was called, but I couldn’t help and advised her mother to sew her into it, and that’s what she did.” One bride had selected short skirts for her bridesmaids, “They were so short I had to ask if they were going to be married in a church, and thank goodness they were not!” Then there was the dress with 24 rows of ruffles, which “was a lot of work.” She didn’t get many sentimental requests to alter a mother’s dress, as most brides want their own special look. “There was a bride who wanted her mother’s dress to be duplicated and she showed me pictures; so, that’s what I did. The ceremony was actually delayed because the mother was so emotional when she saw her daughter in a dress like her own. “

Sandy Werner recalled how she designed a wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses with straight skirts, a slit in the back and taffeta shorts underneath so the girls could take off the skirts and ride the Harley Davison motorcycle to the reception.

Grunkemeyer is not overly fond of the strapless dress, which is the popular trend for brides and bridesmaids. “It’s not flattering for everyone’s shape. “And, then I keep seeing these bridesmaids walking down the aisle and pulling them up.” Dressmakers today also have to accommodate women with colorful tattoos…some want to hide it as the bride from Milan did several weeks ago with a high collar, while others want to show it off. “I like how brides are now picking out a bridesmaid dress with various tops. That way it is flattering for all,” she said.

Another memorable, but sad event was of a young woman who wanted her dress made from antique lace. She had seen a picture of the dress she wanted valued at $30,000 and had been collecting the lace herself from various finds, curtains, tablecloths, etc., but didn’t have enough; so, Rose substituted with antique lace from a fabric store. “She picked it up on her way from Columbus, Ohio and had a flat tire. The car erupted in fire and she suffered third-degree burns and died 10 days later. She was buried in her wedding dress. That was probably the worst or saddest thing that ever happened while I was making dresses.”

The seamstresses also recall a few near disasters. Sandy Werner said a fire erupted in the kitchen, and all she could think of was to get the $2,000 gown hanging on the back door and ready to be picked up out of there! It was saved. And, she recalled saving a wedding herself. The mother of the bride brought in three or four dresses the day before the wedding for drastic alterations, and “Every time I see the mom she thanks me to this day!”

Jeannette Thayer remembers how her grandmother, who lived with them, was a bit shaky and spilled something on a finished wedding gown. Her mom had to cut a piece out of the skirt to cover the mistake. “There were many a time we ran up until the last minute of the wedding because sometimes she was doing two or three dresses and wedding parties at a time,” she said.

Margaret Voris Wilson, who grew up in Friendship had Huntington make her daughter’s wedding dress in the 1980s from a picture. “She never used a pattern when she designed clothes. It was beautiful, and Emma didn’t charge near anything for it.” Margaret had a near wedding disaster herself. The week of her own wedding her veil had not arrived in the mail. Being in a small town, a friend of hers from first grade heard about it and offered her wedding veil. “So, I wore Frances’ veil. It was pretty!” Wilson said. Of course, her veil arrived the next week!

It was a true labor of love for the wedding seamstresses, as they never charged what a department store or bridal shop would. They had a hand in many local milestone life events. After all, no one forgets the dress she wore on her wedding!

For information on the Batesville museum, pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local newsstand and read page 7!

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• SR School Board meeting: Class of 2015 profile presented (front page)
• At county council meeting: Full-time nurse could reduce jail health costs (front page)
• Tyson Library ‘Community Heroes Day’: Kids experience life as local champions (page 3)
• Thinking about Health: ...many calories in that sandwich... (page 4)
• Grant provides SR a technological sandbox area (section B, front page)
• 21st Century Scholars deadline June 30 (section B, front page)
• On the Record from the Ripley County Courthouse (section B, page 2)
• Two choking incidents result in charges (section B, page 2)
• Local units receive homeland grants (section B, page 4)
• Versailles Town Court (section B, page 5)
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