By Nick Schneider, Co-Editor Greene County Daily World
Former District 62 State Representative Jerry Denbo, of French Lick, has died.
Denbo, who was in his 60s, died of natural causes ‘peacefully in his sleep on Monday’, according to Aaron Kemple of the Brosmer-Kemple Funeral Home in French Lick.
Arrangements are pending at the funeral home at this time and should be announced on Tuesday, Kemple said.
Denbo, a Democrat, resigned from his state representative post in Nov. 2007, after serving 17 years.
The French Lick Democrat represented District 62 from 1990 until his retirement in 2007.
“I don’t think anybody ever enjoyed being a state representative more than me,” Denbo said after his retirement. “I looked forward to every morning coming up here, seeing the people in the Statehouse, seeing my fellow state representatives, the staff members, the lobbyists, the media. It has just been exciting.”
At the time of his retirement he held the position of assistant majority caucus chairman, and had held a Democratic Party leadership position for 13 years in the legislature.
Linton Mayor John Wilkes said Denbo was a good state representative who worked for things that were needed in the city of Linton and the county.
“He and (former Linton Mayor) Jim Wright were good friends and he spent a lot of time in Greene County,” Wilkes told the Greene County Daily World. “Jerry was a good friend to Greene County and I don’t think he ever missed a July 4th Parade here in Linton.
The mayor added, “It’s terrible. It’s a shame, but we just never know.”
Sue McDonald, Greene County Democratic Party Vice Chairman, called Denbo a familiar face to Greene County and a friend of this county.
“He will be missed. He was a good Democrat and he was great for Greene County,” McDonald said.
Current Greene County Council member and former Linton Mayor Patti Jones also said Denbo was a ‘good friend’ to the county in his job as a lawmaker in the General Assembly.
“I am very sorry to hear of his death. He was a very good friend to the city and the county. He always tried to put us first and do what he could for us,” Jones commented.
For Denbo, it started in the late 1980s as “just a dream,” when the late Larry Conrad convinced him to run for state representative and bring a casino to French Lick. Jerry recalled telling Conrad, “District 62 is 64 percent Republican and 36 percent Democrat. Only a nut would put his name on the ballot when he’s 28 percent behind to start with.” But Larry said, “Be that nut and dare to make a difference in life,’ which I did.”
Another of Denbo’s bills received notoriety on a national level.
He authored legislation making it legal to post the Ten Commandments in public buildings in Indiana. It was the first law of its kind in the country.
Denbo received dozens of awards, most notably the seldom-given “Defender of Freedom Award” from the National Rifle Association; the “Indiana Citizen of the Year” award from the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians; Organized Labor’s “Legislator of the Year”; and the Indiana American Legion’s legislative recognition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.