A number of notable people have come from, or been closely associated with, Pulaski County.
Charles A. Arens, an early aviation enthusiast, constructed a biplane in 1915 and flew at Ashburn Field in Chicago in 1916, qualifying for membership in the Early Birds. Arens became an inventor and manufacturer of controls for the aircraft industry and founded his own company, Arens Controls, in Evanston, Illinois, and a second company in England. In 1944, he retired and moved to Winamac, where his mother had grown up. For the next 22 years, Arens was a civic leader, serving on the Chamber of Commerce board and as first board president of Pulaski Memorial Hospital. He was an advisor on the development of the city/county airport in Winamac, which bears his name, Arens Field.
Ralph Braun was born and raised in Winamac. Diagnosed as a child with spinal muscular atrophy, he started using a wheelchair at the age of 14. At the age of 15, he created a motorized wagon with his father to help him to get around. Five years later Braun created a motorized scooter, which he called the Tri-Wheeler, using various parts from his cousin’s farm. Ralph rode the Tri-Wheeler to and from his day job as a Quality Control Manager for a nearby manufacturer. When the facility moved several miles away, he equipped an old mail carrier Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic tailgate lift, enabling him to drive his Tri-Wheeler in and out of the vehicle unassisted. In 1970, Dodge introduced the first full-sized, front-engine van. Braun retrofitted a Dodge van with a lift and called this new invention the ‘Lift-A-Way’ wheelchair lift. When word spread about this new invention, Braun assembled a team to help fill orders across the nation, all from his parents’ garage. As demand increased, Braun decided to quit his full-time job to focus on his part-time business. Save-A-Step was incorporated under a new name, ‘The Braun Corporation’, in 1972. In 1991, Braun introduced its first wheelchair accessible minivan, based on the Dodge Caravan and called the ‘Entervan’. The Braun Corporation continued to grow, both by acquisition and workforce, and is currently Pulaski County’s largest employer. In 2012 he was recognized as a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama and was posthumously honored by Governor Mike Pence with the Distinguished Hoosier Award. Ralph Braun passed away in 2012, but his spirit of entrepreneurship lives on in the county he called home.
Charles A. Halleck represented the Second District of Indiana, including Pulaski County, in the U.S. Congress from 1935 to 1969, serving as both Republican Party majority leader and minority leader during his tenure, and was the subject of a Time magazine cover story in June 1959. He was a familiar face at local events, visiting Pulaski County often, particularly as his brother, Dr. Harold Halleck, was a beloved Winamac physician. Dr. Halleck worked from an office on Main Street for 50 years. He estimated that he averaged about 25,000 miles per year visiting patients in their homes until the local hospital was built in 1963. He delivered an estimated 3,000 babies. In 1979, the Chamber of Commerce established an annual community-service award in his name.
Clarence McElroy, who graduated from Medaryville High School in 1920, learned to fly under the training of Capt. Lawrence Aretz. In 1932, at age 30, McElroy was employed by Waco Aircraft in Ohio and was assigned to deliver a single-engine airplane to Hondurus. En route, McElroy crashed into a Mexican jungle mountainside during a tropical storm. His companion was killed, and McElroy suffered two broken hips. Crawling down the mountain along a stream, he was discovered 17 days later by a village farm youth. Reports of the pilot’s disappearance and recovery made headlines around the nation. McElroy later wrote a book chronicling his experience, Seventeen Days in a Mexican Jungle.