.
  
 
Al and Helen Friesenhengst 

Recently the Martin County Community Foundation received the largest single gift it has ever received. It came from the estate of Al and Helen Friesenhengst. This gift will create the Al and Helen Friesenhengst Endowment Fund for Martin County . This unrestricted fund will begin to make money grants to area charitable organizations in early 2007.

When meeting with Al and Helenís daughter, Mary Nickless of Loogootee, she shared a scrapbook giving us a glimpse into the lives of these two remarkable citizens. This story will attempt to capture parts of their lives that few of us knew.  

Scrapbooks are great for capturing memories. Smiles from a wedding day are remembered in the pictures, and the stories in word. The stories seem to end when the people in the scrapbook are no longer with us.  But Al and Helen Friesenhengstís legacy will never end, and the smiles they shared in a scrapbook will be mirrored by the countless number of people that have been, or will become, recipients of the generosity of this couple.

The oldest of five siblings, and the son of German immigrants, Alís enormous talents would ultimately propel him to a successful career as an entrepreneur that few rival. While still in high school, Al earned the respect of his fellow students by being elected as president of the student council, drama club, along with numerous awards.  Al graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland , Ohio in 1936. He had received a scholarship enabling him to do so. The value of him receiving this scholarship, and thus an education in business, which he vigorously applied, became multiplied thousands of times throughout his career.

Along with his wife Helen, who was his business and life partner, they accumulated retail store outlets in seven Southern Indiana towns, including Shoals and Loogootee. Al and Helen passed on their business savvy to numerous employees, many of whom eventually purchased and operated those stores after Al and Helen began to exit the businesses. There are many pictures in the scrapbook of events honoring employees and the passing of ownership of the stores to them. In all cases Al and Helen and the employees are smiling broadly, indicating the mutual respect and admiration they shared for each other.

Besides the business side of Al and Helens life, there is a whole range of community life that they were involved in. From investment in rental housing, assisting in securing funding for industry expansion, and community infrastructure improvement, and economic development, the Friesenhengst brought instant credibility to many projects that are still thriving today. Al was the first President of the Shoals Lions Club and the sponsor of the Troop 80 Boy Scouts for 10 years, and Past Master of the White River Lodge No. 332 F & AM of Shoals.

Stephen A. Deckard, a former MCCF Board Member, and Publisher of The Shoals News, stated, ďThis nice gift to the Community Foundation is certainly a continued example of the involvement of Al and Helen for the good of Martin County . Al and Helen were acute business people who always supported the important endeavors of the community. They saw, within the foundation, an avenue to make good programs sustained. Martin County people were very important to the Friesenhengstís and this unrestricted fund gift will benefit many generations. Their hard work and positive attitudes will be honored, and remembered forever.Ē

Faith played an enormous role in Al and Helenís life too. They shared their beliefs with many through the United Methodist Church organization. As a gifted speaker and motivator, Al traveled thousands of miles to help nurture and inspire his fellow Christian brothers. Helen also was a tireless contributor of time and talent to her faith.

Beyond the borders of Martin County are many others on whom this couple has had an influence. Through their many generous gifts several young people have already received financial assistance through scholarships. Al and Helen knew well the value of education and strived and succeeded in passing on their good fortune to others.

Al and Helen also excelled in their family life. They adopted two sisters and raised them as their own. People who do this are of the most caring and giving of us all. Mary and her sister Nancy (deceased) grew up in a home filled with love. Also their childrenís children, the 4 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren gave Al and Helen some of their greatest joy.

The scrapbook records Alís death in 2000 and Helenís death in 2005. Many times a persons story stops there, but with the twenty charitable organizations that have received monetary gifts, and the numerous lives they touched while with us, Al and Helenís successful legacy and influence will extend forever.

The Martin County Community Foundation is thrilled and honored that Al and Helen remembered it with this gift, and pledge to act in accordance to the amazing examples they set.       

                                                                                    Back to Donor List


About the LCCF
Funds
Grants & Scholarships
Donor Stories
News & Events
  Links to Other Resources

About the MCCF
Funds
Grants & Scholarships
Donor Stories
News & Events
  Links to Other Resources

P.O. Box 1235, 1324 K Street, Suite 150, Bedford, IN 47421, 812-279-2215, fax 812-279-1984