One of the mottos of law enforcement and various emergency agencies is: To protect and to serve. One of Attica’s residents served as then chief of police, firefighter, emergency medical technician and neighborhood fix-it man.
Robert Scherer lost his fight against colon cancer earlier this year, days before receiving the Distinguished Hoosier Award from Governor Eric Holcomb.
His wife Virginia “Jenny” Scherer is quite proud of all her husband accomplished in his life, family, grandchildren, one great-grandchild and mowing yards for several senior citizens in their neighborhood, some of which Jenny didn’t realize until Bob had passed.
“He was so eager to help people and give whatever time he could to others,” she said. Jenny showed the backyard with a couple of water features as she explained that one neighbor’s garden had died off one winter, and so he took starts from their gardens to replace that garden. There are also about 4-5 neighbors who had their yards mowed by Robert and now members of the Scherer family are continuing to maintain those yards.
It wasn’t Robert’s green thumb and passion for gardening that got the attention of the governor, it was his acts of selflessness as a police officer that helped to earn him this second highest civilian award in the state. It came to the governor’s attention by the pathway of a chance conversation between Sharon Negele and Scherer’s nephew Michael Childress.
“I was getting dinner after work, and I happened to see State Representative Sharon Negele, and I mentioned my uncle to her, and that he had lived a life of selflessness,” Michael began, “and that is when Sharon shared the Distinguished Hoosier Award to me.”
So with the help of his mother, Paula who is one of Robert’s sisters, and his aunt Jenny, he carefully went though family scrapbooks and photo albums to make sure he compiled accurate information. “I’d be writing and call Aunt Jenny or my mother to check something at weird hours, occasionally.” Childress explained.
“Once the application was submitted, and I had a call from Sharon [Negele]. I told what my uncle what I had done,” Childress said. “Uncle Bob didn’t disappoint in his humbleness, saying he hadn’t done anything special, but he was special, because he was willing to do everything.”
He was a military police officer in the U.S. Army, served in the Lafayette Parks Department before moving to Attica in 1984, joining the Attica Police Department, and enrolled in the police academy. After 22.5 years on the department and rising to the rank of assistant police chief, Scherer was promoted to chief of police under Mayor Harold Long in 1999.
According Michael’s essay for the governor, the rank came after receiving many acts of bravery and standoffs, shoot outs and dangerous situations in this small Fountain County City.
While serving on the police force, Robert also served on the fire department for 14 years and the EMS for 20 years, carrying out countless rescues.
In 2005 he retired from all of the city jobs to fight colon cancer, though he continued to serve as a volunteer fire fighter and EMT on days he felt well enough.
His sister Paula Childress described her brother like this: “He had his hands in every pot in a cooking kitchen, and there are memories for every one of those pots.”
“He was meant to be a family man,” Paula said.
A few days before Robert passed, Michael was able to tell his uncle that he had been approved to receive the award. However, the award was formally presented the day of his funeral at the church by Negele.
While Michael was the one to submit the essay, it was obvious that all of the family shared the sentiments expressed in the essay that was sent to the governor. Jenny’s son Terry took Bob on one last fishing trip in Alabama, just weeks before his passing in April and all Terry could say was, “I would do it all over in a heartbeat.”
Grandson Taylor Johnson was very proud to have his grandfather present when he was sworn in as a deputy on the Fountain County Sheriff’s Department.
The youngest member of the clan, Charlie, pointed to a fish in one of the backyard ponds and said, “Poppa” knowing that his great-grandfather was being talked about.
Robert Scherer is a distinguished citizen and he now lives in the annals of Indiana History as an official Distinguished Hoosier.