Sandy Lofland made a promise to a friend that she would keep his dream alive. It’s a promise she intends to keep and if she can’t do it, she’ll make sure other people do.
"I hope that during my lifetime I will see the clocktower restored," Lofland said. "I talked to my children and my grandchildren often about it too, so that just in case I’m not able to finish the project that they will."
Lofland, 65, has been working on the Montgomery County Tower Project committee to restore the clocktower on top of the courthouse. She is also the president of the Child Abuse Prevention Council. Since 1996, Lofland has worked on various fundraisers, grants and other projects to raise enough money for the $1 million project. Their current fundraiser is selling lighted miniatures of the Old Jail Museum for $45. The group sold miniatures of the courthouse with the tower on it and the Lane Place in previous years. Since the miniatures are now a collection, people who bought the first two can get this year’s for $33 and new purchasers can get all three for $99. Lofland said they’re also being sold on e-bay.
Dr. James Marion Kirtley, a friend of Lofland’s, started a movement in the 1980s to restore the clocktower, which was taken down during the 1940s because it was believed to be a safety hazard. Kirtley was a prominent doctor in Montgomery County who delivered over 5,000 babies before his retirement. He was also a politician who served in the Indiana State legislature.
Lofland said the clocktower held a special meaning to his family, which is why he wanted to see its return. His mother was the first woman to hold an office at the courthouse and said she always relied on the clock to check the time. While he was a student at Wabash College he was used to hearing the chimes during the day. When Kirtley went away to World War II and returned to see it gone he felt like a part of him was missing. Restoring the clocktower became a lifelong goal for Kirtley.
He also wanted to write his memoirs and family history. Because Lofland had a computer, he went over to her house every day for a year and they wrote the memoir together. Sometimes they even met on Saturdays.
"We teased him and said he always had a place at our table and a parking space in our yard," she said.
As they worked on it, she realized that it was more that just an account of his life it was a slice of Montgomery County history. Kirtley had leukemia and didn’t think he would be alive to see the memoir and asked Lofland to finish it if something happened to him. Lofland suggested publishing it as a book and that proceeds could go towards the clocktower, which is an entire chapter in the memoir. R.R. Donnelley & Sons agreed to print 3,000 copies of the book as a donation to the clocktower effort. After it was published he asked Lofland for help on one more thing.
"He said, ‘Sandy if I don’t live to see the clocktower raised would you continue my work?’ And I said. "I will, and I’ll do the very best I can,’"
Lofland has tried to do her very best in this project since Kirtley’s passing in 2000 and with the Child Abuse Prevention Council. She said she used to be involved in more activities but decided that she needed to slow down. A 1957 graduate of Linden High School, she said the school motto was "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." She felt she did a lot of things, but wasn’t doing any of them well so she refocused on the clocktower and the council.
Before she helped to create the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Lofland was a social worker, who did case work. She saw so many cases of children being sexually abused that she wanted to do something about it.
Twenty-two years ago Lofland created an assertiveness training program with two puppets, named Archie and Abby, to teach children how to stand up for themselves. She also wrote a song called "Yell and Tell," which teaches children to yell for help if something bad is happening to them.
When she first created the program, Lofland said the hardest part was getting superintendents, teachers and parents to be receptive to the program. After a while the program caught on, but sadly Lofland was finding a lot of children in school who were being abused.
"I was at school and one little girl said, ‘Well, that’s what my daddy does,’" Lofland said. "Many times kids would follow me out of the room but some just blurt it out."
One time when a little boy in second grade asked her for help, she found out that he and five other little boys in the class were being molested. An older man who kept puppies in his home to lure them in, showed them pornography and molested them regularly. On another occasion there was a little girl who just needed help telling her mother that her stepfather was abusing her.
"I always had a lot of mixed emotions. I knew when I did the programs I was going to cause a lot of trouble," Lofland said. "But I also knew that I was going to keep a child from being molested again. And that was more important to me."
The attitude towards child abuse has changed a lot since she first started the program more than 20 years ago, she said. There is more curriculum in schools now to teach children how to take care of themselves and report problems.
"It’s just imperative that we teach these kinds of skills to children," she said. "I’m sorry that we have to, I wish we didn’t have to. But we do."
In Lofland’s spare time she found quilting to be a peaceful activity to get her mind off the troubling issue of child abuse. It’s also something she inherited from her grandmother, Ruby Smith, who Lofland said she has always admired because she worked hard and never told a lie.
Smith’s husband died at age 39 of pneumonia and she was left to care for five children. She worked at Indiana State Teacher’s College as a cleaning lady, who put aside every penny for her children. All three of her sons went to World War II and the only way she could find solace was in preparing quilting pieces. Lofland has taken these pieces and has made five generation quilts with them, which combines pieces stitched together by members of each generation of the family.
"I really have received great comfort from quilting these pieces together knowing my grandmother did this at a very difficult time in her life,"
Lofland and her husband Luther, have four children, Luther Jr., Louanne, Linda and Lisa. They have eight grandchildren, Luke, Kari, Lauren, Sarina, Emily, Charlie, Brandon and Michael. Now that she is retired, Lofland said she has much more free time to spend time with them and her four cats.
"I love being a grandma," she said.
She has also continued to work on her family’s genealogy. She has researched and traced 10 generations of her family.
Despite being officially retired from her job as a social worker, Lofland has always kept herself busy. Prior to her surgery she sang for 30 years at the First Christian Church in the choir. She has also been a regent in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Lofland said she doesn’t understand how anyone can be bored in life.
"I just enjoy life so much. I never run out of something to do," Lofland said.