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Shelby deaths 2013: Pflughaupt, Trammell leave educational legacy

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An entertainer, educator, public servent, actor also pass

By The Staff

Two people who left everlasting but vastly different imprints on education in Shelby County passed away in 2013.

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They were among a nationally known musician, a state leader in public affairs a former educator and volunteer and a theater performer were among others who left lasting impressions on Shelby Countians.

Margery Pflughaupt so loved the community of Shelbyville that 17 years after moving away, she urged her husband to establish a scholarship fund for Shelby County students that continued for the better part of two decades.

Fred Trammell, a resident of Bagdad, served through two decades as superintendent of Shelby County Schools and oversaw the construction of Shelby County High School and the merger of the county and city school districts.

And each of them leaves behind monuments to their commitments to young people.

Pflughaupt, 83, died of Alzheimer’s disease at her home in Danville, but her legacy is among  the young people who were able to better their lives because of the generosity of her and her husband, Eugene.

The couple began the Pflughaupt Scholarship Fund in 1995 for Shelby County High School students, originally set at $10,000 in its first few years, but then increasing to $20,000. It replaced a scholarship donated by O.L. and Dorothy Moore, who for decades had given to college bound students.

 “When we read in the paper that the Moores were going to discontinue their scholarship, it was Margery who said, “Hey, we ought to do that,” said Eugene Pflughaupt, who was a member of the Shelby County Board of Education in the 1970s.

“I remember when they first proposed the [scholarship] idea, they came and met with us at the old central office,” former Superintendent Leon Mooneyhan said. “Both of them are just wonderful people, so supportive of this community and of education. They stepped up to the plate when the first scholarship was running out and was supportive of it all of those years. She was just a delight to meet and to get to know. Her commitment to this community and for education was just outstanding.”

Trammell, 98, became the superintendent of Shelby County Public Schools in 1961 and guided the school board and administration through the consolidation process that led to the merger in 1975 of the Shelby County and Shelbyville school districts, the year after he retired from the position. He also owned a beef cattle farm in Bagdad.

Ray Moss Tucker served on the school board during Trammell’s tenure, and Tucker said Trammell’s leadership was instrumental in the merger of Shelbyville and Shelby County school districts.

“He did an excellent job trying to put the district out front,” he said. “He was a very good leader while we were working to get the two districts merged. He deserved a lot of credit for that.”

Tucker, who is also a farmer, said he first met Trammell through the Future Farmers of America.

“I went to a welding class that he was teaching,” Tucker said. “He was very good at that [FFA] and always enjoyed it a lot.”

Harold Thom, 78, left his legacy in music, as founder and leader of the folk/Bluegrass group The Cumberlands, which also included his wife of 55 years, Betty, who died in 2012.

The Cumberlands began in 1963, when the Thoms met up with a banjo player, Jim Smoak, who had ties with Bluegrass music. The group really began to go places in 1966, when Thom left a job in radio and they  began to travel extensively throughout the United States.

It wasn’t long before they became familiar faces in Nashville, receiving a recording contract with DOT records and also Starday-King records, guesting on the Grand Ole Opry and opening shows for numerous artists. 

The Thoms moved to Louisville in November 1969 because of the city’s thriving music scene and their love for Saddlebreds. The Thoms had Saddlebreds for 45 years and for the past 17 years had owned a horse farm on Fields Lane, just east of Simpsonville.

Laurel W. True, 80, had a long, distinguished career in Kentucky state government, holding key positions in public health and public education. Even after he retired, he continued to be a champion for health, education and human service issues, his wife said, as a member of the National Policy Council of AARP, vice chairman of the board of Seven Counties Services and as a former trustee of Georgetown College, his alma mater.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1959, True began a career in state government, first with the Department of Revenue and the former Department of Health, where he was instrumental in establishing the Kentucky Medicaid program and the Appalachian Regional Hospitals system. He also earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan. When the state Department of Human Resources was elevated to cabinet level, he was appointed its first secretary by Gov. Wendell H. Ford. During the administration of Gov. Julian M. Carroll, he served as executive director of a commission on deep mine safety, and he joined the Department of Education as an assistant superintendent under Raymond Barber, the state superintendent of public instruction.

Emma Ellis spent nearly a century devoting herself to serving her community, as a teacher, Red Cross director, scouts leader and election poll worker.

“Everybody knew Ms. Ellis, the ‘Red Cross lady,’” Shelby County Clerk Sue Carole Perry said. “She worked at the polls from the time I started as county clerk until she wasn’t able to anymore. “

Ellis was director of the Shelby County Chapter of the American Red Cross from 1970-89, and Red Cross Ellis was an educator in Scott County and in Shelby County at Gleneyrie and Finchville Elementary School from 1963-70.

She was an active member of Centenary United Methodist Church, where she was active in the church guild and many committees. She was also active in the Homemakers Club, the Christian Women’s Fellowship, the Easter Star, and was a Girl Scout leader, Cub Scout den mother and a 4-H volunteer.

She was chosen in 1989 as Shelbyville Citizen of the Year, an honor of which Mayor Tom Hardesty said she was very deserving.

Robert Francis Zielinski, 73, of Louisville was a West Point graduate, a decorated Army engineer officer of 8 years, and was very active in community theater in both Louisville and Shelbyville, starring in many productions.

Cheryl Van Stockum, past president of SCCT, described Zielinski as a very kind and talented man, who was not only passionate about the theater but was also dedicated to making each production the best it could be.

“He and his wife, they always handled the props, and he always did very detailed research on them,” she said. “One time, after a show, he said, ‘No need to thank me. When I retired, I made up my mind that I would only do things that were fun.’ I never forgot that. He was great.”