Lange, Ruxer honored as business pillars

From Local Sources

Clem Lange and the late Alvin C. Ruxer have officially been inducted into the Dubois County Business Hall of Fame.

Ruxer, who started Ruxer Ford and Jasper Engines & Transmissions, and Lange, who founded Best Home Furnishings, comprise the second class of inductees after Robert Ruckriegel and the late Arnold F. Habig became the inaugural inductees in 2015. The announcement came this morning at the Huntingburg Event Center with a crowd of about 450.

Lange, 80, is the active laureate. Ruxer, who died in 1991, is the historical laureate. Each year, two inductees are added — one active and one historical.

Lange was successful in both business endeavors and charitable ventures. Born in St. Henry in 1935, he served in the Army from 1958 to ’60, during which time he was stationed in Germany, working as a mechanic in a motor pool. Lange married his wife, Mary Catherine Fuhs of Jasper, after returning from Germany. He founded what was then Best Chairs with friend Ernie Prechtel in 1962. The duo reupholstered truck seats and residential chairs near Bretzville, failing to make a profit in the first year. Since that initial year, the business has never had another unprofitable year. In a video before his induction, Lange said the decision to found what was then Best Chairs (and later became Best Home Furnishings) came over a few beers at the Schnitzelbank restaurant in Jasper. Lange also joked that he was able to keep his kids in line. His four children — sons Glenn, Joey and Brian and daughter Sheila Wendholt — serve as executives in the company, which produces more than 4,000 pieces of furniture a day and ranks among the nation’s top 15 furniture suppliers.

“If they didn’t do what I wanted, they got a boot up their butt,” Lange said of his children.

Today, Best employs nearly 1,000 people in five southern Indiana posts.

Lange is semi-retired and serves as chairman of the board of directors. The Langes’ charitable endeavors include the lead donation for the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center at Memorial Hospital in Jasper, as well as a lead donation for the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand. The Langes have also provided funding for a fire department building and fire trucks in Ferdinand and have contributed in various ways to schools and other local foundations.

“I’m not supposed to have a very long speech,” Lange said. “But I do want to say a few things for all the people who worked for us over the years. It’s unbelievable how they worked and how long they stayed. We still have some retiring at 45, 46 years. And I really want to thank them for staying that long and the hard work they did.”

Ruxer, who was born in 1908, was involved in many business ventures. Jasper Engines and Ruxer Ford were his two biggest local endeavors; today, both companies combine to employ more than 1,200 people. Ruxer also founded Jasper State Bank, which is now part of Fifth Third Bank.

But perhaps, some of his greatest accomplishments came from charitable endeavors. Ruxer, an avid baseball fan, gave money to support the sport at all levels and was nicknamed “Jasper’s Mr. Baseball.” He helped upgrade the Jasper High School baseball facilities, which lead to Recreation Field being renamed Ruxer Field in 1991. In 1983, Ruxer was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

His contributions extended beyond sports, as he helped establish VUJC and was a charter member of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors for Vincennes University and Memorial Hospital.

Rev. Donald Ackerman, a former pastor of Ruxer’s at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper, accepted the award this morning. In 1947, Ackerman went to St. Louis on a trip with Ruxer and school children to see the New York Yankees play the St. Louis Browns in a Major League Baseball game. The Yankees came in riding a 15-game winning streak and the Browns had lost 12 in a row, Ackerman remembered. But the Browns won.

“What a thrill that was,” Ackerman said. “Alvin helped the youth and I saw his acts of kindness over and over again. (He) made sure that young people had some good thing in life that they could enjoy.”

Ackerman said Ruxer also had an interest in making sure that Dubois County stayed a great place to live and raise a family. He said Ruxer’s business and charitable ventures showed such a stance. Ruxer also paid for the stain-glass windows at Holy Family.

“I believe Alvin was a very good man,” Ackerman said. “May his soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”