COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - An icy blizzard dumped 7 1/2 inches of snow on Columbus on Feb. 25, 1961, causing widespread power outages and forcing 2,000 people to spend the night in restaurants, the high school gym and strangers' homes.
The Evening Republican called it the "most paralyzing sleet and snow blizzard in (Columbus) history."
At Columbus High School Memorial Gymnasium, on 25th Street, Irvin Finke and his wife, Joy, watched the Columbus High School Bulldogs win the sectional crown.
After the game, roads were impassable. Snow drifts reached as high as school bus windows.
"You couldn't drive the roads. I mean it was pitiful," Finke recalled.
"Most people had to spend the night there (at the gym). But not Irvin," said Mike Yarnell, a farmer and friend and neighbor of Finke.
Instead, Finke walked with his wife to the Bob - O - Link restaurant, at the intersection of 25th Street and U.S. 31, where she stayed overnight with other stranded motorists.
Finke kept going. He wanted to get to his barn, about four miles to the north.
"He had to go home and milk his cows," Yarnell said.
So Finke walked, through blowing snow, over streets and county roads and fields, and knocked on the Yarnells' door around 1 or 2 a.m.
Finke wanted to warm up at his neighbors' farm but was determined to keep walking, Yarnell recalled.
Yarnell's father, Richard, who was Finke's best friend, persuaded him to stay until morning.
Friends and family members say the episode is typical of Finke's perseverance.
"He's very determined. Some people would say hard-headed," said his daughter Jill Wilkerson, a Columbus North High School teacher.
That resolve, which to this day keeps Finke farming, selling seeds and taking care of a cemetery at 81 years old, has its origins in his upbringing in the Great Depression era, when family farms were the norm and the children of farmers were expected to carry on the agricultural tradition. That won't happen in Finke's case, and he worries about his farm's future.
Finke, two sisters and six brothers were born between 1922 and 1939. Their parents, Walter and Katie Finke, had a farm on Road 100E, west of Clifford. Two of the brothers died of scarlet fever. One served in the Pacific in World War II, and another fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The family had everything it needed, but sharing and innovation were critical.
Irvin and his brother Richard, 79, remember farming with a walking plow and horses, picking tomatoes and milking cows before school, and putting heated bricks in their beds to keep warm.
Their brother Joe, 72, remembers the brothers trying to break horses, swimming in the Flatrock River, throwing rotten tomatoes at siblings and jumping off a 12-foot-high hay loft into loose hay.
"It's a wonder we didn't get hurt worse that what we did," Joe said recently, sitting next to Richard in the kitchen of the home in which the children grew up. Joe takes care of the family farm. Richard has retired from farming. A nephew, Tom Finke, takes care of his farm.