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Monday, May 2, 2016

Orville never lived in Center Point!

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Verna Butt, front, seated, looks at a picture of her cousin, Orville Redenbacher, with her daughter, Louise Fagg, and son, Virgil Butts.

Note this:

The first Clay County Popcorn Festival will begin Thursday at 4 p.m. with a carnival in Forest Park. A Victorian Ball is planned Friday. See the special section of Tuesday's Brazil Times or visit http://www.popcornfest.com for more information.

Orville Redenbacher did not live in Center Point.

"I don't know where that came from," said Verna Butt, a first cousin to Orville.

"We lived a mile down the road from each other on SR 42. Orville's house was about a mile west of SR 59."

Verna was visiting with her son, Virgil Butts, and her daughter, Louise Fagg, Tuesday afternoon talking about her famous relative.

The original Redenbacher house burned down when Orville was at Purdue University but it was replaced with a new one. Glen Kirchner now owns the old Redenbacher farm.

The area where Orville and Verna grew up was called Clay Prairie. There used to be a grocery store, a 1st through 8th grade school and a Methodist Church. Only the church building still stands but the sign out front now says "Church of the Living Christ, Whosoever Will Outreach Center."

"Schools were placed every two miles back then," said the 95-year-old Verna. "Because of where our houses were located, I went the first seven years to Dutch Huffman School and Orville went to Clay Prairie."

Verna explained that for some reason she attended one year, 8th grade, at Clay Prairie, but since Orville was a year older, he had already entered high school at Brazil. The next year Verna enrolled at Staunton High School.

Even though the two never attended school together, they spent time with one another when their mothers worked, helping each other. The sisters-in-law frequently helped each other hang wall paper, butcher, put up hay or fix big meals for other hay workers.

Orville was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college.

"Everybody else around here went to Staunton," Verna said. "But Orville went to Brazil. I don't really know why. He drove a horse and buggy to school. Grandpa Dierdorf was living with Orville's family then.

"Grandpa worked in the garden a lot. It was late when Orville got home from school so he didn't do as much gardening as Grandpa thought he should. He used to say 'That kid will never amount to a dime.'"

But the life-long lover of pop corn amounted to a lot more than that when he became the "Popcorn King". Orville graduated from Purdue where he studied agronomy, a branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production and soil management. Using those skills, Orville and a partner, Charles Bowman, developed a hybrid popcorn that made plumper kernels.

When Orville and his partner were deciding what to name their company, they hired a marketing firm to come up with a name. They came up with Orville Redenbacher.

Verna's daughter, Louise commented, "Orville said, 'It cost me $13,000 to come up with the same name my mother did.'"

When Verna's husband, Lloyd Butt, died in 1989, Orville sent her a case of unpopped popcorn in lieu of flowers.

"I'd rather had flowers," Verna said smiling.

Orville usually made it back to Clay County about once a year to keep in touch with his family. He was at a family gathering at Company's Coming Restaurant about 15 years ago. Verna's great grandson, Jason Mitchell, who was about 11 at the time, asked Orville why he always wore a bow-tie.

"He said 'cause it wouldn't get in the soup," Verna laughed.

After Orville's first wife died, he remarried and moved to California.

"One day I got a call from Orville out in California," Verna said. "He wanted to know who was with his mother the night he was born. I said, well, how would I know Orville? I'm 11 months younger than you are. He said he wanted to know cause he was writing a book. Supposedly he completed it but I don't know whatever came of it."

When asked why she thought Orville was so interested in popcorn, Verna replied, "He just really liked popcorn."

Her son, Virgil, added, "Someone said they ate popcorn at home nearly every night."

"Orville thought there was something the matter with people who didn't like popcorn," Verna said. "The family was pretty proud of him. He worked hard to get where he was."

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