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An Interview with Senator Ed Charbonneau (transcription)

Q: Tell me about some of your earliest memories about Valpo and the area in general.
A: I grew up in downtown Gary, a long time ago, and a couple of memories stick out in my mind. When I was little, our family would take a trip to Seven Dolors Shrine in South Haven. It's now part of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. I've noticed they have sold off a lot of the grounds and they have housing and apartments in that area, but I think that the shrine is still there.

Every now and then, I'll go to the church on Saturday night, but I haven't visited the shrine. Back in those days, taking a trip from downtown Gary to South Haven wasn't something you did in half an hour. It was pretty much something you did on a Sunday afternoon or early evening trip. I can still remember pretty vividly the shrine there. It's just something that's always stuck out as a memory for me.

Ed Charbonneau Video Interview: Part One | Part Two

One other memory is trying to figure out where I was on IN-130 out of Hobart to Valparaiso. There was a fountain on the side of the road with a bubbling spring that you could stop and drink water out of it, and I can't figure out where it was back then. But, those are early early memories. I went to Emerson High School in Gary and we played Valparaiso High School in basketball and baseball. I remember those games quite well.

Q: What brought you to Valpo then as an adult?
A: I worked for US Steel for 36 years. From a history standpoint, my grandfather on my mother's side tapped the first heap of steel at Gary Works. So, we go back a long way. My daughter was the 4th generation that worked for the steel company. After she graduated from Valparaiso University, she went and worked. After she had her first child, she decided to become a full-time mother and didn't go back [to work].

But anyways, after I graduated from Wabash, I walked down the street. We lived right down the street from the employment office, and I got my first job after college. Over the years, the corporation moved me around the country. We lived in Baytown, TX, right outside of Houston. We lived in San Francisco and Pittsburgh. My office was in Chicago two different times, and I was in Gary three times. We were living in San Francisco, and the corporation moved me to Chicago. I'm from Gary, my wife is from Hammond, and my office was in Chicago.

I felt that the commute from the western suburbs was going to be a lot easier because of the train system that they have in Illinois, so we started looking for homes. But, my heart, and I think my wife's heart, weren't really up for living in Illinois. Both of our parents were still alive. It seems like the longer we looked, the farther along the tip of Lake Michigan we were looking for homes. Finally, one day my wife went out and picked up a realtor for a day in Valparaiso. This is two months into looking for houses. The first time she came to Valparaiso, the real estate agent went around and showed her a couple houses. And, she said, "You know, I think I know exactly the house that you will be interested in." And, the next day she took her and showed her the house that we've been living in the for the past 30 years.

It was pretty remarkable. The owners at the time were trying to sell it by themselves. This was obviously a good real estate agent. She listened to my wife, she listened to what she was interested in. She went to the owners of the home and got a 24-hour listing. The rest is history. We have loved Valparaiso. We have absolutely stumbled into just an ideal location where we live. It's great to walk to the high school for the kids and right by the golf course and St. Paul's Church. Everything just worked out perfectly.

Q: What do you really love about living in Valpo?
A: Parks. They're just an ideal place for young families. Really for anybody. We were concerned about the things to do for kids. And, the school system is outstanding. We sent our two children to St. Paul's Grade School, but it was a close call, because I went to parochial school growing up. I always thought I wanted my kids to go to parochial school and you come to a town like Valparaiso where you get a really good school system certainly other things enter into the equation. The reading, the writing, the arithmetic that they're going to get, because it's a very good education in the public schools.

But, the park system and the Boys and Girls Club is right downtown. Our son, in particular, played everything; all the sports. I had a chance to coach his soccer team, coach his basketball team when they were playing down at the Boy's and Girl's Club and again when he played for St. Paul's. There's so much in the way of things to do for young people and us also. It's a very vibrant community, and I think it's a remarkable place. It's remarkable to watch what has gone on in Valparaiso in 30 years. It's certainly a growing community, and it has grown well. I speak highly enough of the leadership of Mayor Costas, who I'm a huge fan of. I think he's a great visionary and more so, he gets things done.

One thing I will just never forget. You have certain things that go on with your wife, your kids over time, but they just stick out in your mind. Mike, our son, and I were having dinner one evening. It was a Sunday night. We probably had been golfing somewhere that day. And, we decided to go to Bistro 157 for dinner and eat outside. It was just a spectacular evening. Here I'm having dinner with my son outside and downtown Valparaiso as the sun was going down and the lights were coming on in town. I looked at Mike and said, "You know, if we were in California, if were in Colorado, we would be saying 'Man, this is great!' " And, here we have it in our own backyard. We take it for granted a lot. But, this is what people take vacations for and we have it here. We have it in our own community. It's a remarkable place.

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