Dr. Robert M. Abel
Nov. 10, 1924 - Jan. 14, 2017
WAKARUSA - Dr. Robert M. Abel, age 92, of Wakarusa, died at 2:30 am, Saturday, January 14, 2017 at Elkhart General Hospital. He was born November 10, 1924 to Ralph M. and Edna (Pletcher) Abel in Wakarusa and grew up on a farm near Wakarusa.
On August 13, 1948 he married Betty Ann Hattery in Martinsville. She preceded him in death November 4, 2014.
Dr. Abel was a 1942 graduate of Wakarusa High School. He then attended Goshen College for 2 years before joining the United States Army and serving overseas during WWII. After returning home from the Army he graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1950.
Dr. Abel began his medical practice in Wakarusa, July 1, 1951 and in 1957 built the Wakarusa Medical Clinic. In 2010 he opened the WaNee Medical Walk In Clinic, continuing to practice until December 27, 2016.
Dr. Abel was a member of AMA and Indiana Medical Association for over 60 years. He was a member of the Elkhart General Hospital staff for over 66 years. He proudly delivered approximately 10,612 babies to local families. He served as the Medical Director for Bashor Home of the United Methodist Churches for 60 years. In 1995, he was elected to the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame for his years of service as team medical doctor and in 1996 was elected to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
Dr. Abel's love for his hometown of Wakarusa was shown in many areas. He was a member of the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce, Wakarusa Lions Club, Historical Society, and Friends of the Wakarusa Public Library. In 1989 he was instrumental in Miller's Merry Manor coming to Wakarusa and building a 132 bed nursing home, and in 2000 adding a 40 unit assisted living complex. He served as the medical director for these facilities. In 1989, he developed Orchard Park for 19 new homes and Orchard Park Apartments. In 1982, he bought the closed Wolfberg Stores in Wakarusa and renovated them into offices and retail stores to serve the town. In 1999 he was honored as the Citizen of the Year by the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, WaNee Community Schools dedicated and named the NorthWood Middle School football field “Doc” Abel Field in honor of his life-long commitment and service to our communities.
Dr. Abel was appointed by the Judge of Elkhart County in 1962, to develop the WaNee School System under the new School Reorganization Act and served on the school board for 34 years - 18 years as the president, which is one of the longest tenures in Indiana.
Dr. Abel was active in Indiana 4-H since 1934 as a member, leader, and advisory board member. He was a past president and was still serving as a member of the Elkhart County 4-H Board, and the review and expansion committee. From 1980 to 1986, he served on the Indiana 4-H Foundation Board and served his last 5 years as president. This board also serves with the Dean of Agriculture of Purdue University. In 1985, he was awarded the Outstanding 4-H Alumni Award by Purdue Extension Service. In 1985 he was elected to the Hall of Fame for State and County Fairs.
Dr. Abel was the recipient of 3 Sagamores of the Wabash awarded by 3 different governors and in October, 2016 was a Torch Bearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.
Surviving are his children, Nancy (Tom) Roeder, Robert Abel II, Randy (Jane) Abel, all of Wakarusa and Michael (Linda) Abel of North Platte, Nebraska; grandchildren, Andrew (Billie) Roeder, Charlie (Kristin) Roeder, Molly (Dave) Wilson, Samantha Abel, Spencer Abel, Lacy Abel and Tyler (Jackie) Abel; and great-grandchildren, Owen, Anna, Olive, Pia, Urban Roeder, Jesse, Miriam, Hudson, Holden Wilson, and Taytem and Rylee Abel. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; sister, Kathryn Weaver; and brother, Paul Abel.
Family and friends may call from 2-8 Monday, January 16, 2017 at the NorthWood Middle School Gymnasium in Wakarusa and for 2 hours prior to the funeral service which will be at 7pm, Tuesday, Jan. 17th.
Memorial contributions may be given to the Dr. Robert Abel memorial fund.
Arrangements are with Thompson-Lengacher & Yoder Funeral Home, Wakarusa.
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Published by South Bend Tribune on Jan. 15, 2017.