Chester Helfrich Lutes
May 2, 1912 - March 30, 2000
Chet was born to Chester Arthur and Nellie Helfrich Lutes on May 2, 1912 in Monon, Indiana. He married Nondis Naomi Shaffer on June 8, 1931. They had seven children. Wanda, LaVerne, Fred, Art, Lovilla, Darryl, and Loren were raised in Monon. Chet and Nondis lived all their life in Monon, except for eight years in retirement in Arizona. He died on March 30, 2000, at the age of 87, after a long battle with cancer.
He started working for the Monon Railroad in 1952, as Mail Messenger and Express Agent, because his father, Art Lutes (who held those positions), became ill. Chet took over full responsibilities when Art retired on June 30, 1954.
The Mail Messenger position was phased out when Monon Railroad discontinued all train mail service on December 31, 1965. A nice article about this last hand-off was in the local Monon News and a copy is enclosed.
Chet continued as Express Agent and Star Route truck driver until his retirement in 1974. He also continued to operate the newspaper agency that his father, Art, had established.
His first job was with the local A&P Store, managed by Val Poffenbarger. Then he drove a huckster route. He also drove a school bus in those early years. And during summers, bussed and supervised corn detasslers. Also had an old truck at one time and made deliveries from the railroad freight house. He also used it to move families; charged $5.00……..$3 for him and $1 each for two helpers.
In 1940, he worked at the railroad car shops in Michigan City. He rented a room with some other men and came home weekends. During World War II, he worked at the Kingsbury Ammunition Plant. After the war, he worked at Alcoa in Lafayette awhile. He worked for the Town of Monon and was Park supervisor several summers. Chet and Nondis started the Lutes Greenhouse, which they continued operating after retirement. Chet was also well-known for gardening …….having a 5 acre truck patch in back of their home.
When the Railroad Express Agency closed, Chet was told to dispose of the property. He chose to save some of it. An old baggage cart he had used (and probably used by his father, too) sat in his back yard many years. Deciding to move to Arizona, an auction was held. This baggage cart was purchased by daughter and son-in-law, Wanda and Duane Durham, and moved to their farm. After restoration by railroad buff, Harold Harvey, it now sits beside the caboose in downtown Monon Caboose Park.
By Sharon Eberhard
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