Steve Culbertson helps Evansville from the classroom to Main Street
Family: Wife, Carol; two sons and four grandchildren.
Where he lives: In a 150-year-old home with lustrous floors, large windows and a rather unique, crooked entryway. Fitting for a history lover.
Hobbies: Like most owners of old homes, Culbertson continues working on his home. He is a model railroad hobbyist, and he and his wife created a garden track in their backyard. He reads everything, especially hobby magazines and detective stories. The couple travel, with destinations based mostly on their genealogy. Next stops: England and Ireland.
Why does he like history? "You figure out what you are because of ancestors. In studying, you realize why people do some of the things they do and how your thought patterns operate."
On living on Main Street: The Culbertsons might have retired to a quiet, rural community, but their location is busier than their former home in Monona. They hear the sirens of the police cars and ambulances, the farm machinery, the school buses. The couple know when an athletic team has won because a fire truck screams by piled with kids. They just haul out their lawn chairs for a prime seat for the Fourth of July parade.
Other activities: The Evansville United Methodist Church, where Culbertson is a trustee; the Evansville Ecumenical Care Closet; Meals on Wheels; the Woodchucks, a woodworking group that also mentors school-aged children; the Evansville Grove Society; the Old House Group; the Evansville Historic Preservation Commission.
EVANSVILLE Lucky for Evansville, Steve Culbertson is a hardy snowbird who opted to retire about 20 miles south.
Culbertson, 69, and his wife, Carol, moved to Evansville about eight years ago after retiring from the Monona Water Utility.
The initial draw was family. But the couple also gravitated to the small-town friendliness.
Since then, Culbertson and his wife have pitched in for the community. Culbertson helps tend to its flesh and blood and its brick and mortar.
"What are you going to do, sit around and look at the walls?" Culbertson asked with a patented smile and twinkle in his eyes. He comes from a family that "just can't sit."
Culbertson volunteers with historical organizations, his church and Meals on Wheels. Several people say the renovation of the historic Baker Office Building would not have happened if not for Culbertson, his determination and his building skills.
Culbertson's face lights up when he talks about the young, struggling readers he tutors twice a week.
"They are the coolest things on Earth," he said. "They don't care what they say or who they're talking to. You just watch them learn."
Julie Creek-Hessler, a teacher at Levi Leonard Elementary School, said she and Culbertson have worked together for more than six years. She calls him the most reliable volunteer she's ever had.
Culbertson works closely with the teachers to reinforce in the students areas of weakness, such as in fluency and punctuation. He also works on vocabulary with children who don't speak English.
Culbertson doesn't stick to a time slot, Creek-Hessler said.
"He's working with those kids until he gets every single one of them on my list."
Culbertson's sense of humor and kindness inspire the kids to work hard. He gives them "100 percent" of his attention. He has a knack for reaching difficult children through motivation and encouraging them to have pride in themselves, she said.
"They (the students) beg to be with him," Creek-Hessler said. "They just love him."
And the krumkake cookies Culbertson and his wife bring in at Christmas.
"Mr. Steve" is so popular that he volunteered extra hours with the good readers because they felt left out.
John Decker, president of the Evansville Grove Society, the local historic organization, said the renovation of the historic Baker Office Building might have languished forever had it not been for Culbertson. Decker calls him a jack-of-all-trades.
"He's got a lot of talents, so there are a lot of things that he can do as a volunteer," his friend said. "He makes it fun."
Dave Wartenweiler, Evansville's director of public works, said the project had been on hold for a decade.
Culbertson is a "tireless worker" and a "joy to work with," Wartenweiler said. "If they paid him 50 cents an hour, he'd be a rich man for all the hours he put it on that."
Culbertson said that just because he's retired doesn't mean he has spare time.
"You're working," he said. "You're just not getting paid for it."