Scout builds memorial to 'Peck' Lomax at Kickapoo

RURAL OAKWOOD — It has been nearly two decades since Alpheus "Peck" Lomax lived near Kickapoo State Park, and even longer since he ran Peck's Bait Shop.

But now his memory will live on at the state recreation area thanks to a memorial that was built on the Riverview Trail by a local Boy Scout.

Kheagyn Gritten, 13, of Muncie designed and built the Peck Lomax Memorial as an Eagle Scout project. He and members of his Boy Scouts troop, Troop 79 from St. Joseph, will dedicate the memorial at 9 a.m. today (Saturday, Aug. 31).

"I think it was a really nice thing to do," said Peggy Mosher, Lomax's daughter, who lives about a mile north of the park.

"Everybody in the county knew him," she said of her father. "Everybody liked him. He was a character."

The son of Nicole Powell and William Gritten, Kheagyn is an eighth-grader at Oakwood Junior High School. He has been involved in Scouting for about six years.

Kheagyn never knew Lomax, who died at the age of 90 in 1994, six years before the teen was born. He got the idea for the memorial from John Hott, Kickapoo's site superintendent.

"I thought it sounded good," Kheagyn recalled. Once he started the project, he learned that his best friend, Paul Kirkpatrick of Fithian, was a distant relative of Lomax's.

The project required Kheagyn to do some research on Lomax, which he did by visiting with Mosher. According to Mosher, Lomax's ancestors came from England and settled the land in and around what's now the park, in 1865.

Lomax's father sent him to work in the coal mines at 16. Lomax did that for 26 years, then worked as an electrician after having learned those skills in the mines.

Lomax, whose family lived in a house near what's now Kickapoo's western entrance, opened the bait shop in 1933, during the Great Depression, to help support his wife, Gwendolyn, and their three kids. He and Gwendolyn ran it for nearly 50 years.

"He sold night crawlers, and he had a tank with over 1,000 minnows," Kheagyn said. Mosher said her dad drove to Wisconsin to get the minnows.

She also pointed out her mother did a lot of the work, while her father entertained the fishermen who hung around with his stories.

After consulting with Hott, Kheagyn found a location for the memorial. It's just off the Riverwalk Trail, which circles Clear Lake and the Inland Sea, on a bluff overlooking the scenic Middle Fork River and what once was Lomax's old homestead.

Several scouts and adults spent four days helping him clear the area of small trees and brush, building stairs made out of wooden planks to the site and landscaping the area with day lillies, sweet woodruff, corydalis yellow, harvest burgundy and caramel coral bell and carex ice dance grass. Then he and his grandfather, Ron Powell of Fithian, assembled a bench made out of recycled material, took it to the site and anchored it down.

About a week ago, he added a plaque to the bench, which includes an inscription and pictures of Lomax, his wife and the bait shop.

"I hope people who are walking on the trail will stop and see the memorial and remember what Peck did for Kickapoo," said Kheagyn, who also financed the project by raising $900 in donations.

He said he's excited about the dedication ceremony. Park staff will provide Gator rides for people who are unable to walk the short distance from the trail entrance to the memorial site.

Mosher won't be able to attend the dedication. But she, her brother, John Lomax of Albion, Ind., and about 20 or so children and grandchildren, some of whom are traveling from out of the area, plan to visit the site later in the afternoon.

"I can't wait to see it," she said.

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