Life Remembered | Philo already missing village trustee John Mumma's 'level head,' sense of humor

Life Remembered | Philo already missing village trustee John Mumma's 'level head,' sense of humor

PHILO — A picture of John Mumma in overalls and a Chicago Cubs hat rested Thursday morning on the Philo Tavern chair where he always sat with other early morning coffee regulars.

Anyone who knew him — and that's just about everyone in Philo — would recognize something wrong with that picture.

The ball cap.

"He was a huge Cardinals fan," Philo Mayor Larry Franks said of Mr. Mumma, 67, a longtime friend and a colleague on the village board who was killed Wednesday in a fiery five-vehicle crash in southern Indiana.

That picture — placed on Mr. Mumma's chair by a member of their coffee group, which meets every morning except Sundays before the Philo Tavern officially opens — captured one of the best memories of their friend.

It's proof of the day he lost a bet and had to wear a Cubs hat all day long, because the rivals of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals had finally won the World Series.

"I'm going to miss him so much," said Franks, who choked up several times talking about Mr. Mumma: a lifelong Philo area farmer, village board trustee for more than 30 years, husband, father of three adult daughters, a grandfather, great-grandfather, and loyal friend.

Mr. Mumma, a Unity High School graduate, started farming before he was a teenager and never quit, and also loved truck and tractor pulling as a hobby. He was on his way to Louisville on Wednesday to meet his son-in-law and daughter and participate in a big pull event when the accident happened.

The chain-reaction crash, which also claimed the lives of a Wisconsin couple, happened shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday along southbound Interstate 65 in Indiana's Jackson County. A semitrailer truck failed to slow for stopped traffic and hit a recreational vehicle, resulting in the fiery five-vehicle pileup in which Mr. Mumma died.

Brad Bollman, owner of the Philo Tavern, said Mr. Mumma was known and liked by many people, locally as well as outside the community, where many knew him through his hobby. Mr. Mumma had long been involved with the Illinois Tractor Pulling Association and National Tractor Pulling Association, and had his own tractor that competed in events.

"He was a fantastic guy. He was ridiculously loud, and if you didn't laugh at John Mumma then you weren't going to laugh at anything," Bollman said. "I knew him, and I'm going to miss him."

Both Philo area natives, Franks and Mr. Mumma grew closer when their adult children were young and in school together.

"He was just a really, really good friend," Franks said. "John's always been a very outgoing, sincere person, a compassionate person."

It was Franks who first got involved with the village board. He encouraged Mr. Mumma to do the same.

His friend had a "level head," was knowledgeable about many things, especially drainage, and gave very good advice as a trustee, said Franks, who called him his lieutenant. He said he was such a good leader.

"It was never about John. It was the community, what was best for the community. That was always his outlook," Franks said. "I could always count on John to come up with the best idea."

But Mr. Mumma wasn't a "yes" man.

"John and I could disagree about issues on the board, but never to the point where it wavered our relationship," Franks said. "That's what I always really admired about him."

Franks said his friend was known for salty language, even at board meetings.

"I'd have to give him a nudge. He always said it was a kick," he said. "It was just his vocabulary."

Mr. Mumma served his community in other ways through the years, coaching softball when his daughters were younger, serving as vice president of the park district and as a volunteer firefighter for years, including as assistant fire chief.

Chris Lueth, 33, an ESDA co-director in Philo, grew up just a couple blocks from the Mumma family residence, and remembers Mr. Mumma giving him his first-ever ride in a combine when he was a kid. He said he farmed two fields right around his parents' house on the edge of Philo.

"It was fun watching everything go into the head of the combine," said Lueth, who was on the volunteer fire department with Mr. Mumma for two years before the latter retired.

"He was very personable, and always really funny, always had good jokes, and always willing to help out anybody," he said.

Franks said his good friend was also a very devoted husband to his wife, Brenda, whom he met through his hobby, and devoted father to their daughters, Misty, Robin and Kristin, all of whom have children of their own now.

Although Mr. Mumma was still working on the farm, he didn't miss any of his grandkids' activities, Franks said.

Mr. Mumma had stopped by Franks' house on his way out of town Wednesday morning to drop off paperwork for that night's village board meeting.

"I had to cancel the board meeting on Wednesday, because I could not do it," Franks said.

But their coffee group still met Thursday morning with that picture in Mr. Mumma's seat.

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