By Joe Lanane
ELWOOD — There is only one moment in town history that Elwood resident Dave Berkemeier can liken to Mary Beth Dunnichay’s Olympics entry announced on Monday. Overall, he said, this marks the most historic point for the community since Wendell Willkie announced on Aug. 17, 1940, in his hometown of Elwood, that he would accept the Republican presidential nomination.

“This has to be up there with that,” Berkemeier said, calling this a “red-banner year for Elwood” after Dunnichay’s success and the high school’s recent 2A state runner-up performance in baseball. “Just thinking about (having an Elwood resident in the Olympics) gives me goose bumps.”

While Willkie eventually lost to two-term incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt later that year, Elwood residents hope for a more favorable outcome for Dunnichay.

Regardless of outcome, however, Elwood Mayor Merrill Taylor said there is a great deal of town pride to be had for the 15-year-old standout who still calls him “Papa.”

“I remember when Mary Beth was just a baby, and she’s just been something kind of special ever since she was born,” Taylor said. “For her to mature into the young lady she is and go on into the type of fame she’s going to have in her life, Elwood needs to be very, very, very proud of this young lady.”

It did not take long for word to spread throughout the 9,700 residents of Elwood.

Friendly’s Restaurant, 2115 Main St., has been the breakfast getaway every Sunday for Mary Beth and the Dunnichay family after church services. Megan Coubert, server at Friendly’s for 12 years, said she has seen Dunnichay grow up before her very eyes each week.

“We’ve been telling everybody that comes in (about the news) — everyone’s really excited,” Coubert said. “The whole town pulled behind the baseball team, and I imagine the same will happen for (Dunnichay).”

The Olympics fever is already catching on in Elwood, as banners, yard signs and even hula hoops in the form of the Olympics rings have graced the community. Berkemeier said he also hopes to have the window of his Edward Jones Investments’ office painted with red, white and blue before too long.

“We need to tell everyone 1,000 miles outside of here on each side that she’s from Elwood,” Berkemeier said.