Archived Story

Cass County loses 4-H leader

Published 2:18pm Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sylvia Fetter, Cass County Fair horse superintendent and a 49-year 4-H leader, lost her life crashing into a tree Monday night in Elkhart County, Ind.

Connelly Funeral Home in Cassopolis is in charge of arrangements.

Fetter, 66, of Edwardsburg, told Concord Township EMS workers she had hip pain and trouble breathing immediately after the head-on crash at 9:20 p.m. She died at Elkhart General Hospital.

Cause of death was under investigation, according to an Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department news release.

A witness told police they saw in the rearview mirror Fetter’s westbound car veer off County Road 20, just west of County Road 9. The witness turned around and found her car had struck the tree.

In September 2002, Fetter was inducted into the Michigan Emerald Clover Society for her outstanding contributions to 4-H programs.

At the time, the businesswoman credited 4-H with teaching her “initiative, sportsmanship, independence, responsibility, commitment, leadership and provided me with a sense of belonging to something that’s good, positive and wholesome.”

Sylvia Irene Harp Fetter until 1990 was a noted educator and advocate for disabled adults in Cass County.

The former Miss Cass County began her career as a social studies teacher in the Edwardsburg school system. She joined the staff of Aux Chandelles, a private school in Elkhart, Ind.

In 1974, Fetter joined Cass County Community Mental Health, now known as Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare Network.

For 15 years she served as advocate, case manager and developmental disabilities specialist and program director and manager for citizens with disabilities.
Fetter established a homebound program for children with special needs, the first adult activity program and adult work activity program and the first Cass County Alternatives to Institutional Settings residence for severely mentally challenged adults.

Fetter was a former president of the Cass County chapter of the National Management Association.

Her longevity as a 4-H leader and willingness to serve carried on a family tradition.
Fetter’s parents, Wilma (Reinoehl) and Harold Harp, owned the corner store at U.S. 12 and Cassopolis Road on the way to Elkhart. It was in business until 1995. In 1946, the couple purchased his father’s service station and added a general store that stocked everything.

Mr. Harp, who died in 2002, was a Cass County commissioner, chairman of the Mason Township Board of Review, township treasurer , a member of the building commission for the Medical Care Facility and courthouse annex, instrumental in establishing the Mason-Union Library and a Farm Bureau member.

In 1956, the Harps founded 5-H Horse Club to develop blue-ribbon youth rather than champion horses.

He served as a Cass County Fair board director for 19 years, superintendent of horses for more than 40 years.

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