SHS Hall of Fame inducts trio of new members

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

Jean Ann Dellekamp Wheeler did not have a normal childhood growing up in Shelbyville.

One of three new inductees into the Shelbyville High School Alumni Hall of Fame, Dellekamp Wheeler talked Thursday during the induction ceremony in the Golden Bear Room at the high school about how swimming altered her path in life.

“I think gifts surface in many, many unsuspecting ways,” she told the small crowd in attendance. “One, for me, when I was 11 years old, this was after a year of having some troubles in school. My father and mother saw an ad in a little book for the Indianapolis Athletic Club. They had a swimming pool downstairs and a diving board. My parents gave me diving lessons at age 11 for my birthday.

“The second time in a row we came for a lesson the diving coach did not show up. So the swimming coach off to the side saw us and knew my dad drove all the way from Shelbyville and politely said, ‘Mr. Dellekamp, why don’t you let her try to go with the swim team for awhile.’”

One coach’s loss was another’s gain. For a student that struggled dealing with ADD and dyslexia in the 1950s, the water was a perfect home.

She won seven national championships in breaststroke, set five world records, twice was named All-American and was an alternate for the 1960 Rome Olympics – four years before her high school graduation.

“It was a very unsuspecting gift having missed those diving lessons,” said Dellekamp Wheeler. “It changed the lives of my sister and my brother and certainly my parents.”

After months of training at Indiana University under Hall of Fame swim coach James “Doc” Councilman, Dellekamp Wheeler decided to end her competitive career to enjoy life as a teenager in Shelbyville. She feared the decision would leave Councilman disappointed in her.

“At that time I was swimming in Bloomington and I was all of 16 years old,” she said. “I’d been swimming since I was 11, did quite well and was appreciated, but I’d never been a normal kid in school. So I went to Doc Counsilman and said, ‘I would like to stop swimming but I don’t want to be a quitter. Will you shake hands with me if I set world records in my events and say I want to quit?’

“He said, ‘That’s not quitting. That’s retiring. There is a big difference. If you state what you are going to do and you’re going to stop something, make a plan, set your goals, accomplish your goals and then retire.’”

Competitive swimming took over the Dellekamp family as Jean Ann’s sister won a state championship in breaststroke and her brother was named captain of Notre Dame’s swim team during his collegiate career.

Dellekamp Wheeler gravitated to teaching after graduating from both Indiana University and Butler University.

At the age of 33, she transitioned into medical sales where the drive and goal setting that propelled her swimming career also flourished. She became nationally-recognized in surgery sales of instruments and high-tech equipment to both surgeons and hospitals.

She is married with two children and two granddaughters and lives out west where she enjoys hiking in the Colorado and Arizona mountains.

“It’s an honor to be recognized,” said Dellekamp Wheeler after the ceremony. “The people that have already received the award ... their accomplishments are so broad. I would like to salute this to my family and my parents, who drove me many, many miles in the car.”

Dellekamp Wheeler, a 1964 graduate, is the 34th person inducted in the Shelbyville High School Alumni Hall of Fame, which was created in 2008.

The 35th inductee is Sandy E. Allen, class of 1973.

One of Shelbyville’s most recognizable citizens, Allen gained worldwide notoriety when she was named the world’s tallest woman by the Guinness World Book of Records. At seven feet, seven-and-one quarter inches, Allen towered over most everyone around her. Her positive energy and encouraging messages came from embracing her size.