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CORYDON, Ind. — Some people who grow up in small towns feel they have to leave to make it. The former first lady of Indiana says that’s not so.

Judy O’Bannon, the wife of the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon, still lives in an 1866 log barn which they converted into a living space near Corydon. The O’Bannon’s never left Corydon, even during his time as governor from 1997 to 2003.

“Frank was the first governor with a computer in the governor’s office,” Judy O’Bannon remembered in an interview with Inside Indiana Business. “That’s right. And that’s been like 20 years ago. The first computer in the governor’s office.”

Since her husband’s death in 2003 while still in office, Mrs. O’Bannon has kept up her eye for all things old and of historic significance.

“I like old things that people have touched against them,” she said. “And they’ve left their fingerprints during what I call their dance of life.”

She puts that on display in her family’s ownership of one of the oldest newspapers in Indiana. The O’Bannon’s have owned “The Corydon Democrat” for more than 100 years and she says that they still run it because it’s important to keep people informed on the local level of what’s going on in their community.

“I very much believe in the freedom of the press,” O’Bannon said. “It’s the messenger and facilitator of a community. How can you connect and find out what family’s house burned and needs help? You’re not going to read that in the Wall Street Journal.”

She also said it’s important that the stigma of people feeling they have to get out of small towns needs to be broken. O’Bannon said the pandemic may have been an eye-opener for people who worked from home that their small towns may have more to offer than they realize.

But, she says towns need to be vigilant about making sure there are things that people want to hang around for. O’Bannon says creating things that improve quality of life is the key to keeping small-town Indiana alive.