Obituary Harold L. (Skeeter) Small
Our beloved and unique Harold (Skeeter) Small left this earth on April 20, 2023, to join hands again with his beloved wife, Bonnie, and son, Marcus. Skeeter was born in Knox, Indiana on September 25, 1935, to Ernest D. and Zepha A. (Hardesty) Small. Skeeter was an only child and attended the Knox Schools graduating in 1955. He went on to attend the International Business College in Fort Wayne, graduating in 1957. Skeeter was born with a vision defect and attended the Indiana School for the Blind for one year and then was successfully fitted with corrective lenses. He overcame and adapted to his limited vision. While it kept him from playing basketball, he was the team manager of the Knox basketball teams in junior and senior high school. Skeeter met Bonnie Crabill when she moved to Knox during high school. The two would be married on June 24, 1956. It was a love that would last more than 70 years.
Skeeter’s parents opened the well-known Ernie’s Fireside Inn, a restaurant and bar in Knox, in 1933. Skeeter grew up in the business. After Business College, Skeeter worked as a salesperson for Watkins Products. He and Bonnie became the owners of Ernie’s Fireside Inn with Ernie’s passing in 1963 and would run the business until 2000.
Skeeter and Bonnie were blessed with two boys Douglas Small of South Bend/Granger and Marcus Small, who tragically died in a car accident in 1980. Bonnie, who Skeeter lovingly referred to as “my best girl,” sadly passed on March 8 of this year with Skeeter’s heart being broken and rejoining her only 43 days later. Skeeter is survived by his son Douglas and his wife Karen; grandchildren Miles Small of Bristol, Rhode Island, and Kemmery, married to Charlton Keultjes, of South Bend; and great-grandchildren Henry Small, Maive, Lana and Kline Keultjes. He leaves behind cousins and an incredible number of devoted friends.
Skeeter was locally famous for many things. One was his business card which stated: “In my humble opinion, Ernie’s Fireside Inn is the finest eating and drinking establishment in the world,” and it was a hub of social and culinary activity in Knox and Starke County for more than a half-century. Skeeter bartended and Bonnie worked for many years as a chef/cook and later cleaning the premises. Apart from Skeeter and Bonnie and the good food, drink and good cheer, Ernie’s was known for the electric trains that ran on an elevated shelf around the dining and bar rooms. Ernie’s also gave out $2 bills in change to customers. If you later paid someone with the $2 bill they would say, “Oh, I see you been to Ernie’s!” Skeeter was a master joke teller and learned many jokes from customers which he would then repeatedly retell and burn into his memory. He was a “gunslinger” among joke tellers. He was known for his loving insults. If he insulted you, you knew he liked you and he insulted so many people. Skeeter facetiously ran for the U.S. Senate, printing up a personal business card during the 1960s and 70s about his candidacy for the 1992 election, stating “I am giving you more than 20 years to think about it.” Skeeter and Bonnie had so many wonderful employees at Ernie’s and even more wonderful friends. Skeeter added a bit of “salt” to everyone’s life.
After selling Ernie’s, Bonnie and Skeeter built their dream home and a large pole barn where Skeeter included a barroom with the back bar, the reconfigured bar with stools and the jukebox from Ernie’s. A highlight was the friends and family who would gather at the bar in “The Barn” every Friday night and on special occasions. Watching and listening to the folks at The Barn on Friday nights was like watching a sitcom. Skeeter kept his 1914 Studebaker, 1926 Elcar, 1930 Model A and 1964 Dodge Coronet convertible in The Barn, along with an old Pepsi dispensing machine filled with Bud, Bud Light and Miller Light. Driving the Studebaker around the countryside and at parades was his favorite pastime, with a full-cooler in the back and throwing full can of Bud Light into the front yards of his friends as he drove by. There were few people in Starke County who hadn’t seen Skeeter drive by in the “Stude.”
Skeeter and Bonnie took their boys to Disneyland, Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii and Florida and many trips to the family cottage in Hayward, Wisconsin. In fact, Skeeter with friends and his boys on several occasions drove the 1914 Studebaker the 510 miles to Hayward. Skeeter and Bonnie traveled across Europe to Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria and a nearly month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand. There were many trips across the United States, including a camping trip with good friend Carl Bohning to the Northeast and another with good friends Chase and Diane Barkley driving along the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Skeeter and Bonnie were excellent ballroom dancers and loved the “big band” sounds of Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. Doug remembers watching with pride his parents as they were the best dancers at a band/dance pavilion that once existed at Disneyland.
Skeeter and Bonnie loved their family. They were devoted parents. They spent much time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren having them over for weekends, attending sporting, school and dance events, taking them for a summer weekend to Indiana Beach and weeklong trips up to Wisconsin. Skeeter was their “Grandpa.”
Skeeter and Bonnie were long-time members of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Knox. Skeeter had a soft side and would send money to those in need or flowers to those needing a smile. He led a remarkable life. He was also a Sinatra fan and, like Frank, he “Did it my way!”
Visitation and the funeral will be at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Knox on Saturday, April 29, with visitation from 10 AM to 1 PM, the funeral and burial thereafter with a following meal and gathering at the church.
In lieu of flowers, please do as Skeeter would - take someone out for a beer or bite to eat, tell a good joke (he did like the naughty ones), send flowers to someone in need of a smile or just give someone a hug!
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