New features added to town park in memory of Crothersville man

CROTHERSVILLE — Brandon Freeman loved four-wheelers, fishing, cookouts and other outdoor activities.

“He was a good ole country boy is the best way I can explain him,” Sarah Freeman said of her sister-in-law’s son.

While he had run-ins with the law when he was young, Sarah said Brandon was turning his life around.

On April 2, 2019, Brandon was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a wreck with another vehicle on U.S. 31 in Bartholomew County near the Jackson County line.

State police said Kelsey M. LaMaster, 18, of Seymour was driving a 1999 Mercury Sable south on U.S. 31 when she lost control of it. The vehicle went off of the west side of the roadway but came back on and crossed the centerline, striking a northbound 2004 Ford F250 being driven by Paul M. Luedeman, 59, of Crothersville.

Both vehicles left the east side of the road and came to a stop, but a flatbed trailer Luedeman was pulling disconnected from the truck and continued for another 200 yards before leaving the road.

Freeman and LaMaster were pronounced dead by an official with the Bartholomew County Coroner’s Office, and Luedeman sustained serious injuries.

“He had a police record, but he was young when he did it, and he was getting his life together and standing up for his kids and doing the right thing,” Sarah said of Brandon, a father of three. “Then he got killed. That’s just the sad part of it. He had turned himself around and didn’t get to show everybody how he really was. It’s just tough.”

Around that time, Sarah came across a story about a bench that made in memory of a boy from Scott County who died. Plastic bottle caps and lids were recycled to make the bench.

Sarah shared the story with her daughter, Jenny Freeman.

“Jenny goes, ‘We need to do that for Brandon,’ and I was like, ‘We could do that,’” Sarah said.

Green Tree Plastics LLC of Evansville manufactures recycled plastic products using 100% recycled plastics, no hazardous chemicals, nonorganic fillers and nonorganic color concentrates, according to That includes benches made from plastic caps and lids through its A Bench for Caps Program.

Initially, Sarah said the idea was to collect enough for one bench, which would require 400 pounds of caps and lids.

A year ago when Sarah posted on Facebook that she was collecting caps and lids, Debbie Hackman with the Jackson County Recycling District reached out and said a grant was available to help cover the fee that Green Tree Plastics charges.

That allowed Sarah to focus on getting all of the caps and lids she could. Brownstown Elementary School and Cornerstone Community Church each donated two pickup truck loads, and Girl Scout Troop 112 donated some. Sarah also met people in Seymour to get donations, and The Magic of Books Bookstore served as a drop-off spot.

“It was overwhelming,” Sarah said of the response.

In late summer, she learned the owners of Green Tree Plastics were retiring, and they were giving people a month to complete their projects. In September, Sarah received help from family members in sorting and cleaning the caps and lids.

Helping Sarah and Jenny with that process were Ray “Jessie” Maudlin, Robin Sporleder, William Sporleder, Allyssa Freeman, Joseph Atkins, Madisyn Freeman, Coltyn Freeman, Paula Compton, Annette Graff, Joan Freeman, Christian Jones, Leigha Wiesman, Noah Wiesman, Logan Wiesman, Dalton Jackson, Jamie Miller, Lindsey Howell and James Collman.

“The guys really kicked butt for the amount of people that we had for a month because we sorted all of those caps and we got 1,300 pounds,” Sarah said. “I don’t know how many bottle caps that is or lids that is, but it is a lot.”

Freeman had enough to pick up three benches and a handicap-accessible picnic table from Green Tree Plastics. The table required 650 pounds of caps and lids.

The red benches and gray table recently were placed by Crothersville’s utility workers at Veterans Park —just west of the railroad tracks across the street from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1083.

The benches sit on a mulched area that includes a large captain’s ship playground feature, and the picnic table sits on the grass nearby.

Sarah said plaques have been ordered to place on or near the benches and table to recognize the donors.

Ron Foster, president of the Crothersville Parks Board, said he frequently sees people using the newest features at the park.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments on them already,” he said.

He was surprised to recently receive a call from his wife, Danieta Foster, saying three benches and a picnic table were being delivered.

“When (Sarah) first came to me and told us what they were wanting to do here at our park, they were looking at one bench,” Foster said. “Then Danieta called me and said, ‘Well, the boys are unloading your benches and your table.’ I’m like, ‘What? You said three benches and a table?’ The first thing, I just went, ‘Oh my gosh!’ and she goes, ‘We just need to figure out where to put them.’”

Sarah admitted she never thought to tell Foster their plans had changed, but he made it work.

“I’m very happy with them,” he said. “When I drove by and saw them the day they put them out here, I’m like, ‘Man, that turned out super nice.’ I think they came out really, really nice.”

The parks board has worked for the last five-plus years improving Bard Street Park and Countryside Park, and now with the latest additions to the newer Veterans Park, Foster said most of the work there is finished.

“As small as this little town is, to have three parks in here is phenomenal and to look the way it does,” he said. “If I don’t get people like these guys (Freeman family) to come out and help me out, we don’t have this.”

Once Veterans Park has water and electricity hooked up, Foster said the board would like to have events there and also at the two other parks.

“We’re looking at things to get the community involved because since COVID, families have separated, and they don’t do anything together anymore,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do is things we’re looking at in the future to get the community back together and do community events.”

Freeman said Green Tree Plastics was purchased, so it’s not going out of business. She still has a lot of plastic caps and lids at home and said two or three more benches could be made.

At one point, someone was interested in putting one at Bard Street Park.

“I’d like to keep them in the community because that’s why they were donated,” she said. “If nobody does anything with them, we’ll probably just go ahead and do it and put the bench or picnic table somewhere else.”

The benches and tables are heavy and sturdy, so they will last for a long time.

“I think they’ll be here for a long time after we’re gone,” Freeman said. “If people use them and respect them and take care of them, I think they’ll be here for a long time.”

As for what Brandon would think about the benches and table in his memory, Freeman said he would like it because he was an outdoorsman, and they are in a place where his three daughters and others can play and enjoy.

“I think he would love it,” she said. “He wouldn’t like the attention, he wouldn’t want to be the center of it, but he would like that he would have a place for him and his girls to come and play and he could sit and watch them.”