Mike Rushin, along with his son Jay and his siblings Johnny Rushin and Wynona Rushin Willis helping out, are keeping a tradition alive in the Mt. Sterling Community of Hopkins County. The annual “Chili” was held on the evening of Saturday November 2, 2019 under the trees on Mike’s property just down from the Mt. Sterling Cemetery on CR 3506. For a number of years, Mike did all the cooking by himself, stirring up a pot of his famous chili recipe as well as a pot of Beef Stew, yielding 30 gallons or plenty to feed a hungry crowd of friends. But in recent years, he’s decided he has to make sure the younger generation knows how to carry on the tradition, so now he “supervises”. Jay’s friend Donald Hopper Jr. stepped up to help a few years ago. He came on board because the family likes the concept of pride in community and of sharing it with friends whom you might not get to see in person too often, visiting and catching up, and watching the kids play on a cool autumn evening. This year, Hopper not only cooked the chili but served everyone who held out a bowl to him. Regrettably, Jay Rushin had to work that night but he put in several hours of preparing the yard for the event, setting up the cooksite and peeling and cutting up the vegetables for the stew.
According to Mike, a similar event was held annually at the chapel of the Mt. Sterling Cemetery, in the community where he spent his childhood. Whole families would come, the men helped cook, the kids got to know one another, and women would bring cakes and their best homemade desserts. There was often an old-fashioned pie auction, an ice cream supper or a watermelon cutting which helped raise money for the upkeep of the Mt. Sterling Cemetery and North Liberty Baptist Church. Mike stated, “at some point, it moved to my place, just a short distance down the road. My good friend Merle Chester never missed a year, and before he passed away, he hugged me and made me promise I’d keep it going, because ‘people just don’t do this anymore’. So I have, and it’s always rewarding. We were raised here on this dairy property, and I know my parents Merle and Lourice Rushin would have wanted it to continue. I started in earnest that Autumn of 2004, after they both passed away just one week apart, during the Summer of 2004. And our brother Donnis passed away in 2012, so it’s just us left to carry it on. And I think, hey, no matter where in the county friends come in from, that night “WE” are a community, and we celebrate that fact”.