Good friends selected as parade grand marshals


Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick Good friends Raj Patel and Linda Houser are grand marshals of the Mount Sterling Community Days Festival Parade set for 1 p.m. June 11.

(Posted June 2, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The two individuals selected to serve as grand marshals for the Mount Sterling Community Days Festival parade are the best of friends.

Raj Patel purchased the BP gas station at State Route 56 and I-71 in 1998. Linda Houser and her late husband, Vernon, owned the station from 1975 to 1993. The two families got to know each other and a fast friendship formed.

“Linda hangs out here all the time because she has love in this place. She put in a lot of work here,” Patel said.

“Raj is such a dear friend,” Houser said.

Patel and Houser share not only a business connection and friendship, but also a drive to give back to the community.

Patel has lived in Mount Sterling since purchasing the gas station. He and his wife, Panna, have two daughters, Poorva, a 2014 Madison-Plains High School graduate and valedictorian now studying at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and Nikkie, president of Madison-Plains’ Class of 2016.

Originally from India, Patel moved to the United States in 1993. He spent six months building heat exchangers for airplanes and submarines in Boston before going into business with his brother-in-law in Pikeville, Ky. The duo operated a TCBY franchise, doubling the business in four years before selling it. Patel then went into business for himself in Mount Sterling. Since owning the gas station, he has installed new pumps and a new canopy and added a beer cooler and Subway shop.

Patel and his wife have made a habit of supporting local causes, institutions and organizations, from the Madison Health Bake-nic to the Mount Sterling Com-munity Center, Mount Sterling Library and former Mount Sterling Police Department.

“Mount Sterling is like your family. We know everybody, and everybody knows us. We would do anything for the prosperity of Mount Sterling,” Patel said.

“The country that gives you birth is called your motherland. The country that gives you opportunities for prosperity, that’s your real mother,” he continued. “We developed and grew in the USA—me, my wife, my children. We owe this country. That’s why we want to give back to this community.”

Houser said she inherited her give-back attitude from her foster parents, Gerald and Esther Henry, who welcomed her into their home when she was 15 years old. She had spent the previous seven years in the Clark County Children’s Home.

“What my parents always taught me was to give back,” she said.

Houser has followed that rule whole-heartedly. Rarely does a day pass that she isn’t involved in some kind of community service. She has devoted decades of volunteer time to many organizations, holding a variety of offices from secretary to president for many of them.

Among her involvements are service on the Madison County-London City Health District board, delivering Meals On Wheels, chairing the Madison Health Foundation’s annual gifts committee, serving as a poll worker for the Madison County Board of Elections, helping with fundraisers as a member of the Friends of the Mount Sterling Library, volunteering at the Madison-Plains Scholarship Dinner, and assisting with the Mount Sterling Community Center’s Easter egg hunt.

Houser is very involved with her church, First United Methodist of Mount Sterling, where she is a member of the United Methodist Women and has served on several committees, including the Helping Hand Committee.

She also devotes hundreds of volunteer hours each year to the Madison Health Auxiliary, chairing the Mount Sterling Bake-nic site and assisting with the group’s flower sales, holiday gift shop sales, Fall Fling, jewelry sales and book fairs. In 2007-08, she received the Jean Smith Award for volunteering 497 hours at the hospital in one year.

“As long as there is a need, I will help out. It is fun and you get to meet a lot of nice people,” she said of her service efforts.

Houser is a 1960 graduate of Springfield High School. She attended Springfield Business School for two years and held office jobs for many, many years. She married Vernon, her best friend, in 1966, and they had one daughter, Kellie, who lives in Findlay, Ohio, with her husband, Rex, and son, Phillip. Linda makes several trips to Findlay each year to dote on her grandson.

The Community Days Festival runs June 9-11. Most events are at Veterans Field and the Mount Sterling Community Center. The parade will take place at 1 p.m. June 11.

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