‘It’s for them’

Reflecting on the memorials of SHS
Its for them

A smile on a plaque outside in the hall. A sign on the wall of a hitting facility. A Scholarship ride that students hear about in the Spring. Although the stories behind these memorials may be unknown to many who see them daily, The Journal wanted to bring to life the stories behind these memorials.

Jake Branam Memorial Scholarship
Jake Branam Memorial Scholarship

On the wall between Student Services and the Main Office, there is a plaque dedicated to the Jake Branam scholarship.

Jake was a senior at SHS in 2007. According to his aunt, Neppie Martin, Jake had a big heart.

“Jake was just a fun-loving all-around great person,” Martin said. “He loved family, he loved Southport High School … and cared about everybody.”

Jake was a four-year football player, wearing jersey number 68, along with being a part of the drama club. According to his plaque, “he was dedicated to his family and friends as a very caring and loving young man.”

On March 21, 2007, when his grandmother went to wake him up for school, she discovered that Jake had passed away that night. It was later found out that he had passed away when sleeping due to natural causes.

After Jake’s passing, his family felt that it was only right to keep his memory alive and to do something for other students.

The scholarship was originally controlled by his father Larry Branam, who had also gone to SHS. He was a football dad and was very proud of Jake, supporting him and everything he did. However, on April 1, 2023, he passed away from heart failure and now the scholarship is run by Martin.

According to the plaque, the scholarship is dedicated to him “in hopes of furthering the education of another Southport High School student who embodies these characteristics.”

“Jake would want you to pursue your drama, play football, do your best, be a good friend and appreciate life,” Martin said.

Ruben & Marge Hernandez Memorial Hitting Facility
Ruben & Marge Hernandez Memorial Hitting Facility

Softball players know it as The Barn. Baseball players know it as The Ruben. The official name of this building though is the Ruben and Marge Hernandez Memorial Hitting Facility.

Over the course of a 64-year marriage, Ruben and Marge Hernandez were big volunteers in Perry Township Schools throughout their lives up into their 80s. They cared for everyone and treated them as family, regardless of their background. 

Using the skills he acquired from working with U.S. Steel in Gary, Ind, Ruben volunteered as an Information Technology assistant.

“My father was the kindest, gentlest and most compassionate man that I’ve ever met in my life,” Paul Hernandez said. “He was not only a father figure … but he was kind of a counselor when somebody was feeling down or there was a problem. Dad would always go over and encourage them.”

Marge was primarily a support staff worker. Kids who were having difficulties in and outside of class would have a one-on-one with her, and she’d also help with school fundraisers and field trips.

Both battled health issues late in life. Ruben had Alzheimer’s disease and stomach cancer and Marge had kidney cancer. During that time, Marge willed herself through her cancer into remission to take care of him until Feb. 16, 2013, the day that he died. Eight months later, on Oct. 26, 2013, Marge passed away. 

Baseball was such a big part of their family, with their sons playing baseball, their daughter Janet being their greatest supporter and Ruben being the scorekeeper. Their son, Jim Hernandez, says this is the reason behind them being memorialized to the hitting facility.

“From the moment that I thought about building a structure like that, I already had … in mind that I wanted to do that,” Jim said. “They were so instrumental in encouraging all of us kids.”

The love for baseball and even softball seems to still be in the family to this day because their great-granddaughter, Kayden Hernandez, a freshman at SHS, is a part of the Junior Varsity Softball team.

“I didn’t know them because I was really young when they passed,” Kayden said. “But it’s nice to have a memory of them, and being able to hit in there, it’s for them.”

Shelby Cooper Scholarship Ride
Shelby Cooper Scholarship Ride

The 2nd annual Shelby Cooper Scholarship Ride was held on April 27. Shelby was a senior at SHS in 2022. In the words of her mother Gretchen Wagner, Shelby had a huge spirit. 

“Shelby was just amazing,” Wagner said. “She had an amazing work ethic. She got the top, absolute top diploma you could (earn) here … just huge, huge spirit.”

She was also an athletic trainer for several sports, specifically having a very close bond with the wrestling team, “had the best sense of humor,” according to Wagner, a zest for life and a love for travel.

Shelby grew up riding motorcycles with her father, so when he passed away when she was 15 years old, she wished to honor him in some way by pursuing riding motorcycles. With determination guiding her, she was able to get her own motorcycle. 

On April 4, 2022, Shelby was in a motorcycle accident. She spent about a month in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Eskenazi Hospital, where she passed away on April 29.

Due to all of Shelby’s efforts at SHS, Wagner thought of a way to honor her memory and encourage other students to follow their secondary path in education, whether it be college or anything else.

According to the Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson website, the goal of the Shelby Cooper Scholarship Ride is “to keep Shelby’s memory alive by helping graduates with financial aid for years to come,” with all of the revenue going towards the Shelby Cooper Scholarship Fund. 

Throughout her life, Shelby was a loving person who helped and was there for those who needed it no matter if they were on good terms or not. With her scholarship, it’s given to those who have the requirements and helps purchase the things they need such as books and a laptop.

“She was 18 years old when she passed, but she had a real sense of what life was about,” Wagner said. “She lived a big life in those 18 years. And I think she would want everybody to seize the day.”

To watch a video version of this story, click on this image to be sent to our YouTube channel.

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Cook
Alyssa Cook, News Reporter, Staff Artist
Hi! My name is Alyssa Cook. I am a sophomore and this is my first year on The Journal staff. I am a News reporter and one of the artists. I am a huge fan of anything horror-related and overall love the horror genre. My favorite horror game series has to be Five Nights at Freddy’s with my favorite game being the fifth installment, also known as Sister Location. My favorite color is royal blue, however, I also like mint green. My favorite animal is a maned wolf, which does lead to my love of dogs, but I also really love cats. I love and enjoy all forms of art such as writing, theater, music, and drawing. I also enjoy math and science and am currently taking AP Pre-Calculus and DC Chemistry. I care a lot about my grades, so I always strive to get A’s and B’s so I can get into a good college. I’m so excited to see what my first year on the Journal will look like!

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