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Pat Hertel

Pat Hertel

Retired Lilly scientist has passion for children and ministries

By Nancy Price

As a girl growing up in the ‘60s, Pat Hertel didn’t let anyone define her role as a female. She followed through on her dreams that led her to become a successful and independent woman.

Born in Evansville, Hertel grew up in Henderson, Kentucky. Due to a polio epidemic in the area from the time she was 4 until she was 6 or 7, she was confined mostly to home and did not attend Kindergarten. However, her aunt, a 1st grade teacher, would bring books over and Hertel learned to read at a young age.

In high school, she had a chemistry and biology teacher that she admired. She loved learning and decided she would study biology in college.

“My dad was my best supporter; if I wanted to be an astronaut, he was all for it,” Hertel said. “My mom thought I’d be an accountant. I would have rather died than sit at a desk (at work). I was the only female in class who didn’t become a teacher or nurse. Those professions were significant for women back then.”

After graduating in the top 10 of her class at Henderson City High School, Hertel went on to attend the University of Kentucky, where she studied biology. She graduated summa cum laude and received a medal for outstanding biology graduate.

Hertel’s first job was with Eli Lilly, where she worked until she retired. She started working in the analytical laboratory, doing microbiological tests on samples, and later working in the product development team to launch antibiotics. Hertel also traveled internationally while working on audits at different facilities.

Hertel married and had two daughters, Anna, who lives in South Carolina, and Emily, who resides in Greenwood. While her daughters were in grade school, they volunteered their mom for career day to show students what she did for work, yet the students seemed bored. One year, Hertel showed them how she did a clinical trial that involved an actual human toe infected with gangrene. She was going to show how to get an antibiotic into the tissue while explaining the process.

“I put the big two in a blender to chop it up and they thought it was so cool,” she said. “It took three years to learn how to appeal to 5th graders: using blood and gore.”

When her children were young, Hertel began volunteering her time with local nonprofits and organizations, including the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, where she made costumes for fashion shows, sold cookies during the annual Yuletide celebration, and worked on various committees, including ISO’s South group.

She volunteers with children’s programs and makes quilts for those who are homeless, in the hospital, or for residents at Mt. Auburn United Methodist Church in Greenwood, where she met her current husband, James Wesley Hertel, a retired senior pastor with the church. After the Hertels retired, they became more involved with One Mission Society, an international, nonprofit interdenominational ministry. Pat has spent time teaching at an orphanage in Sudan, and James has pastored congregations while helping to plant churches in Africa.

After witnessing poverty in Third World countries, Hertel will often take her grandchildren with her when she volunteers in underprivileged areas of Indianapolis.

“I tell them, ‘we’re so blessed in this country, even the poor here have more than the rest of the world. I tell them, ‘you’re blessed, you pass (your blessings) on.’”

Pat Hertel

What upsets you?

To hear about child abuse, neglect, children that die because they are beaten because they cry. There is too much of that. There are too many people making babies that have no conscience to be responsible parents.

What do you like best about Center Grove?

You’ve got access to Indianapolis, the schools are great for kids, the neighborhoods are growing and we seldom eat outside of the area, unless we go downtown. It’s easier to eat out than cook two meals.

What’s your favorite Southside eatery?


If you had to live anywhere else in the Metro Indianapolis area, where would it be?

I’m happy here. We’re close enough to our kids.

If you could begin life over, what would you change?

I probably would’ve gone on to graduate school.

If money were no issue, how would you spend it?

I’d help our kids and grandkids with their education. Charities: There’s a lot of charities that could use it. I feel sorry for our vets who are homeless.

What makes you happiest?

I’m basically a happy person. I’ve tried to see the good in people. I’ve enjoyed work, enjoy children and grandchildren, the things I’m able to do with my husband. My kids and grandchildren make me very happy.

Pick three adjectives that best describe you.

Creative. Compassionate. Hopeful.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

I love Sedona, Arizona: the red rocks and blue skies. It’s beautiful.

What do you do with idle time?

I like to garden. Every year, I like to go to Garfield Park’s spring show. I buy bulbs to plant. I like to read a lot. I like to sew.

What would you change about our culture if you could?

If I had a magic wand, I’d try to make family the center for everybody. Entitlement has created a culture that has no drive.

How do you escape from reality?

Listening to music. Sometimes I’ll go outside. I love spring and fall. I enjoy sitting outside on the patio, listening to the sounds of birds.

What do you love most in life?

The opportunities that we have to grow; we can go as far as we want. We’re not limited. We are our own self-limiting.

Which living person in Center Grove do you most admire?

My husband. He’s my best friend. We can get into deep conversations about a lot of topics, and we do a lot of fun things. I can’t think of growing old with anybody but him.

What qualities do you admire most in another person?

Sincerity and honesty.

What is your greatest extravagance?

If you ask my kids, they would say purses. I enjoy doing things with my grandchildren. I spend a lot of time entertaining them. We go to Steak ‘n Shake for milkshakes during Happy Hour.

What is your greatest fear?

That my grandchildren won’t know the freedoms that I’ve grown up with. I’m against federal control of everything. I see us heading in a more socialist direction. It’s never worked anywhere. Also, anybody can find anything out about you.

What has been the happiest time of your life?

Two children I adore and stepchildren completed that. I have 25 grandchildren, an assortment of sizes and shapes. I love being with them and seeing life through their eyes. I’ve learned a lot about what’s going on in their age groups. My grandchildren make me happy.

Is there a special talent you really wish you had?

Dancing, gymnastics or figure skating. Anything that involves being well-coordinated and graceful.

What do you most value in your friends?

A good listener. To have someone that you trust enough that you can bear your soul.

Which historical figure do you most admire?

Jesus Christ.

What tenet do you live by?

The Golden Rule.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m card-carrying Kentucky Colonel.

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