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Spring Old Court Days

Madison longtime Pilot Club
volunteer Payne to retire

Perry-Payne plans to move to Iowa
be closer to her daughter

(May 2021) – “Lifetime Volunteer” doesn’t begin to describe all of the volunteer services provided by Madison, Ind., native Elsie Cosby Perry Payne. She was always interested in working with children. Even at a young age, she taught Sunday School at Ebenezer Methodist Church. Later, she became the Sunday School Superintendent.
After transferring to Trinity Methodist Church, she continued her service by working on many committees. She has coordinated the Martin Luther King Program since 2003. Those activities were just the beginning. Payne has served on local boards, including Girls Inc., Pathways Youth Shelter, Madison Ribberfest, Big Brother-Big Sisters and the National Secretary Association. She is a member of the Jen-Era-Jeff Order of the Eastern Star. She served as secretary for the local chapter as well as several offices in the Grand Chapter of Indiana.

Elsie Perry Payne

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Elsie Cosby Perry Payne has long been the face of the Pilot Club in Madison, Ind.


Her last activity before moving to from Madison to Iowa is one more major volunteer project: Spring Old Court Days, sponsored by The Pilot Club of Madison. As president, Payne has ensured that every detail for Old Court Days is in order by working with Madison Pilot Club members and coordinating support from the Scottsburg Pilot Club.
Spring Old Court Days is scheduled from Friday to Sunday, May 28-30, around the Jefferson County Courthouse at 300 E. Main St. in Madison. The event includes vendor booths featuring arts and crafts, collectibles, antiques, yard art and unique clothing. Food trucks are also available onsite. The event is free.
Both men and women are encouraged to join the Pilot Club to meet new friends and serve the community in many ways. Old Court Days is the primary fundraiser for the Madison Pilot Club. In the early days of the club, members raised money by picking strawberries, making fruitcakes and selling nuts. Both then and now, funds were raised to support scholarships and community projects.
Recent community projects have included a wheel-chair swing for Hickory Creek Nursing Home, a lift for the swimming pool at King’s Daughters’ Health & Rehab, and a lift for the Salvation Army. Old Court Days also benefits the community as a significant tourist attraction.
“VisitMadison Inc. has seen the value of having Old Court Days in the spring and the fall, and it’s definitely something visitors look forward to each year,” said Sarah Prasil, Marketing and Advertising Director at VisitMadison Inc. “We can only hope that the Pilot Club continues its legacy with someone with as much passion as Elsie has had.”
Payne, 83, has been a member of the Madison Pilot Club since 1983. She said she was attracted by the mission to promote awareness of brain-related disorders and provide service to those individuals. One of the activities she enjoyed was bringing puppets called “Brain-Minders” to elementary schools to remind children of ways to protect their brains. Children are encouraged to wear bike helmets and taught how to cross streets safely. 
She has served as Pilot Club president for five previous terms and has worked on every local committee. At the district level, she served as an officer at all levels, worked on every committee, and served as Governor of the Michigan-Indiana District.
At the Pilot International level, she served as a Director, Secretary, Chaplain, and Team Leader, helping start new clubs and recruit new members. Pilot Club also supports high school clubs, which are called Anchors. In 1998, she chartered an Anchor Club at Southwestern High School in Hanover. In 2000, she chartered an Anchor Club at Madison Consolidated High School and another Anchor Club at the Junior High.
Reflecting on Payne’s accomplishments, Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said, “Madison is a better place for all of us to call home because of the decades of community volunteerism Elsie has give to her hometown. Her advocacy for the community, and specifically her work with the Pilot Club, has helped fund projects that have benefited our youth and adults alike. We are going to miss Elsie and hope she knows she is not leaving behind a community, but she is leaving her mark on a town she has loved for so long. She has left her mark in a substantial way.”
Although Payne’s list of volunteer activities appears to be a full-time job, for most of her life she worked full time – in addition to her many volunteer activities. She said she graduated from the eighth grade at the Broadway Colored School and finished high school at Madison High School downtown. She earned a Business Certificate Degree from St. Helena Business School in Louisville and then attended Indiana University Southeast and Ivy Tech for two years, working on an accounting degree. She worked as a bookkeeper for the State of Indiana at the Old Clifty Inn.
“In 1964, I was the first black secretary hired at IKEC. I worked there for 33 years until my retirement in 1997. I retired early so that I could spend more time volunteering.”
Leaving Madison is bittersweet for Payne, who has many friends in the community. After Payne’s husband, Daniel Payne Jr., died in November 2020, her daughter, Cheryl Perry Carter, urged her mother to join her in Coralville, Iowa. Payne has successfully found a new home in a 55-plus community and says she is looking forward to living close to her daughter.
Payne is one of those individuals who is always smiling. She will always speak to anyone. “God put me on this earth to volunteer, to help somebody. I have always loved Madison,” she said.
The community is invited to say farewell to Elsie Cosby Perry Payne from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at Trinity Methodist Church.

Vendor sign-ups for Spring old Court Days are open until May 15 with applications available online at www.pilotclubofmadison.com. The website also has information for potential new members.

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