Community backing helps women’s group evolve into ministry

Sharon Metzger, the director of Place of Grace, gets her new office organized in a repurposed laundry room at the ministry’s new quarters, the former Trinity United Methodist Church parsonage. The organization seeks to help women coming out of jail change their lives, get back on their feet and transition back into the community.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Jan. 9, 2016.

A new ministry in town is enjoying the backing of the community as it seeks to help women coming out of incarceration turn their lives around.

It’s called “Place of Grace,” a mission that takes its roots from the jail itself, Director Sharon Metzger says. A women’s group at the jail began the vision in 2009; that vision has evolved into a house nearly ready to accept women seeking their own transformation.

Families working to make sure local heroes are remembered

Sally Gamble, Gamble’s great-granddaughter Jozine Boyer and Gamble’s daughter Jody Cormany (from left) stand behind a recently-installed memorial stone at Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Huntington, for Gamble’s great-uncle, William Howett, who died in 1864 during the Civil War. The stone was placed next to the headstone of the grave of Howett’s brother, John Howett, who survived his service in the Civil War and died in Huntington County in 1905. The memorial stone for William Howett was installed through the efforts of Gamble’s sister, Diana Trivett, a genealogy enthusiast who now lives in North Carolina.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Jan. 5, 2016.

William Howett died in 1864, a casualty of the Civil War.

Thomas Parker died in 1967 in Vietnam.

Neither man’s body was ever recovered.

Now, 152 years after his death, Howett is remembered with a marker at Huntington’s Mt. Hope Cemetery. The marker was installed in November, thanks to the efforts of his great-niece.

And, 50 years after Parker’s death, a push is underway to remember him with a statue in Huntington’s Memorial Park.

Huntington realtor finds mystery gift awaiting her recently that’s true ‘blast from the past’

Janet McElhaney (left) thanks Scott Scheiber for finding and returning her childhood desk, after they met on Dec. 28. Scheiber found the desk, which was lost for more than 60 years, in a furnace room he was cleaning out and decided to find its original owner.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Jan. 2, 2016.

Janet McElhaney returned back to her office at Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber in downtown Huntington on Dec. 20, to find a mystery gift awaiting her, left by a mysterious deliveryman.

It was a long-lost treasure from McElhaney’s childhood and turned out to be one of her best Christmas presents ever, she notes.

24 reach goal of Andrews library bicentennial reading contest

Sharon Laupp, Dale Hawkins, Ronda Hawkins and Janice Harshbarger (from left) discuss their year of reading adventures at a party on Dec. 15 marking the end of the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library’s bicentennial reading project, which challenged participants to read either 200 books or 200 hours in honor of Indiana’s 200th birthday.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 29, 2016.

The challenge was to read.

The goal was 200 — 200 books, or 200 hours — in celebration of Indiana’s 200th year.

Janice Harshbarger blew them all away.

She put in 735 hours of reading time.

“Which is only two hours a day,” she says. “It’s no big deal.”

Harshbarger accomplished the feat as part of the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library’s 200 Club, sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Not too keen on Huntington to start, ‘Father Ron’ soon to end ‘brilliant’ 33 years here

Rev. Ron Rieder, seen seated in his office, has served as the pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish, in Huntington, since 1984. His 33-year tenure at the church will be coming to an end next year with his retirement.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Dec. 26, 2016.

When Rev. Ron Rieder moved to Huntington in 1984, he did so begrudgingly.

After presiding over parishes in cities like Detroit, MI, and St. Paul, MN, he wasn’t thrilled that his new assignment happened to be in a small town.

When Rieder arrived at his new church, SS. Peter and Paul, his enthusiasm for the posting dipped even lower; the church and its accompanying school were in shambles.

Former local man’s job in Big Apple is to make sure stars, others, sound good on air

Huntington native and audio technician John Gernand (left) applies a microphone to musician John Mayer (middle) while musician Eric Clapton looks on prior to a concert on “Good Morning America” in New York City’s Bryant Park in 2007. Since 1979, Gernand has lived in the Big Apple, where he works professionally in audio.
Photo provided.

Originally published Dec. 19, 2016.

When a musician takes the stage, it’s John Gernand’s job to make sure that they’re heard.

Gernand, a Huntington native, works as an audio technician in New York, NY. A resident of the Big Apple since 1979, his profession has enabled him to work with some of the most celebrated musicians in the world.

Santa helpers sometimes wear Scout uniforms

Boy Scout Troop 637 Scoutmaster Perry Harris (left) and Boy Scout Luke Christman fill plates with cookies baked by the troop. The plates of cookies were delivered to residents of the Huntington Retirement Community on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The Boy Scout troop has held the cookie giveaway for around eight years as a way of saying thank you and bringing cheer to the Seniors living in the apartment complex.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

By the light of a full December moon, about a dozen non-elfishly dressed Santa’s helpers began knocking on doors Tuesday, Dec. 13, in the little Huntington Retirement Community, also known as the “Yellow Apartments behind Walmart.”

When residents opened their doors, they got cookies.

Christmas hat tree, collection in Markle shop reminds of bygone fashion trend

Stephenie Murchland, owner of Village Salon, in Markle, stands in her shop next to a pink Christmas tree filled with vintage hats.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 15, 2016.

There was a time when any respectable woman wouldn’t leave the house without a hat.

Those days are long gone, but those hats live on.

Feathered, furred and sequined; pillbox and full brim — even a vintage Salvation Army bonnet — the classic chapeaux now adorn a pink Christmas tree that stretches nearly to the ceiling of the Village Salon, in Markle.

Even the tree is of another era.

Animal volunteer group in county helps when needed

Members of the animal rescue team include (front, from left) Lance Kreider, Linzy Lahr, Paula Evans, Jenelle Conley, Leslie Zahm and Denise Kreider; and (back, from left) Dakota Sunday, Rusty Sunday, Phil Kreider, Lori VanOver and Chad Kreider. Also on call are Joe Landrum, Angie Sunday, Tom Wall and Penny Garretson.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 15, 2016.

When an animal’s in trouble in Huntington County, there’s a team ready to respond.

The animal rescue team — a loosely organized group of volunteers, all experienced in working with animals — can handle everything from an emu on the loose to a frightened dog at the side of the road.

The team got its start in 2011 when Lori VanOver, who has served as Huntington County’s animal control officer since 2003, decided she needed some backup she could rely on.

Former resident recalls days as ‘Rosie the Riveter’

The staff of The Hosdreg Company included (seated, from left) J.C. Monsey and Eloise Schenkel and (standing, from left) unknown, Marguerite Kocher, Kathryn Eviston Post, Bernita Eggers Schmalzried, Kenneth Devall, unknown, Evelyn Wolfcale Barnhisel, Esther Andrews, Tootie Hall, Vesta Baxter, unknown and Margaret Pastor.
Photo provided.

Originally published Dec. 5, 2016.

Paul and Esther Andrews were enjoying newlywed life in their apartment on North LaFontaine Street as 1941 drew to a close.

Paul spent his days working on the Erie Railroad; Esther, unable to find paid work — the country was still climbing out of the Great Depression — ran the household.
Their cozy existence, like that of so may others, was shattered 75 years ago on the evening of Dec. 7.

Former Huntington man bringing ‘old friend’ back to town Saturday for fun, entertainment

Huntington native Kasey “KC Thunder” Geyer (top), pictured here in the early 2000s taking on Yuto Aijima in a professional wrestling match in Tokyo, Japan, is returning to his hometown for “Christmas Clash 2016,” a pro wrestling event on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Police Athletic League Club. The match will be Geyer’s first in several years and marks the second comeback of his career, which has spanned over 20 years.
Photo provided.

When Kasey Geyer looks in the mirror these days, he sees an old friend staring back.

That old friend is KC Thunder – the identity Geyer assumed for years as a professional wrestler. His return can only mean one thing: Geyer is getting back in the ring.

And not just any ring. Geyer will be climbing back into one in Huntington, his hometown. The ring will be at the Police Athletic League Club for “Christmas Clash 2016,” a pro wrestling event presented by W.A.R. Wrestling.

Lancaster robotics team soon to add 12th member -- after they build it

Lisa Merryman (middle), a coach for the Lancaster Elementary School robotics team, gives some of the team’s members a helping hand as they try to construct a robot during a team meeting in the school’s library on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Pictured are (from left) Joe Cobey, Kris Michaelson, Merryman, Alex Kelsey and Zach Bishop. The team, which is also coached by Vicky Platt, is in its first year at Lancaster.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Dec. 1, 2016.

The Lancaster Elementary School robotics team currently boasts 11 members.

Shortly, its membership will increase by one. The incoming 12th member won’t be a fifth-grader, though, like everyone else on the team. In fact, the newcomer won’t even be human.

Indeed, the squad’s final member will be the robot that its preceding 11 members have been tasked with building. It’s the first time that students at Lancaster have had such an opportunity and librarian Vicky Platt and resource teacher Lisa Merryman made it possible.

Children’s Choir to unveil new song about Sunken Gardens

Huntington composer and band teacher Diane Whitacre plays her song, “The Sunken Gardens,” at home on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The composition will be performed by the Children’s Choir of Huntington County on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Forks of the Wabash.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Nov. 28, 2016.

One of the highlights of the upcoming Children’s Choir of Huntington Christmas concert on Saturday, Dec. 3, will be an ode to Huntington’s famous former limestone quarry.

The piece, called “The Sunken Gardens,” begins with the words, “Come with me this winter night, let’s go look at all the Christmas lights. What a wonder – all aglow, Sunken Gardens in the snow.”

The new song, written by local composer Diane Whitacre, will be premiered during the Forks of the Wabash “Christmas at the Forks” weekend.

New downtown Christmas decoration to ring in holidays with upbeat music, lights show

Jesse Miskovich, of Huntington, affixes lights on the upper structure of the “mega Christmas tree” display set up in Rotary Park, on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Miskovich has donated more than 500 hours to the project, which will feature around 6,400 lights. Huntington Sheet Metal designed and donated the metal framework for the massive decoration.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Nov. 24, 2016.

A new downtown decoration is taking advantage of a prime piece of real estate to ring in some holiday cheer, thanks to donations from local businesses and the electronic programming expertise of a local resident.

A 32-foot “Christmas tree” made of metal and state-of-the-art “RGB” lights will light up the corner of Jefferson Street and West Park Drive when the switch is pulled on Sunday, dwarfing nearly all of the other decorations in Huntington’s downtown “mall.”

Four-legged visitors make big hit at local jail in start of new program

Huntington County Jail inmate Mary Whited (right) pets Bailey, a schnauzer owned by Donna Norwood (left), during a pet therapy visit to the jail Thursday, Nov. 17. Four dogs and their owners, members of the Three Rivers Visiting Dogs Huntington Team, visited each cell block at the jail, letting their canines interact with the inmates.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Nov. 21, 2016.

Not less than a few inmates at the Huntington County Jail woke up Thursday morning, Nov. 17, to find a greeting from a four-footed, furry ambassador. And in each of the jail’s men’s and women’s cell blocks, there was not a frown to be found.

HSE diploma has local woman moving down road confidently

Alisha Morrical (left) has earned her high school equivalency diploma and starts CNA classes today as a first step toward a career in the medical field, thanks to the help of classes taught by Impact Institute instructor Laura Smart (right).
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Nov. 14, 2016.

Alisha Morrical still has a hard time comprehending how her life changed in five months.

“Five months,” she says incredulously.

Then, she was a high school dropout bouncing from job to job, trying to support three young sons.

Now, the 25-year-old Huntington woman is the proud holder of a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, looking forward to a career in the medical field.

“It’s been a road,” she says.

Young gardeners learning how unconventional can be good

Fifth-grader Trever Walker harvests lettuce from the plant tower located in the cafeteria of Flint Springs Elementary School on Wednesday, Nov. 2. Trever is a member of the school’s Garden and Nature Club, which has worked on the project since September.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Nov. 7, 2016.

Some 20 young gardeners are learning how unconventional gardens can help feed the world, starting right under the roof of their own school.

The Garden and Nature Club, headed up by fifth grade teacher John Stoffel, has planted vegetables — mainly lettuce — in special garden towers that make use of hydroponics to grow the plants soil free.

The school obtained the garden towers thanks to a grant from the Purdue Extension office, facilitated by Special Projects Coordinator Susy Jennings.

Lifetime area farmer remembers break he took on Hawaii helping U.S. rebuild after Pearl Harbor

Harold Billington served more than three years in Hawaii during World War II and, after a lifetime of farming, now resides at Markle Health & Rehabilitation.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Harold Billington grew up a farm boy, and he retired a farmer.

“Wheat, oats, bean, corn, rye,” he says. “Fixed tractors. I fixed about anything; electrical, welding, stuff like that.”
Most of his work was in the Bluffton, Geneva, Berne and Portland areas.

But for more than three years — “three years, four months and 10 days,” he says — Billington was on Oahu, building bridges, roads and landing strips on the Hawaiian island that was home to the naval base at Pearl Harbor in the midst of World War II.

Purdue soccer stadium has familiar name

Huntington native Matt Folk (seventh from left) stands outside Folk Field, the home of Purdue University soccer, alongside family members earlier this year. After making a generous donation to the school’s football and soccer programs, he was given the opportunity to rename the soccer field and did so in honor of his father and mother, Loren Folk and the late Donna Folk. With Folk are (from left) Walker Mattice, Brooks Mattice, sister Jennie Folk Mattice, Reagan Mattice, stepmother Dianna Folk, Loren Folk, wife Mary Folk and Naomi Henn.
Photo provided.

Originally published Oct. 3, 2016.

When Matt Folk was a student at Purdue University, he aspired to see his name on more than just a diploma.

“Kind of one of my goals when I graduated from college was to eventually have my name on a building,” shares the 1991 Purdue grad.

This year, Folk finally achieved that goal. The Huntington native made a significant financial pledge to Purdue’s under-construction football performance complex, as well as its soccer program. Because of that generosity, he was given the opportunity to rename the school’s soccer complex.

Retired accountant crunches numbers, figures big savings by putting solar panels on barn roof

Richard Hollinger, of rural Huntington, says many people don’t even notice the solar panels on the south side of his pole barn roof. Hollinger has saved hundreds of dollars on his electric bill since having the system installed.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Oct. 27, 2016.

Richard Hollinger, of rural Huntington, has found the perfect use for the roof of the pole barn out in back of his house, and it will likely save him more than $1,000 in utility bills this year alone.

Hollinger, a retired accountant, crunched the numbers and invested around $22,000 to put 45 solar panels on the south-facing roof of the barn.

Hollinger became interested in obtaining solar power when he saw numerous wind and solar collectors whenever he went to visit his sister in California.

Pulse director likes to think ‘angels’ watching over theater these days

Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok talks about the unexplained thumps, crashes and bangs she and others have heard coming from the unoccupied stage of her downtown theater. Elsewhere in the Pulse Opera House, a friendly, protective and sometimes mischievous presence makes itself known to the cast and crew.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok got up from her desk to answer the knock on the office door.

“There was definitely someone knocking at the door,” she says. “I heard the door very distinctly. But there was no one there.”

She went back to work and, a short time later, the knocking was repeated.

She didn’t bother to answer that time.

“Just the ghost,” she thought to herself.

Former heroin addict now helping others beat back problem

Former heroin addict Jessica Brooks talks about her family and the devastation wreaked upon them as a result of her addiction to opioids and Xanax during the community forum on heroin held Oct. 4 at Huntington North High School. Brooks now leads one of several programs designed to help individuals break their addictions. The photo on the screen shows Brooks with her family, reunited after being split apart by her addiction.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Oct. 20, 2016.

In an amazingly short amount of time, Jessica Brooks’ five-month-long heroin habit had become so bad that she overdosed on the drug three times.

She shared her story on Oct. 4 with those who came to the Huntington County Sheriff’s community forum on the heroin epidemic that has strafed the county.

Today, Brooks is helping other women overcome substance abuse and addiction as the director of the Indiana Dream Center women’s ministry, one of several local programs offering help for those addicted to drugs.

Town popping up on property along CR300W near Huntington

Jerry Martin (left) and Stan Bippus show off the miniature western town they and a few of their friends made, which is displayed along Bippus’ property on CR 300W. The church is a replica of the Clear Creek Church, located at 750 N. Clear Creek Rd.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Oct. 17, 2016.

Out on Stan Bippus’ property along CR 300W, a small town is taking shape.

Located just north of the Crown Hill subdivision, the town, which as of yet has no name, has popped up along the front of the road, on both sides of the driveway that leads back to Bippus’ pole barn, a.k.a. The Man Cave.

Along the gravel drive, single family housing in the form of birdhouses line the way back to his pond, workshop and poultry coops.

AD Teusch resurrects tradition of ‘Ike the Vike’ mascot for fun, spirit at Viking sporting events

Eli Link, a senior at Huntington North High School, stands before the school’s student section, The Pit, in character as Ike the Vike, the school’s mascot, during a varsity football game at Kriegbaum Field on Friday, Oct. 7. Appearances by the student-portrayed mascot had waned in recent years at the school, but Link and Huntington North Athletic Director Kris Teusch are hoping to reignite the tradition.

Originally published Oct. 13, 2016.

Every student at a Huntington North High School sporting event is a Viking.

But only one of those students gets to become a Viking, literally.

Piece of Huntington history briefly sees light of day

A crew from E&B Paving scrapes up remnants of the old interurban track from the middle of Market Street, in Huntington.
Photo provided.

Originally published Oct. 6, 2016.

A piece of long-buried Huntington transportation history briefly saw the light of day in a project to improve the quality of today’s transportation.

Railroad ties underneath Market Street, part of an interurban line that ran from Huntington to Fort Wayne a century ago, are being removed to create a smoother ride for the motor vehicles that now use the street, says Anthony Goodnight, director of engineering services for the City of Huntington.

HARTA members not just content to sweat on trails, will work on them, too

Jody Davenport, president of the Huntington Area Recreational Trails Association (HARTA), studies a report compiled by Indiana University urban planning students concerning rails expansion in Huntington County.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Oct. 3, 2016.

HARTA members aren’t content working up a sweat just using a trail.

They’re also working up a sweat creating a trail.

The members of HARTA — the Huntington Area Recreational Trails Association — are trimming brush, clearing roots and otherwise smoothing out the bed of the old Wabash and Erie Canal running between the Wabash River and U.S.-24.

County law enforcement readies today for disaster in future years

Members of the District 3 Task Force carry a woman while responding to a domestic dispute, one of multiple scenarios that were presented following the aftermath of an earthquake exercise at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Jennings County. About 300 emergency responders participated in the real-life disaster exercise Sept. 12 through 16. Pictured are (from left) Chief Deputy Chris Newton, of the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department; Mike Sprunger, of the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department; and Chris Emerick, of the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department. The woman in the photo is an actor.
Photo provided.

Originally published Sept. 22, 2016.

Indiana is not necessarily known for its earthquakes, but geologists say there is a 25 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in the next 50 years for the central United States, including the Hoosier state.

Roanoke finds own Betsy Ross to sew flag for state’s bicentennial

Jo DeFord (right) stands beside the 19-star U.S. flag she created and sewed, along with Roanoke Area Heritage Center Secretary Sharon Williams, inside the center on Thursday, Sept. 22. The flag was flying at the time Indiana became the 19th state of the Union in 1816. DeFord’s flag will be displayed at Roanoke’s bicentennial celebration on Friday, Sept. 30.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

When members of the Roanoke Area Heritage Center were looking for a good way to honor the state’s bicentennial, they thought that making a United States flag from the state’s birthday year would be a great idea.

Problem was, after museum President Steve Williams researched the flag design, it was discovered that Congress never officially adopted a 19-star ensign to commemorate Indiana’s admission to the Union, which occurred on Dec. 10, 1816. The nation was still flying a 15-star version of Old Glory.

United Way Campaign reflects upon 60 years of helping

Nicole Johnson sings a song to the tune of “Seasons of Love” Wednesday, Sept. 21, to encourage those in attendance at the United Way kickoff luncheon to give generously during the 2016 fund-raising campaign. About 125 people attended the event, held at Huntington Sheet Metal. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

The 2016 United Way Campaign got off to a good start Wednesday, Sept. 21, as campaign organizers rallied the crowd to reach a goal of $606,060 in donations over the next year and increase the number of donors to 2,660.

Already the United Way has raised $10,000, thanks to its Pacesetter partners, which held fund-raising events early on to bring momentum to the campaign. They were recognized with plaques, a standing ovation and cheers by those attending the lunchtime rally at Huntington Sheet Metal.

Huntington County quilters craft piece hailing state’s 200th birthday

With the quilt they created behind them, members of the Piecemakers Quilt Club take pride in their Indiana bicentennial quilt, which depicts all 12 Huntington County townships. Pictured are (front row from left) Alice Roth, of Bippus; Mary Dalrymple, of Huntington; Margaret Nelson, of Columbia City; and Jean Schowe, of Huntington; and (back row from left) Kathleen Scribner, of Huntington; Jan Ballard, of Huntington; Jan Mathias, of Andrews; Valerie Birkhold, of Huntington; Lesa Scott, of Roanoke; and Delene Swing, of Huntington. The quilt is currently on display at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published on Sept. 19, 2016.

A group of Huntington County quilters, not to be outdone by what other artists have depicted in observance of Indiana’s bicentennial, have created a quilt depicting 200 years of the county’s history, township by township.

The Piecemakers Quilt Club, a special interest club of the Huntington County Extension Homemakers, came up with the idea for the quilt last fall, after someone at The Forks of the Wabash suggested they get involved in the bicentennial celebration, says Club President Kathleen Scribner.