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Congratulations to Rockford RoadDog - selected as the 2020 Rockford Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year
by Lisa Kuhn, chamber Secretary

You have done a great job in the ownership transition - which isn’t easy.
Rockford RoadDog employs local people.  
Your friendly staff are the face of Rockford to many traveling through our village.   We appreciate their kindness, smiles and treating visitors like friends and family.

You have and continue to support the Rockford Chamber and other  local businesses and organizations such as our local radio station.

Rockford RoadDog supports Rockford causes and has helped raise funds for the Rockford Bicentennial with a successful gas sale campaign.

You continue to keep your business clean, attractive and have made investments in your business such as painting the building and repaving the parking areas.

For all of these reasons we appreciate the Rockford RoadDog and find them to be  very deserving of this award.

Duncan Oil Company is a family owned and operated company providing quality petroleum products to customers for.over 60 years. Duncan Oil was purchased by Roger McDaniel in 1978 and is now operated by his son Ryan McDaniel,
alongside his wife Kathryn McDaniel, who maintains the C-store division including Rockford RoadDog. In that time.Duncan has grown from a small company in Beavercreek, Ohio to a growing fuel supplier with customers spanning.across thirteen states.
They specialize in supplying independent supermarket fuel centers, as well as assisting in the forecasting, designing,.building, managing, and supporting of the fueling center. They are also a proud distributor for the Valero, Marathon, Clark,
and VP Brand.

Caption:  Roger, Kathryn, Ryan McDaniel with Krista Adams the Rockford RoadDog Manager



Tom Risch Speaks at St. Paul’s UCC for Veterans Day
Remembrance Day also celebrated

by Sheila Baltzell-Linn, November 8, 2020
St. Paul's United Church of Christ members welcomed Tom Risch to the pulpit on November 8, 2020 with his Veterans Day message.  Becky Shope and Connie Sapp prepared the sanctuary for this occasion with red-white-blue flowers on the altar, organ and piano; flags for each branch of the military hung on the back wall; and the Fallen Soldiers Table displayed at the front.  









Veterans from St. Paul’s were welcomed forward, by Becky, to be recognized for their sacrifices. They included Jerry Bollenbacher, Denny Laffin, Marvin Schaadt, Jerry Schaadt, Gary Deitsch, and Gus Bollenbacher. Two veterans are in assisted living facilities now and were unable to be with us: Jerome Bollenbacher and Duane Linn. John Ousley was absent. All received a card and gifts from the church.


Then Becky read and Connie re-enacted the touching symbolism of The Fallen Soldier’s Table. The significance of each is below:


1. The table is round to show the never ending concern for the missing comrade.

2. The tablecloth is white to symbolize the purity of their motives to respond when answering the call to serve their country.

3. The place setting is a clean, white placemat, plate, bread plate, cloth napkin and utensils. This setting represents your wish that the missing comrade could be present at the happy occasion with you.




4. The black napkin represents the sorrow of captivity.

5. The table is set for one representing the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors.

6. The single red rose displayed in a vase represents the blood shed while protecting our freedom, the life of each missing American and their loving family and friends who kept the faith while awaiting answers of those who serve. They are held with highest respect for that is what they deserve.

7. The yellow ribbon represents our continued uncertainty, hope for their return, determination to account for them as we pray that they’re watched over and kept close to God.

8. The slice of lemon on the bread plate reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured in a foreign land.

9. The salt upon the plate represents the countless tears endured by those missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.

10. The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.




11. The candle reflects the light of hope that lives in our hearts to illuminate their return home, alive or dead, away from their captors to open arms of a grateful nation.

12. The glass inverted represents the inability to share a toast.

13. The American Flag reminds us that many of them may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure our freedoms and our nation’s strength and unity.

14. The chair is empty – the missing comrade isn’t here.


This table is to honor America’s POW’s, MIA’s, and Fallen Soldiers from each branch of our armed service: Army; Marine Corps; Navy; Air Force; Coast Guard; Army Reserve; Army National Guard; Marine Core Reserve; Navy Reserve; Air Force Reserve; Air National Guard and Coast Guard Reserve.







Included in the service was Remembrance Sunday and the families of four deceased members came forward to light a candle for their loved one – as the name was read by Becky Shope and the church bell was tolled by Mark Linn. It was solemn and fitting to remember the lives of the late: Anna Lee Linn; Clara Brinkman; Mary Luginbill; and Ruby Bollenbacher. They were faithful members of our church. Members then came forward to light a candle for others who have passed and are deeply missed.


Tom Risch spoke about his 34 years as the director of the Mercer County Veterans Association. He sees our Veterans when they come home, humble men and women, privileged to have served out country. He spoke of Mercer Countian Don Howell whose medals were lost or destroyed from WWII. Tom helped him get them replaced. He is the most decorated Veteran in Mercer County with his highest award the Navy Cross for his role while guarding the American Flag at Mt. Suribachi. This flag is known around the world. The Raising of this Flag on Iwo Jima is an iconic photograph of six United States Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi.  The Navy Cross was bestowed on Don Howell by the Secretary of the Navy and is the second highest decoration for Valor in Combat.


Mercer Countian Father George Wilson’s story was another that touched Tom Risch’s heart. He was a soldier in the Navy and captured in WWII when his ship was attacked. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and crossed an icy river 4 times. Tom said you never forget these stories, even after the Veterans have passed away. Tom also spoke of the widows and families left behind. Betty Shope is one who receives benefits from the service of her late husband Ed Shope, Sr.


St. Paul’s and an entire nation is grateful to the men and women who have served and those currently serving in the uniformed services of the United States and are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice.











Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge the pictures.


Rockford Army Veteran Gary Davis Proudly Served in Rakkasan Unit
by Sheila Baltzell-Linn 11-11-2020
Thank you to Marcia Ripley for suggesting this story.

According to Rockford native, Gary Davis, in the Army, one of the most decorated and revered units is called the Rakkasan. Receiving their name from the Japanese word for “falling down umbrellas men” during the WWII first jump into Japan after the war, the name stuck for the 8000 strong member retired and active Army Veterans and parachutists of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, at home at Ft. Campbell, KY. Known as the Rakkasans, by official petition of the US Congress, this division of the Army’s 101st, keeps careful track of their membership both online and through reunions. The first jump into Japan in what was supposed to be the first invasion at the end of the war, awed the Japanese women and children who said “Rakkasan” to the men. Because the paratroopers met no gunfire, it was not an official combat jump, but nevertheless became the important beginning of a new division of the Army. That jump was not counted as a combat zone jump, according to Gary, but it WAS the 1st opposing force to enter onto Japanese soil in 3000 years.  The Rakkasan served in all of these wars: WWII; Korea; Lebanon; Viet Nam; Persian Gulf; Afghanistan and Iraq. The organization is incorporated with officers and a board of directors.







Gary became a Rakkasan by virtue of the unit he volunteered into way back, but his retirement years have found him great satisfaction in the organization where he served 3 years as the Rakkasan National Secretary, traveling the USA with his wife, Ruth (Linn) Davis, also from Rockford. She has enjoyed Gary’s job as much as he has, making new friends while he made new friends and renewed old military acquaintances. Gary carries a life membership as does Ruth who is a Lady Rakkasan with a life membership in Ohio Buckeye Chapter & National Chapter.


It is same 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment that Gary Davis, teenager from Rockford, joined between the Korean War and the Viet Nam War from 1962-1964. Gary never saw active duty, but completed 36 jumps in his Army career and very nearly went to Cuba for the Cuban Blockade-Missile Crisis, authorized and halted by then President John F. Kennedy. Gary remembers that 7 days clearly. They mustered out on Red Alert at 3 AM, packed their parachutes, gear and live ammunition. Flying in to Millington, TN Air Station (a land-locked Naval base), they then slept in two man tents on the ground beside the constantly running C1-30’s. Fortunately they did not have to go, but he became friends with Allen Ogram his tent mate. Allen always woke, saying, “Welcome World!” and said many times, “I’m not scared yet!” Gary said, “I was never afraid when I jumped ~ at least once my chute opened.”

Gary was 17 when and took basic training for 8 weeks at Ft. Knox. Moving on to Ft. Gordon, GA, he became a radio teletype operator, an obsolete skill now-a-days, but Gary still know his MORSE code! Airborne School followed at Ft. Benning, GA. Three weeks of jumping started with jumping off 250 foot high towers. Lift and drop. Then two weeks of moving to C1-19 plane jumps, doing 5 of them a day, dropping 32 men one right after the other. Gary learned to jump off the back and out of the side. Completing jump school and moving on, he went to Ft. Campbell in KY. See picture of his Unit with their burro that carries their banner into battle. And, no, the burro doesn’t jump; he is shipped with great care. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1964

Above: Notice the burro mascot with the banner on its back; Gary is standing behind it far left soldier in that row.

Gary has had the pleasure, as National Secretary, to speak directly to some of the most decorated Veterans in the United States. One such Buckeye Chapter veteran died recently who was awarded a Silver Star meaning he had jumped 7 times into combat, two were in Korea.  Another set of twins he met from Chicago, had joined during the Korean War. They were together in the 187th, but served in different battalions. When one brother got shot, the other risked his life to save him. They both became medics. As 88 year olds, they spent the rest of their lives living near each other. Gary and Ruth attended the funeral of one of them recently. The Tori symbol is Japanese meaning "We may die, but our soul passes through this gateway to heaven."


When Gary joined the Rakkasan Organization after his retirement in 2012, little did he realize that he would soon be looking at an elected office. He and Ruth were enjoying catching up with old military buddies and their wives as well as meeting new friends at reunions at the Ohio Buckeye Headquarters and around the country at National Events. However, in 2016 he agreed to run for National Secretary. Before the election could happen, the incumbent secretary was found to be unfit, and they asked Gary to step in when the former was relieved of his status. Gary stepped up to the plate and learned a new software and database to keep the Rakkasan National. Gary was quick to mention that St. Marys Librarian, Karen tutored him on the software program. Gary said 8500 men and women are on the database located in Detroit Michigan. Some of these soldiers and wives are deceased, but it was his job to keep the database up-to-date. It was also his job to help any veteran or spouse with an problem. He spent many hours on the phone fielding calls for help. The database was ship-shape when Gary retired form the secretary’s job in 2019. The new secretary, Erik Lind, a Gulf War veteran, came in and built a new database using Gary’s records. Now it is all Internet-based and searchable. The new Shimbun newsletter is completely online, but any veteran or spouse without Internet stills gets a printed copy. Gary and Ruth are both Lifetime members in Rakkasan.

Gary was awarded the Trooper of the Year in 2017 (Called the Static Line Award) and accepted his award in Atlanta, GA at the all airborne awards banquet. Picture above.This award is a big honor and it was personally presented to him by Lieutenant General Anderson (a currently serving 3 star lieutenant) who flew in from Washington DC. During that same ceremony, George Dumas, a Greek immigrant, 101 years old, was awarded the oldest living paratrooper veteran, but not the 187th. Lieutenant General Anderson knelt on his knee for 20 minutes and talked to George about his story. He immigrated at 11; was without a family; had a family vouch for him at Ellis Island; no papers; lived on the streets of NYC; washed dishes and swept hair in a barber shop until he could join the Army; became a USA Citizen; was awarded 3 purple hearts in combat; he was in the Army for life. Gary said it was his greatest moment to hear George Dumas tell his story and see Anderson respecting him. 

In 2019, Gary received another award, Rakkasan of the Year (Distinguished Member of the Regiment at a banquet in Hopkinsville, KY. He will be on this Distinguished list forever. Ruth Davis, his wife, was Lady Rakkasan of the Year in 2018.

In one final story, Gary met up years later with Robert Rivas, his unit buddy, who actually was from CA and traveled several times to Rockford while they were at Ft. Campbell. They kept in touch but Rivas died. Rivas became a long shoreman in Los Angeles. In 2017 Gary and Ruth visited his widow, and they all went to the cemetery. Then Rivas’ son brought out the veteran’s Rakkasan flag and presented it to Gary, his pal, and said that his father asked that the flag be given to Gary after his death. Gary has flown that very flag in Rockford. When Gary dies, the flag will go back to Rivas’ son in CA. This was a very touching moment for Gary.

Gary and Ruth enjoy their time visiting with Rakkasan friends all over the United States.

To learn more about Rakkasan, go to







Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge the picture.
Above picture of the
Ohio Buckeye Rakkasan Memorial
in Delaware, OH
There is a prayer for the fallen,
and all Ohio Rakkasan are in the memorial bricks
and Doc Flebaris, official doctor ot the 187th
Ne desit virtus - Latin for Let valor not fail.
When a soldier dies, it is just until
we rise up and form again.
Tori-Japanese symbol above the unit. Insignia of the Shimbun magazine
with the red Tori symbol in the middle
Where do you want us to go?
What do you want us to do?
Always ready!
Fallen Rakkasan Monument Read about the shoulder insignia
commissioned by Congress
Gary becomes Interim Rakkasan Secretary
Gary Davis takes the secretary job. Gary Davis retires from the secretary job. Daughter Stacie writes touching 
tribute to her Dad
concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis.
St. Paul's UCC Women's Fellowship Members Donate to C.A.L.L. Backpack Program

The Women's Fellowship at St. Paul's UCC on Oregon Road west of Rockford recently voted to donate
$250 to the C.A.L.L. Ministries Program of Mercer County, located in Celina, OH. The Back-Pack program (in every Mercer
County School) provides bags of weekend food for children and families in need. The Women's Fellowship usually has an
Autumn Festival and Auction to raise money for this program, however, in the time of COVID-19, that festival had to be
cancelled for 2020. The women met recently and felt strongly that a donation was in order, especially after Director of
C.A.L.L Ministries Homer Burnett, shown left, visited the church and spoke on Sunday, August 30, 2020. Sheila Baltzell-Linn presented the check.

Ohio’s Shaffer Wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League Event at Ohio River in Maysville

Louisiana’s Horne Wins Co-angler Division

MAYSVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 17, 2020) – Boater Dick Shaffer of Rockford, Ohio, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 8 pounds, 2 ounces to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event on the Ohio River in Maysville, Kentucky. For his victory, Shaffer earned a total of $3,879.

A person holding a sign Description automatically generatedThe tournament was the third of five events in the Buckeye Division presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps.

“It’s been a long time – my last win was in 2011 – so I feel a lot better, now,” said Shaffer, who earned his 16th career victory in FLW competition. “I was just upriver, fishing main-river stuff. I haven’t been up in that area for four or five years, so I just went fishing blind.”

Shaffer said that he caught his fish on two baits – a Yamamoto Senko and a Zoom Speed Craw.

“I got lucky and caught two off of one stump on back-to-back casts,” Shaffer said. “Then I saw a green tree that looked good, so I stopped and fished it. I ended up catching four fish off of it.

“Late in the day I caught a fish off of a dock that culled me up a half-pound and that one ended up making the difference and getting me the win.”

The top 10 boaters finished the tournament as follows:

            1st:       Dick Shaffer of Rockford, Ohio, five bass, 8-2, $3,879

            2nd:      Roger Hahn of Fairfield, Ohio, five bass, 7-13, $1,940

            3rd:       Jamie Cunnagin of New Lebanon, Ohio, five bass, 7-7, $1,293

            4th:       Brandon Cline of Wheelersburg, Ohio, four bass, 7-4, $1,405

            5th:       Brody Campbell of Oxford, Ohio, five bass, 7-0, $776

            6th:       Donald Sibley of Strasburg, Ohio, five bass, 6-3, $679

            6th:       Ronald Nutter of Newark, Ohio, three bass, 6-3, $679

            8th:       Josh Smith of Hamilton, Ohio, five bass, 6-1, $582

            9th:       Benjamin Quisno of Maineville, Ohio, two bass, 5-6, $517

            10th:     Brad Baldwin of Waynesville, Ohio, five bass, 5-5, $430

            10th:     Pete Justice of Sharonville, Ohio, four bass, 5-5, $430

Complete results can be found at

David Spivey of Hamilton, Ohio, claimed the day’s Boater Big Bass Award of $515 after bringing a 4-pound, 13-ounce bass to the scale.

Cline was the highest-finishing FLW PHOENIX BONUS member and took home an extra $500. Boaters are eligible to win up to an extra $7,000 per event in each Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine tournament if all requirements are met. More information on the FLW PHOENIX BONUS contingency program can be found at

Michael Horne of Dodson, Louisiana, won the Co-angler Division and $2,197 Saturday after catching two bass weighing 5 pounds, 7 ounces.

The top 10 co-anglers finished as follows:

            1st:       Michael Horne of Dodson, La., two bass, 5-7, $2,197

            2nd:      Austin Brock of Liberty Township, Ohio, four bass, 5-3, $1,170

            3rd:       Ryan Lancaster of Oxford, Ohio, three bass, 4-10, $646

            4th:       Jordon Smith of Middletown, Ohio, three bass, 3-13, $453

            5th:       Ryan Rich of Eaton, Ohio, one bass, 3-9, $372

            5th:       Derrick Sadlowski of Steubenville, Ohio, two bass, 3-9, $372

            7th:       Ron Weisenburger of Continental, Ohio, two bass, 3-7, $307

            7th:       John Lane of Findlay, Ohio, two bass, 3-7, $307

            9th:       Darrell Carroll of Independence, Ky., two bass, 3-2, $259

            10th:     James Wilcox of Cincinnati, Ohio, two bass, 3-1, $465

            10th:     J.R. Selke of Waynesville, Ohio, two bass, 3-1, $215

Horne also caught the largest bass in the Co-angler Division, weighing in at 3 pounds, 13 ounces. The catch added to his winnings as he earned the day’s Co-angler Big Bass award of $257.

The top 45 boaters and co-anglers in the Buckeye Division presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps based on point standings, along with the five winners of each qualifying event, will be entered in the Oct. 16-18 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Cherokee Lake in Jefferson City, Tennessee, hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. Boaters will compete for a $60,000 prize package, including a new Phoenix 819 Pro bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury outboard and $10,000, while co-anglers will fish for a new 18-foot Phoenix bass boat with a 200-horsepower outboard.

The 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 tournaments throughout the season, five qualifying events in each division. The top 45 boaters and co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, will advance to one of six regional tournaments where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American.

The 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American will be held Nov. 11-13 at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina and is hosted by Visit Anderson. The top 45 boaters and co-anglers plus tournament winners from each Phoenix Bass Fishing League division earn priority entry into the FLW Series, the pathway to the FLW Pro Circuit and ultimately the MLF Bass Pro Tour, where top pros compete with no entry fees.

For complete details and updated information visit For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine on FLW’s social media outlets at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

About FLW
FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, FLW and its partners conduct more than 290 bass-fishing tournaments annually around the world, including the United States, Canada, China, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Zimbabwe.

FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show while Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. Acquired by Major League Fishing in late 2019, FLW is expanding its programming in 2020 to the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel as well as on-demand at MyOutdoorTV (MOTV).


Five inches of rainfall in less than 12 hours in Mercer County overnight, on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - Flash flood warnings go out from Emergency Sources.

Thank you to Henkle Insurance for sponsoring the weather link!



The 2020 National and State plowing contest at Robert and Rozann Maurer’s Farm
The 2020 National and State plowing will be held on the Maurer farm on St Rt 707 on July 30, 31 and August 1 and 2. This is the first time the event will be held in Mercer County. There are plowmen from 10 different states registered. Admission is free. The location is 5981 St Rt 707, Mendon. It is one half mile from US 127. Practice is on Thursday the 30th, National contests are on July 31 and August 1st and the state contest will be on Sunday August 2nd. If you have never attended one, you might like to attend. Shuttle wagons will be available to transport visitors around the site.  “I am honored to have been asked to be one of the host farmers,” said Bob Maurer.



New Member Joins St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
Services Announced

The Congregation of St. Paul's United Church of Christ - Rockford, led by Consistory president David Taylor, welcomed the newest member of the church on Sunday, July 26, 2020 following a short ceremony (pictured left). Blaine Hynde of Muskegon, Michigan is a recent graduate of Reeths-Puffer High School. The Consistory greeted him and his family - followed by many congregants.  He is the son of Eugene and Diana Hynde and grandson of Dennis and Gloria Laffin.  He will be attending Elmhurst University in the Fall where he will play LaCrosse.

The service was led by guest singer and musician, Paula Stephenson Schumm. Paula entertained with instruments hand-crafted by her husband Herb. The mountain dulcimer and the country dulcimer rang out with their "sweet sounds". The autoharp (shown above) was a favorite of the crowd as was her fun "sound" stick with bells, tambourine, a horn and other noise makers. Songs led by Paula included favorite hymns like Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art as well as patriotic Christian songs and hymns. Everyone was singing along and participating as she got people clapping and flapping. Paula and Herb grew up locally.

Sheriff Jeff Grey will speak on Sunday, August 2, 2020 and Parkway Teacher and Coach Doug Hughes will speak on Sunday, August 9, 2020. Services are held outside under a big tent. Bring your own lawn chairs if you prefer. Some feel more comfortable sitting in their vehicles and listening. Social distancing and other rules are being followed to keep everyone safe. Everyone is welcome.





Ethel Pontsler, Rockford Artist Passed Away on December 30, 2022

The beautiful artistry of Ethel Pontsler in "The Angel House"
Angel House Murals -- photographed by Lisa Kuhn

These are located in the former Nazarene Church (Ethel's art studio for a number of years) at the corner of Market St and Franklin St that is scheduled to be razedin July 2020 in Rockford.



Rockford - Former Nazarene Church to be Razed
by Lisa Kuhn, Village Fiscal Agent
Photo by Mike Schumm

Shown above and below are pictures of the bell removal from the old Nazarene Church at the corner of Franklin and Market.  
Mike Maharg and Crew removed the bell from the church for restoration.  The bell is stamped 'C.S. Bell Company #40.'  
It appears the bell dates to thelate 1800's. The church is scheduled for demolition this week.  The church was bought from the United Brethren Church on Route 33 west of Rockford near Harner road around 1940 and moved to its current location, becoming a Nazarene Church.


Sheila Baltzell-Linn mentioned: “When the church disbanded in the 1970’s, the late Fred Baltzell bought the property (as it was adjacent to the Rockford Press Printing Company) and it sat vacant for many years and was once again sold. In the 1980’s it became an art studio run by local artist Ethel Pontsler. It operated for several years. In the 1990’s, Jenny Langenkamp opened a dance studio at the location and it operated for several years as well.”


Sheila recalled, “ An interesting side note of Rockford history is the four corners of fire.  In the same year time period, Winter 1985 - Summer 1986, the little white house on the southwest corner of Franklin and Market caught fire accidentally. It was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Springer. He was thawing pipes under the house.

Then the white 2 story frame house (Mr. Whittung’s home) on the northwest corner had an accidental fire. Both of these houses were saved by the volunteers of the Rockford Fire Company. In the summer of 1985, several teenagers wandered into the village and entered the unlocked Rockford Presbyterian Church on the north east corner of Franklin and Market. They started a fire that went undetected for 12 or more hours, which baked the inside of the old brick structure and destroyed the inside of the church. It was completed remodeled. Later that church disbanded and the property sold. It is now The Belle. The Rockford Fire Company also saved that church. The last Franklin and Market Street fire happened on Friday, June 13, 1986, when the Rockford Press wood frame building accidentally caught fire and burned to the ground. That fire was a total loss. The Rockford Press was near the corner right next to the Old Nazarene Church.”



Our Old Bookcase, “Local History Book Class,” for Week # 1, March 2020

OUR OLD BOOK CASE By Joyce L. Alig, President, Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.

Photo caption:  Can you identify “Halfway Cross” on Mitchell’s 1755 Map of North America?



We Ohioans have been directed, “Stay home for two weeks. . . or more!”  I have a suggestion about how to make your life more interesting, while staying at home.  Four local citizens gave me an idea!


“Would you teach some Local History Classes?” is one request I received.  The other three requests came from men whose wives were cleaning house and threatened them, that they should get rid of their collection of New Idea Manuals, etc., or she would do it for them.  Those men donated their collections to the Mercer County Historical Society yet that afternoon.  One person asked for local history classes; the other three asked the Historical Society to save their local history books.  I have a suggestion.


I will introduce you to a local history book each week, which you can read in an afternoon or evening.  I will provide a short introduction to a local history book, which will inspire you to want to learn about this very land in mid western Ohio where you go about your daily lives. 


The First Week’s “Local History Book Class” is about the history of the land between the Saint Marys and Wabash River Valleys, illustrated by early maps, 1755 – 2020, as a part of northwestern Ohio.  Look very closely at the 1755 map above.  On the left side of the map, you will see the Wabache River, i.e. Wabash River.  On the right or east side of that River is the word NATION, but you can only see the first three letters, of which the first letter is an “N.”  On the right side of the “N” are the words “Halfway Cross.”  Do you recognize the site?  This question is for your Class of Week # 1.


John Mitchell’s map of the British and French dominions in North America was printed in Amsterdam for I. Covens and C. Mortier in 1755.  Mitchell’s map was used by the European political leaders in preparing the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  The 1755 map was also used in Ohio’s border dispute with Michigan in 1836.  [That’s right, Michigan State and Ohio State were arguing about land yardage back in 1836!] 


Mitchell’s map was one of the earliest maps to identify a site in Mercer County, near the site of Rockford, or Shane’s Crossing, as “Halfway Cross.”  “Half way Cross” is a site on the Saint Marys River, identifying the Crossing of the Saint Marys River, halfway between Pickawillany [near present day Piqua, Ohio] on the Great Miami River and the Native American Village Kekionga at the confluence of the Saint Marys and Saint Joseph Rivers [present day Fort Wayne, Indiana].  The map was not perfect, but it was good in consideration of the explorers in the wilderness in the 1770’s for the cartographers.


The land between the Saint Marys and Wabash River Valleys was the land where Mercer County, was to be established in 1820, when fourteen counties were erected in Northwestern Ohio, north of the 1795 Greenville Treaty Line.  This book will provide you with the highlights of Local History, from 1755 – 2000.  You can then use this book as a Handbook when you read more books about local history.


The book for this first week of class is “Mercer County, Ohio; History of the Land between the Saint Marys & Wabash River Valleys, Illustrated by Early Maps, 1755 – 2000.”  This book was published by the Mercer County Historical Society, Inc. and printed by the Messenger Press, Carthagena, in 2000.  You may order a copy of the book for five dollars and I will send it to you.  Because you are Students in this “Local  History Book Class,” postage will be free. 


Please stay well.  When our Ohio Government opens public buildings again, you will be able to borrow our local history books from our local libraries for free.  If you know the site of “Halfway Cross,” for this “Local History Book Class” for Week # 1, let me know.  Thank you for your interest in local history.


 [Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig may be contacted at 3054 Burk-St. Henry Road, Saint Henry, OH 45883, or  or 419-678-2614.]  



Our Old Bookcase, March 5, 2020, Oil heaters for apple orchards


Photo caption:  The oil heaters protected apple orchards from frost in the 1909 photograph.


OUR OLD BOOK CASE By Joyce L. Alig, President, Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.


Today, we honor John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed.  March 17 is honored at St. Patrick Day.  The following day, March 18, was the day John Chapman died in 1845.  Take time to eat an apple on March 18, as a salute to Johnny Appleseed.


Apples were on the dinner tables of pioneer settlers across the United States.  Soon, they were planting apple trees for orchards.  By the turn of the century, with the discovery of oil wells and the various uses of oil, oil heaters were planned and implemented for a multitude of uses.  In 1909, oil heaters were used in orchards to protect the apple trees, when temperatures were dropping.  In orchard heating, the fuel had to be easy to light.  A fuel had to be able to burn a long time, and would give out a great amount of heat.  The heater had to be easily controlled in regard to the temperature.  Oil was best for heating, but where oil was scarce and coal abundant, coal would cost less.


Several companies manufactured oil heaters after the turn of the century, when oil wells began producing oil.  One oil heater was manufactured by a firm in Fresno, California, where fruit orchards were in existence.  A successful orchard oil heater had a center draft tube that fed oil to the flames, and promoted combustion, and made good use of the oil.  The heater held about five quarts of oil, and would burn six or seven hours.  The heater was made of 28 gauge iron and weighed nearly 2 pounds.  It stood less than a foot high.  When being shipped, the heaters could easily be stacked.  The cover fit the heater in a manner similar to a lard can lid, which was raised in the center so that it would shed water, when placed in the orchard.


As shown in the photograph above, several oil heaters were placed throughout the orchard.  The heaters in the photograph held seven quarts of oil and burned for ten hours.  Credit for the photograph and history is given to the “U.S. Department of Agriculture 1909 Yearbook,” published at Washington, at the Government Printing Office, 1910.


I remember apple trees at our home.  Apples were used to pack school lunches.  Apples had multiple uses in the kitchen.  Apple pies, apple dumplings, apple sauce, and apple salad were great dishes in the past, and they are good choices for meals today.  Do you remember having apple dumplings with fresh cream when you were a child?  You cannot purchase cream of that quality today. 


Of course, everyone recalls Jonathon Chapman, i.e. Johnny Appleseed.  The best known person in Mercer County’s history about apple trees is John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed.  John Chapman’s birth date was September 26, 1774.  He died March 18, 1845, and is buried at Fort Wayne.  The early Mercer County History books carried stories about Johnny Appleseed, and nearby county history books also included history about Johnny Appleseed.  He established apple orchards in states across the Midwest. 


On March 18, lift a glass of apple cider in honor of our historical hero, Johnny Appleseed.


 [Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig, may be contacted at 3054 Burk-St. Henry Road, Saint Henry, OH 45883,or  or 419-678-2614.]  

PWI Editor's comment: Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees in Rockford near the present day American Legion and the home of Mike "Spank" and Debbie Schumm on U.S. Route 33.

Championship Parkway Basketball Team and Fans
Embrace Two of Their Own with Love and Respect
By Sheila Baltzell-Linn 3-20-2020
Photos shared by photographers Pat Agler (PantherzDen), Jill Luginbill, Brady McKee,
Sheila Baltzell-Linn, and James Leighner (Lucky6Pix) - Thank you!

If you'd like a link to only this story for a print-out - go to


Inclusion in the regular academic classroom, for students with a myriad of disabilities, has been around since the 1990’s. In short, inclusion in the classroom means that students with disabilities have opportunities to learn in the same environment and alongside non-disabled students.
The heart-warming story at Parkway Schools is all about inclusion rising to a new level – on the basketball court


Two Boys on the Team

According to Varsity Basketball Coach Doug Hughes, the teammates have embraced two classmates with disabilities onto the team, serving as inspiration, lending a hand at managing the team, and bringing friendship. “The players treat those two like gold,” said Hughes, special education teacher at Parkway Schools.

The Parkway Intervention students are: 1. Brayton Luginbill, Down Syndrome, a limited verbal classmate (three words) who carries a communication device (donated by Fox Family Ride for Autism), is the 17 year old son of Scott and Jill Luginbill; and 2. Bradyn (Brady) McKee, Delayed Mylination,  high-functioning, is the17 year old son of Todd and Terri McKee.  Both students came to be part of Parkway Basketball as early as 8th graders to help with things like sports equipment and water bottles and learn in a work study environment just this year.  The Intervention Class of Doug Hughes includes all academic classes and the work study program.

Brayton (left) and Brady enjoy a selfie.



 Brayton Luginbill

According to the Luginbills of rural Willshire, they are so proud to be lifelong Panthers, and the parents of young Brayton, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at one week old. Later he was diagnosed with Autism after attending Parkway Kindergarten. Jill explains, though, that these labels do not define Brayton’s abilities.  He’s always been in multiple disabilities classrooms until moving to the Intervention class this year for the work study program. He attended preschool at Cheryl Ann Schools. Jill and Scott credit everyone at Cheryl Ann and Parkway for Brayton’s success. Jill said,  “There isn’t just one person; it’s a team effort.  It does take a village. The students not only accept Brayton, they include him.  His basketball family allows independent growth and experiences. The teachers, administration, and our community encourage and support non traditional IEP paths with local opportunities.”  The Luginbill’s commented, “These young men have grown up with Brayton both on and off the court. You know he is considered a member of the team, for when he missed practices in Jr. High when he was hospitalized with pneumonia during the season, Brayton received a get-well poster board card signed by all the team players along with balloons.  Also, when the current Seniors were 8th graders (Brayton was in 7th grade), he was presented with a basketball signed by all Jr. High players.  The 8th grade brought home the championship that year, that ball is still cherished by Brayton.  This year Brayton leads the team on to the court at the beginning of each game and participates in pumping up his player as the starting line ups are announced.  We are blessed that these young men are proud to have him (“Dr. Luginbill”) as a member of the team even to the extent that Brayton now has received 2 tourney net pieces from sectional and district championships.  There is so much more than just the win on the scoreboard!”

Brayton with the Panther Mascot.



Bradyn (Brady) McKee

Todd and Terri McKee of Rockford,  said they learned of Brady’s diagnosis at 10 months old after an MRI at Columbus Children’s Hospital revealed Delayed Mylination  (lack of oxygen at or before birth). “Brady then went to Cheryl Ann programs and Early Intervention until he was 3 years old where Brayton was also enrolled. It was there we met the Luginbills. Brady was, at age 3, transitioned to home therapy with Mercer County Services until he started Pre-School at Parkway,” said Terri. Brady had some therapy at the time and then transitioned to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The McKee’s mention,  “We are grateful to Parkway Schools and, in particular, staff members Brandy Cairns, Matt Fisher and Doug Hughes for their dedicated work with Brady.” 

The McKee’s
shared, “I don’t know if Coach Hughes has told you, but Brady is all about sports. He was constantly in Doug’s office when he was the AD - talking sports. Doug even at one point had to come up with rules that if Brady didn't have his work done and turned-in then he couldn't talk sports with Coach Hughes. Brady here at home has a PlayStation 4 & is constantly on it. He literally makes the teams (all the local MAC teams) & their fields or courts & then plays the game. He has numerous PowerPoint slides that he’s created with high school, collegiate, & pro teams rosters. I received a MAC football schedule from a co-worker years ago that showed the schedule by the helmets only. Brady loved that schedule so much that he figured out a way to make his own & has done it the last 3 years.”

When the players heard this story from Mrs. McKee, they all started talking about the fun they have playing PlayStation online with Brady. “He’s good at online games and makes his own teams which is a hard thing to set-up,” marveled Caden Slusher.
Photo above is Brady with two fans.



Becoming Part of the Basketball Team

Brayton Luginbill LOVES basketball, according to his mom. As early as elementary school, he participated in Parkway summer camp sessions with Coach Hughes and on the Challengers’ Team for the County. Player Dylan Hughes volunteered as a Challenger buddy for Brayton for basketball. Two other buddies were Roman Leszinske and Grant Bollenbacher, according to Jill Luginbill. His parents were instrumental in getting that started for the younger disabled children. Basketball continued through junior high and high school where he began traveling with the Freshman Team two years ago and has moved up to JV and Varsity team participation.

“Brayton has been a manager, but this year was promoted to Hydration Specialist or what most people call the Water Boy,” said Jill.  Coach Hughes explained that when Brayton came into his classroom at the start of the 2019 school year, it was to enroll him in a work study program, and part of that is the Basketball duties. “It is his job, at school, to clean the bottles and keep them filled with water, but he also does school recycling and even laundry. On the court, he carries the crate and hands the water bottles to the players. This part is not the work study program, but I am not sure he realizes that. He’s part of the team when he is on the court,” said Coach Hughes. Brayton also is in Work Study program and on Tuesday afternoons he works with Tom Burtch at the Rockford Carry-Out. His duties there include: stocking shelves; breaking down boxes; cleaning tables; washing windows and cleaning trays. “This year Brayton leads warm-ups on the court. He then runs out and does the high five with Nick Hawk right as the game starts,” said Jason Luth. “Brayton shows his excitement in many ways. He gets so anxious before the game. He stands shoulder to shoulder with the referees, watching and waiting for the flag to come down and the National Anthem to finish. He knows the routine and is very dedicated to the routine in all areas of the game.” said Coach Hughes. “And, he constantly plays with his hoodie strings,” laughed Nick Hawk as the other players nodded in agreement. “ He pulls them back and forth and rolls them up and down in an exact rhythm.” 

Brayton and his hoodie strings. Photo compliments of James Leighner.

“Overall his behavior on the bench is great even though he is grunting, clapping and bouncing around. At practices, he acts out his need for attention, sometimes, by laying in the middle of the court with his head on a basketball and hand on his head,” said Corey Walls, smiling. “He likes to practice with us, too, and makes lots of shots. He’s good!,” said Jason Luth. “ He even tries to run the scoreboard in practice,” chuckled the players, “and SOMETIMES, the water caps are on wrong, and he laughs when he says ‘Whoops” which can be his playful verbalization that he just drenched an unsuspecting teammate on purpose.”  Brayton has 3 words: Whoops, Uh-Oh and What, and the players have come to know his verbal and non-verbal communications. “He’ll even drop his crate and throw water bottles, splashing the boys in a playful way.” said Coach Hughes.  “And, he is really empathetic, for instance when Corey (Walls) sprained his ankle, Brayton, got the attention of the trainer to help and then rubbed Corey’s shoulders. He will often pat the players on the back in a show of encouragement.”


Brady McKee, also a work study student of Doug Hughes, performs a totally different role on the team. Brady LOVES all kinds of sports and keeps the minutes chart for the Panthers’ games and statistics that the coaches use. Even the other teams’ coaches! He’s good with Microsoft Excel and Word, so he develops the sports program for each game, which includes the opposing team rosters, which he gets off the Internet. He quietly sits on the bench collecting data and doesn’t lose his cool during the game. “This year Brady is a “student assistant” and he wears a suit like the other coaches do on game days and gets to sit on the bench with them,” said Terri, his mom.

Brady with his share of the trophy loot after the win at sectionals or districts.

“Come Monday morning 1st period, he’ll have the numbers crunched and the spreadsheet printed for each coach and player,” said Coach Hughes, and according to his teammates, he is ready to discuss the numbers! And, not only MAC, but all college teams as well.

“He likes to argue with us and always wants our opinion,” said Nick Hawk. “ He critiques our playing but always in a light-hearted way!”

His mom Terri agrees, “Brady gives us all the rundown on the opponents they are going to face then we get the play by play on the game when he gets home.” Corey Walls marvels at the way he knows the mascots of all the college teams. Brady was moved to the bench this year because of his unique role with the coaching staff, according to Coach Hughes.

“He doesn’t like to play the game, though; he’s all about the analysis,” explained Jason Luth. Brady gets upset about the postponement of the tournaments.



Panther sports fan, Barb Baker, who suggested this story, talked about a touching moment for the Panther Fans at the district final game. It is the same story that touched Terri McKee’s heart. Barb explained, “The Panther Fans were watching the team players cut pieces of the net down after their exciting win. Brady went up to cut his own piece of the net down, and he was really struggling with the scissors. A couple of the players, Corey Walls and Nick Hawk  immediately came to his rescue. They helped him cut through it. As they tried to hand the piece to Brady, he gave it back; but the boys were insistent – ‘Brady, this is YOUR piece.’ The Wapak gymnasium erupted in cheering!”  


Terri said, “The boys have always been so patient & caring to both Brady & Brayton. This action really showed me what an amazing group of young men that their parents have raised.”








Corey Walls shown helping Brady cut the piece of net.



Parkway Panthers were Regional Bound after having won 41-31 in the District Finals vs Marion Local. In the Regional Semi-finals Parkway beat Tiffin Calvert 44-42 to advance to the Regional Finals. Tournament action was postponed by the Coronavirus Outbreak.


Coach and Teacher Doug Hughes

Hughes has been at Parkway for 14 years, but has been in education for 27 years as a licensed Intervention Specialist for K-12 grade and an Elementary 1-8 grade certified teacher. He’s been a head basketball coach for 19 years (10 at Parkway) and was Parkway Athletic Director for 11 years. Although he’s interacted with Brayton and Brady over the course of the boys’ school careers, they both came to Mr. Hughes classroom this year in the Work Study Program.

The boys are in Inclusion classrooms, but Hughes teaches Brayton most of his classes, and Brady only comes to him during study hall, spending most of his time in regular academic classes, or doing Work Study with AD Matt Triplett.

Interviewed for this feature were Left to right: Dylan Hughes; Caleb Kinney;  Gavin Stober; Caden Slusher;
Corey Walls; Jason Luth; Coach Doug Hughes; Nick Hawk and Ryan Hesse.

Said Coach Hughes, “I’m so proud of these young men." They are: Jason Luth, Senior; Caleb Kinney, Senior; Dylan Hughes, Junior; Nick Hawk, Senior; Corey Walls, Senior; Ryan Hesse, Senior; Caden Slusher, Sophomore; Gavin Stober, Senior; Kendall Roof, Senior; and Zach Hawk.

"What has been good for Brady and Brayton has been best for these teammates. They think outside of themselves and have consideration of others especially Brayton. For instance, part of the routine is that the boys eat lunch every day with Brayton and Brady, but Brayton cannot order his own food. These young men figured out a system of selection (using the left  or right fist designated as a specific food choice) for Brayton. Early in the season, after the Milton Union away scrimmage, they stopped at a Burger King  for a meal. The boys had to figure out how to order for Brayton. They had been working on the fist selection at school, and had him choose between left-fist Whopper and right-fist Chicken Nuggets. Brayton selected, but Caleb noticed he kept choosing the same hand and mentioned it. The boys were trying to figure out if Brayton was really paying attention to the choices. Caleb tried left-fist broccoli and right-fist potato chips. And, Brayton chose the other fist which was potato chips. The boys tried it again, and once again Brayton was paying attention and avoided broccoli.”  The team, at this interview, erupted in laughter remembering the Burger King dilemma.

Of the Panther Basketball Team success this year, (19-7 after they won the regional semi-final and were headed to the final), Coach Hughes said, “Every person on this team had a role and hand in the success. These young men think of others and not themselves. They have learned to sacrifice for the team – the greater good. They are the true definition of a team ~ everyone sacrificing so that the team can achieve greatness. I started seeing that come out in them after about the third loss of the season. We lost a really tough game at Ft. Recovery – a game in which we led the whole way until they hit a deep three with only seconds remaining. That was tough to take. In the locker room, after that loss, we talked about how we must keep working and how important it was for us as a group to stay together. We told the players they had to keep on grinding and understand that the strength of this team was our unity and unselfishness. At that point, the losses brought them together as a team. They were perfectly fine sacrificing for the betterment of the group. They learned it makes you tougher when you stick together. At every turn, I see these boys rooting for and excited for each others’ successes. They never point fingers. It is so special to see individual success with no jealousy – no tear down. They play well together on and off the court, and certainly they set the finest example in the love and friendship they share with teammates Brayton and Brady and their successes.”

Before the Coronavirus struck, the Panthers were to play Columbus Grove in the Regional finals on Friday, March 13, 2020, with all of the Parkway district families and fans who so looked forward to the game and wished the best of luck to the team and their two very important helpers.

Coach Hughes finished, “We have talked a lot about things we can’t control on the court, like the virus bringing our tournament run to an abrupt stop. We choose to continue to move forward because we have learned that when we are in it for each others’ success it leads to Parkway’s success.”



Dylan Hughes cuts a piece of the net for Brayton at the Coldwater game.



Fans celebrate Brayton getting a piece of the tournament net at Wapak. Photo shared by Pat Agler.



Nick Hawk, number 32, playfully celebrates with Brady McKee, after the win.

Flashback Moment: Eighth grader Nick Hawk presents seventh grader Brayton with the basketball signed
by all Jr. High team players when they won the Basketball Championship that year.



Parkway Schools Confirm Cancellation of Tournament Action

The Parkway Panthers were Regional Bound on Tuesday, March 10 in Bowling Green after having won 44-42 against Tiffin Calvert in Sectional action last week.

A notice came out today from the OHSAA:


OHSAA Postpones All Remaining Winter Tournaments

Includes boys basketball regional and state tournaments, along with ice hockey, wrestling and girls basketball state tournaments

COLUMBUS, OhioAt 12:45 p.m. Thursday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced that all remaining winter tournament contests are immediately postponed due to the growing situation with the coronavirus COVID-19.

The suspended tournaments include the girls state basketball tournament; the state individual wrestling tournament; the state ice hockey tournament, and the boys regional and state basketball tournaments.

“We will use this time to work with the appropriate state authorities and health experts to determine our next steps moving forward,” Snodgrass said. “We realize this is disappointing for our participants and their fans, but the overall health and safety of everyone involved in our tournaments is our priority.”

No timetable has been determined for possible rescheduling for the tournaments.

The announcement was made after state and local officials recommended that no public gatherings take place to help stop the spread of the virus.



Congratulations to the Parkway Varsity Basketball Team on their District Tournament win, first in Panther history.
They beat the Marion Local Flyers on Friday Night 3-6-2020 at Wapakoneta Gymnasium. Final Score 41-31. The team now goes on to Regional tournament action at Bowling Green, Ohio on Tuesday night 3-10-2020 at 8 PM


50th Anniversary (2020)of the Loss of a Local Soldier in Vietnam and the Scholarship Legacy He Shares

 Army Ranger Chuck Harubin Offers His Remembrance to a Fallen Hero below.

Pictured at left: Late U. S. Army Specialist 4 Carey Allen Fosnaugh

The late U. S. Army Specialist 4 Carey Allen Fosnaugh died in the Binh Dinh Province of Vietnam fifty years ago on January 23, 1970. He was barely 20 years old doing a soldier's work in the jungle when he was cut down by enemy fire while on a search and rescue mission. His wife Carol, mother, father, family and friends never stopped mourning the loss of Carey and immediately helped form the Benny, Bill and Carey Scholarship in 1970 to honor the memories of three young men from the Parkway area who lost their lives there:  including the late William "Bill" Miller of Willshire and the late Benny Sapp of Rockford.

The scholarship is given out each year to a Parkway Senior on graduation day, which is on Sunday May 17, 2020. Presenting that scholarship in honor of the 50th Anniversary is his best friend who served with him in Vietnam, Robert Blackwell, of Asheville, NC. Over the years, Bob has created several beautiful stained glass creations to raise money for the Scholarship Fund collected through the Leota Braun Foundation in Rockford. In addition the Rockford American Legion and Sons of Legion, the Willshire American Legion, and other donors have helped keep this important legacy alive. Contact for more information on donating.


Chuck Harubin, an Army Ranger - Retired wrote this touching “remembrance” " . . . for the readers of The Parkway Independent and others who might find the time to reflect for a moment on the sacrifice Carey A. Fosnaugh and the other young men made on their behalf, 50 years ago.   The passage of time sometimes diminishes the significance of how honorably they represented their community.  While there will never be sufficient words to pay proper honor to Carey,  we hope the sincere gratitude by our Rangers is clearly understood," said Chuck Harubin
who wrote this
at the request of the K Co., 75th Ranger unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment Association to honor Carey.

Please click here for this moving story and photos of appreciation for Carey and his sacrifice.

Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge pictures. Contact

Carey Fosnaugh and Bob Blackwell in Vietnam Mike Green, Carey Fosnaugh & Bob Blackwell in Vietnam
Semi-tractor and Trailer Rig Overturns in Rockford

On Saturday, October 19, 2019, a semi-tractor and trailer overturned while apparently attempting to turn onto U.S. Route 33 from SR 118/US 33 in Rockford. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Rockford Police Department and Rockford Volunteer Fire Company were on the scene assisting until heavy equipment came for the removal.

Thank you to Dr. Norman Means of Rockford for sharing his pictures.



45th Anniversary of Girls Sports at Parkway Schools
Former Basketball Players Reunite for Weekend of Fun

1974-79 Parkway Girls JV and Varsity Team Members, coaches and support staff.
Front row l to r: Tami Pontius; Karla Sidenbender; Penny Leighner; Colleen Wood; Tammy Walls and Martha Sidenbender.
Second Row: Kathy King; Lisa Hays; Ruth Luginbill; Lisa Sealscott; Coaches Trude Laffin and Kathy Van Emans; MAC Secretary Jon Sidenbender.
Back row: Cindy Leighner; Lisa Schroyer; Nancy Leighner; Lori Sidenbender; Deb Stetler; Coach Linda Stelzer; Pam Lowry;
Susan Samples; Lori Hays; Debbie Hileman and Coach Gary Stelzer.


45th Anniversary of Parkway Girls’ Sports Celebrated by Former Players
by Sheila Baltzell-Linn 9-17-2019
Photos by Penny Leighner Fish and Sheila Wood Baltzell-Linn

Players and coaches from the first Parkway High School Girls basketball teams from 1974 to 1979 (pictured above) gathered on Saturday, September 14, 2019 for a reunion at the home of Jon and Martha Sidenbender in Rockford. At the reunion, many had not seen their former teammates and coaches since graduation day in the mid-70’s. Everyone had changed, but the sporting spirit was still there!

On Friday night, September 13, 2019, the ladies attended the Panther-Flyers football game and were recognized during the 3rd  quarter. They included (see picture above): Kneeling: Vicki Sapp, Penny Leighner, and Deb Stetler. Back row L to R: Ruth Luginbill , Pam Lowry  Mary Lou Cheek, Cindy Leighner, Kathy King, Tammy Walls, and Colleen Wood. They were honored with these words by Athletic Director Matt Tripplett, “It was 45 years ago this fall that Parkway High School took a monumental step in women’s sports. In the fall of 1974, girls’ interscholastic sports were offered for the first time when volleyball and basketball teams walked onto the court. By the second and third seasons, the girls’ basketball team played in Sectional competition. By the fourth and fifth seasons the team went to District play earning Regional Runner Up in that fifth season. Many of these first players received individual recognition at the local and state levels, and several of them went on to play after high school. These players ~ from the very first girls’ basketball team at PHS ~ were trailblazers in women’s sports and include: Tammy Pontius, Diane Kuhn, Mary Lou Cheek, Cathy Leugers, Belle Feasel, Shari Jackson, Cindy Leighner, Linda Bradrick, Ginny Miller, Cindy Pifer, Kim Rutledge, Traci Schott, Ruth Luginbill, Brenda Hays, Pam Lowry, Vickie Sapp, Patsy McCullough, Karen Bilter, Pam Ahrens, Rita Strukamp, Deb Stetler, Lisa Sealscott, Jeannie Acheson, and Colleen Wood. Also, a special acknowledgment goes out to the very first coaches Jill Howell, Trude Laffin, and Kathy Van Eman (see picture immediately below). A special recognition went to Jon Sidenbender, who was the Midwest Athletic Conference Secretary from 1973 through 1997, and was the driving force behind the addition of girls’ sports in the MAC conference. Congratulations ladies, and thank you for getting the ball rolling."

JV and Varsity First Team
Front row: Ruth Luginbill; Cindy Leighner; Coach Trude Laffin; Tammy Pontius; Coach Kathy Van Eman.
Back row: Principal and Athletic Director: Norm Van Tilburg; Colleen Wood; Patsy McCullough; Pam Lowry; Lisa Sealscott; and Deb Stetler.


On Saturday, the excitement in the party room, mixed with the smell of a delicious lunch, created a homey atmosphere of re-acquainting with one another. Pictures were taken (see below), and news of 45 years past filled the air. Planner Penny Jo Leighner Fish asked her mom, Nancy Leighner (who was also the first year bus driver for the team), to say the blessing. And, soon people were enjoying a delicious carry-in meal (with meat provided by the Rockford Carry-Out).

Linda Stelzer shows the 1979 Regional Runners-Up trophy above.

It wasn’t long, though, before former players and coaches were standing up to address the group asking fun questions like, “ What were our nicknames on the team?” Answers: Bunny; Muck; Lucky; Sides; Stilts; Slick; Woody and Katrat. Norm Van Tilburg, their former Principal and AD, asked if they remembered his nicknames: Stormin’ Norman and Bald Eagle. This comment elicited lots of laughter, and Karla Sidenbender Butler said they all KNEW his nicknames, but of course NEVER called him that!

Also, “How did playing basketball inspire you in life?”  Several said they experienced a self-confidence boost while competing against other girls; some mentioned this competitive spirit has carried them throughout their lives, inspiring them in careers, families, and community leadership.  Some went on to become coaches themselves and officiated games.

They discussed things like the Blizzard of 1978, with cancelled games and delays or cancellations due to the school having no money to get them to a game. Money, according to Jon Sidenbender and Norm Van Tilburg (who attended the dinner), was actually the biggest obstacle to Girls Sports. The schools simply did not have the money in the budget to outfit the teams, pay coaches, and bus them to games. But the school board figured it out in time. 

And the ladies in attendance agreed they were so thrilled when they learned there were to be girls teams to play on. Up until 1974, the girls had infrequently played intramurals (when offered) or more often, they played with the boys in the neighborhood. They eventually had girls’ softball teams in the summer. So, these first basketball team players were tough and scrappy and had street experience that boosted them ahead of even their first coaches, Kathy Van Eman, Trude Laffin and Jill Howell. Kathy and Trude discussed how they were just first year teachers themselves and not much older than the girls they coached. Kathy had some experience but it was truly the girls themselves who understood the game. After the first successful year, Linda Stelzer became their coach for 6 years with her husband Gary at her side.

Stelzer mentioned how much time coaching took away from their family. And how her children grew up on practices and games. The ladies agreed they remembered Linda coaching while she was pregnant, and Gary pacing at the top of the bleachers with a baby on his shoulder. Once he floated a suggestion note down to Linda during one of his “time-outs.”  The ladies expressed their appreciation for their coaches and had lots of fun “busting” Gary who had a way-different style of coaching from phys ed teacher Linda. Gary was a Goodyear employee, and had played basketball and knew the sport well. He pushed the girls to work hard and push themselves to their limits – often yelling directives, but it was all for the good. The girls became winners under Linda and Gary!


Gary (pictured above) and Linda discussed how they lived the game at home, too. After every game, they used the salt and pepper shakers on the table (with toothpicks) to work on new plays. This was echoed by the Leighner ladies, as they said they replayed every inch of the night’s game at the dinner table, using salt and pepper shakers.

They discussed the new smaller basketballs the girls play with nowadays and feel they were pretty tough in the 70’s when the girls used the same size basketballs the boys used.

Discussion was held about the 50th anniversary coming up in 2024, and there is the possibility of a reunion then.


Team from 1977-78. Photo by the late Jinny Wood.

Front row left to right: Tammy Walls, Patsy McCullough, Lori Sidenbender, Penny Leighner, Cara Bader, Lori Hays, Coach Linda Stelzer, Colleen Wood, and Ruth Luginbill.

Second row left to right: Karla Sidenbender, Susan Samples, and Shirley Sites.



The team in action above from the 1977-78 season. Photo by the late Jinny Wood.

#12 Tammy Walls, #44 Ruth Luginbill, #32 Lori Hays, #10 Cara Bader, #24 Penny Leighner

Candid shots from the Party - click smaller thumbnail pictures to enlarge them 
Tammy Pontius and Debbie Hileman Cindy Leighner and Deb Stetler Kathy King
and Karla Sidenbender
Susan Samples
Lori Hays and Kathy King

Linda Stelzer and
Debbie Hileman
Karla Sidenbender and
Lisa Hays
A guest from Lima,
Pam Lowry, Lisa Sealscott
and Deb Stetler
More Team Pictures Below:

Parkway Team 1978-1979 - Regional Runners-Up

Front Row l to r: Lori Sidenbender; Tammy Walls; Penny Leighner; Karla Sidenbender; Lori Hays.
Back Row: Lisa Schroyer; Lisa Hays; Kathy King; Coach Linda Stelzer; Debbie Hileman; Coach Gary Stelzer and Susan Samples.

Parkway Team 1977-1978

Front row l to r: Susan Samples; Penny Leighner; Ruth Luginbill; Tammy Walls; Coach Linda Stelzer.
Back row l to r: Karla Sidenbender; Lori Sidenbender; Colleen Wood; Pam Lowry; Lisa Sealscott; Deb Stetler; Lori Hays and Coach Gary Stelzer.

Parkway Team 1976-1977

Front row l to r: Ruth Luginbill; Cindy Leighner; Patsy McCullough.
Back row: Principal and Athletic Director Norman Van Tilburg; Penny Leighner; Colleen Wood, Coaches Linda and Gary Stelzer.

Support the Parkway Band Program
Attend the  Lima Area Concert Band Coming to Parkway High School
By Sheila Baltzell-Linn

The Larry Seibert Memorial Concert featuring the Lima Area Concert band will be held on Sunday, September 8th, 2019 at 3 pm in the auditorium at Parkway High School located at 400 W Buckeye St. in Rockford.

Adult tickets - $7 and Students - free
All proceeds will benefit the Parkway High School Band Program.

Lima Area Concert Band

The Lima Area Concert Band has been performing since 1971.  The band is comprised of seventy volunteer musicians who all share the love of music.  The members of the LACB are a living testimony that music truly is a lifetime activity. It is a means of expression that encourages personal challenge, camaraderie, well spent leisure time, and just plain fun.  It is a shining example of the value of music education in our schools. 

And, who else knew this better than the late Larry Seibert!?



A gift to Karen, by her friend Deb Wolters, this drawing of Larry is by artist Julie Baltes.

Larry’s Lifetime of Music

Larry Seibert, a Mendon native and more recently a citizen of Rockford, had volunteered with the Lima Area Concert Band  from 2006 until his death in January 2017. Although bassoon was his instrument of choice, Larry could play several instruments well.  Larry first learned he had esophageal cancer in 2013, according to his loving widow, Karen (Donnerberg) Seibert, who is sponsoring this concert in Larry’s memory. Following treatment, the cancer was found to be in remission. 

Unfortunately the cancer returned in 2016 and despite their efforts to combat it, the cancer took his life much too early on January 28, 2017.

Larry was a Defiance college graduate with a degree in Music Education K-12. He taught briefly but then, as many of you may remember, he went to work with family at Bob’s Audio-Video in Celina, OH. Larry had a real knack with electronics but always kept one foot in the music industry.

He played with: the West Ohio Big Band; Grand Lake Symphony Orchestra; Dick Sherrick’s Van Wert Alumni Band; St. Marys Community Band; Black Swamp Musicians and the Bluffton College Community Band. Karen says he fully returned to music in 2000 playing with Grand Lake Symphony Orchestra and  Bluffton College.

A short time later he joined the Lima Area Concert Band playing clarinet. Beyond teaching and directing, Larry came from a very musically inclined family, which included his father and nieces Sarah and Shirissa Seibert, all Mendon/Parkway alumni.

One of Larry's biggest dreams was to offer the caliber of music that the Lima Area Concert Band plays to his Rockford family and friends and to show to the local band students that playing music shouldn't end after high school.  “Music fed his soul,” said Karen. Larry helped to plan and coordinate the first concert at Parkway in August of 2016.

Karen and the Parkway School Band Program invites the community and surrounding communities to please join with them as they celebrate Larry's life and enjoy the wonderful music as performed by Larry's close friends and a large part of his music “family”, the extremely talented musicians of the Lima Area Concert Band.


Motor Inn Truck Stop and Restaurant Demolished on August 28, 2019

A brand new Motor Inn Truck Stop and Restaurant are nearly finished at the intersection of U.S. Rte 33 and St. Rt. 127 in Mercer (Mendon) Ohio. The old buildings had served the area since the c 1950's, when it was an all-night diner, truck stop and gas station. Buildings were beyond repair. The new buildings sit directly behind the old. Thanks to Patrick Agler for sharing the demolition pictures!



Our Old Bookcase, Sept. 12, 2019


By  Joyce L. Alig, President, Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.

Photo Caption:  The building at Motor Inn, at the Village of Mercer, has been lost of Mercer County’s History.  Tom Wise, Van Wert, shared this photograph to the Mercer County Historical Society, during the years I served as Mercer County Historical Museum Director, 1975-2004.



The recognition to this loss of this building, a part of Mercer County’s history, was noted in the August 30, 2019 issue of The Daily Standard.  The photo confirmed that Belna Crushing of Rockford and Tom’s Construction of St. Henry was tearing down the 80 year old Motor Inn restaurant at the intersection of U.S. 127 and U.S. 33.  The Restaurant Manager Jeremy Iiams confirmed plans for a new Truck Stop at that site. 

Look at the photo above, and tell me the date of the car, adjacent to the gas pump.  The year 2019 minus 80 years would be 1939.  Is 1939 the date of the car in the photo?

Today, I want to honor past local historians who went before us.  Without these past local historians, we might not know the history of The Motor Inn.  The Mercer County Courthouse Recorder’s Office records local land owners, dating to the Founding of Mercer County in 1824.  The Mercer County History Books recorded local history, 1882, 1896, 1907, and 1978.  Paul and Orpha Hosack authored two books about the 150 Anniversary of Mercer Methodism, 1820-1970. 

Pat Amato, The Daily Standard, June 27, 1974, provided one full page of photographs, interviews, and history of Mercer.  Amato featured a photograph of Thelma and Stanley McNutt in 1940, when Stanley ran a trucking line and garage.  In 1954, they built a new restaurant, when the State widened the Road.  In 1966, the new garage was built.  Over the years, the owners of the Motor Inn changed.  Many local citizens remember owners Richard and Shirley Bolton, as well as long term Employees. 

Mrs. John Maurer wrote the History of Mercer, in the 1978 “Mercer County Ohio History.”  Bolton’s Motor Inn, Inc. Post Card, was featured in the book  “Our Post Card Past, Mercer County, Ohio, in Celebration of Ohio’s Bicentennial, 1803-2003.  The History of Bolton’s Motor Inn was included in the book, “Those Magnificent Big Barns of Mercer County,” 1990-1993.  Rex and Carl Marsee wrote the book, “Mercer Memories,” in 2016.  Over the years,  many local historians wrote about Mercer’s first name, the local churches, schools, the railroad, the businesses,  and local events.  I did not live in Dublin Township, and do not know all of the local stories of local citizens.  Those of you who have stories on the history of the Village of Mercer, please share those stories with the Mercer County Historical Society.

Oil and gas wells were prolific in Mercer County, in the 1890’s, including Dublin Township.  Since I am addressing the History of the Village of Mercer, may I ask for your help, in identifying any former oil and gas wells, within the Village of Mercer, and/or on the land around this Village? I am finishing this book about the Oil and Gas Wells in Mercer County, including Grand Lake, and nearby Counties.  Mercer Countians are welcome to contact me, about stories and/or photographs, before I complete the book and take it to the Printers.  This book has been a joy to do the research, but I never suspected the great amount of history available about the oil and gas wells in Mercer County, especially around and in Grand Lake, at the turn of the Century.  Thank you for your patience in watching for this book to be in print.

[Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig may be contacted at 3054 Burk-St. Henry Road, Saint Henry, OH 45883, or  or 419-678-2614.]




Undefeated Parkway Football Team of Fall 1973 Gathers for a Celebration
Honored at Friday Night Game at Rockford on September 30, 2019

by Sheila Baltzell-Linn 9-1-2019
The undefeated Parkway Football Team of Fall 1973 enjoyed a reunion night under the lights at the Parkway Football Game on Friday, August 30, 2019 in the stadium. In a pre-game ceremony, prior to the Parkway-Crestview Game, the team players, coaches, band director, widow of the head coach, and cheerleaders from 1973 lined up on the field and heard a wonderful recount of the season that has never happened before or since. The 1973 Football Team went 10-0 that year. In the announcement of that momentous season, the announcer described their head coach, the late John Reed and his coaching staff and their desire to lead the young men of the team to a successful outcome. The players did more than that by working together as a team and beating their opponents, one after the other. The group sat together at the game and enjoyed the current Panthers defeat of the Crestview 33-20. Later on, the group gathered at the Shanes Park Small Building to celebrate together with a donated pizza meal after the game. It was there that they were able to peruse old pictures, playbooks, scorecards, programs and newspaper clippings. Jan Reed, widow of Head Coach John Reed and Mike Bruns, supplied much of the memorabilia. Spouses and friends visited long into the evening, enjoying the memories of that spectacular Fall Football Season.

Group shot above by Sheila Baltzell-Linn
Front Row Seated Left to right: Rod Stover; Tom Clouse (Assistant Coach); Dawn (Davis) Coffey (Cheerleader); Jan Reed (widow of Head Coach John Reed); Kathy (Beerbower) Bransteter (Cheerleader); Gary Mastin (Assistant Head Coach).

Back Row Left to right: Tom Stover; Brad Carr; Tom Baxter; Larry Passwaters; Rick Davis; Brian Stover; Curtis "Pete" Hayes; Joe Whitaker; Richard Sherrick (Marching Band Director); Mike Bruns; Mark Leugers; Jerome Philips; Mark Hoenie; and Ed Fuelling.


Pictures below - Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.

2019 Cheerleaders

Banner for Undefeated Football Team of 1973

2019 Marching Band Entertains

Above L to R: Assistant Coaches Howard Ester
& Tom Clouse;
Head Coach John Reed; Assistant Coach Steve Howell
and Assistant Head Coach Gary Mastin in 1973

game memorabilia

Final Game Season Program 1973

1973 Team Roster

Team Picture 1973

At the pre-game ceremony - above.

Above: Clipping from the Photo Star from a prior celebration of the 10-0 team of 1973-1974 school year.

Fremont Canning Company Gets Paved Driveway Entrances
ODOT Subcontractor Works on US Route 33 Widening East of Rockford

Fremont Canning Company, on Thursday, July 11, 2019, had the paving crew, Bowers Asphault,  from Walbridge, Ohio busy paving new driveway entrances to their $ 27 million expansion project at the plant in Rockford,, OH. Fremont Canning Company is nearing completion of a  warehouse expansion that will require special access from U.S. Route 33 on the east edge of Rockford. They are hiring approximately 70 people. 

The Mercer County Commissioners have hired VTF Excavation to do the new turn lane roadway work on U.S. 33 to accommodate the new $27 million expansion of Fremont Company in Rockford, and they were busy on the same day working on that turn lane.




Press Box at Parkway Football Field Installed

The 6 man team from WE Construction out of Piketon, OH recently finished erecting the new aluminum Panther Home Team stadium bleachers contracted out several months ago to Dant Corporation by Parkway School Board members.

Ed Alexander of WE explained that they assemble a set-up like this in about 2 weeks time. His team has done many bleacher set-ups for Dant Corporation. Everything comes pre-cut in packages ready to assemble. At the time of the pictures below by Todd Henkle, on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, they had a crane scheduled to lift the press box which was pre-made, with 2 filming decks, and angled windows to easily watch the action on the football field.


Parkway High School Football Stadium Bleachers Assembled
by Sheila Baltzell-Linn, July 8-10, 2019

The 6 man team from WE Construction out of Piketon, OH are busy this week of July 7-July18 are busy assembling and erecting the new aluminum Panther Home Team stadium bleachers contracted out several months ago to Dant Corporation by Parkway School Board members.

Ed Alexander of WE explained that they assemble a set-up like this in about 2 weeks time. His team has done many bleacher set-ups for Dant Corporation. Everything comes pre-cut in packages ready to assemble. All parts including bolts come together. At the time of the pictures on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, they were working on the lower deck for handicapped accessible seating complete with a ramp. But as the week progresses, more and more sections will be added until the full 15 rows are completed.

The press box will come this week, pre-made, with 2 filming decks, and angled windows to easily watch the action on the football field.






The new Pressbox came ready built. Notice the slanted windows for better viewing of the Parkway Panther Football Field.





Patrice Wood Honored by Rhode Island Radio and Television Hall of Fame

Holly “Patrice” Wood was honored on Thursday, May 9, 2019 for her years of dedicated service to the people of Southern New England.

The Rhode Island Radio and Television Hall of Fame  named Patrice to its class of 2019 during the induction ceremony and banquet.

Patrice has been a familiar face on NBC 10 WJAR – Providence RI for nearly 40 years, first as a reporter and then moving to the anchor desk. She's also advocated for the adoption of children in foster care in her "Tuesday's Child" segments.

When accepting the award, Patrice raised her late mother’s newspaper reporter’s press pass for the audience to see and credited the late Virginia Meyer Wood with instilling a work ethic and journalistic curiosity in her.

"Patrice has dedicated her career to making WJAR one of the most watched and trusted news stations in New England," General Manager Vic Vetters said.

Other members of the class of 2019 are Walter Cryan, former anchor at WPRI-TV, Kim Zandy of WPRO-FM, and newsman Bill Haberman of WPRO. Patrice is pictured with other winners above (center) holding a bouquet of flowers and her "microphone" award.

Also honored in memoriam  was legendary NBC 10 personality Art Lake who received the Pioneer Award posthumously.

Lake spent more than 60 years at WJAR. He began as an announcer on WJAR radio in 1944 and made the transition to television five years later when WJAR-TV went on the air. He was a booth announcer, program host, news reader and ultimately, weather forecaster.

Art passed away in 2009 and was a colleague of Patrice Wood.

Holly Patrice Wood is a 1973 graduate of Parkway High School and grew up in Mercer County with her sisters Sheila Baltzell-Linn, Celina and Colleen O’Steen, Huntsville, AL. Their parents are the late Duane Wood and the late Virginia Wood.


Sapp Family Donates $1,150 to Rockford American Legion Veterans Memorial
Fifteen Servicemen from the Sapp Immediate Family Honored

by Sheila Baltzell-Linn, 5-20-2019
Photo by Nikki Sapp Fox

When the Rockford American Legion recently announced their plans to create a new Veterans Memorial in Hedges Park, adjacent to the American Legion Post  on State Route 33, the Sapp Family began to discuss how they could contribute and honor the men dear to them. Together, they raised $1,150 to honor their fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers and brothers-in-law as well as all veterans.

Their immediate family of veterans includes: Dick Sapp – Army; Roger Sapp – Army; Benny Sapp – Army; Dale Ellis – Army; Ted Ballinger – Marines; Don Frahm – National Guard; Ron Frahm – National Guard; Richard D. Kline – Navy; Paul J. Nichols -  Navy; Ralph Shindeldecker – Army; Ralphie Shindeldecker – Air Force; Jim Shindeldecker – Army; Harold Feasel – Army; Reed Shaffer – National Guard; and Kenneth Branstetter – Army.

Shown above, the Sapp brothers recently presented a check for $1,150 to help fund the project. Left to right: Dick Sapp, Roger Sapp, Charlie Sapp, Rockford American Legion representatives Reed Shaffer, Terry McMillen and Terry Joseph.

Family not present included: Larry Sapp (who recently passed-away); Steve Sapp; Nancy Kline; and Toby Feasel. They are all the children of the late Paul and Jessie (Snyder) Sapp.

The Sapp Family is also instrumental in keeping the memory alive of Benny Sapp, their brother who died in Viet Nam on November 20, 1968 through the Carey, Bill and Benny Scholarship Fund. This scholarship not only remembers Benny but Carey Fosnaugh and Bill Miller as well. The recipient of the scholarship is a Parkway graduate.  2019 recipient is Molly Baltzell.



Donation Made to the Rockford Veterans Memorial
M. Bruns Plumbing and Heating and employees recently donated $250 to the
Rockford Veterans Memorial.     The Rockford American Legion appreciates this
generous donation. 

Pictured Terry Joseph, Mike Bruns - Owner,  Terry McMillen, Reed Shaffer,
Steve Thompson, Lowell Warthman



Parkway Grad To Make TV Debut
Viewing Party at New Horizons Community Church

Designer Ty Pennington (Above Left), most famously known for his role on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and Parkway Graduate Jordan Thompson (Above Right) pose for a picture on the set of “While You Were Out” a new home renovation show set to air on HGTV & TLC March 16th at 9PM. A viewing party is being held Saturday night at New Horizons Community Church in Rockford at 8:30PM.

Jordan Thompson, a graduate of Parkway High School Class of 2008, will be making his TV debut appearing as a carpenter on the reality TV show “While You Were Out” on March 16th at 9PM. The show will air simultaneously on two networks - HGTV and TLC – each Saturday night for four weeks straight. Over the last several months Thompson has been working with your favorite reality TV designers to help bring their ideas to life for lucky homeowners during a surprise $10,000 room renovation. Each episode will feature two houses and four designers. Be sure to tune in to see the chaos and excitement surrounding these major home renovation projects that are finished in under 48 hours!

New Horizons Community Church in Rockford will be hosting a viewing party starting at 8:30PM Saturday night March 16th. Jordan will joining us to answer any questions about the episode and the steps taken to finish each project on time and under budget. Come join us for a fun evening of entertainment as Jordan will be watching this episode for the first time with us on the big screen!




Biggby Coffee Joins Celina Mercer Co. Chamber
The Celina Mercer Co. Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the Grand Opening of their newest chamber member, Biggby Coffee.  The newly renovated building is located at 615 Grand Lake Road right here in Celina.  Biggby Coffee offers specialty coffees, smoothies, bagels, muffins, and so much more.  John Sell, owner and operator of the St. Marys store was excited to open a second location right here in Celina and bring their brand to our community.  Biggby Coffee is open Monday – Saturday 5:30a-8:00p and Sundays 7:00a-8:00p.  Pictured is Chamber Executive Director Stacy Beougher, Mayor Jeff Hazel, Owner John Sell, and management staff and family.   The Chamber welcomes Biggby Coffee.



Local 3D Visualization Software Entrepreneur Bill Miller of Rockford Working with ODOT - February 18, 2019

Bill Miller of Rockford was recently featured in a video by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The video on YouTube (Click Here – see Bill’s story at runtime 7.20 minutes) features the 2018 Civil Rights Symposium and looks inside ODOT's Office of Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion. Video/Edit by Dylan Spitz.

Amy Schmidt District 7consultant contract manager for 6 years, introduces Bill on the video. She’s had an even longer career at ODOT.

She loves to meet new people and met Bill Miller at an Outreach District program (for business owners with disabilities) where the office of diversity and inclusion had several people come in to do a presentation to how to do business with ODOT. While interacting with Bill, they realized he had something that ODOT had not thought of using before ~Three D visualization programs.

Because they wanted to learn more, they had Bill come in and present to others at ODOT. He offered impressive software work. He was referred to as inspiring!

Bill graduated from Parkway High School in 1988.

He later graduated from Wright State University Lake Campus with an Associate Degree in engineering.

He then formed his own business called: Miller Consulting & Visualization Service LLC for Drafting and Design Residential and (3D Modeling, Rendering, and Animation).

Bill’s minority business now does work for ODOT District 7 in Sidney, OH with his engineering software skills. He is under contract for 2 years. His good friend, Todd Henkle commented, “One of his projects was to produce 3d video of exit routes for the District 7 office in the event of an emergency - so that the employees could view the building by video to memorize exits. That entailed taking one dimensional drawings of the building and converting them into a 3D rendering. From there he built the videos. He is currently under contract with ODOT to do more projects and is waiting on his next assignment.”

He is DBE Certified by Ohio Department of Transportation as well as SBE Certified by Ohio Department of Transportation.

Bill also has an EDGE Business Certification: standing for Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE). This program is designed to assist socially and economically disadvantaged businesses in obtaining state government contracts in the following areas: construction, architecture and engineering; professional services; goods and services; and information technology services.

Because of EDGE, Bill was able to make the contact with ODOT. Click here for EDGE details online.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has a Diversity Program that has its roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that "No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

On the video, Lauren Purdy, Deputy Director of the ODOT Division of Opportunity Diversity and Inclusion discusses the program and ODOT’s commitment to reach out and help minorities in these areas in all ways. The video discusses ways in which they knock down barriers.

For instance the department of ODI provides a Contracted Compliance Officer for District Eight who checks to be sure workers are receiving proper pay, that no discrimination occurs, and that contractors are not taking advantage of their workers.

Another area of Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion is their division of outreach managers to businesses. These 4 individuals are liaisons for small, minority, and disadvantaged businesses. Their job is to help demystify ODOT through outreach events and level the playing field for all. They spread the word of ODOT and opportunities for people.

Besides the video featuring Bill Miller, visit the website for details on the program

Bill’s business is a tremendous success story!

To reach out and congratulate Bill, email him at

He was born to Kenny and Shirley Miller of Rockford in 1969 who are both equally proud of his accomplishments.

Bill enjoys computers, horseback riding and tubing in the snow. His friends at Henkle Insurance provided these great pictures. Thanks!


Alspach Gearhart Jurczyk Funeral Homes Announce
Purchase of Ketcham Ripley Funeral Home
Services, Name, and Staffing at Ketcham’s Remains the Same

By Sheila Baltzell 11-20-2018

Marcia N. Ripley, longtime owner of her family business, Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home in Rockford, and Tim Jurczyk, Andy Gearhart, and Sean Sauer co-owners of the Alspach Gearhart Jurczyk Funeral Homes in Van Wert announced recently that Alspach Gearhart Jurzyck has purchased Ketcham’s from Marcia.

The agreement was completed in July 2017, and the gentlemen at Alspach Gearhart Jurczyk have been helping Marcia since that time, learning the Ketcham customer family base and getting to know the area. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group to take over the reins; they were the right people,” said Marcia. “They fit in so well because they are a family-based operation just like Ketcham-Ripley. We all endeavor to serve our families.”






Tim, Andy and Sean began last year by taking care of all the behind-the-scenes tasks, including answering phones, providing livery service, embalming and care of the deceased, meeting with the families and helping with visitations and funeral services. They also handle all of the custom designing and printing of the funeral stationary. Alspach-Gearhart also offers funeral pre-planning, just like Ketcham’s. 

In addition to custom designed stationary, Tim, Andy and Sean also bring some additional services to Ketcham’s. Alpach Gearhart operate their own crematory in Van Wert, offer an updated website with grief support options, offer an expanded line of caskets and urns in wood, metal and unique designs, specialty gifts and jewelry, as well as offering pet cremation services through their access to a reliable Pet Crematory contractor, Paws and  Remember in Ft. Wayne and Toledo.

The name will remain the same, Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home. In the past, laws required the owners’ names to be part of the funeral home title - but no more. According to Andy Gearhart, that law changed in the past several years. They intend to keep the Ketcham-Ripley name. They also employ Marcia as Funeral Director/Embalmer as well as Peggy Williams and Michelle Agler, who are employed part-time to help with services. “Families come to Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home because of Marcia and her dedication and compassion. She truly cares about the people of Rockford, and we want her to continue caring for them for years to come,” says Sean.

At the Van Wert and Convoy locations, the staff includes owners and funeral directors/embalmers Tim Jurczyk, Andy Gearhart and Sean Sauer. Steve Alspaugh, a Parkway graduate and former resident of Rockford, works for them part-time as Funeral Home Attendant. He is joined by Stuart Wyatt in that same capacity.

Marcia Nelle Ripley is the Fifth Generation of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, of the Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home as well as their family floor covering business. She is the daughter of the late Carl and late Lucille Ripley. After graduating from The University of Cincinnati, with a degree in Psychology, she entered Mortuary College, and received her licenses as an embalmer and a Funeral Director, in 1975. After her parents passed away, Marcia was responsible for both businesses. On June 30, 2005 the Ketcham’s Furniture & Floor Coverings Business was closed.

Ketcham’s is located at 111 West First Street, in Rockford. 419-363-3981

Website is

Alspach Gearhart Funeral Home and Crematory is located at 722 S Washington Street, in Van Wert, OH 45891; phone number 419-238-1112.

Gearhart and Jurzyck Funeral Home is located at 655 N. Main St., Convoy, OH 45832; phone number 419-749-4338.

Website is

Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home of Van Wert started in business over 110 years ago in Middle Point and organized by Rev. E.F. Gamble in 1903. After only two years, it became necessary to move the business to larger quarters and Rev. Gamble selected Van Wert as the location of the young and flourishing institution. 

In 1926, Rev. Gamble was joined in his business by Gordon H. Alspach (pronounced al-spaw), who had married Rev. Gamble’s daughter, Grace. Shortly thereafter, the name of the company was changed to Gamble & Alspach. Rev. Gamble remained active in the business until his death in 1934, but the funeral home continued operating under the Gamble & Alspach name until 1955 when it changed to Alspach Funeral Home.

In 1957, Gordon and Grace Alspach’s youngest son, John, started his career at the funeral home. John worked with his father until Gordon’s death in 1975. Shortly after Gordon’s death, Michael Gearhart was hired in 1975. Tim Jurczyk joined the funeral home in 1988. 

In 1989, Alspach Funeral Home became Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home, the name it still bears today. John ran the business until his retirement in 1993, at which point Gearhart and Jurczyk bought the funeral home from John who later passed away in 2009.

1996 saw the addition of the Van Wert Crematory. Investing in a brand new state-of-the-art crematory, Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home became the only full service on-site crematory in Van Wert County- which still holds true today.

In 1998 the Van Wert business opened its doors in the neighboring community of Convoy, Ohio with the construction of a brand new facility, Gearhart & Jurczyk Funeral Home, to better serve the clientele of western Van Wert County. 

Andrew Gearhart (above) joined the staff of Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home and Gearhart & Jurczyk Funeral Home in 2001. In 2003, Michael Gearhart sold his ownership shares to Tim Jurczyk and Andy Gearhart, but he continued to remain active in the business until his death in 2016.

Sean Sauer (above) joined the firm as a funeral director and embalmer in 2015 and became a partner in 2016. Sean brought many personalizing innovations to the business including: speciality urns shown; ashes preserved in blown glass; thumbprint jewelry personalization; and online grief counseling services.

Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home & Crematory and Gearhart & Jurczyk Funeral Home are honored to serve the families in our area and proud to be in be in their 5th generation of local ownership, just like Ketcham’s.

Click Here for a past article on Marcia Ripley and her family business.

Marcia Ripley

Peggy Williams


Michelle Agler

Sean Sauer

Steven Alspaugh



Their Duty was to Serve; Our Duty is to Remember 2018

The Rockford American Legion Post 508 and the Rockford Bicentennial committee are working together to construct a Veterans Memorial in Hedges Park.    The memorial will consist of 5 monuments - 1 of each of the branches of the military:  The Navy, The Marines, The Coast Guard, The Army, and The Air Force.  They will be designed to honor the men and women who have served our country. 

Also included in the Veterans Memorial will be 3 flags: 1 American Flag, 1 Ohio State Flag and 1 POW Flag.   Around these flags and memorial will be a walking path and some benches.

The Veterans Memorial will be located beside the American Legion and is located on State Route 33 in Rockford.  This memorial will be seen not only by the local community but by the many travelers passing by Hedges Park.  We believe this Veterans Memorial will be a benefit to our community.

All around our county memorials stand to honor those who served in uniform and the battles they fought to protect our nation’s freedoms.   We need your financial help for this to become a reality in our community.

Please consider a donation to this community project.   Checks should be made out to the Leota Braun Foundation with “Post 508 Veterans Memorial” on the memo line.

Each donation will be tax deductible.   Mail to:  Leota Braun Foundation, PO Box 364, Rockford, Oh 45882.   The plan is to have donations received by May 27th, 2019.  We will give an update at the Memorial Day Service.  The Veterans Memorial is to be dedicated at the May 2020 Memorial Day Service – the Bicentennial Year. 

Please see the attached rough draft!   We need your support to make this a reality !!         


Thank you for your time and consideration.   Please direct any questions to the

Rockford Village Office at 419-363-3032 ext 1.

Reed Shaffer, American Legion Representative

Jeff Long, Rockford Village Administrator / Bicentennial Coordinator

Mike Schumm, VP of the Shanes Crossing Historical Society/ Bicentennial Coordinator



High Speed Chase of Driver in Stolen Vehicle Ends in Crash
Rockford Police Chief Paul May in Pursuit
by Sheriff Jeff Grey - October 2018

Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey reports his office has in custody a 37-year-old Lucas J. Jackson from 4470 290th Street Toledo, Ohio.

Hoenie Road Crash Scene

At 10:05 AM Central dispatch received multiple 9-1-1 calls of an injury crash on Hoenie Road, south of Fast Road involving two vehicles.  Jackson was involved in the initial crash on Hoenie Road.  Jackson was reported to be traveling at a high rate of speed when he struck the rear of a 2001 Honda driven by a male subject from Celina, Ohio (Name withheld pending further investigation).  Jackson then threatened the driver of a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am, who stopped to help crash victims, with a screw driver.  Jackson stole the Grand Am and fled the scene (owner of the Grand Am, and driver of Grand Am being withheld pending further investigation).

Hoenie Road Crash Scene

Rockford Police Chief May who was coming to assist deputies passed Jackson in the stolen Pontiac west bound on State Route 707.  Chief May turned and pursued Jackson.  Pursuit speeds reached 70 mph, Jackson then lost control of the vehicle east of Erastus Durbin Road and rolled into a field where he was trapped inside.

SR 707 near Erastus Durbin Rd.
Crash Scene of Stolen Vehicle

Jackson was  extricated from the vehicle and transported by Rockford Squad to Mercer Health.  Jackson is currently being treated at Mercer Health under guard of deputies from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office.  The Sheriff’s Office was assisted at the hospital by Coldwater PD.   The driver of the Honda was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Deputies were assisted at the scenes by Rockford Police Department, Celina Police Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, MCERV, and Mercer County EMS, Celina and Rockford Fire Departments.

No other information is being released as prosecutors will be reviewing the case for the appropriate charges to be filed. These incidents remain under investigation.

Click on smaller thumbnails to enlarge them. 


Colleen (Wood ) O’Steen, Parkway High School Graduate Publishes Christian Book, Holds Book-Signing in Alabama and Will Present her Journey at Atlanta Women’s Weekend in October 2018

From Will to Power: Seven Days to Spiritual Self-Discipline - Amazon Details

Published by Colleen O'Steen in 2016, her book on becoming a disciplined Spiritual Christian, is gaining recognition in the Christian World. She was recently invited to a book signing in her home state of Alabama. Photos and and interview are available here: - Click Here




Atlanta Women’s Weekend Features Author Colleen Wood O’Steen

REFLECTION FRIDAY & SATURDAY                                            OCTOBER 12-13, 2018


The Atlanta Women’s Weekend, Located In Alpharetta, GA, is an annual eveant dedicated to bringing Christian Women together to Praise God and Study the Bible. The goal is to encourage wome to grow in God’s word.


The Atlanta Women’s Weekend is not supported by, organized by, run by, or directed by any particular church. They are individual Christian women helping other women grow in the Lord our God. See their information: Facebook.


The theme for 2018 is "Reflection," from James 1:23-24, “For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a  man who looks at his natural face in the mirror; For once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”


Colleen is one of the 2018 Workshop Leaders


Colleen O'Steen

Colleen O’Steen is an Ohio native and has lived in the Huntsville, Alabama area since 1987. She is a professional writer having worked in game, animated film, and virtual reality development in the defense industry, in promotion and marketing in the software industry, as a narrator, and as a television news anchor and reporter.

Colleen recently published From Will to Power, a book on spiritual self-discipline, and also performed the audiobook version. She is a Bible class teacher/coordinator and has designed teaching materials, including the board game, Apostles in Action, and multimedia presentations for the classroom covering the New Testament. Her current project is a book on rearing children with spiritual grit, written with her three grown daughters, Haley, Rosalind, and Claire.

Colleen received a graduate certificate in instructional design from George Washington University, a Master’s degree in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication/Broadcast News from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She and her husband, Wally, have been married since 1987.


Colleen grew up near Rockford, OH on a farm. Her parents are the late Duane and Virginia (Meyer) Wood. Her sisters are Sheila Wood Baltzell-Linn, Celina and

Holly Patrice Wood of Providence RI.


Henkle Insurance Updates Their Office and Brand


Henkle Insurance, celebrating three generations in the family business, have recently updated their office décor inside and out.

Todd, second generation, began the process in January 2018 with Twyla Hayes from Brand-It Marketing, Rockford, designing a new brand logo for the agency.


While the new brand was in process, the Henkles, Todd, Jordan and Joel worked on the interior remodeling beginning in Mid-March. They painted all the walls, replaced the flooring by Enyart Flooring in Coldwater, and rearranged office furniture. Henkle Insurance had originally moved to this location in 1986 (formerly Pontius Hardware) when Dan Henkle, first generation, moved the business from across town. The flooring and wallpaper on the walls was original from 1986. Dan remembers the renovation process at the time – a complete remodel. There was an old rope pull elevator in the back of the building. He sold it to Judge Ingraham in Celina for $50.



Added to the indoor office décor was an acrylic sign made by Forty Nine Degrees of Coldwater featuring their new logo. 



The outside of the office had a facelift as well, with a new outdoor sign by Forty Nine Degrees as well as freshly painted shutters and door.

Henkle Insurance invites you to stop in and look around!


Rockford Memorial Day 2020 Update

Due to the existing COVID restrictions, the Rockford American Legion Post will be altering the Memorial Day activities.

The Post will honor our fallen Veterans at Riverside Cemetery at 10 am. Flags will be placed on the grave markers, a 21 gun salute and TAPS will be performed.

The Rockford American Legion will also be holding the Annual chicken dinner fundraiser - catered by the Rockford Carry Out. The cost will be $8 per ticket. This year the dinners will be served in a 'drive thru' fashion at the Post. Pre-Sale tickets are required, and will be available at the Rockford American Legion, Barrys' Family Market, and the Rockford Carryout - beginning May 1st.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony held at Hedge's Park is uncertain, as is the dedication to the new Veteran's Memorial.



Rockford Area Social Distancing Activity - COVID

As part of its Bicentennial Celebration, Rockford has created a one of a kind Barn Quilt Trail. Explore the trail on foot or from the comfort of your car -- check out the link below for maps and addresses :)

Thanks to everyone who has joined the Barn Quilt Trail -- we will be updating as we get more quilts done --- check back often !

The Barn Quilts pictured are for sale ! Call Village office if interested 419-363-3032 ext 1
We also have available small 1' x 1' quilts at the Village office .



Parkway Schools Levy Income Tax Renewal Passed

Voters of the Parkway School District, at the Primary Election on April 28, 2020, renewed a five-year, 1% renewal income tax that generates $1.175 million annually for the district. It was first approved in 1995 and generates $1.175 million annually for expenses including maintenance, transportation, supplies and equipment, utilities, staffing and district insurance policies.


Couple Retires/Rehires after Faithfully Serving Community
by Sheila Baltzell, 10-28-2017

Jerry Sell, M.D., and his wife, Connie (Beougher) Sell have recently embarked on a new path in their retirement, one of the half time variety. Although they are busy doing new things, Dr. Sell is keeping his hands in the profession that he has loved for 40 years. His last day working full time was at the end of August 2017.

His current schedule includes various medical procedures and surgeries at Van Wert County Hospital as well as pitching in to help wherever he is needed. He generally works one week on and one week off at the office in Rockford to see his surgical patients and assists the newest doctor in town, Norman Means, M.D.

Dr. Sell continues to locate and attract new doctors to the area.



After running the Family Medicine office for 30 years, while raising a family, Connie is finding it difficult to stay completely retired. She has gone on to helping her son, Jonathan, start a Biggby Coffee franchise in St. Marys, OH. She does this by continuing her knack for bookwork from home for the one year old business. Connie also continues to help with the family farm after the death of her father, Charlie Beougher, in 2004. Today she helps when brother Gary Beougher needs her.

When the Sells looked toward their retirement, they knew that travel would be in the picture. So far, they have enjoyed several overseas trips with their friends, Patty and Bud Schoenleben. These trips have included visits to Italy, the Holy Land, and Egypt. In Italy, their cruise took them from Venice to Croatia, then to Sicily and Rome. In the Holy Land, they visited all of the Holy sites including; Jerusalem, the temple, Galilee, the Dead Sea, Golan Heights, Israel, Egypt, and the Jordan river- where Connie was baptized. In Egypt they visited Cairo, the Museum of Antiquities, and the pyramids. The goal of their trips will now involve learning from the Road Scholar Program. Link Here. Some trips they have already had the pleasure to experience have been Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. The Sells were led by an 85-year old geology professor who shared his knowledge of Earth with them.
They soon hope to enjoy the Road Scholar trip they are currently planning to Ireland, in celebration of their 2016, 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Traveling for them will not stop at enjoyment and enlightenment trips though, they intend to participate in medical and general mission trips. The Sells wish to participate in at least one mission trip per year. The most recent trip was a group led by Nathan Boggs, from New Horizons Community Church to Big Laurel Missions, KY. This trip served the less fortunate in our country. Jerry and Connie along with son, Jonathan, and other New Horizons members spent several days helping to complete homes for the area residents. Dr. Sell has done three mission trips to Honduras, accompanied on one by Connie. He has also done a medical mission trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Dr. Sell is considering a return trip to Haiti (possibly to help Carrie Stoller, CNP) as well las a return trip to Sierra Leone, Africa. His previous Sierra Leone trip was with Dr. Ron Baker through the United Brethren Church missions. Connie is also considering a trip to Haiti. Click Here to read about the trip to Sierra Leone.

Looking back at their lives, becoming a family medicine doctor has made all the difference to their family and this community, which they have served so faithfully for 40 years. Dr. Sell said, “It has always been a team effort with Connie by my side.” After graduation at Rockford High School, they married. Connie was by his side when he attended Middletown School of Nursing, during his stint in the U.S. Army, from 1967-1970, as a preventative medicine instructor. His service led to the Army Commendation Medal for acts of heroism and extraordinary or meritorious service. When the couple returned to Ohio, he received his Bachelor of Science and Microbiology degree-cum laude in 1970; medical degree-cum laude in 1976; and residency at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Dayton in 1979, for “family medicine” practice. Dr. Sell completed in full-range and surgical obstetrics. Click Here to read about an additional article on Dr. Sell as the Rockford Chamber Person of the year (from several years ago).

In between all of this, the Sells love bird watching together on their back porch, their favorite place to hang out. They also have fun with their two children, Jonathan, Jenny, their spouses, and their six grandchildren at Dale Hollow Lake. Following their grandchildren’s adventures be it at college, in School at Parkway, science fairs, or on the ball field, is their greatest enjoyment. You also might find them making coffee at Biggby, St Mary’s on special days.

Locally the Sells look forward to the Rockford Bicentennial celebration coming up. Dr. Sell is active on the Rockford Area Development Corporation in Rockford as well as the Governance Board at New Horizons Community Church.

So, retirement? Not exactly, but close enough.

Click here for a printable version of this story about Dr. Jerry and Connie Sell.




Letter to the Editor 10-9-2017

To the Citizens of Northern Mercer County:

I am reaching out to bring to your attention wind turbine activity that is occurring in your area.  Apex Clean Energy, the owner of hundreds of land rights in southern Van Wert County, has recently been attempting to secure land rights from property owners in northern Mercer County – without any notification to the public or local governments.  Apex Clean Energy’s current land rights were acquired by the initial efforts of the wind development company known as BP Wind Energy North America.  The development they have been working on is called Long Prairie Wind – with the goal of putting up as many wind turbines in the area as possible.

Because your livelihood and the well-being of your land is important, I would like you to be aware of this proposed large scale industrial wind turbine project that Apex Clean Energy is attempting to develop and how you, as landowners, can help protect your land.  Under the current structure of siting for large industrial wind turbine developments, local officials have limited/no authority when it comes to helping regulate these large landscape altering projects.  Instead, this authority currently resides with the Ohio Power Siting Board.  The only real and tangible method to preclude a landscape altering development across a multiple township area is for the company (Apex Clean Energy) to be unable to acquire land rights in a geographic foot print to site.

I respectfully request that all landowners who are approached by Apex Clean Energy, or any other wind development company, educate themselves about the significant rights they are granting before signing any contracts.   


What You Can Do To Protect Your Land

·         Educate yourself on the effects wind turbines will have on your area and the people living around them before signing any contracts or granting land rights to any wind development company.

·         Talk and network with neighbors about the impact a large industrial wind development will have on your community.

·         Consult with legal counsel that is well versed in this segment of the law before you consider signing the 30+ page contract.

It is likely the wind companies approaching you will promote that the highly subsidized activity of large scale wind development will be a financial benefit to the local economy.  Please note, they are not able to quantify the potential multiple decades-long degradation and negative impacts these large industrial developments present to all the people in an area.




James A. Wiechart, P.E., P.S., Mercer County Engineer




Baltzell Attends Stem Leadership Conference in Massachusetts

Joseph Baltzell, a junior at Celina High School, attended the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders held at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell Massachusetts June 29, 30 and July 1, 2017.

Baltzell was invited to attend along with 1500 other teens from around the country.

The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students who are passionate about science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The purpose of this event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be scientists and technologists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal.

Baltzell was nominated by Dr. John C. Mather, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and Science Director of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists to represent Celina High School based on his academic achievement, leadership potential and passion for science and technology.

During the three-day Congress, Joe Baltzell joined students from across the country and heard Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science recipients talk about leading scientific research; was given advice from deans of the world’s top tech universities; was inspired by fellow teen science prodigies; and learned about and actually saw demonstrations of cutting-edge advances and the future of science and technology.

Among the leaders he heard were Nobel Prize winners: David Wineland, Ph.D. and Sheldon Glasgow, Ph.D.; and John C. Mather, PhD. He also met the  Master of Ceremonies and  founder of the Congress, Richard Rossi. (See Photo).

Joe Baltzell was sponsored by several organizations in Celina, family members, and friends in order to travel to and attend the Congress. An Honor Student at Celina High School, he is active in National Honor Society and the TEAMS (Test of Engineering Aptitude in Mathematics and Science). He is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a brown belt in Karate.

Joe Baltzell is the son of Chris and Leslie Baltzell of Celina.



Couples Cruise a Stretch of the St. Marys River - June 2017

Bob and Cyn Van Fleet of California visited in the Mercer County area in June and attended the Parkway High School Reunion of the Class of 1964. A Bucket List item for the couple was to take “a float” down the St. Marys River, where Bob and his Grandpa Van Fleet had traveled when Bob was a child. The pair would pitch an old Army tent back at the “fishing hole” off the 127 bridge for a week or more and fish, hunt, gig, and trap. They cleaned their catch and took it up to Rockford to store in the freezer for tasty meals that Grandma Van Fleet would cook in the winter. Bob remembers the wonder of a boy out in nature, learning survival techniques from Grandpa.

The trip was planned by a friend, Aaron Crites, whose family owns the land. He provided the 2 canoes and took the Van Fleets and Sheila Baltzell and Mark Linn on an adventure down the St. Marys River from the U.S. Rt. 127 bridge to Frysinger Road bridge. They encountered and ported around 3 massive log jams, hauling their canoes up onto the bank and carrying them around the blockages.

They also manage to squeeze their canoes under a “hole” in a 4th log jam. The 4.07 mile long trip took 3-1/2 hours and every bend in the winding river held a surprise. It was quiet and cool on June 7 and the river was high with recent rains, but no longer out of its banks. The current was very slow. The group experienced: a raccoon scrambling up a tree (rare in the daytime); red winged blackbirds; baby ducklings with their mamas; black capped chickadees; and robins. 

Later Aaron took the couples on a walk  back in the woods along the river where they encountered the noisy hammering of pilated woodpeckers in the dead trees that are their food source of bugs. Hiking back to the old fishing hole where Grandpa Van Fleet and Bob camped so long ago, Aaron pointed out in the distance, the huge stick structure of the resident eagle’s nest. There were mosquitoes on land but not on the water cruise. And plenty of poison ivy to avoid.

Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge.


Casting off at 127 bridge Bob and Cyn portage around a log jam Sheila at the worst log jam encountered Bob and Cyn Van Fleet
Mark Linn and Aaron Crites
on the bank
A tree nearly ready to fall across and into the river.
Mark Linn, with Mercer County Engineer's office, at one time
 walked and marked log jams in this very river.
Mark Linn pointed out how the bank washes away the dirt
from the roots eventually causing the tree to fall into the river creating log jams.
A look at the new
Frysinger Road Bridge
planned and built
by Mercer County Engineer's office.

Doctor Norman Means of  Rockford thanks all of his supporters in his primary run for Mercer County Coroner on April 28, 2020.

Norman Means, MD, of Rockford, a board-certified pathologist and family physician, challenged long-time incumbent coroner Timothy Heinrichs, MD, Celina. Heinrichs won (unofficially) 4,046 - 1581. The term is for four years. Since both men ran as Republicans, and there are no Democratic challengers, Heinrichs will go uncontested to the General Election in November 2020.  

Dr. Means asks everyone to support Dr. Heinrichs as he works more closely with law enforcement to help fight the opiate epidemic that is impacting our community.



New Doctor in Rockford Comes to the Community by Way of Alaska and Several States In Between

By Sheila Baltzell, editor 8-1-2017

(Editorial update 2018; Dr. Means left the Van Wert Medical Practice-Rockford Family Medicine)


So what brings a doctor to Western Ohio from Alaska? Dr. Norman Means, MD, the new family doctor at Rockford Family Medicine, has the answer to that. “Family and the desire to be closer to home.” Yes, home for the Means’ Family is Eastern Indiana. In fact, Dr. Means actually did a Rural Medical Requirement of Medical School at IU ~ a one month rotation – with Dr. Judge in Berne, IN. When he was recruited to look at Van Wert Hospital and in particular, Rockford, Ohio he was so excited because he already knew the area.



Decision to Become a Doctor – Early Family Life

Growing up in Anderson, IN was like living in a town the size of Lima. His high school graduating class was around 400-450. Dr. Means’ father was a veteran of the Army, having served in Vietnam and stationed in Germany. While in Germany, his father met and married a German young lady. They had two sons including Norman.  They lived the military life. When Dr. Means’ father was injured in combat in Vietnam, the entire family relocated briefly to Washington DC to be near him as he recovered at Walter Reed Hospital. Dr. Means remembers his curiosity, even though he was only six, when the staff changed his father’s wound dressings. He was never frightened by the other injured soldiers, and spent time wandering around and visiting with the patients. His father used to tell him that the soldiers were always asking when Norman was coming back to visit. Dr. Means believes all of this had an impact on his desire – when he was still in elementary school – to become a doctor. It was always his career choice. His father recovered from his wounds, took a military medical discharge and went on to work at the U.S. Post Office and the auto-making industry. The family continues to visit family in Germany as they did when he was a child. Dr. Means also is fluent in German.

Where have they been?

From a beginning in Germany with his military family, to growing up in Anderson Indiana, travel and living world-wide has been a way of life.  After graduating from Anderson-Highland High School, he began a life on the move. As he worked to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor and completing necessary course work, he and his wife, Tammy, and their family have moved around a lot during this career path that took them from Anderson, IN to  the University of Chicago with his undergrad degree where he recently celebrated his 30th reunion. From there he went to medical school at Indiana University. After graduation, he began his internship in General Surgery and his Pathology Residency took them to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. Then they were off to Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the University of North Carolina for his Fellowship in Transfusion Medicine and Bloodbanking. His 2nd residency took the family to Duke University into their Family Medicine Residency program in Fayetteville, North Carolina. From all that warm weather, they then moved to Cordova, Alaska on Prince William Sound. Click here to take a look at a Google map of Prince William Sound and Cordova to the far right. Dr. Means was the only doctor in town!

The Means Family

Tammy, his wife of 25 years, is a registered nurse, and they met in college at Indiana University. She was from nearby Noblesville, IN. Later on, Tammy completed a Master in Business Administration. She worked as an RN and was also her husband’s office manager in Anchorage. They have 4 children.

Cordova, Alaska and Anchorage, Alaska

A fishing village of 3000, accessible only by boat or airplane, Cordova (on the Copper River) swells to 6000 people when the salmon canning season begins.  There is a Coast Guard Base in Cordova  an artist colony, an artisan bakery, and it is near the Exxon-Valdez pipeline. After one year, they moved on to Anchorage, a city the size of Ft. Wayne, IN. where the summer days are 20 hours long at the summer solstice. From 4:15 AM to 11:43 PM, there is daylight.

Anchorage is a modern city where their children attended school. Alaska ranks 48th (of the states) in population but has 20% of the land surface of the entire country.  Click here for a look at all kinds of info on Alaska as well as a map of how Alaska compares in size to the rest of the US. The Means Family members have traveled to Kodiak, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Mt. McKinley/Danali. They enjoyed white water rafting, golfing and lots of photography.

Adventures in the Tundra

Dr. Means and his family learned much while living in Alaska.  Law requires people to store their garbage properly. Once he looked out the window from the office to see a bear wandering around. That is the reason for garbage laws; the bears are always close by.

Another time, he was asked by a Reality Show producer to fly to a little village to give physicals to the cast members as part of the show’s contract. He flew in on a 3000 foot gravel airstrip in a 9 seat plane.

Specialties and Joining Van Wert Hospital Services

Dr. Means became Board Certified in Family Medicine, Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology  (the later AP and CP are specialties). He brings many years of experience to Family Medicaine Associates and the patients of Dr. Jerry Sell and Nurse Practitioner Rona Dellinger. He works for Van Wert Hospital Services for Family Medicine Associates. Van Wert Hospital manages everything for him so he can do his job as a doctor. He still practices in the Clinical Pathology area, which is blood and genetics. Dr. Means does this for his patients and through regulatory work. He manages several labs in Alaska. He is looking forward to meeting his new patients in Rockford. And, he chuckles as he says, “I try not to live up to my name “Means” . 


Welcome Dr. Norman Means! 

Rockford Memorial Day to Feature Retired Army Major

The Rockford American Legion will be having a Chicken Dinner.  Tickets are on sale now for $7.  Tickets can be purchased at Barrys Family Market, the Rockford Carry Out and the American Legion.   Chicken dinners will be served beginning at 11 am on May 29th behind the American Legion.  

Any Veterans interested in participating in the Memorial Day Ceremony - please contact Tony King at 567-644-2284

The parade will begin at approximately 10:30 am.  The parade route will end at the American Legion. The guest speaker for the service will be Mike Pontius, Rockford native and retired Army Major.

Mike Pontius graduated in 1973 from Parkway Local High School and shortly thereafter joined the US Army as a private.  His enlisted assignments included Basic Training at Fort Ord, CA, advanced training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN and initial assignment at Fort Sheridan, IL.  He was selected to attend and graduated from the US Army West Point Preparatory School, Fort Monmouth, NJ.  This led him to the US Military Academy. 

After graduating from West Point in 1980 as a Second Lieutenant, Mike attended Airborne and the Armor Officers Basic Course.  His first assignment was helping to create the Opposing Forces at the National Training Center, Ft Irwin, CA.  In fact, he led the first battle of the first “War Game” at Fort Irwin and served in various positions such as tank platoon leader, support platoon leader and adjutant.  Mike transferred to Fort Knox, KY,  attended the Armor Officers Advanced Course, the Joint Firepower Course and served as an Operational Test Officer at the US Army Armor and Engineer Board.  His final assignment at Fort Knox was as Company Commander of Company A, 3rd of the 81st Armor Regiment, 1st Armor Training Brigade. 

At this juncture, Mike’s Army career changed in focus from Operations to Research, Development and Acquisition.  Following some professional development assignments, he served as the Assistant Project Manager for Armor Training Devices, as the Assistant Project Manager for Construction and Material Handling Equipment and as the Assistant Project Manager for the M113 Armored Family of Vehicles.  During this period, Mike also was the Assistant Director of the University of Texas Center for Professional Development and Training.  While in these assignments, Mike worked on the Command Post Vehicle GUARDFIST I and II, ATWESS, ADATS, Stingray, Electric Gun and ATLAS programs plus Task Force XXI Exercises.

Mike retired from the US Army in 1996 as a Major and for over the next 20 years has been working in the private sector performing Program and Contracts Management with the federal government.  He is currently the Senior Program Manager and Operations Manager for DUCOM, Incorporated.  Some of his most recent contract work includes providing over 160 mechanics and supply personnel in Iraq to repair US Army Vehicles, providing supply experts in Afghanistan, performing inspections of Ground System vehicles after returning from theater and being repaired throughout the United States, providing experts in Depot Operations in Anniston Army Depot and the FFA Depot in Oklahoma City.  Mike has also provided support with multiple contracts since 2009 for the Army Sustainment Command that included deploying at locations throughout the world, the Logistics Modernization Program and Global Combat Support Systems-Army.  These programs are replacing the stovepipe legacy systems of Army property accountability, wholesale and retail supply, maintenance information systems, funding/resource management and Army Preposition Stocks.

In addition to being a Parkway graduate, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY and has earned a Master of Business Administration Degree University of Texas, Austin, TX.  Mike has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Achievement Award w/Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star.  Mike and his wife Cindy live in Fair Haven, MI. 


NBC 10 anchor Patrice Wood (Rockford Native) to Deliver Commencement Address at Roger Williams University and Receive Honorary Degree

Dr. Pablo Rodriguez will Receive Honorary Degree during May 20 ceremony

BRISTOL, R.I., April 10, 2017 ­­– NBC 10 anchor Patrice Wood will deliver the commencement address at the Roger Williams University graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

Wood, who has been delivering the news at Channel 10 (WJAR) in Rhode Island for more than 37 years, will be joined at the graduation ceremony by her husband, Paul Pabis, who is receiving a master’s degree in leadership from RWU, and by her daughter, Stephanie, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from RWU. Wood will receive an honorary degree in communications.

The university also will confer an honorary degree to Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, chair of the Women & Infants Health Care Alliance, president and CEO of Women’s Care, former medical director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, and a clinical associate professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

Some 1,080 undergraduate and graduate students will take part in the 2017 commencement exercises, which will begin with a processional at the Bristol campus, One Old Ferry Road. The procession will enter a tent on RWU’s main athletic field at 9:30 a.m., and the ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.

“Many universities honor certain individuals at their commencement ceremonies by inviting them to deliver an address to the graduates or by awarding them an honorary degree — and Roger Williams University is no exception to this tradition,” RWU President Donald J. Farish said. “We think it is particularly important to recognize those who have contributed to the public good and who reflect our institutional mission of ‘strengthening society.’ This year, we honor two such individuals, well-known to many Rhode Islanders, whose life work reflects a deep and abiding commitment to making Rhode Island a better place: Patrice Wood and Dr. Pablo Rodriguez.”

Wood’s first name is Holly (yes, Holly Wood); her middle name is Patrice. She grew up on a farm in Rockford, Ohio, where she and her two sisters worked taking care of pigs and horses, driving tractors and pulling weeds out of soybean fields. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was a newspaper reporter.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Wood studied journalism, receiving a bachelor’s degree in from Bowling Green State University. She worked as a news anchor/reporter for WDHO-TV in Toledo, Ohio, and held several news positions with WBGU-TV in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Wood joined NBC 10 in 1980. In addition to anchoring the 5, 6 and 11 o’clock news, she’s also known for her weekly “Tuesday's Child”  reports, which feature children in state care who need permanent homes. Those reports have resulted in numerous children being matched with adoptive families. She has received many volunteer and professional awards, including the prestigious Silver Circle award from the New England Association of Television Arts and Sciences and the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award.

Rodriguez is a well-known community leader and active participant in civic and charitable organizations, both locally and nationally. He is past chair of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the Rhode Island Foundation, the International Institute of RI, the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee, RI Project AIDS and the Democracy Compact. He led a $1.5 million capital campaign to benefit Progreso Latino, the leading social service agency for new immigrants. He was involved in the Health Care Reform Commission, which was in charge of drafting the RIte Care legislation in Rhode Island. And he was chair of the Minority Health Advisory Committee and the Minority AIDS Taskforce.

Rodriguez has received many awards for his community involvement, including the Community Service Award from the American Medical Association in 1994 and Planned Parenthood of RI in 1996. The John Hope Settlement House gave him their highest honor, the Paris Vaughn Sterett Award for community service, and the Ministers Alliance gave him with the Martin Luther King Service Award. Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza has called him the inspiring force behind the creation of the Latino Policy Institute at RWU, which Elorza co-founded. Also, he is a host of radio and television programs. He co-founded and serves as chairman and CEO of 1290-AM, Latino Public Radio.

About RWU: With campuses on the coast of Bristol and in the heart of Providence, R.I., Roger Williams University is a forward-thinking private university committed to strengthening society through engaged teaching and learning. At RWU, small classes, direct access to faculty and guaranteed opportunity for real-world projects ensure that its nearly 4,000 undergraduates – along with hundreds of law students, graduate students and adult learners – graduate with the ability to think critically along with the practical skills that today’s employers demand. Roger Williams is leading the way in American higher education, confronting the most pressing issues facing students and families – increasing costs, rising debt and job readiness.

Trees cut down at site of old Parkway School Building on Franklin Street

Recently the last old trees at the site of the old Parkway School Building on Franklin Street in Rockford were cut down by the Village maintenance crew. Some residents expressed their memories of sitting under the majestic oak trees and having class when it was hot in the school building, playing tag under the old walnut tree and having art class outside so sketches could be made of the trees.

Thanks to Marcia Ripley for sharing these pictures.


Click on smaller thumbnails
shots to enlarge them.

Parkway Board of Education Hears Todd Henkle at Meeting on January 10, 2017

Todd Henkle made a proposal to the Parkway School Board members at the recent meeting, outlining the details of and explaining a new Panther Training Facility. The details of the board presentation are below- click to view the PDF by Todd Henkle.  

A new sports facility proposal would encompass many benefits for the Parkway Community, according to Todd. In the proposal he gave to the board, he mentioned the strengthening of mind, body and determination in the Parkway Tradition as well as a sense of pride in the community with the addition of this type of structure. This plan offers a way to strengthen the Parkway Community and center the school as the hub of community activity.  In addition, the new facility would provide much needed space for the brand new Wrestling Program and the Cheerleading Program.

According to Todd, the facility would attract students, show Parkway as a progressive school, offer memberships for community members at a nominal fee for work-outs, of all sorts; allow for more competitive options like shoot-outs, tournaments, etc; and make the school sports programs into a central hub.

Here is what the plans call for with the current drawings in addition to a wish list of additional items, in part: 3 Surface Areas for Track, baseball/softball batting cages and throwing areas and court surfaces for treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines, rowers, free weights and more in a workout area; as well as a separate surface for basketball courts. There would be: two running lanes; football and locker rooms as well as a female track locker room; divider nets between courts; two scoreboards ; air conditioning; wifi; videos and TV’s; indoor/outdoor concession stands and multi purpose bathrooms for inside and out for track meets.

Read about the rest of the ideas below as well as see the actual plans.  The Parkway School Board gave a favorable response to Todd for this presentation and asked that he continue to investigate the Panther Training Facility.

If anybody from the community has favorable feedback or ideas for Todd, please email him at   


Click Here 


Parkway Football Stadium Survey Results Released

The Parkway Board of Education is in the process of considering renovations to the school's football stadium. The current home bleachers and press box are deteriorating and are in need of replacement. The Board of Education is considering three options; Option #1) Replacing the current home bleachers and press box for an estimated cost of $400,000. Option #2) "Flipping the Stadium" by putting new home bleachers and press box on the west side of the stadium with new visitors bleachers on the east side at an approximate cost of $600,000. Option #3) Moving the stadium to the track facility at and estimated cost of 1.5-2 million dollars. 

A survey was posted on the school website to gather community feedback. Of the 432 responses, 54.86% voted for Option #1 - Replacing the current home bleachers. Option #2 - Flipping the stadium - was second with 31.02% of the votes, and option #3 - Moving the stadium to the track - was third with 14.12% of the votes.

The data was also broken down by sub-category: Students, Adults, Adults (20-39), Adults (40+), Current/Former Football Players, Non-Players, and Coaches. Across all subcategories, option #1 was the first choice with option #2 second and option #3 third. Within each sub-category, the percentages for each option were very close to the overall percentages.

Respondents were also asked for their second choice. Option #2 received 51.89% of the votes as the second choice, option #1 was next with 34.91% and option #3 received 13.21% of the votes. Again, the breakdown of the sub-categories followed suit with the overall percentages. 

The school board would like to thank the individuals who completed the survey. The board will be using the voting results and comments to make a final decision in the coming months. We have learned that bleacher companies are behind on the production of press boxes and our renovation may have to wait until after the conclusion of the 2017 season. The current home bleachers, while in need of eventual replacement, are still safe for the coming year and will be inspected again before the season.

Click here to read the Survey Results 


Mercer County Engineer Annual Report 2016
by James (Jim) Wiechart, Mercer County Engineer

What might be hard to distinguish (for someone that does not live on a day to day basis in our world of local road and bridge infrastructure system improvements) is that these infrastructure assets (over large swaths of time) have “evolved” through the years. Yes, many of the improvements over the shorter period of time (10-20 years) have had planned improvements. But, if you review why and how these assets have changed over broad stretches of time, they have “evolved” because of forces of localized development or due to connectivity benefits for the transportation system. Thus, beyond any one Engineer or specific Board(s) action through the years, circumstances of the world have been the primary driving forces to implement in an evolutionary fashion, changes to our infrastructure system. Even though our infrastructure assets have “in a sense” evolved, we continue to strive to effect positive change in this area for the public we serve.

In 2016, our organization went through significant employee transition with the end of the year retirements of Mike Borns (Operations Manager), Vern Eichler (Engineer Tech 3/Surveyor) and John Menchhofer (Bridge Worker II). Elements of the approximate 109 years of experience that leave our workforce are irreplaceable and we wish our fellow former co-workers all the best as they continue down life’s highway. With the losses being suffered, every change is also an opportunity to adjust to new and upcoming challenges and to bring on board new talents. We welcome aboard new employees: Aaron Moeller (Survey Design Technician/Drainage Deputy), Gary Schaublin (Equipment Operator II) and James Allen (Equipment Operator II). We believe all of these folks and our current work force will help us meet those challenges. Continued  . . . .

Click Here for the full 9 page 2016 report by James Wiechart, Mercer County Engineer, filled with interesting facts, statistics, retirements of three long-time employees, Vern Eichler, Mike Borns and John Menchhofer, pictures from the end-of-year events and more!



Rockford Native Jordan Thompson Takes Part in Operation Good Cheer 


Rockford native Jordan Thompson and his girlfriend, Erica Toussant, took part for the first time in a long-standing tradition called Operation Good Cheer in Michigan on December 3, 2016. Founded in 1971, the mission and goal of Operation Good Cheer is to locate and further promote opportunities to gain additional donors to help children in foster care. Child and Family Services, Inc. is in charge of and organizes Operation Good Cheer.


Jordan obtained his private pilot license in June 2016 after four months of private flying lessons in Detroit.  


"All the pilots I became friends with recommended participating in Operation Good Cheer around Christmas time. All of these pilots are people I met from the Oakland Southwest Airport in New Hudson, MI. Many of them have flown presents year after year," said Thompson. 


Jordan cited these statistics, "The organization provides all the children in Michigan in foster care with Christmas gifts. This year, it was 17,200 gifts to 5,733 children. Each child fills out their wish list, and those lists are distributed to businesses and other organizations in the Detroit area. Companies and employees purchase, wrap, and deliver these gifts in early December to the Oakland County Airport just north of Detroit in Pontiac, Michigan.

When the presents are delivered to the airport, hundreds of volunteers involved help sort the gifts by regions throughout the state. The next day, when all of the pilots fly in, the volunteers and pilots pack their planes with gifts and deliver them 

to many county airports to hand the gifts off to the local children services agency for distribution to each child before Christmas."


In all, over 200 airplanes, 21 trucking companies, and hundreds of volunteers joined Erica and Jordan in spreading Christmas cheer. Thompson used an airplane from the Van Wert County, OH Airport. It was a Cessna 172 and is available for rent. Jordan compared  the collection to The Angel Tree in Mercer County for families in need.


Please click on the link below for a video look at the day's fun:



Veteran Ralph Ritz from Rockford Returns from Northeast Indiana Honor Flight to DC ~ 2000 People Greet Flight #22 in Ft. Wayne on October 12, 2016

By Sheila Baltzell – Veterans’ Day Feature 11-11-2016


The Trip


Humbled and awed by the late-night crowd of 2000 people in Ft. Wayne, IN, Ralph Ritz, a veteran of the Korean War Era, who served in Peace-Keeping Task Force in South Korea, December 1961 – January 1963, came home from his trip to Washington DC, totally thrilled about his tour of the nation’s capitol.


Sponsored by local businesswoman, Aleta Weis of Willshire Home Furnishings (above), and accompanied by caregiver - below, Bill Weis (her husband and business partner), Ralph Ritz started out a year ago to secure a seat on the Northeast Indiana hub of the Honor Flight trip to DC. Aleta is also a Director on the Board of Northeast Indiana and accompanied the flight on October 12, 2016 carrying 86 veterans of the Korean War, a few from World War II, and a few from Viet Nam. 86 caregivers went along and paired with a veteran, and 15 other passengers in various roles to help the veterans on the whirlwind day trip. All flights ($400) are free to the veterans; a price which the sponsor pays including his/her own ticket.




Picture above with caregiver and sponsor, Bill Weis.


Ralph reports that the day started at 4:30 AM in Ft. Wayne with a breakfast at the National Guard Armory served by a rousing Welcome Committee. The men were grouped by colored id tags, and there were 4 sections. They were then bussed to the airplane at Bair Field. Three hundred people joined the send-off. Entertainment on the one hour and 20 minute flight included a younger veteran who led them in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. He continued with military songs , and many of the Veterans sang right along. They also had another breakfast on the plane ride.


Busses (with an escort of police on motorcycles) picked them up when they arrived in DC and a narrator accompanied each of the 4 busses. The colored tag each Veteran wore determined their group and the bus they were assigned. Each of the 86 veterans had their own wheelchair that accompanied them on the bus trip to each memorial attraction. First stops were the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon, and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue where they also traveled by Trump’s Hotel. They traveled on to the WWII Memorial and the Air Force Memorial where they were served a boxed lunch compliments of Arby’s.


Next came the monument Ralph was longing to see, The Korean War Memorial. A Korean greeter narrated the tour. He spoke about the significance of the 19 bronze soldiers in the “field” that is the memorial. The wall nearby reflects the 19 to double the men making it 38 to represent the 38th Parallel between North and South Korea which the Veterans had fought to protect. The war ended in 1954. But the protection of the 38th Parallel continues even today.


Later, with their police escorts dodging dangerous traffic to keep the busses moving along in the motorcade, they continued on to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Viet Nam Wall, Aiwa Jima, the Potomac River – Lions Bridge, and the Jefferson Memorial. Arlington National Cemetery was a particular treat, because the Philadelphia 76er’s Basketball Team was in charge of changing the flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the solemn changing of the guard. A meal was provided, they were bussed to the airport and at 9 PM, they arrived back in Ft. Wayne to the cheers of 2000 people, men, women and children. Bill Weis who had been his caregiver all day, stayed by Ralph’s side as emotional thank yous were expressed, shaking of many hands and lots of hugs were followed by sincere letters of thanks, hand drawn pictures and poems from school children and others. Ralph himself received a pretty handmade pillow made by a little girl who handed it to him personally. Ralph was humbled by the experience.



The Tour of Duty


On July 20, 1961, Ralph was  a newly-wed to his young bride Opal (Rogers), and they lived on a small farm near Arcanum. They raised Holstein milk cows together, and he also worked at NCR in Dayton. That was the day that Ralph E. Ritz was drafted at the age of 23 years. He served from 1961 to 1963 and took basic training at Ft. Knox, KY after which he shipped out on the USS Mann. It took 21 days to cross the ocean to En Chow, where the troops took a train and then truck to Camp Beavers just 30 miles from the 38th Parallel and below the demilitarized zone. Private Ralph E. Ritz, now a South Korean Trainee, had been trained as a Tank Operator in KY. At 170 pounds, he was trim and fit, working on his machine to keep it washed, shining and in perfect running order. He met Kim Bo Soon, who became Ralph’s Interpreter and gun loader on the tank for the 13 months he called South Korea his home. Two other men became his constant friend and partners, on the tank, a 50 ton beast built in Lima Ohio at the Tank Depot. They were a tank operator and a tank commander, making 4 who manned the tank. It was a 50 tone, 7 wheels/sport rollers with a rubber track, M48 Tank with 90 mm and 30 mm machine guns. Theirs was Tank #25 with the American Star on it.  Ralph said out on peace-keeping practice maneuvers, he once got the tank racing along at 58 MPH over the frozen hills and rice patties. The gas tank could hold 275 gallons of fuel, it had power steering, and an automatic transmission in High and Low, an accelerator and a brake. It was warm enough in the cold, snow-less winters and very hot in the summer (no AC). There were 15 tanks in his A Battalion (they had A, B, and C)  and the diesels were started every two hours to heat the fuel in cold weather.  Ralph took special Davy Crockett training to  shoot a nuclear rocket, and he was allowed to fire a blank once in practice. He saw no combat, but knew of 6 soldiers who were shot in the line of duty while he was there. Guard duty involved no live ammo, but they were allowed to take the 1st Sergeant’s dog to walk along on duty. The men knew if they gave Rusty a stick of gum, he would stay with them all night. He was a Heinz-57 variety, but well-trained. If he heard a noise outside the fence, he attacked or ran-off whoever was out there. Once he and his friends took a bus as far north as they were allowed to the DMZ – The NO CROSS LINE. It was and eerie feeling, and he had heard tales of soldiers getting lost and wandering into North Korean Territory.




After 13 months of barracks living in metal Quonset huts, 6 AM revelry calls, fuel oil stoves for heat, and Army cots, Michigan native Dale Snider, Ralph’s tank driver, Washington, PA native, Jim Sickles, his other driver, Kim Bo Soon of South Korea, and Ralph finished their tours of duty and went home. At Ft. Stewart in Georgia, Ralph finished his last 6 months, then returned to Arcanum, Ohio to raise a family and live a happy life.  He lost his wife, Opal, many years later and then met and fell in love with Nancy (Rogers) who became his bride, and they recently celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary in Rockford. Ralph recently retired after 30 years as a bus driver for Parkway Schools, too.



The Thanks

Thank you Ralph for serving our nation so bravely. You deserved that grand tour of Washington DC! We are proud!

Anyone interested in the Honor Flights that travel nearly year round to assure that our Veterans are able to see their memorials in DC, can call 937-521-2400 or contact Aleta Weis in Willshire.


Click below on smaller thumbnail pictures to enlarge them


Honor Flight 22

Korean War Memorial
Souvenir books

Thank you letters from a grateful nation
Ralph's translation and training manuals

The Uniform
Training commendations

Honor Flight Certificate

African Mission Trip Taken by Local Physician

By Sheila Baltzell 8-6-2014

Below, hats made by the Sierre Leones

Sierra Leone is an independent country in Africa (but once a British Colony until 1961) sitting aside of Guinea and Liberia on the far western coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone is tiny, impoverished, recovering from civil war and crying-out for missionaries, volunteers and medical help in any form . . . and many people feel the calling to go and help.


One doctor from the Rockford community, Jerry Sell, M.D. recently fulfilled a dream of his to visit and care for the poorest of the poor in Sierra Leone at a hospital there which was started by the missionary parents of another traveler on the journey, Ron Baker, M.D.


Dr. “Baka” as he is fondly called, actually grew up in Sierra Leone while his parents, Dr. and Mrs. DeWitt Baker were missionaries (and he the Education Secretary) from 1949-1965. They built the hospital in Mattru, a village of 1500 people and ministered to their needs for 16 years.  Then the family returned to Indiana where Dewitt became the president of Huntington College. It was there that Ron went to college and did his residency in medicine. He then returned to Sierra Leone and served the people for 16 years before coming back to Berrian Springs, Michigan. Ron’s maternal grandpa was Pastor L. A. Middaugh who was once a pastor at Otterbein U. B Church, where Jerry Sell and his family attended. Dr. Sell has known and kept in contact with the family (including Ron’s mother living in Indiana) over the many years of their ministry. The country of Sierra Leone has a United Brethren African Conference supporting the hospital. Personal support comes from other places, too. Francis Mustapha, a construction worker from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, recently ran a 401K and used the donations to support the Madina School (for teaching good morals and values) in Moiomba. He is from Sierra Leone and wants to help his people. (At left, Dr. Baker and a man severly beaten with a belt buckle during the Civil War.)


In March of 2013, Dr. Baker and Dr. Sell began an earnest dialogue in planning a mission trip to Africa. There was much to discuss. Who would be going along? Dr. Sell talked to one of Van Wert County Hospital’s Nurse Anesthetists, Mike Smith, CRNA, who is also an ordained Baptist Minister, and he requested a place on the team. Dr. Baker goes back every other year to serve.


Dr. Ron Baker talked to Allie Kaditu from Neighborville, IL, a native of Sierra Leone, who works for BP Oil Company as a Financial Analyst. She accompanied the group and was their trip facilitator, handling flights, road travel, and necessary paperwork.  She speaks both Mende (Southern ½ of Sierra Leone) and Krio (Pidgeon English). Her skills came in handy and in one instance, life-saving for the team. They were stopped by a policeman looking to empty the pockets of strangers. She spoke to them in their language, telling them they were missionaries and to please let them pass. They did. Dr. Sell said that usually paying respect  to the Paramount Chief (District Mayor) will get travelers protected. Even though they had done this act, it did not help, until Kaditu spoke up.


The travel took 30 hours in late January 2014. The group of four flew from Chicago to Brussels and then on to the Sierra Leone coastal town of Freetown via an airbus. The flights alone took 10 hours.  Then there was a six hour layover.  In the city of a million people, they saw a beautiful, very old cotton tree, valued by the community because it is the tree where slaves were freed many years long ago. In Brussels, the group met up with Michelle from Michigan, who came to work with the nurses in the Mattru Harmony House Nursing Hospital and Paradise Dormitory.  Then the mission team of 5 boarded a truck which took them on a 14 hour ride down a rutted lane they called a road, followed by a Ferry Boat ride across the Jong River. A system of sticks launched the ferry across the water. The weary group spread out in various spots for the mission including a Catholic Mission, and apartment building and two houses.

Rice bag at left.





They were greeted by Mama Parker, Pastor Parker’s wife. They showed her respect and later they met up with another team member who practices in South Africa for the United Nations. Abu Minah stayed for the week, as well. The women cooked for the group. Chickens ran around free and then wound up in a stew for supper. They were offered fresh baked bread and peanut butter, and pineapple. The team took food with them as well including instant oatmeal and Cliff energy bars. Sometimes they ate food they were not sure what it was. Dr. Sell says he lived on peanut butter sandwiches.



According to history, there was a 10 year Civil War in the 1990’s and was perpetrated by neighboring Liberian Rebels who performed horrible atrocities. The warriors destroyed the hospital in Mattru where the rebels dumped the country’s only x-ray machine in the river. The government had to pay off the rebels to enact a cease-fire. The opposition party in Sierra Leone is now made up of the former rebels. The atrocities are forgiven. One woman was injured by a machete cut with her intestines hanging out during the struggles. When the mission team recently arrived, she rode her bicycle 3 hours to see Dr. Ron Baker  who was the surgeon who fixed her wound. Dr. Baker’s name is known through-out the country. While his family lived in Mattru, he and his brother and 2 younger sisters played with the villagers who lived in thatched-roof houses. Ron attended the Danville School. Tragedy struck the family when a boat launch collapsed and killed Dan’s older brother. Dan regularly visits the gravesite, which the villagers prepare for viewing by brushing the grave area.





All supplies have to be brought along, according to Dr. Sell, so, Van Wert County Hospital and the Pharmacy Staff donated medical supplies and money. Dr. Sell and Dr. Baker bought a ton (25 kilos) of rice for the hospital. Mary, Dr. Ron’s housekeeper and cook, cooked the rice for them to eat. She kept their mosquito nets mended and they ate on a screened gazebo. All team members had their shots before the trip and took malaria pills the entire time.  With a 50% infant mortality rate by the age of 5 years, it is not surprising that they are the worst in the world. Infectious disease is prevalent; viruses abound. One evening a premature baby was brought in with breathing difficulties. Mike Smith the anesthetist worked and managed to get an IV in. They used a bag apparatus to breathe for it but it’s little lungs were not developed enough and it died in Nurse Michelle’s arms.


Each member carried 2 suitcases up to 50 lbs, plus a carryon and a backpack.

All items and supplies were used or left behind. The doctors played volleyball with the village children and handed out candy and balloons. There was swimming in the river. They walked ½ mile every day to and from the hospital.


All in all, the group performed 31 hernia surgeries in 5 days. They gave joint injections for pain; Dr. Sell did ultrasounds; CRNA Smith did anesthesia including spinals. Once, they treated a construction worker who fell 30 feet in a pit and caused severe damage so he could not walk. The team figured out how to get him a wheelchair. He was so happy and appreciative. There were heart failure induced leg ulcerations for which Dr. Sell used Una boots and people got better.  People came from near and far for care. They had to pay for their services. But some could not, so the team actually paid $1000 for their patients to have the surgery they gave as volunteers.







When the week was done, all doctors were thanked with the hand-shake of highest status and respect; they were each given a hat; and they left down the dirt lane for their ferry boat ride to the airport: Dr. Ron Baker, Dr. Jerry Sell, Dr. Minah (back to South Africa), Allie Kaditu and Nurse Michelle.

Click here from lots more great pictures from Dr. Sell's trip.



Deerfield Golf Course Winter Hours – Open all Winter

Golf Simulator Leagues Started on November 16th ~ Clubhouse/Simulator Room Rentals Now Available for Family and Corporate Parties

The winter hours have started at Deerfield Golf Course 5621 Shelley Road, Rockford.

They are open Wednesday - Saturday 8 am to 7pm and Sunday Noon to 7 PM.

Exciting Golf Simulator Leagues started on Nov 16th, 2016 ~ sign up now for a favorite tee time.

Reservations for holiday family parties or bachelor parties in the clubhouse and simulator room

Hurry ! 10% off all 2017 memberships now through Dec 31st 2016

Get your membership early and save! Call 419-363-9400.



Deerfield Golf Course Winter Hours – Coincides with New Ownership

by Sheila Baltzell
December 5, 2016


The New Sign on 127.


Jerry, Kris and Phyllis Above


The Deerfield Golf Course has changed hands. Taking over the operation from the original builders and owners Jerry and Phyllis (Ross) Now are their daughter and son-in-law, Kris Now Black and Chuck Black. After 25 years in the golf business and 58 years of marriage, there has been much excitement in the change-over as Kris and Chuck have added to the business offerings.


First of all, the Deerfield Golf Course has expanded the usual golf season into winter team leagues with a new simulator game. The “Golf Simulator Room” of the club house is now out-fitted with technology ~ golf at any of the “major golf” course all winter long. Play with your own group of family or friends or go onto the Internet using Deerfield’s Optishot and play other teams. Tournament action is also available through Optishot. Kris says t-times are available anytime or book a bachelor or birthday party in the room and entertain with golf. There are other activities to enjoy like poker and cards. Let SandWedge Cafe' cook for your group by purchasing off the menu.  Gift cards are available for your favorite golfer.


Optishot also has available a Golf Coach System that can be loaded onto your iPad, and it analyses a player’s swing.


Rather just practice? Use Optishot’s Driving Range.


The closest offering of this golf technology to Rockford is Ft. Wayne and Decatur. Tee times for 18 holes on Optishot is $15 for 30 minutes plus $10 for each 30 minutes after that. Renting the system for 18 holes for an afternoon get-together runs from 2 to 4 hours.



Kris demonstrates The Golf Simulator Above
Below is the Computer System that Runs the League Simulator



The Golf Simulator Leagues are now forming - play is anytime. The league is $25 for 18 holes ~ play whenever they are open.



Second of all, they have remodeled the club house and added a new menu of food. The spacious area offers plenty of room for parties and gatherings of golfers. The SandWedge Café’ Menu includes 9 different panini sandwiches including the Eagle – fried egg, ham, pepperjack cheese and Jalapeño  pepper jelly on an English Muffin, muffins, soup, baked potatoes, hot dogs and chili dogs, Kidz Meals, specialty and regular coffee, pop and daily specials. Kris cooks at the SandWedge Café’ year round.


Helping their parents out at the golf course are their son Ross Black (greenskeeper) and daughter Stephanie Black Stroh (everything from bookwork, cooking to running the simulator), Ross and Chuck take care of the 30 golf carts. Longtime employee, Tim Shaw (club house) has stayed on now that Jerry and Phyllis have officially retired.


The story is interesting on how Deerfield Golf Course came to be.  Kris recalls her dad, an avid golfer, always saying he was going to build a golf course when she was a young girl at home. He golfed every morning before work in Van Wert and loved it. He kept his eyes open for appropriate property, and when a 230 acre dairy farm of rolling hills in 1988, near their home on State Route 117 came available, he knew it would be the perfect place. There were barns and buildings, a milk house, pond and stands of trees. Jerry, not really knowing how to build a golf course, went to the Rockford Library and borrowed books on how to build greens and holes complete with irrigation/drainage.







Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge.

New Renovation pictures

New Clubhouse

New Clubhouse - Party
Rentals Available

Building Lots for Sale


Deer on the property helped Jerry & Family decide the Deerfield name.





At the time, the couple, in their early fifties, and working at factory jobs (he a tool and die maker and she a sewing machine operator), took on a whole new life with the purchase. They bought a truck, back hoe, bulldozer, a pan and other earth moving equipment. “Overall, we moved more than 550 yards of dirt,” said Jerry. “Today there are 5 ponds all with underground irrigation and drainage.”

At the time,  Jerry and Phyllis hired Warner Bowen, as a golf course consultant, to help them map and plan the golf course and surrounding area for a housing development. The late Roy Thompson served as their surveyor and more home building lots have opened for sale with the Blacks taking ownership of the Golf Course. The first tee, fairway, and green were mapped-out, and by 1991 they had succeeded in building 3 holes, one at a time. Jerry laughs about the payment system of a coffee can nailed to a picnic table, but just like in the film Field of Dreams, he built a golf course, and golfers came to play. They built holes 4 and 9 next., learning all the while as they went along.


During this time they had razed several buildings, including an old farmhouse, which they lived in for 6 years. The old milkhouse was a useful piece of property and stands today as the club house with a cart shed attached. There were many deer that came onto the property or passed through, and eventually, the name Deerfield was selected as an appropriate name for the Golf Course. The barnyard became a cement parking lot. They bought a few carts and advertised golf outings which quickly became popular.


By 1995, they had 9 holes completed (5,6,7,8 were last and all located in the back green). Phyllis laughs about coming home from work and immediately going to work at physical labor on the golf course until sundown stopped them. Jerry was able to retire in 1989, and the golf course soon became his full-time job.


Kris and Chuck today invite the public out to see the remodeled club house, join a league and try the new simulator room for your next party.  Call 419-363-9400 for more information. Congratulations to Jerry and Phyllis on a happy retirement.


Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge.

Phyllis drives the tractor.
Jerry runs the backhoe.

The First Golf Outing

Jerry and Phyllis Now

SandWedge Cafe'


Jerry and Phyllis buy the dairy farm.


Farm Buildings.


Milkhouse to become the Club house


Click Here for the printable Deerfield Golf Course Article


Shanes Aerie 1292 Fraternal Order of Eagles
Celebrate 110th Birthday of Charter in Rockford
The members of the Shanes Aerie 1292 Fraternal Order of Eagles are looking forward to a big birthday ~ their 110th of their Charter in Rockford on December 20, 2016.

In 1906, the Order of the Good Fellows, Seattle, WA, as it was originally called, was 8 years old at the time and chartering new member clubs around the USA. They became the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and Rockford men decided to form their own club. The Charter was provided, signed, sealed, custom framed and installed at the first location on the East side of Main Street in the old DP & L building which now houses Kid’s Tree House and Jessica’s Consignment Shop. The men met upstairs and 68 names were on the original charter.

According to Tom Myers, Eagles member and historian, the club remained in that location until 1956 when they bought the current brick structure on the south side of Main Street from Charlie Andrews. They moved the club. In 1983 they added the north adjacent building where Carl and Mabel Brandt’s Rockford Dry Cleaners had just gone out of business.

Today the club has 330 members, with the oldest living continuous member being Earl Brodbeck of Willshire with 56 service membership years. Their motto continues to be “People Helping People”. Members, auxiliary members and families alike have called The Eagles their club, their place to socialize with one another, and generate money to return to the community. “Rockford first, then County ~ as Charity begins at Home,” say the members.




Their first big community project ~ building a Shelter House in the newly bought Shanes Park in Rockford ~ was in 1976 when they repurposed bricks from an old outside east brick wall which was torn out of the Rockford United Methodist Church to pave way for a new addition to the church. It turned out to be a 4 brick thick wall, and the bricks were likely fired right there in Rockford at the old round oven down by Fremont Canning Company. Junior (Clarence B.) Couts was an  Eagles member and Past Worthy President (1975-1976) and a brick layer. He undertook the moving and cleaning of the brick with Eagle members’ help. Then he laid the Shelter House wall and pillars, repurposing the brick. Fred Tolan, Eagles member and Tolan Memorials business owner donated a cornerstone/plaque to the project. The Eagles members and the Shanes Auxiliary, women’s group, worked at fund-raising projects for a year to supply funds for their gift to the community, their Community Project for the Year. Past Worthy President (1974-1975), Jim Zizelman at 91 years old, is the oldest member of the Rockford Eagles. He and Mr. Couts, along with Tolan, set the stone in place at a dedication ceremony in the park. The Shelter House is used year round with a fireplace for cooking, electricity, and picnic tables.





Dedication and laying of the cornerstone


In addition to this project, the Eagles, as a  501c3 (gaming law),  have given away $50,000 each to the Wright State WOEF Scholarships; Celina Visiting Nurses; Mercer County Cancer Association. In addition, they donate $1000’s of dollars to the Leota Braun Foundation to disperse to Rockford area projects and needs including these:  Chatt Farmers’ Picnic; Pee-wee Football; Rockford Recreation (ball fields, equipment, grounds); Rockford Fire Department; Rockford Lions Variety Show; Ryan Temple Memorial Golf Tournament; Rockford Sons of Legion Duck Races; Parkway 8th Grade Trip to Washington, DC; Lots for Soldiers; Parkway Back-pack Program (food for children); Parkway Athletic Boosters Club projects; Rockford Police Department Tasers $2000 each); Fox Family Autism Ride; Scoreboard for Girls Softball Field; Gazebo in Shanes Park; Park Batting cage and dugouts; and Kids Playhouses in Shanes Park. There are other benevolent donations as the need arises.












The Eagles opened their doors to another organization in 2016. The century old Rockford Masonic Lodge now meets on Monday nights in the Eagles’ Facility. An organization as old as the Eagles had met for years above the old Pontius Hardware.

The Eagles, as well as the Masonic Lodge in Rockford, invite potential members to check out their facilities in downtown Rockford, or contact Tom Myers at 419-790-9587.






Jane Avery’s Memory Honored with Renaming of Facility in Ft. Wayne
Brother Tom and Sister-in-law Judy Avery of Rockford Attend Ceremony
By Sheila Baltzell June 30, 3016

In memory and honor of Rockford native, the late Jane Avery, Ft. Wayne’s Community Harvest Food Bank recently renamed the Tillman Road facility “The Jane Avery Distribution Center”. She had been their long-time Executive Director. Jane, a Parkway High School graduate of 1971, passed last July 2015 after a battle with stage 4 brain cancer. The renaming of the facility came after looking at Jane’s nineteen years of leadership, where the food bank grew to distribute nearly 13 million pounds of food to more than 90,000 people annually.






Above: The ceremony is led by Community and Food Bank Leaders.

She had proven herself as a compassionate leader and in 2011, Ft. Wayne Mayor Tom Henry awarded Avery with the Key to the Fort for her commitment to the community. She was also awarded the 2015 Sagamore of the Wabash Award, presented by Governor Mike Pence for distinguished service.

Above: Flanked by Leaders of Community Harvest from left are daughter Beth Anne, Jane's husband, Bill Hoover, and daughter Allison.

At the renaming service, the CEO of Community Harvest, John Wolf, said, “Over the past twelve years, I was blessed to work with Jane. Her enthusiastic personality and warming smile are missed each and every day. This dedication is a tribute to an individual who treated everyone with dignity and respect.”

Above: Family shown left to right: Mr. and Mrs. Hicham Mannir and son; Jane's daughter, Allison Avery with fiance, Chase; Jane's brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Judy Avery; Jane's husband Bill Hoover; daughter, Beth Anne Mannir with friend Rusty. Daughter Maureen "Mo" Jeffrey was unable to attend.

The Food Bank administrators and employees were in attendance, as well as Jane’s family and the Community Harvest Board of Directors. The dedication ceremony was held at 999 East Tillman Road in Fort Wayne on Tuesday, June 14th, at 4:00pm

Jane Avery was known as a compassionate woman who respected all individuals.

Community Harvest Board Member and District Manager for Kroger Chris Gomez said “She truly made an impact on everyone she met.” Jane’s leadership took her to Feeding America national committees and food bank work groups, where she served as chairperson for the Feeding America Central Region network, which represented nearly half of Feeding America’s food banks. Jane worked on national programs and disaster relief efforts and became a trusted advisor to leaders on the 2008 Farm Bill. Because of this national work, she was, in 2009, presented with the “Distinguished Hoosier Award” by then Governor Mitch Daniels, and in 2010 named a finalist for the Indiana Torchbearer Award. In 2011, she was named the Journal Gazette’s 2008 “Citizen of the Year.”

As a child growing up in Rockford, Jane helped out in her parents’ local grocery store. Working alongside her brothers and sister, she once said she learned about managing food from her family’s guiding hand. After high school, she went on to attend Saint Francis College in Fort Wayne (BA in Social Work) and then Taylor University in Fort Wayne for an MBA.  She worked at Lutheran Hospital of Fort Wayne (where she managed the ElderMed Program), Catholic Charities, and parish work at the former Saint Paul's Catholic Church in downtown Fort Wayne before she took on the long-time Executive Directorship of Community Harvest Food Bank (CHFB) of Northeast Indiana. Avery is survived by her husband, Bill Hoover, and her daughters Elizabeth Mannir, Mo Jeffrey and Allison Avery.

Thank you to Deb (Bollenbacher) Reichard and Beckie (Bollenbacher) McMillen for recommending this dedication to one of Rockford’s own.
Thank you to Tom and Judy Avery for the pictures.

 Click here for Jane’s obituary. 



Parkway Graduate of 2016 Taylor Andrews Wins Prestigious New Award

Taylor Andrews, 18 year old daughter of Scott and Jannaya Andrews, recently walked away from the 47th annual ASIFA (East Animated Film Festival) in New York City with the Women in Animation-Excellence in Animation Filmmaking Rising Star award. Click Here to see the announcement.

Andrews' short film, "The Dream," was completed over the summer between her junior and senior year with the guidance of Parkway teachers art - Ed Kuhn and  computer - Kevin Browning.  The two found a contest in which to enter
her film, which had impressed them. Taylor’s piece had also impressed the judges at the Animation Center, according to Lisa Goldman, president of the group. They created the award especially for Taylor. Goldman expressed that she hoped more female high school students will enter in the future.

Taylor was honored at the Parkway High School Academic Awards Assembly for Seniors in May. Mr. Browning and Mr. Kuhn formally presented Andrews with the award and treated the crowd of peers, parents, and grandparents to a showing of the short film and honored her as a gifted artist who is passionate about learning her trade.

According to Taylor, was always an artist, even doing advanced work in pre-school. She never drew “stick people”; she had an eye for detail, her parents learned early on. She attended Zion Lutheran School in Decatur, IN through the 8th grade and participated in art. According to Taylor, though, she really began to love art and develop her talents when she entered high school at Parkway and became a student of Ed Kuhn. “I felt free in his classes to safely express myself. I could always do whatever I wanted, and Mr. Kuhn would help me if I needed something. Throughout high school, I took every art class I could: Art 1; Ceramics; Painting: Drawing; and then became a student in Interactive Media with Mr. Kuhn and Mr. Browning as teachers. I learned to use the MicroSoft Anime Studio Pro and learned to combine the different types of art with animation and sound.”

Of the animation, The Dream, she based it on a popular 1932 Picasso oil painting called The Dream, of a sleeping woman. Taylor favors cubism, and fell in love with his work. Her idea of having the woman awake was her interpretation of the theme of the short film Rising Star award: Sisterhood. As the woman awakes in her animation, a girl scout sticks with her as she looks at all the other paintings in the room where “she has hung on the wall for so long”. Taylor said, “The woman awakens and sees her surroundings in a different way as she looks at the other paintings. I am so proud of this award and what it means: for young women sticking together. And, I am so proud to be the first recipient.”

Taylor has been accepted at the University of St. Francis in Ft. Wayne in the fall, where she plans to major in animation, with a minor in art education.

Taylor invites you to view her animation below:

Click here for The Decatur Daily Democrat’s posting



Shultz Huber & Associates Announces Team Member Promotions

Shultz Huber & Associates, a certified public accounting firm with locations throughout northwest Ohio, recently the announced the promotion of Stacey Baer and Steve Samples.

Stacey Baer, Certified Public Accountant, has been promoted to principal with the firm. Baer joined the firm in 1998 and is experienced in assisting large and small businesses in a variety of industries with individual and business tax preparation and software consulting, evaluation and implementation.

Baer is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and holds a degrees in accounting and marketing from Defiance College. She is a member of The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She currently serves on the Van Wert County YWCA finance committee, is the treasurer of the board of directors for the Van Wert Youth Football Association, and is treasurer for the Van Wert Football Tailgate Tour.

Baer works primarily in the Van Wert office but is available to clients at any of the firm’s five locations. She resides with her family in Van Wert.


Steve Samples, Certified Public Accountant, has been promoted to principal with the firm. Samples joined the firm in 1995 and provides accounting and tax services to businesses in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, agriculture and franchise operations. Samples also heads the firm’s forensic accounting services.

He has a degree in accounting from Miami University and is a member of The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the American College of Forensic Examiners. Samples is involved with the Van Wert Rotary Club and is the treasurer for the Van Wert Community Improvement Corporation.

Samples works primarily in the Van Wert office but is available to clients at any of the firm’s five locations. He resides in the Rockford area with his wife, Teri, and their family.

Shultz Huber & Associates, Inc. is a full service accounting, tax and business consulting firm specializing in assisting businesses and their owners plan for their future and achieve their goals in an ever-changing financial and regulatory environment. Offices are located in Archbold, Bryan, Defiance, St. Marys, and Van Wert.








Eagle Scout Project Benefits Rockford Shanes Park
by Lisa Kuhn

The Village of Rockford and The Rockford Recreation Association would like
to give a big 'THANK YOU' to Andrew Baughman.  Andrew recently replaced
the old batting cage and added soft toss hitting stations at Shanes Park.
This was a project he completed to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.  
Congratulations Andrew on your achievement and thank you for 
giving back to the community! 







Capital Campaign Underway at Mercer Health for Major Expansion Project
Building on a Promise – Campaign Title Sums It Up

by Sheila Baltzell 4-2-2016

The MED  Foundation of Mercer Health, the volunteer philanthropic arm of the health organization has taken on the challenge to raise the necessary funds to support the exciting new project of a new wing at the hospital located on Main Street in Coldwater, OH. Mindy Kremer, Senior Director of Development, Marketing and Community Relations recently explained the reasons and needs for this expansion, the history of health care in our community, and the timeline in place for the estimated 2017 ground-breaking ceremony and construction commencement.

Lisa Klenke, CEO and George Boyles, Senior Vice President and CFO, recently announced the three story addition which will be directly connected to the existing west entrance of the current hospital, adding nearly 54,000 square feet will feature a new state-of-the-art surgical suite, all private inpatient rooms and increased space for outpatient services. Parking will move west in front of the former Briarwood faciality now owned by the hospital.

Mindy Kremer explained that the expansion is necessary to keep up with the growing demand for surgical services which have seen nearly 25% growth in the past 2 years.  She said, “Currently, the surgery department is located in the original 1950 building. The expansion will meet the needs of the surgical volume growth by providing adequate space and improved functioning.  Private rooms in all inpatient spaces have been a long-time request from the community and is the gold standard in new hospital construction.  In addition to privacy, private rooms allow for better infection control and can reduce noise disturbances thereby improving patient sleep.  Outpatient services equate for nearly 75% of all services provided at the hospital, a major shift from the traditional care model. Currently many of the outpatient services are decentralized, including injections and infusions, chemotherapy, pain management, central line and implanted port care. The expansion will meet the needs of outpatient growth while allowing for increased accessibility for patients and visitors.”

The $24 million addition will add 54,000 square feet to the current 119,000, equipment will be carried over, and digital radiology is a priority for this project. A Telestroke System using iPads to tele-dock with a neurologist in seconds will save precious time for stroke patients.

The campaign will be 1/3 funded, 1/3 financed and 1/3 benevolent donations.

The current administration of Mercer Health looks back to the vision of the founding fathers of Our Lady of Mercer Hospital. Joseph Oppenheim and other leaders promised in 1950 to provide quality, local healthcare.  The community has always rallied around every project. In 1969, Kremer mentioned that the Sisters of Mercer could not longer operate the hospital, and concerned board members worked together with seven townships in Mercer County to form the joint township hospital district in 1972. Today it is still successfully governed through the Ohio Revised Code, by local township government, one of only a handful in the state to claim that status. And, during the 70’s and 80’s, the hospital saw renovations and additions as needs grew. The townships involvement meant a new Emergency Room, 24 hours a day, became a reality. A Community Medical Center in Celina, Mercer County Home Health Agency and Mercer Health Home Care all came into being by the end of 1987.

The pictures below tell a story of community pride and caring, and the new addition is being welcomed in that same sense of generosity and excitement for the future.

More information about this major expansion project is available by contacting the MED Foundation of Mercer Health or by visiting Learn about all areas of Mercer Health, and how you can suppor the future of healthcare in your own community.


Laying the Cornerstone of Our Lady of Mercy Hospital

A nun doing imaging



Aerial View of the Original Building




Win this Motorcycle ~ buy a $10 ticket for a chance to win this Brand New 2016 Harley Soft-tail Slim
(Tickets $10 each - 2500 to be sold, generously donated through the help of Toledo Harley Davidson)

Mike Fox has tickets for sale and can be reached at 419-733-7466.


Rockford Eagles – Aerie 1292 Gold Sponsor for Fox Family Ride for Autism - Poker Run and Auction Benefit
in Its 2nd Year

Autism Speaks - World Autism Month 2016 was the perfect time for Rockford Eagles Aerie 1292 to donate a Gold Sponsorship to The Fox Family Ride for Autism. Presenting the check to Mike Fox, left is Blair Shaffer (right). The Eagles were a major sponsor for the Inaugural Fox Family Autism Ride last year.

The event will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016, during Rockford Community Days with biker registration from 9-10:30 AM. The donation is $20 per rider and $15 per passenger. First bike out is 10; last bike out is 10:30; last bike in is 3:30. Five Mercer County stops include: Community Building in Rockford, Duck Foot Landing, Fish Mo’s, Hole in the Wall, Padua Pub and McSober’s.

A New Harley Motorcyle Raffle for a 2016 Soft-tail Slim worth $17,000 (Tickets $10 each - 2500 to be sold, generously donated through the help of Toledo Harley Davidson), a 50-50 raffle, a Silent Auction and a Hog Roast have been added to the events.

A hog roast meal (hogs donated by Kuhn Farms Rockford) is included for the motorcyclists. The pulled pork and fixin’s will be prepared by visiting Chef for the day “The Little Hen” of North Carolina (Regan Stachler) who is featured as a top award winner in the North Carolina Competition Dining Series (Farm to Table Cuisine). Presale Dinner Tickets are available for purchase at 4 locations: Mayor Amy Joseph's House, Village Hall, Barry's Market, and TJ's!

Dinners are $7 and a portion of the presale dinners sold will benefit Rockford Community Days, too.

The Fox Family from Rockford, in honor of their autistic grandson/nephew/cousin, Alex, who is now 11, have decided to use all Benefit Proceeds this year for the 18 identified Mercer County (K-12) Kids with Autism (6 school districts). Alex is the son of Holly Fox Snyder, daughter of the late Gary and Delight Fox. For years, Holly, Alex’s dad and their families have been participating in motorcycle runs and other fund raisers for Autism Awareness The site for Autism is  World Autism Awareness Day - Autism Speaks  .  Alex has used an iTaalk iPad since the age of 6. According to Mike and Nikki Fox of Rockford, the success of the ride last year for the eleven Parkway Autistic children, prompted the family to spread the money to other Mercer County schools in order to help them, too. 58 Bikers and 38 riders participated in the event last year.

The Autism Poker Run, Children’s Go-Fish Bicycle Run, Harley Raffle, 50-50 Raffle and Silent Auction will also feature a Hog Roast after the run. The organization ~ iTaalk Autism Foundation ~ (read the full article below) will  purchase iPads® equipped with special apps that Autistic children can use to communicate with others and learn. Mike Fox, Alex’s uncle said the device has been significant in the life of his nephew and many others, but they are expensive. Some apps are $300 a piece. He recently learned of the success of the Parkway students who received the iPads®  last fall when Parkway teachers of Autistic children in Parkway, Chad Sapp and Laura (Carter) Yoder,  confirmed that  some increased their grade levels by 3 years.  The goal for the Fox Family is to raise enough money to buy and give each Autistic child in Mercer County one of the special iTaalk iPads®  which includes all apps fully loaded and training for students, parents and teachers.

The Rockford Eagles (photo: Blair Shaffer (left) presents a check to Mike Fox) recently donated $1000 to become a Gold Sponsor.

The Go Fish bicycle ride for children and adults will meet at the Community Building and register at 2:15 with bicycles out at 2:45 pm. All ages welcome! Even adults!  The route will not cross over St Rt 33 so it will be safer. A Go Fish card will be picked up at each stop, and the riders with the most matches will be put in a drawing for a new bicycle. 

Mike can be reached at 419-733-7466  and the website for registration is:

Click here to visit their Facebook Page.

Please use this link to make your own donation to this event:!fox-family-ride/cl34



The Fox Family from Rockford is Sponsoring  2nd Annual Fox Family Ride for Austism
by Tammy Eisenreich, Vice President The iTaalk Autism Foundation

Information on Austism

Autism is properly classified as an epidemic, and a recent study revealed 1 in 56 children have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The lifetime incremental cost of education, treatment and care of a person with autism is $3.2 million. Clearly this is a tremendous additional cost on families and on communities...unless we prioritize finding innovative approaches to working with children with Autism.

The iTaalk Autism Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that works to introduce and educate on cost effective and appropriate interactive technology for individuals with autism and related disorders. We continue to endorse traditional therapy programs such as a 30-hour per week Applied Behavioral Analysis program are the most effective treatment for children, but seek to bring attention to how much more progress could be made if the child also had access to an interactive device with educational apps, for which they were trained to use by their teachers and therapists. The immediate and inexhaustible interaction with a device such as an iPad®, would reinforce language, fine motor skills, cause & effect and other key skills for children with autism – thereby enhancing the therapist’s impact in a very cost-effective manner.

Last year, nearly 100 individuals with autism were granted an iPad® by iTaalk, and over 1,000 service providers and parents were provided with the necessary education on using an iPad® with individuals with special needs.

How you can help...

Become a sponsor for the Fox Family Ride for Autism

The Fox Family Ride for Autism is asking local businesses, corporations and/or individuals to become sponsors! The donations can be monetary or material in nature. Donations made will be utilized in an auction to raise funds. Money raised from the auction goes directly to iTaalk and will be used to fund the purchase of devices, educational applications, and a full-day iPad training for local parents, teachers and autism caregivers!

We hope you will consider this opportunity to partner with the Fox Family and iTaalk! Visit and click on the Programs tab to find out more about the Fox Family Ride and to become a donor today! Any questions regarding our organization and fund management policies are gladly answered, contact Tammy at, or visit for answers to FAQs about The iTaalk Autism Foundation. If you have questions about the Fox Family Ride for Autism and how to get involved please contact Holly at (419)-787-7857 or by email at

Please use this link to make your own donation to this event:!fox-family-ride/cl34


Tammy Eisenreich
Tammy Eisenreich, Vice President The iTaalk Autism Foundation
The iTaalk Autism Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is located at 2040 West Central Ave., Toledo, Ohio 43606


Robert P. Maurer Longtime Rockford Carnegie Public Library Fiscal Officer To Retire on May 28, 2016

Robert “Bob” Maurer is retiring after 26 years as the fiscal officer for the Rockford Carnegie Public Library. His knowledge and expertise will be sadly missed as he has much experience since the days when officers did all library fiscal work in handwritten ledgers when he started back in September of 1989. He says that the biggest change he has seen since that time is the advances in technology.

Rozann Maurer, Library Director, applied for a grant to automate the library card catalog system back then, and with it came the program called Uniform Accounting Network (UAN). A software written by the Auditor of the State of Ohio, it was designed for public entities to use, and 1800 currently do, including 251 libraries. Bob explained that Rockford’s Library is 240th in size and was a leader in automation and accounting with him being selected as one of 30 fiscal officers to use the new software at that time. The library got rid of the old paper card catalog and went to electronic searching, check-ins and check-outs.

Bob also was selected in 2002 to beta-test a new version of the UAN and also assist with the training of others on the software. The computer system was free-standing, but can be used online now. Multiple users can work in the same library on the UAN doing additional things besides the accounting, things like payroll, yearend reports and online direct deposit. In addition, Bob re-wrote the accounting handbook twice over the years with the latest in electronic format. While at Rockford Carnegie, he was hired from 2000 to 2012 as the fiscal officer for the St. Marys Library.

Bob was honored in May of 2005 when his fellow fiscal officers elected him president of the Ohio Library Fiscal Officers Association, a position he held for three years. Also during that time, Bob was elected to the Ohio Library Council Accounting Division Action Council, and served 6 years, one year as the chairman. Under his leadership, they sponsored a Central Public Investing and Management  training to prepare fiscal officers for the certification of investing (some libraries do this).

Once he retires, he will continue to be a visiting clerk for the UAN, anywhere the State needs him to travel and help out.

Other activities of Bob’s over the years include high school graduation; a tour of duty in Viet Nam in the Army; pursuing and getting his Associates Degree in Accounting from International Business College in Ft. Wayne; marrying Rozann and raising a family with her. They had twin daughters and now have 4 grandchildren. Bob also, farmed and continues to help with that, on the Palmer Family Sesquicentennial Farm near Mercer where they still live. They have a grain farm, but also some cattle. Seven generations have lived in the Palmer Family Home (Great Great Grandma built the house), which his daughter Megan lives in with her family. He continues to serve on the Leota Braun Foundation as the executive director and is a board member of the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District and he was the Dublin Township fiscal officer for 6 years. He enjoys riding his motorcycle and intends to take more trips after retirement. He will ride again on Memorial Day in the Rolling Thunder Riders from Fairfax Virginia to the tomb of the unknown Civil War Soldier Ceremony.

And he annual participates in the American Legion Riders (Charitable Wing) Legacy Run to raise money for the Legacy Scholarship for children of American military servicemen and women who were killed in service to our country.

When asked about the history of the library, he recognized the board members he has worked with over the years including the current members: Jim Gibson; Art Bader; Georgiana Wilson; Ryan Sipe; Marge Gehle; Shannon Painter Carpenter; and Lisa Kuhn.  The Rockford Carnegie Library is a single entity in Mercer County. They are 1 of 4 libraries operating in Mercer County along with the Mercer County Public Library and its branches, The Ft. Recovery Public Library and the Coldwater Public Library. Each has a board of directors. Bob explained that in 2009 State Funding was drastically cut to all the libraries. It meant lay-offs or reduction in hours of service to the public. Community levies saved the libraries in the area and hours were restored as well as the ability to purchase. Rockford Carnegie Library’s main structure was built in 1913 and the new part in 1970. The 100 year old brick was repaired on the old part in 2014.

Bob is looking forward to retirement although it looks like he’ll still be plenty busy.

If you’d like to congratulate Bob, send him a card to 5850 Mercer Road, Mendon, OH  45862.



Bob Maurer Preparing for His 8th Ride in the American Legion Riders Legacy Run

Bob Maurer, a Viet Nam Veteran, is still serving his fellow military comrades. On August 22, 2016, he will be heading out on his motorcycle for his 8th ride in the American Legion Riders Legacy Run to raise Scholarship Funds for the children of men and women who have lost their lives in military service to the USA. In its 11th year, the riders have raised over $1 million a year in the last two years. Bob said, “We will travel 1300 miles in 5 days heading through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and arriving in Tupelo, Mississippi where the riders will congregate before we head back together to Cincinnati, Ohio for the American Legion National Convention. It is always a great time and can get emotional for those who have been helped by our fund raising efforts and share their stories. Donations to the cause can be given directly to Bob before he leaves or on the secure website at or


Jason Ford Shares Chemistry Experience With Students

By: PHS Senior Karie Gangwer

Jason Ford, a 2011 graduate of Parkway and a recent graduate of Ohio State University, visited Mrs. Morton's Anatomy & Physiology, Biology, and Physics classes on March 21st and 22nd. Jason has his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and is now working on his Doctorate in theoretical chemistry at Stanford University. For the A&P classes, Jason presented them with a blood buffer lab. Students were able to demonstrate the buffering solution found in your blood, connecting chemistry to the human body. For the biology classes, Jason began a discussion idea based on an article about bananas and how they are being struck by a disease that is incurable and pretty much wipes out banana plantations within a matter of years. The bananas we eat now are clones of a single genetic strand, so if this disease strikes, the banana may be gone from all grocery shelves. Mr. Ford discussed differences between genetic engineering and genetically modified foods. His study in chemistry links to proteins that could play roles in genetics. Finally, for Mrs. Morton's physics classes, Jason began a discussion about bio mechanics and why you should lift things a certain way to minimize torque on certain parts of the body. Students related their study of rational motion to the body and the amount of torque sustained by joints like the elbow and knee.



Biggby Coffee #475 Coffee Shop to Open Tuesday, March 22 in St. Marys, Ohio
Local Family Buys Franchise

Jon trains with owned Peggy Rector in Lima at Biggby's.

Biggby Coffee #475

Jon Sell and his mom, Connie Sell of Rockford, have become baristas and co-partners and bought their own coffee franchise to open Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in the Shop at St. Marys Shopping Center in St. Marys, OH (Kroger and Kohl’s Shopping Center at the intersection of US Route 33 and St. Rt 66). Biggby Coffee #475 is at 488 Fortman Drive in the same strip as JT’s Restaurant, Great Clips, Verizon Wireless. It is on the east end of the strip with a great place for drive through and a large dine-in area featuring cheery orange, green and yellow décor. The Biggby Sign is hung!

Exciting new careers have opened up for them as Jon switches gears after 15 years as an Environmental Consultant for a Civil Engineering Firm in Atlanta, Georgia (Biology Graduate of Taylor University), and Connie recently retired after 36 years doing medical accounting for Rockford Medical Associates in Rockford. And, they are hiring 20-24 employees to help them with their new venture!

Jon and Connie trained with their parent company, Biggby Coffee in East Lansing, Michigan and learned to make all of those delicious coffee drinks that Biggby is known for across the Midwest, the closest one being in Lima, OH, until now. (Biggby’s is 21 years old and stretches from Michigan in the North across many states to Florida and Texas in the South.) Then the two mentored at the Lima shop with the great crew and owner Peggy Rector. Biggby’s is a community based company that sells franchises and sees this as the best way to encourage a loyal customer base. Jon and Connie Sell are excited to be working in the St. Marys and surrounding communities to fully be a part of upcoming activities and events. They are looking forward to welcoming new customers and getting to know them personally.

The Biggby mission is all about values, and the Sells trained on respecting customer’s time, remembering the customer on return visits and making the customer happy ~ Biggby’s Mission Plan is “B" Happy – Have Fun Atmosphere!”

Biggby’s best coffees include: French Roast; Costa Rica; Ruwanda Blend, and Black and Tan. Fair Trade Coffees include: French Roast, Black and Tan and Ruwanda Blend. If you’re looking for organic, they include French Roast, Black and Tan, and Costa Rica.Filtered water is used and coffee beans are roasted twice a week in Michigan.

“Coffees are served hot, iced or frozen with the most delicious velvetized milk,” raves Connie who also explained,  “Cream, 2%, half & half, soy and skim are all velvetized is a special process which aerates the above in a special Biggby process that stretches and rolls to make the product lighter and creamier.”
“It is absolutely DELICIOUS,” claims Jon.



Jerry, Jon and Connie work on remodeling the coffee shop space in St. Marys.


Flavor additions (thick) include: chocolate; caramels; mocha-mocha; white chocolate; marshmallow; and sugar free options. Thin syrups come in these flavorings: vanilla; strawberry; raspberry, hazelnut and many more fruit and nut flavors. Plain Espressos and plain coffee are another option for those who like their coffee simple.

Teas, served hot or cold include Chai, green teas, tisane, peppermint, cinnamon, and others with velvetized milk if desired.

Hot chocolate is another favorite served hot, iced or frozen. Fruit drinks ~ smoothies ~ are another offering which can be customized, as well. Red Bull crème freezes offer a caffeine option, and they even serve an herbal caffeine called Zip.

Cider drinks return in the Fall, and new drinks roll-out each season.

Complimenting their drinks are fresh baked muffins and a brunch bagel called a Bragel. Made fresh on an asiago or honey wheat bagel, the bragel comes with your choice of ham & cheddar or turkey or chicken with soft havarti cheese or a chocolate & cream cheese “Tuxedo”. Dine in their spacious coffee shop or take-out.

They are mostly a take-out business and will run it Green. Paper cups are biodegradable and all packaging will be recycled.

Download the Biggby SmartPhone App and gather E-rewards and get Biggby coupons for #’s of coffee.

Get a Biggby Card at their store and after the 12th coffee bought, get the 13th free.








Connie trains in Lima above.

Watch for coupons to come out exclusively for the New Biggby’s in St. Marys.

Their coffee shop will be open 6 AM till 9 PM Monday through Saturday and 7 AM through 9 PM on Sunday. Free WIFI for all customers!

Friend them on their Biggby Coffee 475 Facebook page run by family members Jenny and Riley. Visit the Parkway Independent and are newspapers for coupons, too.

Jon and Connie invite you to join them on March 22nd for their Grand Opening Day!





Biggby Coffee Holds Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Connie and Jon Sell, celebrated with the help of their friends and family from Rockford and St Mary's with an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.  They reported, “We made 502 cups of coffee on our opening day and beat the Biggby corporation record for new store openings. Our great new employees worked very hard and are getting faster and faster every day.  We just love the new friends we are making and enjoy being a place for friends to gather to share fun and delicious hot, cold and frozen coffee, tea, and steamers.”



Parkway STEM Students Take Top Honors at Auglaize/Mercer County Competition - March 2016

On February 25th, five Parkway students participated in the first Auglaize/Mercer County Science Day competition at Wright State University. This event is just one of the ongoing efforts to implement STEM programs in both counties.   

Emma Wells and Alyz Yoder received an “Excellent” rating on their project, “Which works better, hand soap or hand sanitizer?” Jace Armstrong, Colin Fokine, and Skyler Fokine received a “Superior” rating for their project. The team also won the award for the Most Innovative Research Project – “Evaluation of Drones in Wind.” The team advances to the District Science Day at Ohio Northern University on March 19th.  

The teams were guided by Barb Shellabarger, 5th and 6th grade science teacher, and Katie Kraner, Gifted Intervention Specialist.  



New Book on Mercer About Small Town Life for Sale

“Mercer Memories”, written by Rex and Carl Marsee,  is a true story about a Southern boy and his relatives growing up in a small town in Northwestern Ohio in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  It is a rather simple story about simpler times and individuals, who were far less complex, than are found in the 21st century.  It is about a time when WWII was coming to an end and the beginning of the ‘baby boomers of today were being born.”  It is about a time in American history, when families didn’t have a lot of money, but they had a lot of love and compassion for each other.

The books are for sale at the Shanes Crossing Historical Society located at the Rockford Village Office at 151 E Columbia St.  The books cost $10 each. 




The Rockford Chamber, through the Crime Awareness Fund, donated the funds to purchase body cams for the Rockford Police Department.  Thank you, Rockford Police, for all you do in keeping our community a great place to live and raise a family.




Local Wood Craftsman Creates Unique Pens
by Sheila Baltzell 12-2-2015
Robert Ransbottom, of Rockford, has always loved woodworking and has recently taken his talent for refinishing, custom frame building and cabinetry to a much “smaller” size and is creating one-of-a-kind unique refillable ball point pens from wood. Refills are available through Bob or at Office Depot.

The pens range in price from $20-$35, and he offers olive wood from the Holy Land, Cocobolla wood from Africa, cedar from Michigan, local walnut and oak as well as wood which he stains like hickory.

The designs are fun and include a rifle, with bolt action, a patriotic flag, teacher pens with red on one end and black on the other for grading papers, and a pen with a car shifter. He also has regular pens and mechanical pencils, 7 mm.

Pens are created with precut wood or wood he cuts on a table saw for small chunks ¾ “  x ¾” x 2-1/2” – grip size. The corners are removed and shaped into a round wood shaft on a band saw. A lathe creates the unique design by hand shaping with a wood gouge tool.  Hand sanding finishes the wood shafts for placement on a Pen Pal drill used to open a shaft down the middle of the wood. This takes some extra skill to get the pen right.  Superglue added in 5 coats gives the wood shafts their shine. After the drying, Bob uses the Penn State Industries “pen kits” and a pen press to superglue to pieces together. The metal finishes available are gun metal, brass, copper, and antique gold.



Monograms engraved for personalization are available; special gift bags can be purchased for storage; and cards explaining the authenticity of some of the imported woods are available. Bob sells his rifle pens locally at Terry’s Trim in Rockford, as well as a variety of craft shows, and from his home.

Bob works part-time at Ace hardware in Van Wert and locally learned of the pen crafting from Ray Volk, who makes them as a hobby.

Bob also does custom picture framing with non-glare glass, and creates signage from old barn wood.  Give Bob a call at 419-363-3269 or email him at

Contact him before Christmas as they make great gifts. 

Click on the smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge them. 


Gun pens

Teacher pens

Other styles
Jason E. Ford Awarded Prestigious National Science Foundation Research Fellowship in Chemistry Field

Jason E. Ford, 2011 Parkway Graduate, and 2015 Graduate of Ohio State University with a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry,  has just been named one of 2000 students to receive a research fellowship from The National Science Foundation. Jason is currently a master/doctorate student at Stanford University in California. He is studying Chemistry, Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods. The fellowship will be for 3 years as Jason pursues his degree. He is the son of Steve and Stacie Ford of Rockford. Click here to read the full article and look him up on the awardee's list for 2016.

A Veteran’s Story
By Paul C. Thompson (Specialist 5)
Motor Transport Operator
Honorable Discharge Award
The Bronze Star Medal, Vietnam Vet
November 9-10, 2015

I grew up in Rockford, Ohio, have lived in Denver, Colorado and now reside in Gallup, New Mexico, hoping to move again soon.  (That’s another story !)

The dates of my service in Vietnam were – May 31, 1970 through April 26, 1971.

I was drafted into the US Army in September of 1969 at Fort Hayes near Columbus, Ohio, and sent into basic training and Army Transportation School, both at Fort Jackson -- Columbia, South Carolina.

From Fort Jackson, I went to Fort Bliss – El Paso, Texas.  (Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico make up one huge military complex), the ADA (Air Defense Artillery).  At Fort Bless, and now in the Army Transportation Corps, I worked as a truck driver, military taxi and finished there as an officer’s chauffer.  (Good duty!).  Then via Oakland Army Base, California, I was sent to ‘Nam”.

In South Vietnam I served as a combat truck driver with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division (American Division).  As a combat trucker, I saw much of the beautiful, but worn-torn, nation of Vietnam.


A Bronze Star Medal

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a rainy day and we were near TamKy in South Vietnam.  I was coming upon a curve in the road, to the right, and off to my left was an overturned truck on its top.  It was a truck from my outfit, the 196th Infantry Brigade US Army that was just a head of me.

It was a terrible, unbelievable sight.  Pinned underneath along one side of that truck bed were six or more soldiers that were passengers on that truck.  The full weight of the truck had them trapped, crushing legs, hips, and abdomens of those men.  The cab was flattened with the driver and the ‘shotgun’ trapped in there.  Screams filled the air from the injured and from the soldiers trying to rescue them by digging with their hands and futility trying to lift the 13,000 lb truck off of them.

Additionally, this was an area where I had had the road shot up in front of me, twice. 

I knew something had to be done by someone, and done fast. !  My gut told me that “someone’ had to be me, but what could I do ?

I surveyed the situation, did some quick thinking, and with no regard of my military rank, I took command.  Someone had to do this!

“You and you, take your rifles and get up there on the road and keep traffic moving.  We don’t want to get shot at”, I yelled.

The overturned truck was down an embankment just off the road in a rice paddy.  All the trapped soldiers were on the far side of the truck from me.  This was a good thing figuring into my plan.

If I could use my truck and my tow-chain anchored to the undercarriage of the wrecked truck, I may be able to rock the truck up enough to pull the injured out from under the truck. 

I explained my plan and got people into place.  “As soon as you see the truck bed, move upward, drag these guys out, ok?  I don’t know if my clutch will hold or the chain, so move fast.”

I hitched up both ends of the chain and got into my truck and slowly pulled forward tightening the tow chain.  I could smell my clutch getting hot, but it was working!

The truck rocked up on that side and they got everyone out from under it.

When we were clear, I was able to pull the truck all the way back over onto its wheels.  I tossed two smoke grenades to some guys and told them if you hear any choppers “pop smoke”. 

Then another guy and I tore off the canvas and support tubing from the cab, we got the driver and the ‘shotgun’. 

I saw a cloud of green smoke and a cloud of red smoke and two Huey gunships came in and landed in the rice paddy.  They radioed in, and soon several medi-vac helicopters landed.

I don’t know how many choppers landed and took off.  I don’t know how many survived that day, but I knew the two guys in the cab from my outfit, Leonard, the shot gun, seemed to be ok.  David, the driver, un unconscious.  As I held him in my arms…. he died.

They gave me a Bronze Star Medal.  I just did my job.


While in Nam

Upon discovering a ‘booby-trap” , now called and “IED” meaning improvised explosive device, I disarmed it in my hands using a roll of masking tape.  (It was made using a grenade, pin pulled, mud pack).

I organized a small fire brigade when I witnessed a loaded munitions truck with one of his trailer axles on fire enter the ammo dump (ammunitions depot) where I was picking up a load with my truck.  The diver did not know he had a fire on board.

Several of us drivers fought the fire with the extinguishers from our vehicles while four forklifts off-loaded the flatbed trailer.  We all remained safe with no explosions.

During a night-run with two trucks to make a pick up at an ammo dump in Quang Tri, we became the target of enemy sniper fire and got pinned down inside the ammo dump.

The forklift driver was able to flee and got all the floodlights turned off.

An ammo dump is no place to engage in a fire fight, so I devised a plan to get us safely out of there , or at least I hoped so.

The four of us:  two drivers, two ‘shotguns’  (passenger-guards) got into a quick huddle on the ‘safe side’ of our trucks under cover of darkness.  “Here’s how we are going to do this”, I told them and that’s what we did.

It was pitch dark and we could not use the lights on our trucks and be targets.

 We drivers started our engines, put the trucks in gear and crouched on the running boards, door open and reached up to the steering wheels.  The shotguns walked along side and told us right or left and we steered the trucks as they directed us.  It was too dark, and with the doors in our faces, our shotguns were our navigators.  We slowly inched our way out of the kill-zone.

Just as soon as we felt it was safe enough, we hopped into our trucks, partially loaded, got out of there and called it a night.!

Click Here for a collage of pictures from Paul Thompson.

Editor's Note: Paul is a 1968 Graduate of Parkway High School.
His parents are the late Ernie and Gertrude Thompson form Rockford.
Ernie taught school at Rockford High and then Parkway High.
His siblings are: the late Bob Thompson, Steve Thompson, Phil Thompson, and Ann Thompson Brown



Ron Searight Recognized for 35 Years of Service to Rockford Fire Department
by Sheila Baltzell, editor

Ron Searight retired in December 2015 from the Rockford Fire Department after serving for 35 years. He had been on the volunteer force since 1980 and credits former Rockford Fire Chief Ralph Rhoades (who passed away in recent years) for kindling his interest in two of the greatest volunteer positions a person can give to their community. Ron also retired from his job as an Emergency Medical Technician for Rockford after 20 years (back in January of 2014).

Below is a picture of Ron and Lisa Searight when he retired from the squad in 2014.

Ron’s fondest memories are about the camaraderie of his fellow volunteers and the friendships he has made over the years. “We covered each other’s back; we protected each other; we always worked as a team and contributed our ideas to the situation; we always worked together,” said Ron.  

 If you would like to send Ron a card, his address is 406 N. Street, Rockford 45882. His email address is




Congratulations to Mike Hoehn ~ 30 Years in at the United States Postal Service February 25, 2016

Mike Hoehn, Post Master, recently retired from the Rockford Ohio United States Post Office after 30 years of service. He started for the post office as a clerk in Lima Ohio on February 2, 1985. From there he became a Branch Manager at the Cridersville Post Office. He became a postmaster and served at Bluffton and Celina before coming to Rockford on December 2, 2001.  

Mike says the biggest change in his 30 years has been by far the automation of sorting the mail. When he started as a clerk in Lima, they were still sorting all mail by hand except for a few big city offices. Over time, all post offices have been automated and machines do all the sorting. Mail comes in fully in order for placing in mailboxes on a route or into postal boxes. Sadly, this means fewer employees.

Mike said of his 14 years there, “I loved my time in Rockford because my co-workers, are an awesome group of people and the community is a wonderful place with wonderful people.  I could always depend on my employees to cheerfully do more than I expected.  And I always found the customers to be friendly and gracious.  I miss all of them already.” Over the years, he could always count on fresh cut bouquets from local flower beds to grace the front counter, homemade cookies and candy at Christmas and lots of interesting conversation.



His best memory was the time he turned 50 years old and walked into the post office back room to find it filled with black and multi-colored balloons and decorations on the walls. "What a surprise, and they had cake, too!"



Over the years Mike has seen Willshire, Ohio City and Mendon Post Offices reduce in force with clerks covering the duties, the routes coming to Rockford, and Mike handling the postmaster work a couple days a week. He thanks the communities for bringing their business to the post office. The 10-12 employees he has supervised over the years, through him a nice retirement party, and proclaimed him “ . . . a boss who will be hard to replace.”

Sarah Kimmet is the Interim Temporary Officer in Charge, and she comes from the Celina Post Office. Soon the United States Post Office will name a permanent replacement for Mike, who looking forward to some warm weather soon and other camping and traveling trips with his wife, Karen.


Jonathan Pabis Graduates from Columbus Police Academy and Ohio State University

January 21, 2016 by Sheila Baltzell

Jonathan Pabis, son of Paul Pabis and Holly Wood of Massachusetts, celebrated two graduations in 2015. On May 9, 2015 he graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Finance from the OSU Fisher College of Business. He then entered the Columbus Police Academy in July as a member of the 124th Recruit Class and graduated in a ceremony (with 31 classmates) on January 15, 2016. A pinning ceremony was held on January 14 with his mother pinning on the new badge while his father and sister, Stephanie Pabis, looked on. Joining the family at the pinning were his Aunt Sheila Baltzell, Mark Linn, his cousin, Tom Baltzell and children, Sam, Jake and Lydia, and many friends from the Columbus area.

On Friday, Jonathan gave the official address for the 124th Recruit Class.

Attending the graduation were: his parents and sister, Tom and Ann Baltzell and Family and many Columbus-area friends. A party at a local restaurant was hosted by Paul and Holly in his honor following the event .

Jonathan has been hired as a police officer by the Columbus Police Department, which is celebrating its 200th Anniversary in 2016.








Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge them.


Police Academy

Police Academy

OSU Graduation Party

Richard Sherrick Inducted into Prestigious Hall of Fame
This past weekend at the University of Akron, former Parkway Schools band director Richard Sherrick was inducted into the Ohio Band Directors Conference Hall of Fame, December 2015.

The Ohio Band Director’s Hall of Fame was established in 1974 as part of the Ohio Band Director’s Conference held annually at The University of Akron. The Hall of Fame inducts one retired Ohio High School or Middle School band director in recognition of outstanding work in the field of instrumental music education. To date there have been 38.

The Ohio Band Directors Conference photo gallery for the Hall of Fame is located in the Guzzetta Hall Atrium.

Each year, the Ohio Band Directors Conference welcomes outstanding middle school and high school concert bands and directors to campus for performances, workshops, and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony during the final OBDC High School Honor Band concert.

Mr. Sherrick held the Parkway music teacher position from 1971 until his retirement in 2007.

Pictured left is nominator/presenter and the 2014 OBDC Hall of Fame recipient Jeff Shellhammer with Richard Sherrick.



WRKD to Celebrate 1st Anniversary

It’s a 1st Anniversary Open House!  Come celebrate!   Rockford’s Best Mix – 101.3 WRKD  will be hosting an open house on Sunday – December 13th from 2 – 5  pm.  We are located at the Rockford Village Office and Museum at 151 E Columbia St, Rockford.   Refreshments will be served!   Meet the team and tour the studio!

Pictures taken and shared by Todd Henkle when the new WKRD tower went up last year. Click on pictures to enlarge them.



Rockford American Legion Celebrates Veteran’s Day

Members and volunteers at the Rockford American Legion served a soup and sandwich supper for Veterans and their families on November 11, 2015, Veteran’s Day.  Dale Zizelman, Jim Zizelman, Bob King,Terry Joseph, Charles Stephenson, Dick and Gini Fickert and Wayne and Sally Fickert are just a few vets and spouses shown below who enjoyed the evening.

Click on smaller thumbnail
pictures to enlarge these.

Laurels and Maplewood Veterans Take the Honor Flight
by Leah Hays, October 2015

Two residents from Maplewood of Shane’s Village and one resident from The Laurels of Shane Hill had the outing of a lifetime!  Gaylord Hoffman, Ed Pierce and Ned Baltzell along with 153 other veterans participated in Honor Flight Northeast Indiana on October 7, 2015.  Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for all their sacrifices by flying them to Washington, DC to reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to WWII survivors along with other veterans who are terminally ill.  All flights are free of charge for veterans. Each veteran gets a one on one volunteer along with nurses, a doctor, and respiratory techs that all volunteer their time to assist the veterans on the flight.


The day started early with breakfast at 6:00 a.m. followed by a scheduled departure time for 7:00 a.m. from Ft. Wayne on the 122nd Fighter Wing to Washington D.C..  Buses were standing by to transport them to their WWII Memorial, as well as other memorial stops throughout the day, each bus with their own private police escort through the city.  A box lunch and a great supper was furnished before flying them back home the same evening where more than 2,000 family and friends greeted them at the F.W. International Airport with gifts, a live band and the Junior Honours Core saluting them upon sight!  What a sight, from the moment they stepped off the plane until they reached the parking lot!  American flags and people greeting them home at every turn.  A truly remarkable sight to behold as they all got a true HEROES welcome home.


“To me, the day was spectacular.  The best day that I’ve ever spent in my life.  It was mind boggling what I saw and it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life! I liked The Arlington National Cemetery the best because of the way it was laid out.  You could drive by and see nothing but crosses. To others it may not mean as much… but to me it made me feel like I was walking on top of the world. I just loved that! The whole trip was wonderful but that was the most outstanding!” stated Gaylord Hoffman, Navy Veteran of WWII.



Congratulations to Joey Brandt, Versailles Graduate and College Wrestler
Ranks 1st Nationally in Wrestling in the 197 Weight Category

Joey Brandt, a former wrestler at Versailles and graduate of 2011 has found himself at the top of his field in wrestling at Ashland University. Rankings were released according to Ahsland’s website:

“The 2015-16 Preseason Division II Wrestling Coaches' Regional And Individual Rankings were released late Thursday (Oct. 29, 2015) night, and a pair of Ashland University wrestlers begin the season atop their respective weight classes in Super Region II.

Senior Joe Brandt sits atop the super region rankings at 197 pounds. A three-time All-American, Brandt returns to mat after a redshirt season. In 2014, he finished a career-best fifth place at nationals.  Brandt also is the No. 1-ranked wrestler nationally at 197.”

Another wrestler, Eagle senior, Zeb Beam, is ranked No. 1 in the region at 157 pounds.

As a team, the Eagles are ranked seventh in Super Region II and 10th nationally.

Ashland begins the 2015-16 campaign on Sunday, Nov. 15 at the Michigan State Open.Follow Ashland University Athletics at

Joey is the son of Tim Brandt and Jennifer Sterrett (of Rockford) and the grandson of Marge Gehle (of Rockford) pictured left.


Herb Garden Volunteer, Ashley Baughman, Applauded for Her Work

The Shanes Crossing Historical Society would like to thank Ashley Baughman for all her help and volunteer efforts.   Each year when the 3rd graders visit the log house and museum,  Ashley has helped explain to the children what it was like growing up and going to school as a child in the early 1800’s.  

Another project Ashley has taken upon herself  has been the Shanes Park Pioneer Herb Garden.  The Historical Society had been considering tearing out the herb garden because care taker, Bill Now, had passed away.  It was days from being taken out when Ashley approached the Historical Society President, Norm VanTilburg, wanting to know if she could take over the herb garden for a Girl Scout Gold Award project.   She has done an exceptional job, not only taking care of the gardens, but also has put together a pamphlet explaining what herbs are planted in each bed and what the plants usage would be.

She has planted 4 main beds and a center bed.  The Natural Dyes Garden, The Medicinal Garden, The Cooks Garden, The Aromatic Garden and The Center Garden.

We hope that you will enjoy the herb garden !  Feel free to come and pick some of the herbs for your enjoyment,  but please pick them sparingly so that they will continue to grow and so others can enjoy it too.

Shanes Park Pioneer Herb Garden pamphlets can be picked up at the Shanes Crossing Historical Museum.









Baltzell Family Donates Items to Local Museum in 2015

The Family of the late Larry Baltzell recently donated two items of interest to the Shanes Crossing Historical Society Museum located at 151 East Columbia Street in Rockford. Sheila Baltzell and sons Chris, Scott and Tom Baltzell donated a small hand –operated printing press belonging to her late husband and their dad, Larry. The press was handed down in the Kinder Family since 1883 when the Rockford Free Press Printing Company was established. DeWitt Clinton Kinder gave the press to his son George R. Kinder who enjoyed the child-size press and later handed it down to his son George Jr. Kinder. George, Jr, then handed it down to his step-grandson, Larry Baltzell, when he was a child. Larry, who worked at and later co-owned the Rockford Press Printing Company, played with it, printing fun things like calling cards, invitations and flyers. The family is pleased to donate this letter-press printing press to the museum in memory of Larry Baltzell and the Baltzell and Kinder Families.










The other item, created and donated by Sheila (Wood) Baltzell, was a photo album/scrapbook of the history of finding and relocating the Anthony Shane (Antoine Chene) double log cabin from its location north of Rockford to Shanes Park in Rockford. Anthony Shane (Antoine Chene) was the founder of Shanes Crossing, later renamed Rockford. The photo album/scrapbook holds pictures and descriptions from the day a District Coordinator of the Historic Preservation Office of The Ohio Historical Society came and verified the cabin’s authenticity, through the painstaking process of taking it apart piece by piece and reassembling it in the park (all volunteer labor) for every visitor to enjoy. Pictured is Dylan Baltzell, grandson of the late Larry Baltzell, representing the Baltzell family at the donation to Lisa Kuhn, treasurer, of the Shanes Crossing Historical Society.



Rockford Eagles Donates to Lots for Soldiers, Inc.
By Sheila Baltzell 8-13-2015

The Rockford Eagles Aerie 1292 recently donated $1,500 to Carol and Homer Burnett, founders of Lots for Soldiers, Inc. The money will be used  toward the purchase of a lovely building lot in Rockford which will soon be used to build a house for a military veteran or a currently serving military serviceperson. Pictured at left are (l to r) Dick Shaffer – Eagles member, Carol and Homer Burnett – founders of Lots for Soldiers, and Harold Shaffer, Eagles member. The Burnett’s explained that in 2014, they had watched or learned of the plight of so many veterans who could not afford a decent home after laying their lives on the line for our country, and they wanted to do something about it. Lots for Soldiers is a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization formed to honor and thank those that have served in the United States armed forces.  The goal is to donate residential lots and then act as a conduit for others to say thanks in a tangible way by offering affordable housing to our current and former military service members. Homer Burnett, a veteran of the Air Force, and son of Hugh Burnett, a WW II Veteran, says they have been thrilled with the generosity of many people and organizations. To date they have purchased inexpensively or had donated 3 lots in the city of Celina. Two homes are now built and a third one will break ground in the Spring. Carol explained that their son, Paul Burnett,  serves in the Navy, and their pride in him as a soldier has helped in their mission to provide lots for free. Rockford is very fortunate that the new Marshall’s Department Store in Rockford, as well as some other benefactors, have stepped forward to make a lot in Rockford possible. A website is available for veterans and enlisted military personnel for applying for the free lot. Printed applications can be picked up in several locations in Rockford including the Village of Rockford office, The Eagles and the American Legion. A committee reads the applications and chooses the veteran/serviceperson. There are some rules. The person chosen must want to reside in Rockford, be honorably discharged, and agree they will take out a VA (or other) loan to build their house. This part of the deal helps instill pride in the home, as they have contributed to it themselves. It is not needs-based. It is a Thank You! The wonderful thing about this is that volunteers help build the house and donate much of the materials. Carol says they have been blessed already with flooring, appliances, closet organizers, and brick/stone & a mason to lay it, for the house in Rockford. The lot is located on Holly Street and borders Shanes Park. See picture below.


If any business, organization or individual would like to express your gratitude for the sacrifices of what the honorable men and women that have sacrificed to protect your rights and freedoms, then please earnestly consider supporting this local grassroots effort.  Donations can also be mailed to Lots For Soldiers, Inc., 201 Jill Avenue, Celina, OH  45822.  For more information call 419-586-5058  or on the web at





Miss Lake Festival's Outstanding Teen Looking to Miss Ohio Teen Contest Next Year
by Loren Stuckey

Just a 15 year old hometown girl going after one of my goals. From taking on the Miss Ohio stage this past June with a previous title I had won at the Miami University all the way to winning another title at the Celina Lake Festival Pageant, my summer has been very busy. My experience at Miss Ohio was very little before this past June! From just going to watch the teen competition, I had no idea what the whole week really consisted of. After not taking home the crown, I was eager to compete in the first local preliminary to get me back  to the Miss Ohio stage. The atmosphere at Miss Ohio Week really prepared me for the Lake Festival pageant. The preparation before the state pageant and the preparation before the local really made me feel ready for the competition. I wanted to make sure I was ready to take the crown to my hometown. Well I was able to take the crown home. Tap dancing to Megan Trainor's hit song "Dear Future Husband", I was able to get the audience clapping throughout my performance. I was awarded with the People's Choice Award, the award was open to the public and anyone could vote for their favorite contestant for $1 per vote. I appreciate all who voted; your support means so much to me. So since I have been crowned, I have helped at the local county fairs’ Senior Days. This year I want to focus so much on senior citizens in the local area, as my platform is Helping Hand for Ohio's Seniors. I have such a love for seniors as I want to motivate our youth to get involved and serve in their community as well. My community has been very supportive of this accomplishment of mine. From performing for a church social, to waving in many parades, and volunteering my time at many functions. I will be serving my time at various Children Miracle Hospitals (CMNH) during my year. The children are fighting such tough battles. Wearing a crown on my head I can bring a light of happiness into a child's life. I have kept very busy these last few weeks and I look forward to the weeks that are in store for the rest of my reign. The community is getting me prepared to bring the Miss Ohio's Outstanding Teen crown to my hometown next June. Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge them.



Outstanding Miss Ohio Teen Competition Includes Rockford Teen

Best Wishes and Congratulations go out to 15 year old Loren Stukey of Rockford who recently was crowned Miss Oxford Outstanding Teen 2015 at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Check out her Blog – Click Here. This weekend of June 18, 19 and 20, she competes during the Miss Ohio Contest in Mansfield, OH for the title of Miss Ohio Outstanding Teen. The contests in Mansfield are all part of the Miss America Pageant circuit, and Loren is participating in all of the fun activities which include a fashion show at the mall; a parade around Mansfield; supporting the Miss Ohio contestants as they “serve food” at Applebee’s; and participating in a Cabaret Show at the Renaissance as well as making new friends.

A total of 18 teenage girls, with outstanding teen titles of their own, will be judged this weekend in several categories to earn points that will lead to one young lady being crowned Miss Ohio Outstanding Teen. Loren is prepared to compete in these areas: Personal Interview; Onstage Question; Fitness Routine; Talent; and Evening Gown.

The Personal Interview will gather her the most points while the Onstage Question will give her a couple minutes to speak about her Platform or current event. The Fitness routine is one activity learned together by the group of contestants. Wendy Stukey, her mother, explained that the teens do not compete in swimsuit at this level. Instead, they wear a fitness outfit that features their school (Loren proudly wears a Parkway High School t-shirt) and do a workout routine together doing a number of calisthenics exercises to a song.Loren’s talent will be unique. She has been learning tap dancing for two years and will tap a routine to the popular song by Meghan Trainor called Dear Future Husband. The Evening Gown category features each contestant in a long dress, and they earn points for stage presence.

Loren’s Platform is her passion “Helping Hands for Ohio’s Seniors” born out of her love for her grandparents and great-grandparents. Loren is devoted to helping Senior Citizens. In her church, St. Paul’s Reform Church of America near Van Wert, Loren participates weekly in “Bread and Bowl” a meal prepared for the less fortunate. These volunteer hours as well as helping Amy Noll with Mother’s Day basket distribution at area nursing homes to Senior Citizens, has strengthened her commitment to the older generation.

Loren is going to be a Freshman at Parkway High School in Fall 2015. She plays the saxophone in the PHS Marching Band. Past activities in junior high school included: softball; volleyball; choir and statistician for the JH girls’ basketball team.

Her loving family supports her in her new adventures. They include parents Adam and Wendy (Baer) Stukey. Adam is a 1987 graduate of Ohio City Liberty School; Wendy is a 1986 graduate of Lincolnview High School. Twin sister, Haylee and brother Austen Stukey will be cheering her on, along with grandparents Perry and Linda Stukey of Ohio City and Dave and Anita Baer of Van Wert and Great-Grandfather Jason Straw of Ohio City.

Other family members and friends from Parkway and Church will be there as well at the pageant which is being held at the Renaissance Theater in Mansfield. Click Here for Miss Ohio Information on the Web Click Here for info on Renaissance Theater and tickets. Loren's event is Wednesday, June 17 at 7 PM!

The Parkway Communities and all of Mercer and Van Wert Counties wish Loren the very best of luck this weekend.  Check out her Blog – Click Here to personally wish her well.

Pictures below are shared by her official photography, Ashley (Dellinger) DuBry. Thanks Ashley! Click Here for Ashley’s website and Loren’s page.

Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge Ashley's beautiful pictures!

Loren Stukey in Mansfield Parade
with Alice Magato, Butler County
Outstanding Teen 2015 (by Wendy Stukey)

Loren with Military Escort
Jim Bishop at the Mansfield Parade
(by Wendy Stukey)

Donation to Fox Family Ride for Autism - Poker Run and Auction Planned to Benefit Cause
Made by
Rockford Eagles - Aerie1292


As the yearly celebration rolls around, Autism Speaks - The Eighth Annual World Autism Awareness Day held on Thursday, April 2, 2015, is celebrated by one local family in a unique way. The Fox Family from Rockford has a special place in each heart for their young autistic grandson/nephew/cousin, Alex, who is now 10. He is the son of Holly Fox Snyder, daughter of the late Gary and Delight Fox. For years, Holly, Alex’s dad and their families have been participating in motorcycle runs like the Ribbon Run in Michigan and other fund raisers to spread the word about autism and help families in need. The site for Autism is  World Autism Awareness Day - Autism Speaks  .

The Fox Family this year has decided to hold their very own Autism Poker Run, Bicycle Run and Auction to raise money for Parkway children with Autism. Called the Fox Family Ride for Autism, they are working through the organization called iTaalk Autism Foundation (read the full article below) and plan to use the proceeds to purchase iPads® equipped with special apps that Autistic children can use to communicate with others and learn. Mike Fox, Alex’s uncle said the device has been significant in the life of his nephew and many others, but they are expensive. Some apps are $300 a piece. He recently spoke with Parkway teachers of Autistic children in Parkway, Chad Sapp and Laura (Carter) Yoder,  and they confirmed that  11 students and possibly one preschooler  are in the Parkway district.  The goal for the Fox Family is to raise enough money to buy and give each Autistic child one of the special iTaalk iPads®  which includes all apps fully loaded and training for students, parents and teachers.

The Rockford Eagles (photo: Blair Shaffer (left) presents a check to Mike Fox) recently donated $1000 to be used for a BIG cash raffle during the poker run. The Photo Star donated the raffle tickets.

The event will be held on Saturday, June 20, 2015, during Rockford Community Days  with registration from 9-11 AM. The donation is $20 per rider and $15 per passenger. Besides the Big Cash Raffle, there will be a Silent Auction and Dollar Ticket Auction.

Mike said, “In addition, , we are having a Go Fish bicycle ride for children and adults. That event will meet at the Community Building and register between 2:00 and 2:30 pm. All ages welcome! Even adults!  The route will not cross over St Rt 33 so it will be safer. A go fish card will be picked up at each stop, and the riders with the most matches will be put in a drawing for new bicycles donated by an outside supporter of Autistic Causes in Ohio. We'll be giving away a child’s and an adult bike for the ride. The drawing for the winners will be @ 3:30 PM.”

Mike can be reached at 419-733-7466  and the website for registration is:

From there, a Facebook Page is available, too.

Please use this link to make your own donation to this event:!fox-family-ride/cl34



The Fox Family from Rockford is Sponsoring  the Fox Family Ride for Austism
by Tammy Eisenreich, Vice President The iTaalk Autism Foundation

Information on Austism

Autism is properly classified as an epidemic, and a recent study revealed 1 in 56 children have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The lifetime incremental cost of education, treatment and care of a person with autism is $3.2 million. Clearly this is a tremendous additional cost on families and on communities...unless we prioritize finding innovative approaches to working with children with Autism.

The iTaalk Autism Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that works to introduce and educate on cost effective and appropriate interactive technology for individuals with autism and related disorders. We continue to endorse traditional therapy programs such as a 30-hour per week Applied Behavioral Analysis program are the most effective treatment for children, but seek to bring attention to how much more progress could be made if the child also had access to an interactive device with educational apps, for which they were trained to use by their teachers and therapists. The immediate and inexhaustible interaction with a device such as an iPad®, would reinforce language, fine motor skills, cause & effect and other key skills for children with autism – thereby enhancing the therapist’s impact in a very cost-effective manner.

Last year, nearly 100 individuals with autism were granted an iPad® by iTaalk, and over 1,000 service providers and parents were provided with the necessary education on using an iPad® with individuals with special needs.

How you can help...

Become a donor for the Fox Family Ride for Autism

The Fox Family Ride for Autism is asking local businesses, corporations and/or individuals to become donors! The donations can be monetary or material in nature. Donations made will be utilized in an auction to raise funds. Money raised from the auction goes directly to iTaalk and will be used to fund the purchase of devices, educational applications, and a full-day iPad training for local parents, teachers and autism caregivers!

We hope you will consider this opportunity to partner with the Fox Family and iTaalk! Visit and click on the Programs tab to find out more about the Fox Family Ride and to become a donor today! Any questions regarding our organization and fund management policies are gladly answered, contact Tammy at, or visit for answers to FAQs about The iTaalk Autism Foundation. If you have questions about the Fox Family Ride for Autism and how to get involved please contact Holly at (419)-787-7857 or by email at

Please use this link to make your own donation to this event:!fox-family-ride/cl34

Thank you for your time!


Tammy Eisenreich
Tammy Eisenreich, Vice President The iTaalk Autism Foundation
The iTaalk Autism Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization EIN 27-3892351 is located at 2040 West Central Ave., Toledo, Ohio 43606




Congratulations to Winner Author Jacqueline Franklin

Onetime resident of Mercer County, Jacqueline M. Franklin, daughter of the late, Darlene (Eddie) & Dorothy Bollenbacher, was recently honored by worldwide writing organization, FanStory. She will receive a trophy for 5th place out of 221 novelists, for 2014, gaining her worldwide recognition. Among her other awards are ‘Recognition’ and ‘All Time Best’ for her short stories and poetry. She also took 1st place in the ‘Book of the Month’ for December. Jacqueline recently self-published, ‘A Penny For Your Thoughts,’ available at She has written seven novels. This year she will begin to self-publish them, her short stories, and poetry. You may follow her blog @

Jacqueline still has many ties to Mercer County with three living aunts, Barbara (the late Bob) High, Betty (the late Jiggs) Bollenbacher, and Gretchen (the late Ford) Bollenbacher, as well as many cousins.




Frozen Fog in Rockford 2015
Photos by Todd Henkle – Thanks for sharing!

Resident of Rockford and surrounding areas woke to a beautiful landscape on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 when a condition known as Frozen Fog, commonly called Freezing  Fog or Rime consists of water droplets that freeze upon contact with objects they encounter, forming a layer of thin ice or rime. This happens because the water is supercooled: its temperature is below normal freezing point, but it has remained liquid. The phenomenon differs from ice fog, which is made up of tiny particles of ice. Many regions of the world can experience freezing fog, especially during the winter months, when the air temperature can drop below freezing, creating the conditions necessary to create supercooled water droplets.

Fog normally forms where there is cold air over a relatively warm, moist surface, such as a lake, wet ground or moist soil. Freezing fog forms when the air temperature is below freezing point — 32°F (0°C). Strange as it may seem, water does not always freeze at the same temperature at which ice melts. It will do so if it is in contact with something solid: this could be a surface or container. In the case of a suspended droplet, a “freezing nucleus” — usually a tiny ice crystal — is required, unless the air temperature is very low.

Between 32°F (0°C) and 5°F (-15°C) the suspended water droplets that make up fog, or a cloud, are normally in a supercooled state. They remain liquid because there is nothing for ice to crystallize around, but on touching anything solid, they will immediately freeze. Surfaces exposed to freezing fog therefore quickly become coated with ice.

Click on the smaller pictures of Shanes Park to enlarge them:





Mercer County Engineering Complex Open House Held 12-6-2014

Jim Weichart, Mercer County Engineer, and employees of the Engineering Department held an open house for their newly completed facility on Mud Pike west of Celina on Saturday, December 6, 2014.  The new multi-million dollar complex, at 77,000 square feet, features Administrative Offices, Vehicle Maintenance Wing, Vehicle Storage Wing, Fueling Center, Salt & Grit Storage and a Vehicle Wash Bay. Bruns Building and Development was the General Contractor and Garmann-Miller was the architect.

The development of the engineer’s facility was in the planning process for more than a decade, according to the literature passed out at the Open House. Former County Engineers, Keith G. Earley, P.E., P. S. and Roy F. Thompson, P.E., P.S. began the planning process, and a multitude of private and public teams brought the structure to reality.

Pictured above are some of the 24 employees of the Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart (second from left), Mark Linn, Wiechart, Darren Porter, Brad Laffin, and Mark Leininger. At left: One of the newest tandem axle dump trucks in the Mercer County Engineer's fleet. It features an automatic transmission and is equipped with a 12 foot snow plow. It is used for other work in the summer.












Rockford Eagles Donate to Back Pack Program and College Students

The Rockford Eagles Aerie 1292 recently donated $2000 to the Parkway Back Pack Program. Pastor Tim Clutter, above, accepts the check from Blair Shaffer, on behalf of his ministry C.A.L.L. Ministries. Tim says they need $4200 to fully fund the program across the Mercer County, and he deeply appreciated the generous check from the Eagles on behalf of the Parkway children. Tim said Parkway children in K-4th grade get a bag of food sent home every weekend including 2 breakfasts; 2 lunches; 2 suppers; 2 snacks and 1 or 2 drinks per child. A jar of peanut butter goes home to the households on free meals at school a the beginning of each month. 260 students are involved at Parkway, and this is the 4th year for the program there. Volunteer Deb Hecht oversees the program with a team of 15 volunteers helping her.






The Rockford Eagles Aerie 1292 recently gave renewal scholarships to students who are Wright State University Lake Campus and are parkway graduates. Tia Caffee, daughter of John and Lisa (Painter) Caffee of Willshire will graduate in May 2014 with an Associates Degree in Graphic Design. An outstanding artist at Parkway, she graduated in 2013. Tegan Felver, daughter of Carl and Deena Felver is also from Willshire, and will graduate with an Associates Degree in Business Applications. Aslo a graduate of Parkway 2013, Tegan is learning office management and enjoys MS Access Database the best.  Others who were not present but received renewals were: Austin Adams, Amber Swander and Kirsten Schriema. Left to right: Blair Shaffer explained that the renewals would go directly to Wright State. Tegan and Tia stand next to Wright State University Development Officer, Julie M. Miller. The Rockford Eagles have funded $30,188.00 from 2006-2013 and $8,000 for 2014-2015. All of this money went for Parkway scholarships furthering their education.







Parkway Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees On January 24, 2015 During Game

Left to right. Mike Schumm, Roger Craft, Galen Schumm, Beth Hunziker Black


AND, 1980 Panther Basketball Players and Cheerleaders Reunite - Same Evening

Front row left, Kathy King Fisher, Karla Sidenbender Butler, Lori Sidenbender Likens, Lori Granger Davis

Back row, Steve Kuhn, Stu Painter, Roger Craft, Bruce Bollenbacher, Brent Baker, Rod Leighner, Jim Wann



Ryan Sipe Becomes Rockford Chamber 2014 Citizen of the Year

Ketcham’s Funeral Home – Marcia Ripley, Owner, Becomes Rockford Chamber 2014 Business of the Year

by Sheila Baltzell and Stacie Ford
The Rockford Chamber of Commerce held their 41st Banquet at the community Building on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

Following a social time and a delicious meal, the program began with Chamber Master of Ceremonies Pete Hayes welcoming everyone.  Larry Sielschott led the prayer. 

Several businesses were recognized:
New Owners: Picket Fence; Tastee Twirl; Eve's Chatt Bar; Rockford Carry-Out.
New Business: WRKD Radio - Jim Crocker
Longevity Celebrations:
Brand It Marketing Communications - 10 years
Parkway Independent - 10 years
Subway - 10 years
Fox Photography -15 years
Gourmet by Kristi - 15 years
D & L Classic Woodworking - 25 years
Henkle Insurance - 50 years
First Financial Bank - 150 years
Ketcham Ripley Funeral Home - over 150 years

Then the moments all had been wondering:

Congratulations to Ryan Ronald Sipe, a most deserving Rockford Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2014.  Ryan has his heart fully involved in the community of Rockford. Here is why.

He was born in 1974 to the late Ronald and Marcia (Eichnauer) Sipe, whose families have a long history in Mercer and Van Wert counties.

They raised Ryan and his two brothers (living in Willshire and Rockford areas)  in St. John’s Lutheran Church Hopewell, and he was confirmed there at the age of 14. His faith continued through high school as he joined Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Students Against Drunk Driving. He was an active fan of the Parkway Baseball team which went on to become State Champs in 1991.

Ryan enjoyed country life and the boys spent many hours on a baseball field built on their front lawn. Ryan was a natural leader and grew to love the sport although he loved basketball as well. He learned sportsmanship through these activities.

The tragic loss of his father to a car accident in 1986, when Ryan was just 12,  would become the impetus to him in spearheading the flashing stop sign development at the intersection of 49 and 707 through ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation). Project finalization would come 20 years later, after dedicated pursual.

The blessing of a stepdad completed the family; Dennis Hoffhines was and is still a loving provider and listener. Together this family blended with Ryan and his two younger brothers, Scott and Carey, gaining two older sisters Rachael and Renee, from this union.

Following graduation from Parkway High School in 1993 , he completed an Associates Degree in Business Computer Applications, two years later, and  graduated from Northwestern Business College in Lima. His first job was at at TuWay Manufacturing in Rockford and then Community First Bank & Trust in Celina. Later he went to work at The People’s Bank Company and eventually took over the reins from retiring Bob Thompson. He  is currently employed as Branch Manager at The People’s Bank Company’s Rockford office.

On October 5, 1996 he married Kelly McMillen and together they have two daughters, Mackenzie Ann and Ashtyn Ryann. The girls are skilled athletes due to coaching by their Dad who has coached 11 teams over the years. Ballpark projects, coaching, and “Ohio Fury” team travel have occupied his time.

Ryan enjoys farming, four wheeling, hunting, and camping . He is involved with these activities: community Club and Board Memberships include Rockford Carnegie Library, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Eagles, and Rockford Recreation Association.

His leadership and dedication have made a dream a reality at Shanes Park, and continues a legacy that every family can enjoy in the future.

Congratulations Ryan Ronald Sipe on becoming 2014 Citizen of the Year.

See another related article below the pictures:



Marcia, Ron and Ryan

Ryan's persistance resulted
in blinkers being
installed at the intersection of 707 and 49.
Kirby Stetler and Ryan Sipe worked hard together.


Indiana University basketball
and Cincinnati Reds Baseball Fans


Peoples Bank
Branch Manager

Ryan, Kelly, with
Mackenzie &

Marcia Ripley of Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home accepted the award for Chamber Business of the 2014 Year.
Ketchams began in the crossroads of Mercer as a small manufacturing business. They moved to Rockford, making and selling furniture. And providing funeral services. Marcia was recently honored by the National Funeral Directors Association for being in business for over 150 years.

Jim Crocker WRKD Radio - New

Joel Henkle - 50 Years Henkle Insurance

Sheila Baltzell (left)
10 years Parkway Independent Online News
with Marie Miller, Chamber VP

First Financial Bank 150 Years Old
Crystal Severt and Kelly Walls

Lisa Kuhn, Jane Cozadd,
Marie Miller,
Chamber Secretary, President and VP


Norm VanTilburg
SCHS President
- slides from the past.

Commissioners John Bruns and Rick Muhlenkamp
presented Proclamations to Ryan Sipe and
Marcia Ripley

Ryan Sipe ~ Shanes Park and More

Ryan Sipe’s involvement in expanding Shanes Park made him a perfect choice for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2014, according to Mike Bruns, winner of the awrad last year and head of the committee to name his successor. Mike said at the Chamber Banquet after presenting him with the award, “He has worked many years with the Recreation Board in one position or another. His hard work and dedication have turned our ball diamond and concession area from average to first class for a village of our size. Starting  a few years ago with remodeling the concession stand he has been the driving force in the  many improvements since.  A few to list are the addition of the 2 north diamonds, diamond lighting, the concession stand patio area and tables, the planting of many trees in the park, the addition of sidewalks, the batting cage etc. and the list goes on.  There is a lot of behind the scenes work and effort that goes on in order to get these tasks done. He has had the leadership to get things done and has dedicated many hours to this cause and still is working hard for the Park and Rec program. He also has been on local boards in the area including the Rockford Carnegie  Library and  Leota Braun foundation. In ending he has been active in our community especially the Rec board for many years and still going strong.” 


Ryan Thompson, who works closely with Ryan Sipe on the Recreation Board compiled this list of details about him:


Ryan Sipe has served as a Rockford Recreation Association Board member since 2002; serving as treasurer since 2005.

During this time, he has also coached over 15 different Rockford Recreation Association summer teams.

During his time as a board member, Ryan has led the effort to establish and grow the Shanes Park Legacy Fund through the Leota Braun Charitable Foundation. His lead in these fundraising efforts have made significant park improvements possible at Shanes Park while he has been an active member; including:


2006 – Concession stand expansion and equipment room addition

2010 - Diamond Lighting Project

2011 - Updated underground drainage system on Diamond #1 & #2

2011 - Tree Project - donations were made to plant over 70 new trees at Shanes Park

2012 - Diamond #4 Dugouts & Sidewalk Project

2013 - Diamond #3, #2, & #1 Dugouts & Sidewalks

It is estimated that his fundraising leadership effort over the past 12 years has raised over $350,000, through donations and grants, that has been committed to improvements at Shanes Park and the growth and continued success of the Rockford Recreation Association. 

Future Vision:


Install new home run fencing on Diamonds #1 & #2

Extended sidewalks and walking paths

Expanded parking accessible from North St.

Development of Diamond #5

Construction of a new equipment storage facility

Program Statistics


An average of 300 kids (ages 4-14) participate in summer baseball/softball/t-ball/coach pitch teams through the Rockford Recreation Association each summer.

In 2013, Rockford hosted the most summer ball teams ever - 29 different summer teams!

Nearly 150 games are played on the baseball/softball diamonds at Shanes Park each year

Teams travel from as far as 70 miles away each year to play in tournaments hosted at Shanes Park.

At the peak of the summer ball season, an average of 5.6 games are played every Monday-Thursday night in Rockford.

On the busiest summer nights, it is estimated that nearly 1,000 people visit Shanes Park in a single evening.

Over the past five years, fall sports program registrations have increased 400%.

In 2013, Rockford Rec added a fall youth soccer program that has had 90 participants (ages 5-12) for two consecutive years.

For four consecutive years, over 60 kids (ages 6-13) have participated annually in the flag football program.

Rockford Recreation Association collects a total of nearly 500 registration forms for kids ages 4-15 to participate in our spring, summer, and fall programs every year.

Jack Hartings, President and CEO of The Peoples Bank Company Congratulates Ryan Sipe

Ryan has worked for The Peoples Bank for almost 9 years.  I always knew Ryan would be a great community banker because of his passion and empathy for the betterment of the Rockford Community. Ryan is not afraid to dig in when a job needs done and makes his decisions on what’s best for the customer or the community.  I don’t know if Ryan spends more time in the bank or on the ball diamonds, or in the bleachers at a volleyball match, but he always has on his Peoples Bank hat, and we are honored that he is on our staff  and very proud of his service to the Rockford community. Congratulations Ryan as Citizen of the Year.

In conclusion, Kirby Stetler praised Ryan because they worked closely to gather signatures on a petition to urge the Ohio Department of Transportation to make the intersection of State Routes 707 and 49 west of Rockford and north of Chattanooga safer. The scene of many fatalities, including the death of Ryan’s father, led the two to ask for blinking lights or something to make drivers aware. In  2006, Ryan’s and Kirby’s persistence was rewarded with the ODOT installation of  stop ahead and stop signs that are enhanced with solar/battery-powered flashing Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) that to this day make it a safer intersection.


April 2006 ~ Marcia Ripley Speaks at Shanes Crossing Historical Society
Published on Parkway Independent in April 2006
by Sheila Baltzell

At the April 2006 meeting of the Shanes Crossing Historical Society, held in the Rockford Methodist Church, Marcia Ripley, descendent and fourth generation funeral director of the Ketcham-Ripley Funeral Home in Rockford, spoke to a group of 30 members. At left Marcia displays the contents of the "tool" kit for morticians back in the days of her  Grandfather Thomas Ketcham

She recently closed the furniture-flooring store on Main Street and relocated all of her business activities (she had been there 32 years) to the Ketcham Ripley Funeral home on First Street in Rockford. She moved into a bigger office and actually moved the Ketcham-Cotterman Safe, as well.

What she remembers about the furniture store is that it actually started in Mercer and was later moved to Shanes Crossing, Ohio. She does not know if her Great-grandfather William Ketcham started or bought it, but does remember her Uncle Ralph and Grandfather Tom Ketcham working in the second floor mortuary/preparation room with the furniture and flooring business on the first.  They were cabinet and casket makers, and she remembers Grandma Ethel Ketcham running the store and visitation as well. The prep room was eventually built at the current location of the funeral home which was also where Grandmother Ethel lived.

She was recently honored by the National Funeral Directors' Association for over 100 continuous years in service in their family with a plaque this past summer of 2005.

Gene Barna (left) visited the store during the close-out and move and reminisced about the restaurant he owned across the street, where the Rockford Fire Station now sits. He and Marcia were looking at the old elevator that moved bodies and caskets up to and down from the second floor prep room. The elevator has a huge wheel that was pulled by a rope woven by the late Rockford  resident Pete Temple. Gene and Marcia agreed that the thick rope, woven from twine, was an art form. Gene was one of the many individuals who helped at the furniture store and funeral home when needed.


Marcia's dad, Carl Ripley, joined the company and became a licensed furneral director along-side his wife, Lucille Ketcham Ripley. Carl was a veteran of WWII and the Korean War. He was a Marine. He added the flooring business and worked with John Deitsch, who had been with Ketcham's for 40 years having begun there part-time in 1954.  At right he works on flooring at Marcia's home as Marcia's daughter, Devon Stansbury watches.




Local Men Finish at Tough Mudder Competition in Brooklyn Michigan – Fund Raiser for Wounded Warrior Project

Two area young men, Austin Art and Sam Dellinger, with a love of physical fitness and a streak of patriotism,  recently realized a goal they had planned together over a year ago when they competed-in and finished the Tough Mudder Competition in Brooklyn, Michigan  a major fund raising company for the Wounded Warrior Project. September 2014.

Austin and Sam’s brother Tim were best buddies and attended school together at Parkway for many years while little brother Sam tagged along. Eventually the Dellingers, Tim and Chris, moved their family to Indiana, but all of the boys kept in contact. Austin graduated from Parkway in 2008, and Sam graduated from South Adams in 2012. As they grew older (Austin is 24 and Sam is 20) the years grew less as they began regular work-outs of running the country roads of Mercer County and lifting at the Exile Fitness Center in Celina (formerly Musclehead Fitness).

The fellows learned of the Tough Mudder events staged all across the country for the benefit of Wounded Warriors, and got totally interested. Theyr regular workouts became training sessions. Although they never bought the Tough Mudder Training Guide, they did every kind of workout they thought would help them with the challenge. Tough Mudder stresses: Testing Physical Toughness; Mental Grit; and Camaraderie.

The son of Joe and Brenda Art of Rockford, Austin works at Celina Glass and Sam works at a factory in Berne, IN.  The sought out other young men who had done the challenge including Barry Peel III and Andrew Peel, gathering knowledge and advice.

After listening to motivational speaker, Shawn Corvel talk about the Wounded Warriors and how much they gave up to protect freedom, Austin and Sam’s adventure began on the raceway in Brooklyn, but the course was laid out all over the grounds. The obstacle course can be seen on Austin claims he felt the heat of Fire in Your Hole as he climbed high to race down a slide with fire blazing over the finish line into a pool of water. Poles strung over a muddy pool was the next event, and was called the Pole Dancer because participants used upper body strength to cross it via the poles.  Hold Your Wood was carrying logs long distances, just like the elite Marines do in training; and following that, Austin and Sam ran through the Electro Shock Therapy which were strands of live wires. After that shock wore off, the guys tackled Twinkle Toes, crossing 2 x 4’s over a pool. They climbed a giant mud mound called King of the Mountain and went through Kiss the Mud (yup – belly crawls through the mud). Walk the plank was fun which was climbing high to a diving board and jumping into muddy water. The arctic Enema was climgbing high to jump into a pool of ice water which they followed with the event called Funky Monkey – with ladders strung overhead, the guys used their arms to “walk” from one end to the other. There were plenty of walls and fences to climb mud to trample through and people to help along the way. “People helped pull me to the top of walls; then I would help pull the next ones up. It was all about helping each other through a tough course.”  There were 250-person “waves” that left the starting gate every 20 minutes from 7:20 AM to 12:20 PM. Once their faces were painted with their entry numbers, they were ready.

Austin and Sam finished the course earning them each the special orange headband for finishers. The guys paid a $155 entry fee, with proceeds going to Wounded Warriors. Many soldiers helped with the event set-up and supervised.  8000 people participated-in and watched the event. People volunteered their time, and although Austin and Sam did not raise donations for the Project, they want to do it at the next eent. They have not chosend the city they want to participate-in, but they are working on it!

If you want to contact Austin to talk about the event or sponsor his next Tough Mudder,  email him at  






Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge them.



Funky Monkey



Sam and Austin

Heading to the Fire Hole


Sam in Electro Shock

Military Volunteers


Stephanie Pabis Named  Athlete of the Week at Roger Williams University
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. – The Roger Williams University Equestrian team notched its first win of the season (on November 3, 2014), taking first place at the team's home show.

With the win, Roger Williams moves into first place in the region, moving nine points ahead of Becker College. Stephanie Pabis finished the day as High Point Rider , taking first place in Novice Fences and Novice Flat in the weekend home show for the Hawks.  She is a sophomore,  studying for a degree in Criminal Justice, and has been competing with the equestrian team for two years. Involved in riding since the age of 5, Stephanie works hard and was thrilled over this honor. She is the daughter of Paul Pabis and Holly Patrice Wood of Rehoboth, MA, granddaughter of Virginia Wood of Celina and niece of Sheila Baltzell of Celina and Colleen O’Steen of Huntsville, AL.


Team Results
1. Roger Williams University – 43 pts
2. University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth – 34
3. Johnson & Wales University – 28
4. University of Rhode Island – 27
5. Becker College – 26
6. College of the Holy Cross – 23
7. Brown University – 21
8. Clark University –17
9. Rhode Island College – 15
10. Salve Regina University – 13
11. Assumption College – 11









Emily Clouse, Celina High School graduate of 2006 and Ohio State University graduate of 2010, recently finished a two year program in the Peace Corps. Serving in Uganda, Africa, Emily worked with women in their local hospital, educating them on health issues for themselves and their families.  She is back in the United States and has taken a job in Chicago continuing her career in social work. Emily stopped by Celina High School History Teacher Wally Ellinger's history classes recently. She gave a talk complete with power point pictures and then fielded questions from the students, who enjoyed her visit.

To learn more about Emily's work in Africa click on the Palmetto Hospital Blog from Africa:

Emily is the daughter of Parkway graduate - Jon and Betty Buckloh Clouse of Celina and the niece of Jack, Bill, and Tom Clouse who all live in the area and are Parkway graduates.



Jordan Thompson officially signed to the Detroit Lions Active Roster on October 17, 2014.  He will be playing Tight End and Special Teams. Congratulations to our Parkway Graduate!


Girl with local ties selected as a Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon "Patient Champion."

Elena Grace Miller has been selected as one of 24 Miracle Mile Patient Champions for the 2014 National Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon, taking place on Sunday, October 19th.

Elena is the daughter of John and Angela Miller of Columbus, former local residents. She is the granddaughter of Rolland and Fran Miller of Rockford, Ralph and Judy Evans, of Ohio City, and the late Janice Evans.

The Miracle Mile Patient Champions originated to recognize NCH patients and allow them to share their personal stories of hope and how NCH has impacted their lives. Champions represent various conditions such as autism, type 1 diabetes, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and many others. Each "Champion" will be present at their particular mile marker, cheering on marathon participants, while the remaining two miles are reserved for the Encore mile, honoring past Champions, and the Angel Mile, dedicated to the angels of NCH who have passed on. 

Elena will be representing children with hearing impairments. Elena's family, which also includes her big brother, Ryan, wishes to raise awareness of hearing loss and help deliver hope to other families of similarly diagnosed children. They are inspired to raise funds for the Hearing Program at NCH to assist the providers who have loved and cared for Elena from the beginning, as well as all the patients they serve.

Below is the press release introducing Elena as a Patient Champion.




Meet Elena
Do you like puppies? Six-year-old Elena Miller does. Can you imagine the sound of a puppy playfully sniffing in your ear when he is cuddling you? Well, Elena doesn’t have to imagine that sound anymore, because now she can hear it with her own ears. Elena Miller was born deaf. At 10 months, she received surgically implanted bilateral cochlear implants. During the first two years of her life, she underwent 6 surgical procedures followed by intensive speech therapy and audiology. Once a qqchild has been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, the child’s family is often faced with questions and decisions they do not feel equipped to address. The Hearing Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital helps patients and their families through a multidisciplinary team approach. The team of experts includes a pediatric otolaryngologist specializing in hearing loss, advanced practitioner nurse, audiologist, speech-language pathologist, social worker and registered nurse. Perhaps Elena’s mother, Angela, said it best, “We have experienced a miracle in Elena and she lives a very full and blessed life because of the technology of cochlear implants and the wonderful care Nationwide Children’s Hospital provides. She truly does have a very bright future ahead!” And so does her puppy, Snickers. As the runners and walkers pass her special mile, Elena will be cheering loudly on behalf of all the kids who have been diagnosed with hearing impairments.

To join Elena's team or to donate to Nationwide Children's Hospital, visit the link below.




Nuclear Physicist for NASA Space Center Studies Gamma Rays
Via FERMI/GLAST Satellite
By Sheila Baltzell, Liz Hays and Paula Hays 6-27-2014

Below is a picture of the sky in high energy, taken over a five year period by the LAT instrument on Fermi.  This was a big deal and a good emphasis for the Five -Year celebration of Fermi.


Elizabeth Anne “Liz” Hays, daughter of Reverend Richard S. and Paula (Barron) Hays spent the first 10 years of her life in Rockford, Ohio. She grew in Christ at the former Rockford Presbyterian Church where her father pastored, attended school at Parkway, played the clarinet in the Parkway Elementary band, studied the migrating monarch butterflies in the vegetation near her home and absolutely loved the stars, planets and moon phases. Her mom recalls that as a toddler, she would run for the TV when she heard the Nova Channel begin on PBS.

Paula said, “What caused little Beth Anne to run to the TV in the evening was the music from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos."  She'd head for the TV room calling "Cosmos music! Cosmos music!"  We let her watch it, even though it was a bit past bedtime, because she liked it so much.  I'm sure she only understood a little.  When she went to Cornell, she heard a few physics lectures from Sagan himself as he was then a professor there.  Small world.” In 1986, she and her mom located Halley’s Comet which swings into our solar system every 75-76 years. Fascinated, they spent one chilly, March evening observing it in the low western sky with Sheila, Chris, Scott and Tom Baltzell on the west side of Rockford (where it was darker).

When the family left for a new church and home in Waverly, Ohio, Liz grew up and continued in her fascination of the cosmos. She studied hard and graduated as valedictorian of her Waverly High School class in 1994.  While in high school, she was in band, cross country, track (the two mile), school plays and served on the yearbook staff.  She and two classmates won the high school science trophy for the State of Ohio.  The trophy is still on display among the many athletic school trophies that Waverly has collected over the years.  She played in the Ohio State High School Honors Band - clarinet.  She even continued her music when she went to college, playing clarinet in the band and a jazz group, a relaxing activity. Just before she graduated, the Waverly Mayor presented her with a key to the city for all her accomplishments and for being a good Waverly ambassador. Liz was mayor for a day. With those accomplishments under her belt and a deep dedication to science, she was accepted and continued on to a bachelor degree at the prestigious University of Cornell in Ithaca, New York, in the Finger Lake region.


Liz was in no ordinary program. Nuclear Physics was her major, and she became part of the Women in Science program at Cornell. This opened doors for her to different summer employments at the University of Chicago as well as the  University of Connecticut in their physics departments. While at the University of Chicago, Liz was the lecturer one year for the popular weekly Compton Lectures. These are given on Saturdays to the general public (picture at left).
She studied at University of Maryland after that and "fused" her masters work into a doctoral program (a phd (doctor’s degree) in Physics at University of Maryland).

During this time she worked some on the Milagro project at Los Alamos National Lab near Sante Fe, New Mexico.  She dug up electrical cables that desert rats had chewed.  She also sat in a rowboat under a large tarp covering a pond that contained rods which detected gamma rays.  The rods had to be cleaned by divers and somebody had to man (or rather, woman)  the boat. She was either in hot and/or dirty work conditions those summers, but certainly paid her dues. 

Post graduate work, at University of Chicago an Argonne National Laboratory  took her to a career at NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in the space program and was part of the team who designed and built the unmanned FERMI space observatory satellite which just celebrated its 5th year in orbit this past July 2013. Launched in July 2008, it was the culmination of years of work  that Liz and her colleagues had planned for the day. Their satellite was going up into space with a Gamma-ray telescope to send back data to help scientists learn more about the universe. Rick and Paula, her parents, and Drew and Angie (her brother and sister-in-law) all made the journey to Cocoa Beach, Florida and experienced the VIP treatment while Liz prepared for the launch. They shopped, ate-out and visited the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve in Titusville, FL (140,000 acres). They were able to tour NASA, and sit in on a formal pre-launch briefing in the auditorium they use for Astronaut press conferences. Unfortunately the launch was postponed due to inclement weather. Even though Liz’ family could not stay, the following week the launch happened, with her husband, Eric, then able to join her.


Since the launch, Liz has worked with her colleagues around the world to comb through and decipher the gamma ray data. They are looking for the dark matter of the universe. We live in light matter with atoms, molecules, rocks water, air and stars. It is our home. But it is small. It only represents 4.9 percent of our universe. It is the FERMI team’s job to study the other 95.1 percent of the invisible and formless energy that we live alongside.

The European Space Agency’s PLANCK spacecraft in the Spring of 2013 completed its 15 month look at the composition of our universe. It concluded that of the 95.1 percent, 26.8 is invisible “dark” matter; and 68.3 percent is formless energy. The conclusion is that two thirds of the universe has no substance at all, according to an article Darklands of the Cosmos by Corey S. Powell in Discover Magazine July/August 2013.

Cosmologists thought this dark matter was holding the visible universe together and it was proven in 1980 by astronomers. In January 2012, with the help of the FERMI/GLAST space observatory satellite, physicist Christoph Weniger, at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, located a new type of radiation at the center of our galaxy, a glow where dark matter particles were smashing together and going from invisible to visible.

Because of the data, Liz’ team of theorists at Harvard University with colleagues Lisa Randall and JiJi Fan, formulated a new theory of dark matter. Because the dark matter glow was so minute, they theorized that there was another type of dark matter out there, just discovered, which could interact with itself and be seen as it clumped and formed a disk shape which Weniger could see. If the theory holds true, this would be a breakthrough that dark matter is not something so simple, but can actually interact, collapse and create a dark disk within our galaxy ~ a double disk of dark matter right underneath us.  Liz explains that this means the clumping dark matter acts like clumping light matter which means it could be making dark stars and planets with dark atoms and dark structures, just like our light matter does. They even say this could mean there is dark life out there somewhere ~ a shadow galaxy.  

Weniger’s research has excited the science world as he and 4 collaborators including Elizabeth Hays, were pouring over 43 months of data from the  FERMI – NASA space observatory that was looking for gamma ray radiation (described as similar to light but much more energetic). FERMI recorded a very specific energy that was 60 billion times faster. The team believes it is the theorized  flash of dark particles crashing into and destroying one another. So they continue to watch the data, as long as FERMI continues to operate in space. Independent astronomers like Douglas Finkbeiner from Harvard are using FERMI data to try to confirm the theory as well.

A new European Space Agency observatory called GAIA which launched on December 19, 2013 after postponements from the original launch date in October, is an exciting event for Liz and her colleagues, too. Its mission is to map the location and velocities of stars in the Milky Way. According to Liz, it will be able to define the outline of a dark disk of matter pulling on our light matter galaxy as it searches for and records star motions.  And so, Beth’s team culls FERMI data and waits for new data to arrive, studying the hottest topic in science right now. She travels regularly to the Japan, Italy and Sweden in her career as a scientist.

Beth lives in Alexandria, Virginia, is married to Eric Melin, and has a two and 1/2 year old daughter, Tabitha and a new baby son, Arthur Paul. Eric is a computer scientist who also works for NASA and is involved with the launches of satellites. His expertise launched the New Horizons Satellite in 2006 scheduled to reach Pluto in 2015. She offers this link to the latest news on the FERMI gamma ray galactic lens for viewing a galaxy published by Astronomy Magazine for more reading on the topic:

Rick and Paula Hays can be reached at or 310 E. North Street, Waverly, OH  45690.  

Above: Rick, Drew, Liz and Angie planning their itinerary in Florida as they wait for the "postponed" launch.  The second is Liz relaxing at an open air table while waiting on food.  The third is a shot of the launch towers, one of which sent the Fermi into orbit. Click on smaller thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.


Above: The first is Liz and her mom Paula in front of the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center; the next of Dad (Rick) and Liz in front of a Shuttle on display at the Smithsonian, and the third was taken while Liz, Tab and Paula were in Monterey, CA - Liz was working at conference but this was shot at the evening dinner at the Monterey Salt Water Aquarium.  "That was a fabulous place!" said Paula.




Rob “Dusty” Rutledge, Rockford Native, Follows Football Dreams to a Career That Lands Him on TV Reality Series

By Sheila Baltzell 6-20-2014

Rob Rutledge, nicknamed in college ~ Dusty Rutledge, spent his entire life following his dreams of a football career. Little did he realize his dreams would lead him to a TV reality series, called American Muscle, airing on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 9 PM on the Discovery Channel. There will be seven episodes.

Dusty is the son of Bob and Kathy McGough Rutledge of Rockford. From an early age, he was fascinated with football, says his mom and dad. “He spent entire weekends in front of the television.”  Dusty remembers that well. He practiced the plays he watched and eventually became the football “boy” for the Parkway team in the 4th grade. He idolized neighbor, Joe Stewart, and practiced hard for him. In the 2nd and 3rd grader , Dusty was always day-dreaming about football and looking out the schoolroom window. According to his mom, Mrs. Haddock had to move the entir classroom so Dusty could not gaze out the window at the football field.

He later joined the Parkway Junior High School Football team. From there on out, he was hooked on the sport. Dusty says he was a decent center in high school, and lived from Friday nights. When he graduated from Parkway in 1986, with good grades, he earned a scholarship at Fairmont State University, West Virginia. He used his summer, that year, to run the Rockford Swimming Pool where he got tanned.  With all of his blond hair, he became known as Dusty when he got to Fairmont State and played football for them. He was a three year letterman in college and felt he was an average player. One thing for sure, he was having a great time, playing the sport he loves.

Dusty went on to become a coach from 1994-1996 at Glenville State, West Virginia and then to Bloomington, Indiana University. It was here, that Dusty felt he had the greatest years of his career from 1997-2000. Even now, he finds excitement in the college and looks forward to his cousin Tarin Tischler heading to Bloomington in the Fall of 2014 as she works toward a career in medicine. Tarin is even going to be helping the football team there, in the recruiting area.

From 2000-2007, Dusty headed back to West Virginia at West Virginia University as their video coordinator. He supervised 2 fulltime photographers and 2 college editors as they followed the team to 6 straight Gator Bowls and 1 Sugar Bowl.

From 2008-2010, Rob found his way to his childhood Mecca, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He worked for the coaching team of Rich Rodriguez, head coach, as the Director of External Affairs. Dusty’s job was to build relationships with ex-football players. Dusty mentioned that, by this time in his career, he felt he was the luckiest “kid” on the planet. All this time he had been able to work with the best football players around. He loved it! But his greatest heroes even now, are not the players, but his own late Grandpa Jake Rutledge, his father, Bob Rutledge and his Uncle Keith Rutledge. They all told him, “Go after your dreams!” And, Dusty did.

In 2009, Dusty met the love of his life, Jennifer, and his marriage to her made him an instant dad to his beautiful and intelligent step-daughters, Maegan and Elizabeth. One is studying to become a medical doctor and the other a lawyer.

He is so proud of them and recalls the day he learned that Coach Rich Rodriguez and the coaching team was leaving Michigan and heading to the University of Arizona. Dusty was not willing to uproot his new family, and so he declined an the offer to follow the team. Fortunately for Dusty, Mike Barwis, the top-rated strength coach in the United States, who  was once at West Virginia University knew Rob and hired him into the new Gym venture he was starting in Ypsilanti Michigan. Barwis Methods is the premier place to go if one is an athlete who needs rehabilitation or just wants to get stronger. It is so successful, Barwis Methods trains professional athletes year round including more than just football players. Hockey, basketball and track are just of few of the other athletes seeking Barwis help. They take entire teams, individuals, high school teams, and also work with accident victims, paralysis patients, children with birth defects ~ they take anyone who needs help.

According to Dusty, Elliot Nealer, brother to a football player, Brock Nealer, at the University of Michigan, was in a serious automobile accident. Doctors gave him a 1% chance of walking again after he was paralyzed from the neck down. The happiest day of Elliot’s life was the day he walked down the aisle to his wedding.

Children with disabilities have learned to walked. Bob and Kathy Rutledge say these success stories are the most touching part of the show.

Mike Barwis espouses a tough love attitude to strength training:
He doesn’t take no for an answer.
Keep a positive attitude.

Shoot for the moon.

Tough love.

If there is any fire in the nerve at all, you can bring it back.

Intense ~ no babying

All glory to God.


Barwis Methods Training Center ( is involved in many charitable activities including: (Christmas presents and food for underprivileged children.)

Pairing of successful athletes with underprivileged children.

Dusty, the receptionist and scheduler at the gym, is the official Santa Claus for Barwis chaitable activities. He is pleased with that job, as his Grandpa Jake was the official Santa in Rockford.

The premier for the show American Muscle, was held on June 26, and father Bob Rutledge and local friend Barney Lehman, attended the private affair of over 500 people in Ypsilanti.

So what does Dusty say it has been like to be wired-up and taped for 12 weeks? “It was heard getting used-to ~ someone in your face constantly. But now the show has premiered, had great rating and Dusty says it was all worth it. He thanks everyone from his hometown in Rockford for believing in him including his sister, Jenny (see picture left as toddlers).

He invites everyone to watch the show, which is owned  by Actor Will Farrell’s Company Funny or Die. His friends are in it as well including Eric “TankDog’ Potis. Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 9 PM.

You can find and communicate with Dusty Rutledge 64 on Twitter.




















Local Viet Nam Veteran Takes 6th Ride in the American Legion Legacy Run - Summer 2014


Recently Bob Maurer of Mendon, Ohio participated in the 9th annual Legacy Run sponsored by the American Legion Riders.  This  was the 6th time for Bob to participate.  Bob is a member of the Celina American Legion Riders Post 210. He is also a Veteran of the conflict in Viet Nam.

This year’s run traveled from Indianapolis, Indiana with overnight stops in  Pikeville, KY, Danville, VA, Gastonia, NC,  Buford, GA, and Kings Mountain, NC. The run covered 5 days. Over 1300 miles were traveled in all types of weather from heavy rain to very high temperatures.  Over 500 motorcycle riders participated.

American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger and Sons of the American Legion National Commander Joe Gladden  also participated.

The Legacy Run raises funds for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.  This fund was established to provide scholarships for children who have lost a parent on active duty since 9/11. The American Legion provides all of the administrative expenses so that all donations made will be placed in the fund.

This year’s goal was to raise $450,000.  At the end of the run $947,450 had been raised. However, in exciting news,  the American Legion Charities board voted later to donate enough to make the total of donations an even $1 million dollars. Bob proudly pointed out that the American Legion and the Legion Riders are behind their Legacy Run contributions all the way.

Each year Bob has written the name of someone from the local area who is currently serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  This year, Bob instead wanted to pay tribute (and ride in the name of)  to SSG Sonny Zimmerman who lost his life on July 13, 2013 while serving in Afghanistan. 

Bob also mentioned that he was thinking about the Legacy Street sign that is shown in two of the pictures here which wa donated by the Charlotte, Michigan Legion Riders who rode on the trip. The sign was auctioned off and Bob was lucky to win the bid. It meant a great deal to him because he has
a link to Charlotte, MI.  As he said, “My mom's uncle Charlie left Charlotte in 1917 and was seriously wounded in WWI.  My great-uncle served as the Commander of the Charlotte Legion Post in 1938. I am so pleased to have this sign.”


Above pictures: Bob won the bid for the Legacy street sign auctioned.

Below: Bob paid tribute to local late serviceman Sonny Zimmerman (shown written on his windshield).

More information and pictures of this year’s event can be found at or


Donations to the scholarship fund are still accepted.

Contact Bob Maurer










Century Farm Status Comes to Family in Mendon

Posted October 2014

Century Farm Status has been approved for land owned by Robert Maurer and his sister Pam (Maurer) Young. The farm land was acquired by their Great-Great-Great Grandfather Richard Palmer in 1834. In the early 1800's Richard Palmer, who was  a blacksmith, traveled from Maryland to Fort Wayne.  There he became associated with the Indian Agent Mr. Johnson. When Mr. Johnston moved to Piqua, Richard Palmer traveled there and purchased land.
In 1834 Richard Palmer purchased farmland in Mercer County and moved
his family to what is now the Mendon area.
Pam and Robert are quite proud to still own a large portion of the original
farmland.  The even have original copies of tax bills from 1840.
Congratulations to Robert and Pam!



Mercer County Prosecutor Matt Fox Announces Grube Murder Case End - Click Here



Rockford Eagles Donates to Rockford’s New Radio Station
By Sheila Baltzell 7-24-2014

The Rockford Eagles Aerie 1292 recently donated $1000 to the brand new Radio Station WRKD in Rockford, OH. Pictured at left are (l to r) Brian Stetler - WRKD Underwriting Manager, Harold Shaffer, Jim Crocker - WRKD General Manager, and Blair Shaffer. In the past year, the Eagles membership has given back to the community through donations to Community Health Professionals, Mercer County Cancer Association, Parkway Back Pack Project and the Parkway Booster Club. These donations have helped fund many projects in countless ways.

The radio station has been in the planning stages for about a year with the Village of Rockford providing space (and permissions) in the village hall. Jim Crocker and Brian Stetler have been busy on building the offices and setting up the equipment. A transmitter on a short tower there is sending the signal out for a test so far, as they are not on the air officially at Channel 101.3 on the FM Dial (for the Federal Communications Commission – FCC). However, they are streaming 24/7 at which is free and works great! They have a mix of music on the stream that you are sure to enjoy with over 900 hits available. Tune-In Radio has an app for your phone, too.

For listeners in Rockford, you can either stream it on your computer or use your radio at 101.3 on the FM dial. The range is only about 5 miles, but once the FCC approves Crocker’s and Stetler’s license, they will be able to place their antenna on Rob Belna’s tower south of town.

100 feet is what the antennas will be at and then WRKD will be rated at 93.3444 kw and the station should be heard 10-15 miles, according to Jim.  This will greatly increase their range depending on the atmosphere. They will be able to reach Rockford, Ohio City, Mendon and maybe the south side of Van Wert. 

Jim Crocker has been in radio for 30 years. An Emergency Medical Technician by trade, radio is his love and hobby. He has worked for area stations including 92Z00 in Lima, Hits 105.5 in Sidney and K-94 in Celina as a radio show host. Jim is the manager and engineer for the station. Brian Stetler, Rockford’s Police Sergeant, is a 1994 Parkway graduate and was a disc jockey for weddings and other venues for many years. As the Underwriting Manager for this non-profit venture, Brian is accepting donations to get the radio station up and running for the community. If you are interested in donating, contact him at or 419-236-6669.

Click here for the streaming radio station at

Click on smaller thumbnail pictures below to enlarge them.


Phase II Bidding for $6M Engineering Complex Opens Soon
Phase I Construction is Well Under Way on Mud Pike west of Celina
By Sheila Baltzell January 18, 2014

Jim Weichart, Mercer County Engineer, reported that construction of the new $6M engineering complex at 77,000 square feet is progressing despite the inclement weather. The Phase I portion (which includes site work, Administrative office, Vehicle Maintenance Wing and Vehicle Storage Wing) is expected to be completed in July 2014. The bid for Phase I was $4.5 million (rounded).   Bruns Building and Development is the General Contractor.  Garmann-Miller is the architect.

For the Phase II portion (Fueling Center, Salt & Grit Storage and Vehicle Wash bay) the bids will be opened on Thursday January 22, 2014 .   Phase II is expected to sell at $1.3 million.   Expected completion of Phase II is Fall 2014.  “Our crews have already and will be doing some of the construction work such as building interior walls, finishing out plumbing, HVAC, electrical and technology, pouring concrete slabs and walls, landscaping, painting, site work, stone and asphalt work, utilizing existing furnishings,” said Jim.

The Engineering Department is responsible for maintaining and improving the 384.129 miles of County roadways and the 406 Bridges on the Mercer County local roads. Currently they are housed in several buildings in different locations.



They are the framing for Building A which will house the offices.
Photos by Garmann and Miller.

Engineering Department employees
will be helping with some of the inside finishing work.

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Congratulations to Nikki Fox for Her Published Photo

Nikki Fox learned recently that her Parkway Prom photograph of Parkway student Austin Denison and Delores Denison, his 89 year old great-grandmother who enjoyed  the Parkway Prom as his date, was selected to be published in Best Magazine. The publication is a very popular "People Magazine" style which covers all of the latest gossip and movie star news in Great Britain. Congratulations to Nikki, now a world-famous photographer!



Ron Searight Recognized for Years of Service to EMS
by Sheila Baltzell, editor



Ron Searight was recently honored by fellow Emergency Medical Technicians in Rockford as he retired form the squad there.  For over 20 years, Ron has given of his time and talents not only on the squad but also on the Rockford Fire Department since 1980.  He credits former Rockford Fire Chief Ralph Rhoades for kindling his interest in two of the greatest volunteer positions a person can give to their community.



Above: Ron and Lisa Searight










Above: Ron’s retirement plaque. The etching picture is by Nikki Fox
and show him dressed in his dress squad uniform from the 9-11 Benefit Show
held in Rockford in 2011.


Ron, a graduate of Celina High School in 1974, found his way to Rockford in 1975 and worked for Ralph Rhoades at the Auto Specialty Shop, repairing cars and soaking in the wisdom of a great teacher who was a unique person and taught by his actions. Ron says Ralph was the most influential person in his life, and he was the man who inspired Ron to think about what he could be and what he could do with his life. This was not only in his work ethic at the Body Shop, but later as he made the decision to join the Rockford Fire Department and then the Emergency Medical Squad. Ron also credited the late Fred Baltzell with encouraging him and being a role model. Fred was a volunteer on the Fire Department all of his adult life.



Above: The Emergency Medical Squad. Ron is third from left in the back row.


Ron said that what you learn on the fire department and emergency medical squad stays with you your entire life. In every circumstance, there may come a time, which he learned as a coach and working on a factory assembly line, when he helped with a child’s sprained ankle and literally saved a man who collapsed at work. He and a co-worker successfully used a defibrillator and CPR.  In 1980, inspired by his role models, he took the training to become a firefighter. Then in  1988 he took the 70 hours of training, plus state required hospital training (10 hours) and 10 hour county required training for 90 total hours. He received the Emergency Medical Technician B license. Ron mentioned that ongoing training is  a regular part of the positions.  

Ron’s jobs as EMT-B involved stabilizing patients and getting them to the hospital by doing basic EKG’s and vitals and assisting the medics. The Rockford EMS area covers south of Rockford to Tama Road and north to the Van Wert County borderline. When Ron first joined the squad, only Celina squad had medics; now Rockford has two medics. Medics can start IV’s and administer medication as prescribed by the ER doctor. Each ambulance is equipped with a defibrillator. These are some of the many advances that have come along since he started volunteering. The squad ambulances are now directly connected to the hospital emergency room doctor and able to send the patient’s actual vital signs so the team is ready for the emergency upon arrival at the hospital. If a medic is on board in the squad, sometimes the ER doctor will give directions en route. Other tele-communications advances over the span of years include the original fire phones equipped in each fireman’s and EMT’s home. A continuous ring alerted volunteers to an emergency whereupon they would report to the fire station for further instructions. Pagers came along after that, followed by walkie talkies. Now cell phones connect all parties.

Ron continues to  serve on the Rockford Fire Department as he is able because his employment keeps him on the road a lot. He has seen many changes on the fire department as well. Junior Fire Fighters (teenagers) now go on fire department runs. The young trainees are in charge of tracking the firefighters as they enter a burning structure. Using radios equipped in the firemen’s gear, they always know where a fireman is at all times. Juniors refill the air packs which each fireman is required to wear, have the hoses ready, dump water and give the firemen drinks of water. He appreciates their dedication to helping in often brutal weather. Junior Fireighters are Austin Barna, Ryan On, Logan Sutter, Abbey Sutter, Noah Joseph and Justin Barna.

Home visits to help people in need were the most gratifying to him. They once arrived right after the birth of a baby at home, taking baby and mother to the hospital, which was a memorable experience. “People are so appreciative,” said Ron. Motor vehicle accidents were the most challenging especially when children and infants were involved. But he also said that living in and volunteering in your own community can make it emotionally difficult when you know the people you go out to help.

Ron’s fondest memories are about the camaraderie of his fellow volunteers and the friendships he has made over the years. “We covered each other’s back; we protected each other; we always worked as a team and contributed our ideas to the situation (and they were never textbook) using 2 to 3 ideas and then deciding on the best one. We never knew what we were going to find but we always worked together,” said Ron.  

Ron’s wife, Lisa, also served on the EMS for a few years. Their volunteering and compassion is truly appreciated by the community of Rockford. If you would like to send Ron a card, his address is 406 N. Street, Rockford 45882. His email address is


Parkway Band Realizes Dream to March at Disney
Band will Compete at State on May 2 ~ Looking for 41st Superior
by Brooke Boznango

It started as a dream: to make it to state band competition. In 1975, that dream became a reality. 74 band members under the direction of Richard Sherrick scored a superior rating at district band competition.

Today, the Parkway High School Concert Band is celebrating its 40th consecutive year of superior ratings at district band competition. 32 of these 40 years, Parkway as gone on to receive a Superior rating at state also.

For those who are unsure what it means to score a superior rating, here is some clarification. At band competitions, a band can score a rating between I and V, with a I being the best and a V being the worst. For a band to score a superior rating at state, the band must score a I overall.

It has not been an easy road to state. Not only do the students change every year, but the band program experienced a change in directors.

Richard Sherrick, the long time director at Parkway High School, retired in 2007, making way for a new face in the bans program. Ryan Twigg took over the program in the '07-'08 school year and has kept the tradition alive. He had big shoes to fill, but Twigg was ready.

"A lot of people wanted the band to continue being successful and with their help and cooperation it has been possible," said Twigg. "It wasn't easy taking over for Mr. Sherrick but it has been a positive and incredibly rewarding experience."

The students work tirelessly throughout the year to keep the tradition alive.

"There is a certain pressure on the students to keep the tradition alive," said Twigg. "They know how important this is to alumni of the band program and the community. Our focus has always been to do our absolute best performing music and we maintain that focus year round. I try to challenge the band year round."

Paula Linn, who is actively involved in the music program at Parkway High School, was a freshman in the first band to make it to state. She says it was an amazing experience being a part of the tradition.

When asked about keeping the tradition alive, she says she is proud to be a Panther.

"It is amazing to see the band program continue the tradition that was started all those years ago," said Linn. "It makes me incredibly proud to be associated with Parkway."

This past month, the band program took 85 students and 20 chaperones to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The students spent three days in the parks, with one day dedicated to marching in front of Cinderella's Castle.  It was memorable for the band to hear people in the crowds shout O-H-I-O as they played “Hang On Sloopy” on the parade route.

The goal for the Disney trips is to take students every four years, allowing students to visit the place where dreams come true once in their high school career.

Numbers for the Parkway Band is growing steadily, with the number of band members projected to reach over 100 in the next few years.

The band will be traveling to Findlay High School in Findlay, Ohio to compete in state band competition on Saturday, May 2 at 10:00 am.  The Band will also be in concert along with the Choir on Sunday, May 3rd at 3:00 pm.  Come enjoy some great music!

The Parkway High School Concert Band would like to thank the parents and community members for their continued support of the program.

As the band celebrates their 40th consecutive year at state, the program remembers those who helped make the dream a reality and look forward to the years ahead with the goal to keep the tradition alive.

 "Thousands of student musicians are to be congratulated for the number of years the band has earned superior ratings at district," said Twigg. "We've all worked hard to make this happen."


Panther Band Performs in Disney
Photos and thank you by James & Jill Leighner


After almost 2 years of fundraisers, planning and hard work, the Panther Band has made it to Disney!   Many thanks to the Mr. Twigg, the band boosters, planning committee and all those involved in making this trip possible! 

The band members are no doubt having a Disney experience that they never will forget.
Also I want to say thanks to all the parents, family members and supporters who have made the trip to support the band and show their PARKWAY PRIDE!!! 
 Go PANTHERS!!!!!!!!!!



Students take part in the Disney Performing Arts Program in Orlando, Fla.


ORLANDO, Fla. (May 1, 2014) — The Parkway High School Marching Band became stars of their own Disney show on April 15, 2014 when they entertained guests in Magic Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort. They traveled over 1,000 miles from Rockford, Ohio to take part in the Disney Performing Arts Program.

The student performers, under the direction of Ryan Twigg and Shannon Wagner, greeted the guests of the park as they marched past Cinderella Castle on their way down Main Street, U.S.A.  The students helped to get the crowd excited before “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade,” giving them an inside look at what it is like to be a professional in the entertainment industry. 

This was the marching band’s first visit to the resort with the Disney Performing Arts Program.

Vocal, instrumental and dance ensembles from around the world apply to perform each year as a part of Disney Performing Arts at both the Disneyland Resort in California and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Once selected, they are given the opportunity to perform at the resort for an international audience of theme park guests. Millions of performers have graced the stages of the Disney Parks in the more than 25-year history of the program. 

About the Disney Performing Arts Program

Disney Performing Arts unlocks student potential and helps young people make their own dreams come true – whether it’s performing in front of an international audience of thousands at Disney theme parks and resorts or honing their craft in enriching workshops and clinics taught by entertainment professionals.  Every year, thousands of vocal, instrumental, and other ensembles travel from around the world to participate in Disney Performing Arts programs at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Disney delivers workshops and performance opportunities that enrich, inspire and often lead to life-changing personal achievement. 

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Carson Cheek Wins Ed Barker Award

 Carson Cheek, Rockford Graduate 1965, was recently honored with the Ed Barker Award, an award given as an acknowledgement to the individual who has shown the most exceptional service to the OAT and CCC (Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches) and to the sports of track and cross country in the State of Ohio. Carson was most recently at Minster High school and has been involved in track and field since 1972. He served Minster Schools as an elementary teacher, guidance counselor, district special education representative and Athletic Director. He started the boys Junior High Track Program and was Boys Varsity Track Coach for 15 years. During his tenure, his team qualified for the State Meet in every event and finished 3rd in 1988. The program excelled with 35-48 boys participating.  In 1977, he was founder of the Minster Memorial Invitational Track and Field Meet. He also coached high school athletes internationally with meets in seven different countries. As athletic Director for 16 years, he was a founding member of the Midwest Athletic Conference. In 1975, he implemented the girls athletic program at Minster. He has been elected into the Northwest District and the Ohio Athletic Director Association Halls of Fame.


Carson was an official for over 30 years and a District and M.A.C. Meet Director for over ten years. In 1993 he earned the Contributor Award from  the Ohio Official’s Association. The Ohio High School Athletic Association Meritorious Award was presented to him in 2005 for officiating. Carson also published the Ohio Track and Field News and Cross Country News for over 20 years. He was a recruiting source for coaches coast to coast and a contributing information source for local, state and national publications. His latest contributions have been OAT and CCC Historian and as the Cross Country Director. The OAT and CCC has twice awarded him their Distinguished Service Award. Carson is also a Combat Veteran having served in Viet Nam in the Army. He served with the 82nd Airborne and 1st Infantry Divisions.

Because of his many efforts on behalf of our sports, the athletes and coaches and his community, are proud to recognize Carson Cheek as the 2014 Ed Barker Award Winner, the highest honor given to but one individual per year in the State of Ohio.


Barker was a member and prime organizer of the committee that organized the Ohio Track Coaches Association.  He served as secretary/treasurer of the association.  The Ed Barker Award is given in honor for all the contributions and dedication he gave to Ohio track and field.  If you would like to contact Carson and congratulate him, here is his email:  

Congratulations Carson!



Memorial to the Late Benny Sapp Dedicated on November 20, 2013
45 years to the day of his death in Viet Nam
By Sheila Baltzell 11-20-2013

As brothers Charlie Sapp and Steve Sapp sit around the cozy livingroom talking with each other and Charlie’s daughter, Vicki Smith, the story comes out in a relaxed and bittersweet way, as they remembered their 19 year old brother and uncle, a life cut short in Viet Nam.












Steve started the recollections saying, “I was only 9-1/2 when he died. I shared a bed with him until he left for the Army. But I still remember him like yesterday. He enlisted and was barely in Viet Nam 6 weeks when mortar fire killed him. I remember seeing the big black sedan parked in front of our house on Franklin Street one evening in November. It was out of place in Rockford.”


He continued with the other two chiming in as they remembered . . . .

Benny James Sapp, born May 18, 1949 to Paul and Jessie (Snyder) Sapp, lived in Rockford all his life, and was a little brother to Charlie, Larry, Dick, Nancy, Roger, and Toby; he was a big brother to Steve. He kept good grades and was athletic, playing football, basketball and running track until he graduated in 1967. From there he went to Ft. Wayne’s International Business College for the new field of computers, traveling with his good friend Jim Shindeldecker. He enjoyed fast cars and had a motorcycle on which he often gave his nieces Vicki, Nikki and Jackie thrilling rides. Vicki remembers her Uncle Benny fondly ~ someone who loved to rough-house with the nieces. Even though he was older, he played touch-football with Steve and his friends, too, in the back yard. Steve remembered that Benny and his friends, Carl Gangwer, Denny Krugh and others would congregate in Sapp’s garage out back to work on engines, play cards and maybe drink a beer or two ~ as a nine year old, the garage was off limits. Benny had employment at the local Sohio Gas Station run by Hoby Baker on Main Street in Rockford.


Charlie mentioned that their brother, Roger was in the military when Benny was in high school, and he had been stationed in Cambodia. Dick was also in the military earlier, but stayed stateside. Benny was engaged to his high school sweetheart, Carol Little, but felt the need to get his “service duty” out of the way before they married. So he enlisted in the Army before the draft could catch up with him. He took basic training in the summer of 1968 at a base in South Carolina and shipped off to Viet Nam in fall 1968. Charlie and Steve do not remember much about his leaving ~ they thought a bus came and picked up the young enlistees.



Vicki remembers writing to him and sending him a shoebox of cookies and letters as little girls ~ later they got the box back unopened ~ it was too late. She still treasures the box.



Benny was barely 6 weeks in Viet Nam, the Province of Binh Duong, when he was killed in action. The big black sedan parked outside his parents’ home in Rockford was oddly out of place. Steve and his parents had been at a Parkway basketball game. When the Army personnel in green fatigues, went to their door, they found no one at home and so went over to next of kin, brother, Charlie’s home. Vick remembers them coming to the door and giving the sad news to her parents. Then the men left and went to wait for Paul and Jessie to come home.


There was deep sadness for the family, friends and community, but Steve believes his parents took it in stride over the years, always visiting his resting place at Riverside Cemetery in Rockford on Memorial Day, and probably other days as well. Charlie had his garage painted by Ed Kuhn, with a lighted memorial picture in remembrance of his brother. That image was destroyed in a fire last year.


They never knew much about Private First Class Benny Sapp’s military life ~ Steve and Charlie know he wrote to only a few people in such a short time. Neither did they have a picture of him in his military uniform. They always wondered.


Then, last year in 2012, Steve’s wife was surprised to get an email from someone who claimed to have been with Benny in Binh Duong when he died. Steve called him, Mike McDonald of Minnesota, and so began a bittersweet road into the past, learning so much . . . about their brother.



Mike told them that he was 35 yards away stringing razor wire. Benny and two other soldiers, PFC Burton and PFC Brown (all three killed that night) were on LP (Listening Post) outside the perimeter of the camp literally listening for the enemy to approach so they could sound the alarm. According to McDonald, the three soldiers asked their commanding officer If they could come back inside the perimeter and were supposedly refused three times.  In that province, they dealt with thick, tall elephant grass 6-10 feet high, and spent time listening and watching for the gun sparks of a shot fired to alert them to enemy action. Only the moon lit their camp. They had to be alert for tunnels where the enemy could emerge, shoot and go back underground. McDonald became a “tunnel rat” going down in to rout out enemy soldiers. It was a week to remember as Mike and his wife stayed several days talking and listening, crying and laughing with the Sapp family members. McDonald presented them with a book called Charlie Company: What Viet Nam Did to Us Then and 12 Years After ~ Newsweek Reporters told the untold story of men like Benny and Mike ~ those who lived and those who died. The Sapps were so appreciative of the book, but still yearned for a picture of Benny in uniform. Mr. McDonald began asking around at reunions.



Then several months ago, another soldier contacted Steve. It was George Rivera who had been in Basic Training with Benny. He had a book printed with all the new enlistees in uniform at Basic Training ~ Benny’s picture was in the book. And, now, that picture sits respectfully beside his Parkway graduation picture in Charlie’s home.

When Steve talked to George, he wanted to see how well Benny got to know his bunk mates. So, he asked him about Benny’s two front teeth. George howled with laughter as he recalled at mess hall time, Benny would pop his two false front teeth out and gross the guys out. He said it was an old football injury, but with a wink, Steve and Charlie think running with a mop handle was the real culprit.

On Wednesday, November 20, 1968, Benny James Sapp lost his life in Viet Nam. On this day, the 45th anniversary, Charlie and Sharon Sapp (in their yard at 211 West Street in Rockford) along with the rest of the Sapp Family, the Rockford American Legion, Rockford Village Officials, A & A Green House and many friends and family dedicated a stone marker in a memorial flower garden with a flagpole waving the United States Flag, to Benny's memory. It was a short service conducted by the Legion with a gun salute, prayer and a few memories spoken. Parkway Schools continue to give out the yearly Carey, Bill and Benny Memorial scholarship to deserving graduates in memory of Benny Sapp, Carey Fosnaugh and Bill Miller.

Photos above were taken and shared by Nikki (Sapp) Fox, niece.

Captions: left to right are Roger Sapp, Larry Sapp, Toby Feasel, Sharon Sapp, Charlie Sapp, Steve Sapp, Dick Sapp, sister not shown is Nancy Kline (at the memorial).

The group picture is from when Mike McDonald came and talked to them all. He would be the one in the middle holding the picture and accompanied by his service dog.

The other is of the brothers and sisters with Mike.


Bevington Leaps to All-American Finish

La CROSSE, Wisc. - Most college athletes will compete for four years and never achieve All-American status.

Marian Bevington (Celina/Parkway) is not most athletes.  

With a seventh place finish in the long jump at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Bevington finished her storied multi-sport career with her fifth All-American honor. 

One of three Student Princes competing at the meet hosted by Wisconsin-La Crosee, Bevington jumped 5.83m in her fifth attempt.  This is her third top-eight finish at the Outdoor Championships.  

"Marian is so deserving of her All-American performance today," said head coach Briana Hess.  "She fought through adversity with some injuries through indoor and outdoor and still went out with a bang." 




Marian set 5 school records during her track and field career.  Her indoor track records include the 55 and 60 meter hurdles as well as the Pentathlon.  Her outdoor records include the 100 meter hurdles and the triple jump.  Marian was also named the Ohio Athletic Conference's Field Athlete of the year at this year's conference championship and received Heidelberg University's Ethel May Sayger Award for being the class of 2013 female athlete most likely to succeed. 

For Heidelberg volleyball, Bevington finished out her senior season second in career kills and third in career blocks.  She was a 3 time All Ohio Athletic Conference and All Great Lake Region honoree, as well as 2 time All-American honorable mention recipient.  

"She is leaving behind some big shoes to fill," concluded Hess.  

Though this was Marian's last year of competition, she will be returning to Heidelberg University as a graduate assistant in the Track and Field program this Fall. 

Mortar Round Found Inert
On April 15th, 2013 The Rockford Police was contacted to check out a 1942 75 mm mortar round. The item had been used for several years as “door stop” at an area business. A friend and Vietnam Veteran that had worked with such ordinance became concerned and thought it should be officially checked out. Chief Paul May removed the item from the Village and contact was made with Allen County Ohio Bomb Squad. Units from the Squad took custody  of the round and will have it X-rayed. The item will be returned to the owner if it is found to be inert.





Neighbors United Organized on April 11














Wind Development Resolution Recognized

Neighbors United, protecting our communities is a grass-roots local organization situated in northern Mercer County and southern Van Wert county that is concerned with the preservation of the health, safety, financial, historical and ecological well-being of our rural and village communities.   Neighbors United wishes to acknowledge and recognize the Mercer County Township Trustees Association for their unanimous Resolution (Click Here) discouraging large industrial Wind Development in Mercer County.  The attached Resolution  (Click Here) is a significant symbolic advocacy position that makes the strong case that the numerous potential negatives of heavily subsidized, large, industrial wind development is a very poor fit for Mercer County as well as west central and northwest Ohio.

 For more information contact: Roy Thompson, Co-Chair "NEIGHBORS UNITED" 931 Strable Road, Rockford, Ohio 45882 ~  Email: ~ Phone:419-363-3743


Rockford Recreation Association Receives Donation for Park Improvements

RR Legacy Fund: The Eagles Support Community Progress in Rockford
Spring is coming and Ballpark Fever is in the air. The Rockford Eagles appreciate this call and have responded with a check of $1000. This generous contribution to the Rockford Recreation Association marks the 2nd installment of a $2000 total gift.  The Eagles donation was earmarked for the new block dugouts on diamond #4 at Shanes Park. The dugouts are now 90% complete and should be finished within the next week. With the weather showing signs of sun and warmth, venture down to the park and take a look. Donations to The Rockford Recreation Association Legacy Fund are used immediately for improvements that enhance our community. As it pertains to this donation, "This Ones For You". Current and future athletes will enjoy the new dugout confines for years to come.

Ryan Thompson, Rockford Rec. Assoc. Board Member, was present to accept the donation from Eagles Members Bruce Bollenbacher, Dick Shaffer, and Harold Shaffer. The Rockford Recreation Association, on behalf of the Rockford community and beyond,  would like to say a big "thank you" to the Rockford Eagles - Shanes Aerie #1292 for their continued support!


The Rockford Police would like to thank the Rockford Eagles for their recent donation for Safety Equipment for the Rockford Police Department. Due to recent events in Rockford and the surrounding area, the Rockford Police will be adding "Hard Armor" to the existing Personal Protective Vests worn.  These vests are designed to stop more powerful bullets. The Rockford Eagles continues a long tradition of supporting the Police with Safety equipment when the need arises. As a member and the Chief of Police I am very thankful for an organization that always puts community safety as a top priority.

Paul May

Pictured: Officer Brian Stetler, of the Rockford Police Department, receives a generous donation from Eagle Members Bruce Bollenbacher, Harold Shaffer and  Dick Shaffer.





The University of Northwestern Ohio is proud to acknowledge that Evan Cheek of Rockford, Ohio has made the Dean’s List for Winter Quarter 2013 in the College of Occupational Professions.

He also obtained an internship of which he will be traveling to several states from now through this Fall doing promotions before sporting events such as Florida Air Show, AAA baseball game, several Nascar races and College Football Games. Most recently he returned from training in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Evan is the son of Rene’ and Kevin Balyeat and Rusty and Tammy Cheek.



Trisels Named State Beekeepers of the 2013 Year in West Virginia

Don and Kim (Hamrick) Trisel have been beekeepers for many years and enjoy the hobby. They  were recently named State Beekeepers of the 2013 Year in West Virginia! There is a very good article located at this Fairmont State University link:  where Don is a Professor of Biology at the University.

Congratulations to Don and Kim, who are both Parkway 1986 graduates. Their parents are: Pat and Dorothy Trisel of Rockford and Clarence and Kate Hamrick of Willshire.


Book Donated to Crestview Elementary - Author Michelle Houts is a Northern Mercer County Resident

"The Beef Princess of Practical County" by Michelle Houts was donated on behalf of the Van Wert County Farm Bureau and presented to Mrs.Foehl and the Crestview Elementary library. Pictured (L-R) 4-H Ambassadors Cheyenne Oechsle, Shania Emans, Sarah Klinger, Amanda Lobsiger, 4-H member Colton Lautzenheiser, and Crestview Elementary librarian Mrs. Foehl.







4-H Ambassadors Present Book to Van Wert Elementary

"The Beef Princess of Practical County" by Michelle Houts was donated on behalf of the Van Wert County Farm Bureau and presented to Mrs. Martz and the Van Wert Elementary library. Pictured (L-R) Mrs. Martz, Liz Keirns, Cody Keirns, Amanda Lobsiger, and Leah Lichtensteiger of the 4-H Ambassadors group.



(information below taken from the website)

The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website: You can register your home or mobile phone for free.

Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls. To add your number to the Registry you can call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register, or go click on “Register a Phone Number” in the left column of this page.

Your registration will not expire. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008. Read more about it at



“Shots Fired” Call in Rockford 

Rockford, OH -  Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey announced the arrest of Thurman Whitted, Jr, age 58, Bridge Street, Rockford, OH after receiving a call of shots fired this morning.  Whitted is being held in the Mercer County Adult Detention Facility awaiting formal charges.

At 6:31 AM, today, the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center received a call of shots fired at 310 N. Franklin Street, Rockford.  Deputies and the Rockford Police Chief, Paul May responded to the area to investigate.

The investigation revealed that Whitted and his girlfriend were having a domestic dispute.  Whitted then entered the bedroom of the home and fired one round from a handgun.  He was alone in the bedroom at the time.  The girlfriend and her adult daughter then fled the residence and called the Sheriff’s Office.  Whitted reportedly had a .45 caliber handgun and rifles in the residence.

Sheriff’s deputies surrounded the residence and attempted to make contact with Whitted.  The victims stated that he had pulled the landline phone out of the wall in the residence, but he did have two cell phones.  Several attempts were made to call the cell phones.  Whitted did not answer the phones.

Deputies then tried to make contact by the public address system from the cruisers and by operating their sirens and air horns.  Whitted did not respond.  A family member was contacted and was unable to make contact also.

The Sheriff’s Office then requested assistance from the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office S.W.A.T. team.  While the SWAT team was enroute, more attempts to contact Whitted were unsuccessful.  Once the SWAT team arrived and was briefed they approached the house to attempt contact.  At 11:05 AM, the family member was finally successful at contacting Whitted.  At that point he agreed to surrender and exit the residence.

Whitted exited the residence, but refused to comply with orders to keep his hands up and in view.  When Whitted started to put his hands down near his pockets, SWAT team members took him to the ground where he was handcuffed and taken into custody without further incident.  Whitted did receive a minor injury to his face when he was taken to the ground.  No deputies were injured.

Deputies then applied for and received a search warrant for the residence to look for firearms and other items of evidence.

Formal charges will be filed once the prosecutor’s office has the opportunity to review the case.



Parkway Schools to Build New Athletic Complex
Greg Puthoff, Parkway Superintendent, released drawings today of the new Parkway Athletic Complex which has been approved by the school board. Click Here to see the drawings. A drawing of the building is also located at the High School Office.

The building will house new Men and Women Restrooms, including a Family Restroom, Concession Area, Ticket Booth and a Referee Room. It will be used for Baseball, Football, and Softball games.

Construction on the building will begin the week of October 22-26. We are hoping that the building will be completed before Baseball and Softball starts.

The cost of the building is approximately $306,000. Money from the OSFC School Project will be used to pay for the building. The returned money from our school building project can only be used to maintain or construct new facilities.




Shanes Lodge #377 F&AM Receives Fourth Masonic District Grand Lodge Of Ohio Award

On January 7, 2013 Shanes Lodge #377 Free and Accepted Masons, Rockford, Ohio held a stated meeting presided over by Worshipful Master Steven D. Henkle. Also attending this meeting were Fourth Masonic District Deputy Grand Master RWB Ronald E. Schmidt of Paulding, Ohio and Fourth Masonic District Lodge Education Officer WB Todd D. Smith of Coldwater, Ohio. After conducting their Grand Lodge duties, these two District Officers informed the brethren present that they had a big surprise for WM Henkle! With all members in attendance standing and applauding, RWB Schmidt presented a very special “cane” to WM Henkle to signify the fact that Shanes Lodge won the Fourth Masonic District “Most Lodge Members in Attendance At Inspections” Award for 2012. WM Henkle graciously accepted the prestigious award on behalf of all the members of Shanes Lodge and thanked those who travelled with him during the year and helped him win the award. Shanes Lodge meets on the first Monday of every month and welcomes anyone who wants more information on Masonry or wants to become a member to join them at any stated meeting. On a side note, WM Henkle would like to invite all surrounding area Masons to attend the Shanes Lodge 2013 Inspection to be held on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 9:00 am in the Rockford Eagles Lodge Hall (please enter by the South door). Donuts and coffee will be served, starting at 8:00 am. The brethren of Shanes Lodge look forward to seeing you there!! If you have any questions about this Inspection Meeting notice, please contact RWB Bruce Shinabery at 419-238-1074. Submitted by Randy Rumple

Caption: Shanes Lodge #377 F&AM Rockford, Ohio Awarded 2012 Travelling Cane. Presented to WM Steven Henkle (left), and RWB Ron Schmidt (right). 

Nail Tech ~ New Addition to Spa Services in Rockford

Lindsey Hamrick, licensed nail technician, has recently joined Tara Bransteter and Kathy Taylor after completing her training at Ohio State Beauty Academy in Lima and passing her Ohio State Boards. She is offering manicures, pedicures, acrylic nails, tips, shellac and regular nail polishes in all colors. She even offers jewels and brush adornments for fun.

Vanity Kept is located in the Magic Mirror Styling Salon at 147 S. Main Street across from the Rockford Carnegie Library. Phone 419-733-5089 to learn all the details.




New England Digs out from the Weekend Storm

Holly Wood Pabis, Rockford native and her family show the snow level and damage after the weekend storm on February 8 & 9th. She reported, "We're finally getting back to normal after the “Nemo” Blizzard of 2013. We got our power back Sunday 2-10-2013 after nearly three days.  The winds were so strong and the 20 inches of snow so heavy that they bent over the small trees. Trees are down all over our yard. But now we're watching another possible storm for this coming weekend. The groundhog lied."


Winter of My Life
by Noel Temple, Parkway Graduate 1962

You know. . . Time has a way of moving quickly
and catching you unaware of the passing years.

It seems just yesterday that I was young,
just married and embarking on my new life with my mate.
And yet in a way, it seems like eons ago,
and I wonder where all the years went.
I know that I lived them all...and I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and
But, here it is... The winter of my life and it catches me by surprise.
How did I get here so fast?
Where did the years go and where did my youth go?
I remember well...
Seeing older people through the years and thinking that those
Older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off
That I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like...
But, here it is...
My friends are retired and getting grey...
They move slower and I see an older person now.
Some are in better and some worse shape than me...
But, I see the great change...
Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant...
But, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those
older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be.
Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the
And taking a nap is not a treat anymore... it's mandatory!
'Cause if I don't on my own free will... I just fall asleep where I sit!
And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared
For all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability
To go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!!*
Yes, I have regrets.
There are things I wish I hadn't done...
Things I should have done, but indeed;
there are many things I'm happy to have done.
It's all in a lifetime...

So; if you're not in your winter yet...
Let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think.
Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly!
Don't put things off too long!!
Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today,
as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!
You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life...
So; live for today and say all the things you want your loved ones to
And hope they appreciate and love you for all the things
you have done for them in all the years past
Life is a gift to you.

The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.
Make it a fantastic one.
And Remember
"It is health that is real wealth
and not pieces of gold or silver."

Editor's note: Thank you for sharing your work with the PWI readers, Noel.

Kozy Korner in Mendon Getting New Home
The Kozy Korner Restaurant is getting a new building replacing the old structure. Overseeing the project is Eric Baltzell, Engineer Garman and Miller Architects-Engineers of Minster, Ohio. Eric is a Parkway graduate of 1990.

Clouse Couple Retire From Years on the Road ~ Touring the Country
And, yes, They are Getting a Windmill! Likely the First in the Parkway Area

Bill and Sharon (Hamrick) Clouse, both Willshire High School graduates and college sweethearts, have been married for 46 years. They recently sold their Riverside Charter, Inc. tour bus company and their bus. They have enjoyed the road for 17 years, now, taking groups and families safely to any destination they desired in the United States. Here is their story:

The couple settled on the Clouse Family Farm, and Bill worked and retired from Parkway Schools in 1993 after 30 years of teaching vocational agriculture, FFA, science and mathematics, driver’s ed, as well as driving a regular school bus route (and 50 years full and part bus driver subbing). He thought he had a retirement plan ~ raising hogs, but he didn’t like it all that much and decided to try truck driving. From there he moved on to tour bus driving because he enjoyed being with people. He was no stranger to tour busses because he and his family over the years had accompanied many students on class trips. Bill taught vocational agriculture and advised FFA (Future Farmers of America) and attended many student FFA events in places like Chigaco to the Board of Trade and Louisville to the National Farm Show. They often used B & S Excursions out of Portland Indiana, and he drove first with them. It was at this point that he decided to buy his own bus. His daughter Jeanne Osterfeld laughed and said, “One day Dad came home with a tour bus; we were SO surprised!”

Then he went to Econoway Coaches out of Daleville, Indiana where he worked with Ron Halbert in 1994 to learn the ropes. 

The bus was a 47 passenger MCI Greyhound bus converted over to a luxury charter. On March 17, 1995, he conducted his very first tour to the Peoria Paradise Gambling Boat. By then he had formed a partnership with retired Parkway teacher, Kay Thomas, who planned the trips including hotels, tickets to events and meals. Kay did this until 2005, and Sharon who had worked  at Fremont Company in computer accounting for 20 years, retired and took over the fulltime role of handling the tours since that time.  So Bill and Sharon are both retiring.

(Left is Bill with his first bus).


Along the way, Bill replaced his first bus with a different one in 2000 and 2008 for the third. In 2000 he built a special garage to house his bus. With logging 35,000 miles per year, they add up. 595,000 miles is a lot of time in the driver’s seat over 17 years. But Bill and Sharon have enjoyed it, even when the days usually run into 10 to 18 hours. Trips are often early to begin and late to arrive; then there is the loading and unloading of suitcases! Then there is the constant demands of bus maintenance. He keeps a log (by law) of time on the road.


Bill drives alone unless it is a long trip. However, many people have helped him out by subbing for him over the years including: Dick Edgell; Dennis Hockett; Verne Hamrick; and Carl Gangwer. (At left is the second bus).


The farthest he has driven has been to South Dakota.And he generally has a booked slate, sometimes daily. Cindy Snyder, from the St. John’s Lutheran Church, planned that mission trip. “That trip was long (25-1/2 hours) and very, very hot,” he said.


Some of his main events were trips to the Longaberger Factory in Dresden, Ohio. In the 1990’s he made 35 trips there a year. Karen Nuttle and other Lonaberger consultants planned, and he just drove. Another regular trip is the Chicago shopping trip planned by Kathy Miller and Lorna Saddler 4 times a year ~ which is still ongoing. Carol Snyder, retired Wright State professor, once planned a trip for her entire family of 7 children and spouses and 23 grandchildren ages 5 years to a sophomore in college as well as her husband. Bill drove them around Lake Erie in eight days with stops at: Canton’s Football Hall of Fame; Niagara Falls; Port Canton; Sandusky’s Great Bear Lodge; Detroit’s Ford Museum; and into Canada ~ Toronto ~ for the Stratford Theatre Festival. He has driven entire families to weddings in Wisconsin and Chicago.

Other places visited, which have been planned by Kaye or Sharon, include: Cape Cod; Washington, DC; New York; Boston; Charleston; Savannah, Branson, Shipshewana, La Comedia and Florida.

Bill does not have favorite trip memory, since they are all unique and fun. He loves visiting with everyone he meets. Bus driving is great for that activity. He also asks that he be included on the many activities of the groups he serves. So he and Sharon have had many a meal, museum visits, and shows in the company of some wonderful bus riders.

He said his worst experience ever was traveling in a 7 bus caravan taking 350 6th grade students to Huntsville, AL to the NASA Air and Space Museum. It was hard to keep all busses together, and they did not stop much with so many children. Breakdowns happened, too. That trip ended his caravan dreams.

When asked what places the couple wants to see, they readily had their ideas. They have never been to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, the Northeastern part of the United States including Maine and Nova Scotia. But they are not taking a bus ~ it will be a car when they take off. They are planning a trip to Israel in 2014 through the Praise Point Church in Willshire, to be led by Pastor Brad Kittle.

When asked if they have ever taken their entire family on a trip, they replied “not yet.” They have three children and 6 grandchildren.

The new owners are Lisa and Rainer Kimmell of Huntertown, IN. purchased Riverside Charter, Inc. in 2012, and the name will remain the same.


American Girl trip to Chicago pictured above with newest bus.

Sharon’s trips are still scheduled through the end of 2012; at that time Lisa’s will take over. Her’s include for 2013: Tampa Bay, Fl (January); Casino Trips (February through October); St. Louis/Memphis/Tunica (April); Shipshewana, IN (May through September); Chicago/American Girl (July); Saugatuck, Michigan (July); Minneapolis, MN (August); Mackinaw Island, MI (September);  Washington, DC (October) and Branson, MO (November). Of course they can be chartered for any special trip desired. Visit the website or call Lisa at 260.739.7159

And, what about the windmill parts in their front yard? Bill and Sharon confirm that a windmill by Wheeler Energy out of Lima has become Bill’s new retirement toy. The 5 kilowatt tower will stand 100 feet tall and have three 20 foot blades. The intention is for it to provide their home’s electricity, and possibly enough to sell the extra back to the utility company. This may possibly be the first windmill in Mercer County and certainly in the Parkway area!



Mendon Union Alumni Association Plans Dedication on Entrance to Park

The Mendon Union Alumni Association, an active organization for the yearly gathering of Mendon Union Pirate graduates, is leaving a legacy behind.

They have raised the money and erected a memorial entrance to the 10 acre park where the community’s school once stood. The brick and sandstone structure replicates the entrance to the old building which was almost 100 years old when it was razed in 2006. The community consolidated with Parkway Local Schools in 1992, and district voters decided to build one structure in Rockford which was completed in 2005. The Village of Mendon got the land back and turned it into Mendon Union Memorial Park. complete with a community building and ball diamonds. The entrance to the park was funded with donations, in part from memorial bricks sold and installed at the site. Plan now to attend the dedication at 2:30 PM on Saturday, May 26 prior to the annual Mendon Union Alumni Association banquet at the Celina American Legion.






Included below are 8/27/2006 aerial demolition pictures of the former Mendon Union School shared by Jim Godwin. In the picture at the far right, the entrance is visible which has been replicated in the new entrance to the park. Click on the smaller thumbnail pictures above and below to enlarge them.


The entrance.



Defiance College Junior and Parkway Graduate Culminates Year-Long Study
with Trip to Cambodia in May/June 2012

As his junior year at Defiance College was wrapping up, Craig Bills (2009 Parkway graduate) was busy putting the finishing touches on travel plans to the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia.  Eight students and three instructors from Defiance College in northwest Ohio made a 26-day trip for the purpose of interacting and sharing specific research with various groups of students and professionals throughout Cambodia.





Craig Bills, psychology and social work major, addressed the issue of psychological effects of trauma, primarily post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  He created a Khmer training manual, that was translated to the native language of Khmer, which explains the aspects of PTSD. The manual included research he gathered throughout this past school year.  A presentation was given to CWCC professionals and medical personnel involved with the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) along with question and answer times.  The presentation was given at eight different locations through a Cambodian translator, and now new friend, Vichea, who translated the spoken English into Khmer.  The goal was that with the new knowledge, CWCC will become even more successful in the treatment of the victims that they take in and will be able to get them living their lives again with new found hope.
Above: Craig Bills makes one of many presentations about post traumatic stress disorder, with the Cambodian translator Vichea at his side.


Other students shared projects relating to education, water quality, conflict resolution in arranged marriages, and use of microscopes.  Besides the CWCC, the group also presented at the Healthcare Center for Children, Krousar Thmey (group homes for abandoned children), and met with college students at Banteay Mancheay University near the Thailand border. 

During the first two weeks of the trip, The Cambodia Learning Community from Defiance stayed in the capital of Phnom Penh.  Students learned how to travel around the city and surrounding areas in a tuk-tuk, a taxi in the form of a motorcycle pulling a covered cart.  They also learned to eat and avoid some interesting Asian foods.  During the third week of the visit, the group stayed in Battambang, Sissophon and Siem Reap.

Left - museum in Phnom Penh.






Along with the academic work that was required, the Cambodia Learning Community had the opportunity to tour the “Killing Fields” which was where the Khmer Rouge reportedly murdered one to two million Cambodians during the 1970’s.  They also visited a Buddhist monastery, the king’s palace, Angkor Wat temple, and shopped in local markets.  According to Craig, the most challenging part of the trip was the 18-hour flight/travel time and the time zone difference.  Cambodia is 11 hours ahead of Ohio. 


Highlights of the trip for Craig included getting to work with and learn about the Khmer people.  He also comments that spending almost a month with their translator Vichea was valuable.  Vichea answered many questions about music, movies, and other cultural aspects.  Craig was able to introduce Vichea to Gushers candy and to teach him how to swim.  Since returning to the U.S., the two are now Facebook friends.  Attending a circus where all performers were ages 14 -17 was another highlight.  The gravity-defying feats were perfectly executed with performers pretending to be nervous and unsure of themselves.  With circus-goers sitting on old wooden bleachers,  Craig says, “I have never been able to stare at something for over an hour in such awe as I did that night at the circus.  It truly was one of the coolest things I have ever been able to see.”  In the city of Siem Reap, the Defiance students had their most unique adventure, having a fish foot massage.  While shopping at the market, students found a shop that, for $3, they could submerge their feet in a pool of water and small fish ate the dead skin cells.  Craig says, “At first it tickled so badly that it was almost impossible to keep your feet in the water.  After a few minutes of them swarming around your feet, it finally felt numb and relaxing.”  They even went back and had it done a second time because it felt so good.
See the unique fish foot massage above!

Below: Ancient ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Craig is in the middle).

When asked to sum up his experience, Craig explained, “Cambodia ended up being one of the greatest experiences of my life. Spending an entire year of my life learning and becoming an expert on PTSD seemed well worth it being able to do and see what I was able to.  Being submerged into the culture was so surreal, but it really gave me a hands-on feel of the culture and has changed my perspective on many aspects of life. We had a lot of fun in Cambodia, but there was also a lot of hard work put into it.  Knowing that I can survive a month in Cambodia giving presentations really shows me that I am capable of doing anything in life.”







This trip was made possible for Craig through The McMaster School for Advancing Humanity, which serves as a focal point for teaching, service, scholarship and action to improve the human condition worldwide.  The Defiance College website  McMaster School link says “The mission of the McMaster School is to educate students for responsible citizenship - to produce committed global citizens and leaders who will understand the importance of individual liberty in improving the human condition worldwide and who will take an active role in addressing these issues, whatever professions they may choose.  The School will critically investigate the factors that contribute to human suffering and impede human progress.

Left: Three of the Defiance College Scholars: Craig; Emma; and Zach.


The history-making $6 million gift from Helen and the late Harold McMaster of Perrysburg, Ohio, and their children created a school within Defiance College to allow students and faculty to more closely examine global issues and how they affect the human condition. The School shares a common vision with Defiance College and, therefore, is committed to mutual support in the shared pursuit of knowing, understanding, leading and serving.

The McMaster School is a vehicle for supporting and reinforcing the efforts of all Defiance College programs to promote responsible citizenship and public service; it is not a separate degree program, and furthers the McMaster family interest in promoting individual initiative through individual liberties.”

Craig Bills is currently spending the summer in Defiance where he teaches tennis lessons, works at the new campus athletic field house, and is taking part in a social work internship.  He will begin his senior year at Defiance College in August. He is the son of Karla (Sidenbender) and John Butler of Rockford and Allan (Shelley) Bills of Celina. John and Martha Sidenbender of Rockford and Paul Bills of Celina are his grandparents.


Thank you to Mark Linn for these pictures of the Miss Ohio Contest in Mansfield










Pictures of the Mercer County Contestants &  2011 Miss Ohio

Click on smaller thumbnails to enlarge them. Above: Devon's life-long friends, Michelle Linn and Lisa Canary (left to right) enjoyed the Miss Ohio Contest while cheering-on Devon.


Devon with her buddy Gus.
Her platform was "Pet Adoption".
Miss Crystal Lake 20122

Miss Ohio 2011
Ellen Bryan

Jenna Sweigart
Miss Lake Festival 2011

Samantha Hartings
Miss Northwestern Ohio

Cayla Hellwarth
Miss Mansfield

Elissa McCracken Crowned Miss Ohio 2012
Congratulations go out to all Mercer County Contestants

By Sheila Baltzell

Devon Stansbury, Miss Crystal Lake and former Miss Celina Lake Festival, competed for the Miss Ohio crown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 21, 22, and 23 in Mansfield, Ohio. The Miss Ohio Scholarship Program is held every year at the Renaissance Theatre.  Devon 21, is a 2008 graduate of Parkway High School, Rockford, and graduated recently from the University of Cincinnati. She is the daughter of Marcia Ripley and Mark Woods of Rockford and Steve Stansbury of Rockford. A group of friends and family accompanied her and cheered her on.

Center is Devon in the opening show on Thursday night.



Devon was sponsored by Primrose Lake Retirement Communities and so was her good friend, Elissa McCracken, Miss West Central Ohio who is the new Miss Ohio 2012. Elissa won a $10,000 scholarship and the use of a car from Graham Auto for a year plus other prizes.  4th runner-up was Mahogany Fleming; 3rd runner-up was Kristin Free; 2nd runner-up was Angelica Francisco; and 1st runner-up was Elissa Brumbaugh.


Devon's hero, Parkway Middle School Secretary and Track Coach Michelle Agler, was honored onstage by Devon for being an inspiration, role model, and friend.

Others competing for the crown (from Mercer County) were: Cayla Hellwarth – Celina; Jena Sweigart, Celina; and Samantha Hartings, Coldwater.


The four young ladies competed in evening gown, swimsuit, platform, and talent over the two days of preliminaries. Devon completed a beautiful lyrical dance to rousing applause; Cayla and Jena both sang opera numbers with talented voices to the crowd’s appreciation; and Samantha paced a lovely lyrical dance as well. All of them showed grace and poise in their talent portions and onstage in every area. It was a pleasure to be there and see 25 contestants, the best in Ohio for 2012.

At left is Devon competing in her evening gown.


Emcee for the show was the 2011 reigning queen, Ellen Bryan, from Celina. She completed her tenure with a myriad of kudos from those on stage with her.  Not only did she complete a bicycle ride across the entire state last year, she raised money and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network as her goal. Several of the recipient children who knew Ellen came onstage with her to personally thank her. One little fellow said his word for the night was “sparkle”, and the gowns and crowns did!



Entertainers were Jackie Mayer, former Miss Ohio in 1962 and Miss America in 1963. She performed a skit about growing old, but she is still gorgeous after being out 50 years. The current Miss Teenage Ohio was there to lead gymnastic dancing routines by talented little girls. Ellen Bryan sang and danced with a back-up of talented dancers and musicians doing numbers form the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.


Above are the coats worn by Jackie Mayer during her reigns in 1962 and 1963.

Ellen is moving on to a job as a news anchor at the ABC affiliate in Lexington, KY. Devon, with a degree in communications, is taking a job in her chosen field as well.


Click Here for the contestants page on the Miss Ohio Website:

Click here for articles on the Mansfield Journal:

More pictures coming tomorrow.







Devon Rides in Mansfield Parade at Miss Ohio Week
Devon Stansbury
, and Jackie Mayer, a friend of Marcia Ripley, were in the parade  in Mansfield, Ohio. Marcia mentioned that her friend was former Miss Ohio in 1962 and Miss America in 1963. They rode in the parade on Sunday, and Devon was driven by Mark Woods in the Impala convertible owned by her late grandmother, Lucille Ketcham Ripley. Devon is competing this weekend in the Miss Ohio contest.








Devon Signs Pictures for Fans at Miss Ohio Week
Devon Stansbury, Miss Crystal Lake and her friend Miss West Central Ohio, Elissa McCracken, autograph pictures at the Richland Mall in Mansfield, Ohio. They rode in the parade today, and Devon was driven by Mark Woods in the Impala convertible owned by her late grandmother, Lucille Ketcham Ripley. Devon and Elissa are competing this weekend in the Miss Ohio contest.

School of Deaf in Columbus Teams with Parkway Softball
Coaches Share Sibling Bond and Rockford History
by Sheila Baltzell 5-5-2012

Shalyn Leighner and her brother Ross Leighner have roots in the Rockford area. Their parents are Diana (Fisher) and Rod Leighner who are both Parkway graduates living in Dayton, Ohio. Also, their grandparents are Gloria Fisher and Nancy Leighner of Rockford and the late Don Fisher and the late Roy Leighner.
They are a happy and close-knit family. And, Ross and Shalyn credit their interest in teaching special needs children to their mother, Diana, who was an occupational therapist at Vandalia Butler and then at London City Schools. Shalyn said with pride, “Ross and I developed our passion for special education from our mother’s work and dedication to the population.  She has played a key role in both of our career choices.”

But they also share a love of teaching. Ross is in his first year of teaching at the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from OSU with a degree in special education (B.S.Ed. Intervention Specialist).  He intends to pursue his masters in Applied Behavior Analysis. He teaches the elementary MD (multiple disabilities) classroom at OSD (grades K-4). Shalyn has a degree in BS in Special Education as well as a BS in Early Childhood Education with a Masters in Special Education from the University of Findlay.  She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership through Concordia University of Chicago. She is the Elementary Intervention Specialist at Parkway, having been there 4th years already .She is Parkway’s assistant varsity softball coach alongside head coach Mark Esselstein.

Ross is also in his first year of coaching softball. The program at Ohio School for the Deaf is only in its second season. He is learning alongside with his players.

According to Shalyn, she has learned a great deal about all of the "behind the scenes" work that goes along with coaching.  “Mark has let me work with our hitting style as well as our outfield and our pitchers,” she said.

As Ross and Shalyn compared notes on softball, they began to conceive an idea of bringing the two teams together. Shalyn explained it, “We are looking at it as being "Buddy Schools" for softball.  Out of this partnership, we get to share our passion for softball and the skills we have developed, and they expose a culture to us that our girls may never otherwise get the chance to experience.  A few of the girls have even received sign names from their OSD partners at this point!  Very exciting!”

They planned a softball mini-clinic at Parkway for the OSD players and coaches, and the OSD team traveled there on Tuesday, April 10th:  Although it was scheduled for the Varsity Diamond, the clinic and cook-out had to be pulled indoors due to bad weather. Shalyn explained, ”We didn't make it outside for the clinic, but it actually worked out in our favor.  Because of only having a few interpreters that day, it worked well to have everyone in close proximity.  We worked through several fundamental drills and just allowed the girls time to become acquainted with one another.  It was amazing how fast they overcame the language barrier and started enjoying one another as the nerves subsided.  I have a wonderful group of mothers who were able to move the meal inside for us on short notice.”

Ross mentioned that gifts were exchanged by the two groups; the OSD players gave gifts which were contributed by the Ohio School for the Deaf Booster's Club. Ross and Shalyn expressed a big thank you them for the gifts and to the Pond family from Rockford for the donation of Parkway T-shirts for the players on the OSD team.

Then on Monday, April 16th another planned event brought the OSD travelers to Minster to watch Parkway play an important league game. Our teams (Parkway & OSD) will never actually play against one another because we are in different leagues,” said Shalyn, “and we loved having the girls come to our game. They got to perform the National Anthem and it was beautiful!  Minster was gracious enough to host OSD and allow them to perform.  The girls enjoyed the spotlight and did a really nice, respectful job of the honor!  It was neat for everyone involved!  The girls sign only, and so performed the National Anthem in this way.  A few of the the girls have a little bit of verbal communication as well.  It is difficult for us to understand, and they often hold back in terms of speaking verbally because it is unfamiliar to them, as well, just as my girls are hesitant to sign anything.”

The Parkway girls are not able to speak sign language although they were picking a bit of it up after the first two meetings.  Two interpreters accompanied and were able to help them through the process as well as two hearing coaches who could help all the girls communicate.  “After a while, the language barrier did not seem to matter,” said Shalyn. “The girls got comfortable using the interpreters, and we made it work.  Both sides were very patient with the language barrier. None of my players sign, but each of them did learn how to introduce themselves in sign language for OSD's arrival! What a cool thing to see.”

Parkway players and coaches all traveled to OSD on Thursday, April 19th to hold another mini-clinic at the OSD homefield and to have dinner on OSD’s campus in Columbus.   “I know very little sign language. But when we were at Ross’ school, for the clinic, it was so wonderful to see how my brother has picked it up very quickly with only a few classes to get him started.  He says that being immersed in the language is the best way to learn.  He actually teaches elementary special education at OSD where he works with children with multiple disabilities who also happen to be deaf.  His players still give him a hard time and have to slow down for him at times. I am unbelievably proud of how quickly he has picked up the language and the work he is doing at OSD.  He is a great teacher and a wonderful role model for his players, “ said Shalyn. Parkway got to see the OSD team in action as they played in a scrimmage situation that night.  “We were all very curious to see how it worked as well.  They don't actually "hear" the count.  They have to stay focused in a different way than my girls do due to the fact that they cannot hear.  Everything is communicated through sign and the coaches have their own ways of getting the players' attention. We really enjoyed watching the game, especially after our dual clinics. “ We had run the OSD players through what we refer to as our "daily's" which include fundamental drills involving throwing progressions, infield/outfield defense, and hitting.  It was fun to see my girls take on the role of teaching the skills I have taught them, and I think the OSD players learned a lot.” said  Shalyn.

The Parkway and Ohio School for the Deaf coaches and players agreed that they felt the experience was beneficial not just in terms of softball skills, but also in the social and emotional skills learned when working with another culture. Some formed bonds of friendship that they intend to continue.




Dedication Ceremony Officially Begins Community Collaboration
Between Otterbein St. Mary Life Enrichment Center and Local YMCAs

Otterbein St. Marys wishes to extend its deepest appreciation for the efforts, drive and determination of their many friends, residents, partners and community leaders who assisted in making the Life Enrichment Center at Otterbein a reality. That was the message conveyed as the Otterbein Community officially dedicated the new facility. Fred Wiswell, executive director of Otterbein St. Marys, welcomed the large crowd in attendance for the ribbon cutting in early May 2012.

The Mercer-Auglaize County YMCA will operate the facility, headed by Allen Baskett, executive director, which is located on the Otterbein Campus at 11230 St. Rt. 364, St. Marys. The collaboration is the first of its kind in Ohio with a continuous care retirement community and a YMCA. The 11,500 foot facility is designed to meet the holistic wellness needs of seniors in Auglaize and Mercer Counties.

The Life Enrichment Center features: a Fitness Room with treadmills, NuStep, Precor Cardio and weight equipment; a Pool with warm water therapy/exercise, open swimming, water aerobics, spacious locker rooms and changing areas; an Exercise Room with yoga and Zumba Lite, balance/toning classes; senior fitness and more; a Lounge; and a Library & Computer/Internet access area.

The center is open to all Otterbein St. Marys residents and are seniors 60 and older with a current Y membership. Call Rita Hilty at 419-394-2366 for details.


Dr. James Hileman Speaks at 10th Annual Harvest Banquet
by Sheila Baltzell

Parkway Graduate of 1993 Recently Named Chief Advisor at FAA

Dr. James Hileman, 1993 Parkway Graduate, was the featured speaker at the Leota Braun Foundation’s Tenth Annual Harvest Banquet recently in Rockford.

Having just been named the Federal Aviation Commission’s new Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor, Office of Environment and Energy, Jim gave a delightful accounting of his activities since graduating from Parkway. He totally entertained the crowd of around 75 guests after a lovely meal and silent auction.

Blessed with a talent for science and math, Jim grew up on a farm near Rockford with his parents John and Ann Hileman. Travel was an important part of family life, and it set him up for the adventure he would eventually pursue. His big love as a child was playing with Lego’s, building and rebuilding different models including airplanes, so it was no surprise when he headed to Ohio State University after high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1998. Toward the end of his degree, he completed an internship, but found he did not like the work. The guidance office turned his head toward research, and it was in this area that he has spent the last 14 years ~ doing has he likes to say “playing and experimenting with toys”. “What could be more fun?” he asked the group. The decision on research  had a profound effect on his life.

Jim spent 10 years at OSU doing research trying to figure out how to make aircraft exhaust less noisy to the areas in and around airports. His group of researches were the first in over 50 years to ask the question of exhaust noise and study the data collect. He got to play with fun toys like lasers and real  & virtual wind tunnels where a cone forced air over a moving surface. He described his job as looking at 2 + 2 story problems that are open-ended and often for which there are no answers. So, his team used laser cameras that photographed the simulated icy flows on an “airplane” surface. The flash photography laser beam moved at the speed of 3 football fields a second and directed a laser beam  which took photography of how the  clouds moved at  over .00001 per second. The photos and computer software measured and collected data, and Jim earned his PhD and and had fun in the process.

Then in 2006 he moved 15 hours away from Ohio and into Boston, Massachusetts taking a position in research at the prestigious MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology in  Cambridge.  He reflected that on his first night there it snowed 30 inches. He took a post-doctoral associate job because he still wanted to do research. He got lucky at MIT when he learned he was going to design an airplane. Jim said, “My years as a child playing with Legos ~ making model airplanes ~ finally paid off.  While on that assignment he was called to work at the sister university in Cambridge England. The joint project lasted 2-1/2 years.

“Cambridge amazed me from the start ~ different languages were spoken there ~ it was founded in 1200 ~ I ate in a 15th century  dining hall. I was impressed with the oldness of the church and the buildings themselves,” said Jim. “I was a part of the SAI Silent Aircraft Initiative, and we did most of our work using a new technology called skyping as we worked with many experts from around the world on the intricate details of how sound is created. Once again we posed a question: ‘How can we fix this sound problem?’ ”

Eventually Jim’s Cambridge team, with the help of Boeing in Seattle, came up with the design for an aircraft they called SAX40, a transatlantic passenger aircraft. Jim was back in “Lego heaven” and spent 3 years with the most brilliant people he had ever met.  The SAX40 had the potential to burn fuel 25% better than the modern day aircraft.  But it had some drawbacks like no windows ~ and the lay people liked to remind the scientists that “guys in academia have no clue with reality”.

Looking ahead, and figuring that SAX40 was 20 years down the road of actually being built. Cambridge and Jim turned to a new project,  Subsonic Civil Transport which was funded by NASA. Jim oversaw the project just 3 years ago with a woman from Spain designing the engine Jim thought it was the wrong design, but soon realized with his new tam that a new set of eyes can tweak what you have already created. NASA helped them create a prototype that was 70% more efficient than today’s aircraft. NASA set targets and the Cambridge team met them. The new design called the “Double-Bubble Aircraft” knocked emissions down and made better use of jet fuel. The Spanish scientist soon became Jim’s wife and they now have a son named Santiago.  Jim was now working on Alternative Fuels Research with grant money Climate change needs are more important than noise.  He poses the question: “What are the environmental effects of aviation?”

What are the newest alternative fuels? We are looking at bios (corn, algae  trees) and feed stocks – the latest and newest ideas for airplanes with run on liquid fuels. He thinks ahead to 2030 and asks where will we be getting our fuels. He wonders in 2050 what will the planet be like then?  The planet is warmer, a physics fact, due to CO2. “Our buried fuels are being released into the atmosphere. What if it gets wetter, dryer or flooded? What will this do to farmers? Are we doing irreversible things? Unfortunately there is no instant feedback on
CO2 ramifications?

Jim cited that one flight from Boston to Dubai takes 1200 barrels of jet fuel. (42 gallons per barrel. All in all, we use 21 million barrels of fuel a year on air flights. Someone in the Leota Braun crowd asked him about ethanol.  He said 1/5 of the corn grown in the USA is made into ethanol but it only makes it into 10% of the gasoline we use. “We need ethanol to be transparent, so we use it all the time, but don’t see it.

So Jim was recently hired by the Federal Aviation Administration as the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor, Office of Environment and Energy. His new job entails leading research to evaluate and lower aircraft noise, emission, and  energy use. Jim is excited about his new adventure.  


Wood’s work for adopted children receives national acclaim

WARWICK, RI – Patrice Wood, a long-time champion for children in Rhode Island, was honored in Washington, DC, today by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) as part of the organization’s 13th annual Angels in Adoption awards. Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) nominated Wood as an Angel for her work as a news anchor for WJAR-NBC 10. He highlighted her Tuesday’s Child segment, which has raised awareness of adoption issues for more than 11 years.


“Children and families in Rhode Island have been extremely fortunate to have Patrice as their advocate,” said Langevin. “Her tireless efforts to provide every child in Rhode Island a permanent loving home deserve our recognition, gratitude and support.”


Since September 2000, Wood has filmed 380 separate episodes of Tuesday’s Child, partnering with Adoption Rhode Island and investing herself in the media recruitment of permanent adoptive families. Over 220 children have been highlighted, with more than 60 percent being matched with permanent families. Some of the episodes also feature families that have adopted. Wood shows adoption as a positive way to build a family by showing real families, real successes and real stories.

Wood, who is an adoptive mom herself, has brought particular public attention to the increasing need for sibling groups to find adoptive homes where they can live together. There have been 27 different sets of siblings featured on Tuesday’s Child, including five sets of three siblings and one set of four siblings. All of these sibling groups are now in permanent homes.

Holly Patrice Wood is a native of Rockford and is the daughter of Virginia Wood of Celina, the sister of Sheila Baltzell Celina and Colleen O’Steen of Huntsville, Alabama.




Parkway Graduate, Gene Standiford, Part of the Boeing Engineering Team, Sees First Delivery of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.

"What a Great rainy day!" said Gene

1972 Parkway graduate, Gene Standiford, has been a part of the Boeing Team in Everett, Washington for 19 years. He has been a part of Boeing’s newest jetliner, the 787, (Fuel-Efficient) Dreamliner since 2005. The first test flight was conducted in December 2009, and in March 2010, the 4th jet in the fleet was brought into service in test flights in Victorville, California. On September 26, 2011, he saw the first delivery take place!

On  December 15, 2009, the maiden flight ( 3 min 9 sec) of the first 787 Dreamliner took place over Seattle and Gene as
Click Here for the YouTube video clip of the December 15, 2009 maiden flight.   

Click Here for Boeing Information on the inaugural flight and statistics.  

Click Here to talk to Gene on Facebook.


View of the western sky on the morning of 9-27-2011over Parkway Local Schools: a rare rainbow.


Parkway Graduates Celebrate 1st Year Anniversary in Fitness Venture ~ Muscleheads Gym Operates at 1419 State Route 197

Open House Celebration Planned for Saturday, September 10, 2011 - Noon to 4 pm
Meet Professional Body Builders: 2010 Mr. Ohio Travis Bransteter and Mike Stearns and Retired Professional Mike Wolfe


Eric Baltzell’s and Aaron Kuhn’s love of free-weight lifting and body-building has turned into a thriving business for them in Celina, Ohio. Muscleheads Gym, which opened in August of 2010, is home to a specific niche in the fitness industry, that of free-weights and body building.

The 1990 and 1993 graduates, respectively,  are friends who played on the Parkway Panther Football Team throughout their school years. Weight lifting was an important part of the football program, and the two continued their regimen after high school and have lifted together year round for the past 15 years. During this time they used the YMCA and Breakaway in Celina, but when the YMCA closed their free weight room and consolidated only some of the equipment (that Eric and Aaron used) into a fitness center, the pair found themselves without a place to lift. A local man bought-out the YMCA pieces and started his own place in town, but later he decided to sell the business to Eric and Aaron, and their new venture called Muscleheads Gym moved to the location they now have at 1419 SR 197)in the old Wissman Door Company building east of town.  Above: Mike, Aaron and Eric. Below: Ed Kuhn, Parkway art teacher and Aaron's brother, painted the mural on the wall. 

The gym is going great-guns because they fill a niche that other fitness centers in the area do not. Eric and Aaron provide a place where serious body-builders and power-lifters can train and prepare for competition with Muscleheads Gym in-house trainer and manager, world class power lifting professional, Mike Wolfe, who is now retired from competing. In 2007, Mike took 2nd place in the Arnold Swartzenegger Competition in Columbus, bench-pressing 860 lbs.  He was 3rd in the world in his weight class, as well. He is still a lifter, but no longer competes.

Wolfe professionally trains several people at Muscleheads Gym who have recently won some big state competitions. Ryan Miller and Randy Francis competed in Cincinnati at the Southwestern Powerlifting Federation Sweat Shop Bench Press contest on July 9, 2011. Miller came in first in his class of 181, and pressing 475 lbs; Francis, a national record-holder, competed in the masters 165 lb class and pressed 380.  

Randy Houseworth, Minster Police Chief, recently came in first in the Ohio Police and Fire Games in the Masters Heavyweight Class and is Top 10 in the world in that division.

Seth Hippley, of Rockford and a 16 year old student at Parkway also won a competition at the Lima YMCA where he pressed 500 lbs. The record for teens is 525 lbs, and Seth is working on breaking that record at an upcoming sanctioned meet.

Trevor Bransteter, another local member, lifts but does not compete. His brother, Travis, continues his own body building program with free weights in Columbus. Travis won the title of Mr. Ohio in 2010 at the Ohio State Bodybuilding Show in Columbus, Ohio. 

Eight to ten women also train and three compete. Kelly Pummel, Lorrie Loughridge, and Kelly Whitaker each placed at recent events.  Lorrie came in 5th at a meet in Cincinnati at her first competition. Kelly competed in body building in Ft. Wayne Indiana and came in 3rd.

 Eric and Aaron are very pleased with the way the interest in Muscleheads Gym has grown over the past year. They fill a specific free weight niche for their lifting clientele.  They have a wide range of free weight lifting options for the athlete. They have a few cardio pieces like a treadmill, exercise bike and elliptical machine, but these are only used in conjunction with a lifting program. They  also do tire flipping, sleds and use sledges on tires for cardio. There is a Smith lifting machine with safety features built-in. All areas of lifting have plenty of leg room for men. There is a boxing bag, too. Eric said Muscleheads Gym differs from other fitness businesses in the area that offer cardio machines either by set program usage or free-will use or exercise programs.

Mike Wolf explained that some of his trainees only compete on the bench press and train on it 2 times a week. Power lifters, however, do squats and dead-lifts as they rotate to different muscle groups during workouts. Some of the bodybuilders work out 5 days a week. There are also some who simply lift for specific sports training. Mike said, “Sunday morning at 9 AM is bench press training time. The Muscleheads Gym bench press is a top-of-the-line FORZA Competitive Professional Bench Press, which is highly revered as the best press for serious trainers.

Eric explained that while they promote the gym to 18 year olds and older; they take younger athletes with supervision. “It is a gym just like we always wanted,” agreed the three of them. We are pleased to offer the passion of lifting with music we love, we caulk-up on the equipment, offer high-fives, and the screams and grunts of heavy lifting.” Eric said, “It is hard-core fun in a non-intimidating environment. It is a place where lifters do fit-in!” Aaron said, “ We are so glad to have Mike as our trainer and manager. His passion is definitely there for his students. He works well with and recognizes the good and upcoming lifters.

All members of Muscleheads Gym must sign a waiver. The gym is open 24-7 to members. The monthly fees are singles for $33; couples for $49 and students and military for $25. Signing up for a year gives the member a discount of one free month. Contact Mike at 419-953-9009 or Eric at 419-305-7253.

Aaron and Eric are planning an Open House Celebration for Saturday, September 10, 2011 from  Noon to 4 pm. The public is invited to meet Professional Body Builders: 2010 Mr. Ohio Travis Bransteter and Mike Stearns and Retired Professional Mike Wolfe. These three men will actually be training during the open house and will answer questions in regards to fitness, lifting, diet, etc.  It will be an informal meet and greet at the gym.

Muscleheads Gym Operates at 1419 State Route 197.

Click on smaller thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.



Wolfe lifts a 200 lb weight.








Parkway Local Schools Create “Academic Alumni Hall of Fame”
Recipients Named During Parkway Academic Awards Night on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Academic Alumni Hall of Fame began this school year, according to high school guidance counselor, Mrs. Mickey McConahay. The goal for the Academic Alumni Hall of Fame is to recognize successful former students, who have contributed to their profession and community while practicing character qualities such as perseverance, self-discipline, curiosity, honesty, responsibility, etc. This serves as an example for current students and former graduates as well as all of the community.

Criteria for nomination are: graduate of Parkway Local Schools (including Willshire, Rockford, Mendon-Union, and Parkway); graduated at least ten years prior to nomination; give time to enhance their profession; and demonstrate leadership, citizenship, and volunteerism.

A plaque will be displayed in the high school for students and community members to see frequently stated Mrs. McConahay.

Parkway Local Schools Academic Alumni Hall of Fame Recipients for 2011  include: Mrs. Monica (Vian) Fullenkamp - Class of 1999; Mrs. Vendetta (Young) Gutshall - Class of 1969; Mr. Tom Lyons - Class of 1991; Colonel Joseph V. Schmidt - Class of 1981.

Mrs. Monica (Vian) Fullenkamp, 1999 graduate of Parkway High School, pursued these educational degrees: Lima Technical College, Associate of Applied Science in Medical Imaging Technology in 2001; Radiation Therapy Technology certificate in 2002; Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Professions in 2005; Master of Science in Allied Medicine Mgt. in 2009.

Mrs. Fullenkamp has been employed with the James Cancer Hospital & Research Institute at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, OH, since 2002. She is a staff Radiation Therapist & lead CT Simulation Therapist.

Her achievements include these accolades: 2010 Clinical Instructor of the Year selection by students at OSU; Captain of Quiz Bowl Team which earned 2nd place at Chicago Area Radiation Therapy Conference; Received Academic Achievement Award for Medical Imaging Technology Class of 2001 from Lima Tech.

Mrs. Vendetta (Young) Gutshall, 1969 graduate of Parkway High School, pursued these educational degrees: Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with Social Studies Major; Psychology Minor in 1973 from Huntington University (Cum Laude); Masters in Special Education from St. Francis College in 1975; Administrative Certification from Ball State in 1993.

Mrs. Gutshall has been employed as Director of Special Services at Huntington-Whitely Special Services for 18 years & as an Adjunct Professor at Huntington University & IPFW.

Her achievements include these accolades: IN Source Administrator of the Year in 2001 and Huntington Co. Community School Corporation President’s Award in 1992 while Assistant Principal. In addition, during her 38 years in the field of education, Vendetta implemented a Student Assistance Program for students experiencing challenges with alcohol & other drugs as well as an in-school suspension program to keep students in school while serving disciplinary consequences. Her Community Service includes membership on Citizens for a Drug Free Community board, Youth Services Bureau, Easter Seals, Mental Health, United Way, First Steps, and her church. Professionally she has been an officer for the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education & has been asked to serve on many Indiana Board of Education task forces. She has also mentored many interns working on their Director of Special Education licenses.

Mr. Tom Lyons, 1991 graduate of Parkway High School, pursued these educational degrees: Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Lima Tech; Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from BGSU; and Master’s Degree in Nurse Anesthesia from Oakland University in Rochester Hills, MI.

Mr. Lyons is currently self-employed (Lyon’s Anesthesia) and has been contracting with Van Wert County Hospital since 2004.

His achievements include these accolades: Nominated as one of top two students in MSN class for performance and academics.; has taught nursing students at the LPN level; and  is currently a member of the Parkway Local School Board as well as serving on the Governance Board for his church.

Colonel Joseph V. Schmidt, 1981 graduate of Parkway High School, pursued these educational degrees: 1985 Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado; 1989 Squadron Officer School in Alabama; 1991 Outstanding Graduate at the US Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada; 1998 Air Command & Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in AL; 2000 Master’s Degree in Aerospace Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida; 2002 Air War College in Alabama; 2009 Joint & Combined Warfighting School from Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia.

Colonel Schmidt is currently on active duty as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. His job title is Director of the Joint Interoperability Division, U.S. Joint Forces Command where he is responsible for the planning, programming & conduct of the Joint Tactical Operations Interoperability Training Program for the U.S. Department of Defense. He provides graduate level training for 2,200 students annually from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, & Marine Corps & various U.S. allied countries throughout the world and maintains a deployable cell of data-link experts to support worldwide combat operations.

His achievements include these accolades: Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal; Aerial Achievement Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; Air Force Achievement Medal; Air Force Outstanding Unit with Valor; Combat Readiness Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Korean Defense Service Medal.

Colonel Schmidt moved up through the air force ranks from 2nd Lieutenant in 1985 to 1st Lieutenant in 1987 to Captain in 1989 to Major in 1997 to Lieutenant Colonel in 2001 and finally to full Colonel in 2007.

Congratulations to all of these deserving men and women. The Parkway communities are proud to call you their own.


My Memories of “The Thoroughfare”
Submitted to the Parkway Independent by Bob Van Fleet
July 1, 2011

I never knew why it was called “the thoroughfare” but I remember it as an almost magical kind of place because it was as close to wilderness as we got in our part of Ohio, but also because I have such vivid and wonderful memories of being there with my Grandpa Van Fleet.

Every time I visit Rockford I go out to the bridge on 127 north of Mercer and walk west back the road for a half mile or so to a big bend in the St. Marys River where Grandpa made his camp for turtle trapping. It still looks exactly as I remember it.

Grandpa had a big army surplus wall tent which housed him, me, and usually Loren (Skinny) Loro and George Kinder. As I recall we'd be there for several days or a week (but you know how things remembered are always bigger or lasted longer than they really were). I do know that those experiences and what I learned from Grandpa at the river formed the most profound and fundamental values that have guided my life. Those experiences came while I was less than 11 years old – Grandpa died in 1957.

Part of Grandpa's life  was being a business man who owned Van Fleet's Drug Store, but it was clear that where he really “lived” was at the river. His wife, Ethel, was a very elegant, well - dressed lady who never went with Grandpa on his outdoor trips. She was not a river rat at all!

Grandpa had made snapping turtle traps out of fence and chicken wire. They were about the size of a 55 gallon oil drum and they had a cone-shaped opening at one end so turtles could swim into them but they couldn't get back out. What drew them in was a wire mesh bag of chicken heads (from Anspach's poultry plant). We'd go out in the boat both morning and evening to run the traps, take out any turtles we'd caught, and put in fresh bait. My job was to take the old bait bags up on the river bank to dump them.  After a night or so in the river they had a rather pungent fragrance! As I recall Grandpa used to put out 10 or 12 traps along a stretch of the river. The bigger turtles had shells nearly two feet in diameter and their beaks were pretty scary – they could take a big chunk out of someone's finger. Usually there would also be some painted turtles and soft shell turtles in the traps, but Grandpa would always release these back into the river. 

After checking the traps we'd come back to camp and Grandpa would butcher the turtles immediately. Of course we had no refrigeration out there, so he may have taken the meat back into town for storage. I do remember though that he had devised a cooler of sorts out of a five gallon bucket encased in sawdust inside a big cardboard box. This served as our “cooler” for camp supplies and it worked well. Grandpa was a genius when it came to “devising” things.

At night we'd go out in the boat to snare bullfrogs which would perch and make their calls along the river banks. Grandpa would shine a flashlight on them, then snare them under the “chin” with a big fish hook.

Grandpa would freeze enough turtle meat to last till the next trip the following summer. When Grandmother cooked it I remember it as one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. Grandpa never wasted anything he killed. He once shot a ground hog which he, of course, took home and had Grandmother cook it. As I recall, its aroma while cooking was not good and I'm sure it got eaten, but Grandpa never shot another one.

Grandpa also took me on squirrel-hunting float trips through all of the thoroughfare from the 127 bridge to the Frysinger bridge just east of Rockford. Grandmother Van Fleet helped to shuttle two vehicles so we could launch at 127 and end the day with a car and trailer to take out at the Frysinger bridge.

All day we'd float slowly and quietly while Grandpa would hunt squirrels out of the oak trees along the river. There was little or no conversation that I recall on these trips, but Grandpa would impart bits of his vast knowledge about the natural world to me as we went. For a little kid these trips were more magical than Disneyland could ever be. My memories of them are as clear as if they had happened last year.

A later memory of the thoroughfare involved me and my good river rat friend, Tim Fox. We were probably in high school so this was in the early 1960's. We hauled a bunch of corrugated metal roofing back to a place near Grandpa's old camp site where we built a kind of lean-to shelter between two trees. We called it the “Sugar Shack” - remember that song? We never did much with it after it was built, but I vaguely remember spending one night there. There was snow on the ground and it was very cold!

On my last visit to Rockford a few years ago I went out to the 127 bridge and was pleased to see signs posting this area as some kind of nature preserve, thanks in part to then owner, George Wilson (father of my classmate of 1964, Carl Wilson). I hope this area will be preserved forever. I think it has shrunk somewhat as farm land has encroached, but it is still one of the biggest chunks of “wilderness” I know of in that area. Whatever becomes of “the thoroughfare”, I will always remember what it meant to a little kid being there with his Grandpa.


Editor’s Note: Thank you to Bob Van Fleet for sharing this wonderful information with the Parkway Independent readers. Send your memories to Sheila Baltzell at


Eagles' Nest Spotted Between Mercer and Rockford Villages
An eagles' nest has been confirmed by Ryan Garrison, Mercer County Wildlife Official. Garrison said the pair of eagles he spotted appear to be incubating on a nest.

Editor' note: Located back in the wilds of the St. Marys River bottom, more commonly referred to by locals in the area as the "thoroughfare", the nest is back in a dense and inaccessible area of the river with viewing of the nest difficult at best.  "The thoroughfare has been the legendary home to wild animals in the past including unconfirmed sightings of bears and coyote," said Sheila Baltzell, whose late husband Larry used to hunt raccoon regularly in the rough, thick, area and passed on the stories to her.

Do you remember the thoroughfare? Send your experiences to


New Celina Moving and Storage, Inc. Holds Gala Grand Opening

Celina Moving and Storage, Inc. recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony at their Grand Opening Celebration of their new state of the art facility just off State Route 29, east of Celina. The building includes office space of 6,500 square feet and a warehouse of 62,000 square feet. Rob Kraner, President and Owner of Celina Moving cut the ribbon. Additional participants are State Representative Jim Buchy, Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue, Frank DeBrosse (aide to Speaker John Boehner), Celina-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce President Betty DuBry along with several chamber trustees and Celina Moving staff.  In addition, two representatives from Atlas Van Lines, Inc. Mark Spiehler and Dennie Lynn came from corporate headquarters in Evansville, Indiana to attend the event. Over 300 people attended the festivities throughout the day which included delicious food and a tour of the new office and warehouse.

Family owned and operated, the Atlas Van Lines Interstate Agent, is proud to be part of the Celina community since 1960. Rob Kraner, Parkway graduate of 1991, became an owner in 1998 and carries on the Atlas tradition of integrity, quality and solutions. For more information contact Celina Moving and Storage, Inc. at 419-586-7731. 



Stansbury Vies for Miss Ohio 2011
Devon Stansbury, of Rockford, Ohio is currently in Mansfield participating in Miss Ohio Week as a contestant of Miss Ohio. There are 26 contestants competing for the title of Miss Ohio. On Friday, June 10, 2011 our own Devon Stansbury, Miss Lake Festival modeled in a fashion show at Richland Mall and was introduced by the current Miss Ohio, Becky Minger. She also gave out her photo, and signed autographs for her fans. Devon is having a fun time with all of the girls, the on-lookers and activities involved!









Steve Thompson Gives the Log Cabin a Sprucing-Up

Steve Thompson, along with being the driving force to get the solar lighting on the flagpole at Shanes Park, has recently done some sprucing up at the Anthony Shane Log Cabin. Steve volunteered his time to The Historical Society and painted the logs on the outside and he is ¾ finished. In addition, he replaced the rotting back door and threshold by making a completely new one. It is fashioned with ship-lap joints from oak planks from a barn of the late John Gamble. These special old-style joints are then sealed with caulk to prevent rot. See picture. Another project coming up is some rewiring.


“So many classes come here on tours,” said Steve. “It is important to me and the Historical Society that we keep up with improvements that come along with a log cabin.”

In addition, Steve has repainted all of the 4 entry Rockford Corporation signs.  Made of cast aluminum, Steve spent many hours prepping and repainting to the original authentic state. He found them all in pictures in the 159 or 1960 Rockford High School Yearbook. The Historical Society bought new poles for the 4 and Steve installed them. This was all volunteer time as well.

“I was down here this summer on the evening the solar light was installed. I woke my granddaughter, 10 year old Alaina, up and asked if she’d like to go down and see if the solar light was working. She had heard me telling of working on it. She belongs to my daughter Julie from Columbus. So at 10 PM, she went with me in her pajamas to see the flag lit at night. We were both excited that it was working!

We talked about the memorial bricks, and I showed her Uncle Paul’s. You don’t forget those memories.”


Dr. Sell Named 37th Recipient of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce
Citizen of the Year After Return from Mission Trip to Haiti
Story by Sheila Baltzell, Pictures by Mary Beougher and Dr. Jerry Sell

On Thursday, October 28, 2010 the Rockford Chamber of Commerce named the village’s physician, Jerry Sell, MD, as the 37th Citizen of the Year.

“Dr. Sell has lived nearly his entire life in Rockford, serving the community, the church and those in need around the world,” said Dennis Hecht, 2009 recipient, as he introduced the surprised winner. “His presence in our community has been a blessing.”

Jerry, when reflecting on his award and his lifelong stewardship, said, “It has always been a team effort” as he smiled at his wife of  43 years,  the former Connie Beougher. They have been together since juniors at Rockford High School.  After graduating, they married, and Connie was by his side when he attended Middletown School of Nursing, during his stint in the US Army from 1967-1970 as a preventative medicine instructor in Texas. His service led to the Army Commendation Medal for acts of heroism and extraordinary or meritorious service. When the couple returned to Ohio, he received his: bachelor in science microbiology degree - cum laude in 1970; medical degree - cum laude in 1976; and residency at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Dayton in 1979, which was for “family medicine” practice.  He completed additional training in full-range and surgical obstetrics. He explained that the whole family concept is the most efficient way to treat patients because the doctor knows their history better.

Jerry, Connie and their two young children, Jennifer and Jonathan, came to live in Rockford in 1979 and set up a practice that opened July 13, 1979. “Jerry saw 31 patients that day! We were amazed at the response,” said Connie.  Jerry explained that former Rockford physician, the late R. Duane Bradrick, had retired the month before, and the village had been without a doctor. The Rockford Medicine Associates practice quickly filled-up.  He has seen many patients over the years, but he still remembers his very first one. Although he delivered babies in his practice from the start, he was forced to quit due to the high cost of malpractice insurance and legislation that paved the way for deliveries by obstetricians only. He continues to take care of the newborns and their mothers, though, once they are released from the delivering doctor.

In the past, Jerry has served as chief of staff at Van Wert County Hospital and as team doctor for the Parkway Football Team. He offered free sports physicals, and helped open a free pre-natal health clinic in Van Wert.

The international component to this story features Dr Jerry Sell, and his wife Connie, as caring mission workers who have in the past traveled at their own expense to Honduras through the Global Health Organization. Jerry went three times; Connie went once. Jerry was part of a team surgical effort to provide free surgeries to the indigent. Connie helped register patients in the donated eye glasses project.

Most recently, Jerry felt a calling to help in Haiti. He contacted the Global Health Organization, but learned that, although they can go there, they were not serving in Haiti. He was referred to an organization he highly praised, called Samaritan’s Purse. As an established mission serving Haiti prior to the devastating earthquake in 2009, and founded by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, Jerry found it a well-organized machine that mainly does construction work.  Builders from all over the world donate their time to build homes for the people of Haiti, which since the earthquake is a completely failed state. There are 5000-6000 new “houses” built already. They are teaching people how to use rain barrels to catch the daily rains. Their medical project is a small effort, but at least supplies were there, however meager. Jerry said, “The United Nations has taken over the country with armed military troops from Sri Lanka carrying  machine guns. They are the big reason that there is order in Haiti, although the people resent their presence.” 









Dr. Sell’s team was based out of Léogâne, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. He stayed in a secure compound surrounded with concertina wire which had semi-modern facilities. The team traveled by helicopter from the Port au Prince airport (only one terminal is operating) to camp and by a Land Rover to the basic medical “tent” clinic set-up for them (with supplies provided) in the community of Cupidon, an impoverished, crime-prone district. Jerry explained, “Life is basic for the people of Haiti, and we (other doctors, including Haitians were there, too) saw pediatric infectious diseases, typhoid, malaria, parasites, and skin infections. It was easy to see why there are so many health issues. In a short stretch of the mountain stream fed river: a man washed his car, a cow was defecating, a woman was washing clothes, and another woman was gathering drinking water for her family. After I left, cholera broke out.” 




There is much destruction said Dr. Sell. Roads are broken, bridges are wiped-out, bandits are everywhere. People hang onto the backs and tops of vehicles to catch- a- ride. One day on return from the medical site, the team came upon a horrible two box-truck head-on collision. They carried boxes of spaghetti and bags of flour. Compounding the problem were 22 or so people riding on or hanging in the trucks. There were deaths, serious injuries and trapped people. They improvised: the Rover driver using a truck jack handle as a jaws-of-life; and Dr Sell, spaghetti boxes to splint compound bone fractures. His interpretor helped with the native Creole language. Help was slow, though.

Ohio Rep. Jim Zehringer spoke at the banquet, as did former dean of Wright State University - Lake Campus Dr. James Sayer.

The entire staff from his office in Rockford came for a picture of him with the award as did his family including, his wife, daughter Jennifer Armstrong and son-in-law Jeff, grandchildren, Riley, Claire and Jace. His mother-in-law, Romola Beougher and step-mother, Pauline Sell were not able to attend. Jonathan, the Sell’s son, from Georgia, was not able to come to the event.  Jerry’ parents are the late Carl and Martha Sell. Posted Story 11-23-2010

Click on smaller thumbnails below to enlarge them.

A patient

Street Scene

Tent Clinic

Sunsets were pretty

Finger injury

Aerial view


Children, with Dr Sell
by a tree

register and wait.

Someone cooked
for him - goat meat(?),
beans and rice

Parkway Grad Writes New Book on the History of Northwest and West-Central Ohio

John Vining, a 1973 graduate of Parkway High School, recently published his first book, entitled The Trans-Appalachian Wars, 1790-1818: Pathways to America’s First Empire (Trafford Publishing, 2009).  In this book, John chronicles the conquest of that area of the United States between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, which was acquired early in the history of the United States.

John first became interested in the military history of this area through somewhat of a chance event. “In the early 1990s,” Vining relates, “I had to make a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana. As I was consulting the atlas to check the route, I noticed a ‘Battle of Mississinewa’ on the map.  Being a life-long student of history and having studied the Civil War in some depth, I knew there had been no Civil War battles that far north.  I decided to make a slight detour and check out the battle site. I found it to be a cavalry raid conducted during the War of 1812!  My interest was piqued and I began to ask other questions.  Why was there a ‘Fort Adams’ in Mercer County?  Why was  ‘Fort Jennings’ built in the middle of the Great Black Swamp? What is ‘Old Fort?’ Most importantly, why would Ohio spend money to reconstruct War of 1812-era ‘Fort Meigs’ in Toledo?  It must be pretty important for some reason!”

In continuing his research, John was amazed to find that there existed a wealth of information about American military struggles between 1790 to 1818.  What really drew him into the subject was that there did not seem to be a flowing narrative that knitted this information together under any particular theme, such as “empire building.”  Thus, John perceived a historical niche that needed to be filled, and he commenced the writing of the book. John found that to do the subject justice, he needed to focus on five phases of the conquest of the area: The Indian (or Woodland) Wars of 1790 – 1795, The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest (1811-1813), The Creek War (1813-1814), The War of 1812 in the Old Southwest (1814-1815), and The Stabilization of the Gulf Coast (1811-1818), which includes the First Seminole War (1817-1818).

These conflicts basically had a common thread that united them: they served as political/military vehicles for the expansion of the territory of the United States: in other words, they served to foster “empire building.” In each, the struggle against the nature of the land itself was nearly as great as that against human enemies.  The Trans-Appalachian Wars was written  to serve as an educational primer for some of the most interesting, yet possibly least documented (at least in flowing narrative form) and understood struggles which ever occurred the North American continent.

John also felt that readers might enjoy two other aspects of Northwest and West Central Ohio: 1) A brief summary of Revolutionary War military activity in the Midwest (which is supplied in an appendix), and 2) how Western Ohio was “conquered economically” (which is covered in the last chapters of the book).

“The book was fun and interesting to write,” Vining concludes, “but the ‘business’ part of writing and publishing is a whole ’nother story.  This part was challenging, to say the least!”

The Trans-Appalachian Wars is available at John’s publisher’s website, . It is also available at, Barnes & Noble, Borders, or other well-known bookstores.   “I really hope people read and enjoy the book,” says Vining.  “This is such a historically significant area, yet few people know it.”

Bodybuilder Bransteter Wins Title of Mr. Ohio
Travis Bransteter, a 1995 Parkway graduate, competed in The Ohio State Bodybuilding Show in Columbus, Ohio on September 18, 2010, winning and earning him the title of Mr. Ohio.

Travis started lifting in high school for football. After school he worked as a personal trainer at the Celina Powerhouse Gym. It was there that he met a former bodybuilder Nick Silette and was told by him that he thought Travis had a lot of potential.

The next step was finding and getting ready for his first show. He entered the Glass City Bodybuilding Show in Toledo. He won that show and many others over the years, always having his sights on Mr. Ohio.








Miss Celina Lake Festival Queen 2010 is Rockford's Very Own Devon Stansbury
Photos courtesy of Jerry Deitsch

Congratulations go out to Devon Stansbury, 20, of Rockford and a 2008 Parkway graduate,  who took the Celina Miss Lake Festival Queen 2010 crown on Monday, July 19, 2010, winning over a field of eight contestants.  Devon, an accomplished dancer, performed a lyrical dance to the song "Free Fallin' " in the talent portion of the program. She also competed in the evening gown and swimsuit categories at the Celina Fieldhouse. Devon took home the top Miss Lake Festival scholarship money of $3,800 plus $300 for her On-Stage Interview and collected $200 for the People's Choice award.

Named first runner-up was Jena Sweigart, 18, a senior at Celina High School. She is the daughter of Jim and Jane Sweigart. Rachel Hertenstein, 18, was the second runner-up with Samantha Hartings, 18, taking 3rd runner-up.

Miss Ohio 2009 Erica Gelhaus entertained.

Devon competed in June 2010 in the Miss Ohio pageant under her title of Miss Mohican Valley. Devon's Miss Lake Festival title assures that she will be returning to the 2011 Miss Ohio Pageant.

Thank you to photographer Jerry Deitsch of Celina for sharing these pictures of Devon with the Parkway Independent readers. 







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