The following is my article reprinted from today's New Castle Courier-Times. I had the pleasure of seeing Ron Keaton's show and meeting him in Indy. It was well done on every level.
New Castle native and professional actor Ron Keaton is bringing his signature adaptation, “Churchill,” to Richmond for one show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29. It will benefit two theater groups that remain near and dear to the actor: Richmond Civic Theatre, venue of the performance, and Nettle Creek Players.
Nettle Creek Players Board President Jeff Dickey said proceeds from the $25 tickets will be split between both theater groups. Tickets are available at the RCT box office at 765-962-1816 or the RCT website at gorct.org.
“This production of ‘Churchill’ is Ron’s way of giving something of himself back to our organizations,” Dickey says. “All of us have been involved with the performing arts since those days with Nettle Creek Players.”
Keaton worked with both theaters in his early years, but the Chicago resident says that while he has been fortunate to work in front of many people, he hasn’t “worked back home since the mid ‘70s. Should be a lot of fun.”
Since its debut in August 2014, “Churchill” has been performed an estimated 350 times around the country.
When asked how he feels about bringing the production to his home turf, Keaton says, “Nervous. Excited. And ready as I can be.”
A 1972 New Castle graduate, where he served as class president, Keaton says he has been a full-time actor since performing with Nettle Creek Players in 1971, which amounts to his entire adult life.
Dickey says he is looking forward to having Keaton back in town for what he calls “an amazing production,” and also looks forward to spending time with old friends and reminiscing about the theater’s early days “under the tent” in Hagerstown.
“Plus, Ron will be meeting with our cast and crew for this season and talking with them about what the summer ‘under the tent’ will mean to them and the lessons and skills they will learn and develop during the season,” Dickey said.
In a file Courier-Times article about his career, Keaton says, “I mark my beginnings from the old Nettle Creek Players tent in Hagerstown, an organization that thrived there for 30 years. I was part of the first five years or so; it taught me so much about my own abilities.”
He wrote the solo “Churchill” play based on a teleplay by a Churchill scholar that played on PBS in the 1980s. “I also did endless research on my own of the man and feel like I know him well,” he told The Courier-Times in a file story.
Keaton remarked that Americans loved British Prime Minister Churchill and he returned that love. “He was half-American; his mother was from Brooklyn. His father was a hard man – politician, military man who raised Winston and his brother Jack with an iron hand,” the actor says.
When asked what he has to say to Courier-Times readers about attending the performance, Dickey says “they should come to see ‘Churchill’ to see what their hometown native has done with his art. Then come to see the Nettle Creek Players and enjoy the show. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
Says Keaton, “And to the hometown folks, I say what any good actor would say – come to the show! – and thank you for everything.”
For more about Nettle Creek Players and the summer schedule, visit nettlecreekplayers.com or call 765-312-2722.
Built into our garage ceiling is a set of pull-down attic stairs. When we moved into the house 21 years ago, stashing things up there that we don't routinely use sounded like a great idea.
Into the rafters went the boys' special baby clothes joined by my prom dresses and Brian's childhood accordion. It seemed an ideal spot for our Christmas decorations, not to mention other off-season decor of fall garlands and spring floral wreaths.
Once Brian's folks were no longer with us, his dad's fishing tackle and keepsakes went up the stairs along with old framed photos and painting prints that his mom hung on their walls.
There were my college papers, a set of dishes and related matching pieces that we bought in the 1970s and I added onto throughout the 1980s, but have been out of style since the early 2000s.
Like interest that accumulates on an investment, time compounded what went up, but rarely came down.
When we moved in, I was under 40. Now I'm over 60. I have no interest in hauling Christmas decorations down stairs, nor in hoisting them back up. I've decided that since I haven't used those dishes in 20 years, it's highly unlikely that I will start in the next 20.
Also, I'm re-evaluating some silly assumptions that caused me to keep certain things. I kept the prom dresses thinking future granddaughters might play dress up with them. Well, I've gotten a clue from friends who actually have granddaughters. Today's little girls like Disney princess dresses that fit—not 1970s attire that doesn't.
About those college papers. Surely a kernel of crazy made me keep them, thinking someone somewhere sometime might enjoy my 1981 essay about the national press covered Skylab. No line has formed. No one has asked to review the hard copy of my college degree.
We're making progress. The Christmas decorations have been sorted and relocated to an indoor closet. The empty, sturdy boxes we've saved that would alone qualify us for an episode of Hoarders are gone.
Yet the attic remains full of landmines. When I lift a lid of an unidentified tub, I might get my breath taken away. That happened the other day when I was met by tiny baby outfits and shoes not seen in a quarter century. The item that got me most was not the itty-bitty blue sweater but the preschool T-shirt. How was it that once the boys reached preschool I thought of them as "big boys" when now I look at that T-shirt and realize they were still so little. But wake up, Donna. The actual, real-life boys are men now.
I'm keeping that lid shut.
There's another tub I'm avoiding. It has a label indicating that it's full of correspondence. These date back decades. If I open that can of worms, as one might also call it, I could be there for days, perched at the top of those steps, lost in the pre-email years, rereading letters about a friend's toddler issues, cards wishing me a happy 30th birthday, or weekly letters from my mother about what was new on the farm, back before the Alzheimer's took her away.
I'm not going to deal with the boys' childhood things. What's there, from Batman memorabilia to special school papers and trophies, will keep until they are ready to decide the fate of their artifacts. Why move things Ben doesn't yet want to his apartment when the ones who will move them to his next place will likely be us? It would defeat the purpose of purging if I had to deal with those containers again and maybe again after that. They can stay where they are.
The attic is a work in progress. It's not a stairway to heaven. Yet for a sentimental fool like me, it has its moments.
This column by Donna Cronk appears in the June 15 New Castle Courier-Times. It is reprinted here.
It's amazing what one mom can accomplish--and then a community comes beside her. An update on the New Castle Miracle League, reprinted from this weekend's Courier-Times, Indiana Weekender.
by Donna Cronk
Eleven years ago, Cindy Brooks hoped to give her daughter, Hannah, a fun experience playing baseball. Hannah, now 26, couldn’t understand why her brothers got to play the game but she didn’t.
So the mom made a way, creating what is now a specialized league for children and adults ages 3 and up with cognitive and/or physical disabilities, where they play by T-ball rules, and have buddies helping them out on the field.
“I thought we’d just play that one year,” recalls Brooks.
But little did she know then that she had founded what is now a New Castle staple that last year served about 130 players, and 11 years later, is going strong. In fact, plans are under way to raise money for their own Miracle League baseball complex.
“It’s a lot of hard work ... but as soon as you see them, that joy and smile and high fives; it’s all worth it,” says Brooks, who is founder and league director.
League opening day is Saturday, July 27 with play on Friday nights and Saturdays for the seven-week season. Those wanting to sign up can do so on the website at miracleleagueofnewcastle.com. Buddies and other volunteers willing to assist a little or a lot can also sign up there. To register other ways or for information, contact Brooks at 765-524-5650 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is not a pay-to-play organization, but the league requests a $25 donation per player if possible to help with expenses.
The payoff is this. Says Brooks, “It’s like watching the winners of the World Series every time they play.”
Dreaming of a new field
While the league currently plays on the girls softball field at Baker Park, organizers are hoping for their own field of dreams. Brooks explains that it would have two synthetic turf ballfields, an all-assessable playground and restrooms, concessions and bleachers.
She’s talking to the city to see if there is any ground available. She said of the 300 Miracle League fields throughout the country, none had to pay for their land, but it was provided to the leagues free of charge in the different communities.
The local league pays a membership fee to the Miracle League headquarters, based in Conyers, Georgia. As part of their membership, building plans for a new complex would be provided for no extra charge. Cost of building it and materials, however, would need to be paid by either a corporate donor or the money raised to fund it. Or, it may be a combined effort.
Brooks said it would be possible to host competitive travel games or even host an All-Star game. Such a thing is not do-able now, for one reason – because the current field is not totally wheelchair accessible. “We can use it but there are barriers there that slow things down some,” Brooks says.
Fundraiser has begun
Fundraising for the goal of a new complex is underway now with a bench made by Jaron Baker, who while a junior at New Castle Career Center, built a bench and his family paid for it to be power coated. He is now a senior at Hagerstown High School.
The idea came from Steven Vitatoe, welding instructor at the career center, who found the league’s abandoned cash register last year after it had been stolen in a theft that amounted to a total $700 loss to the league.
He offered to make a bench and chose the word HOPE to place on it. Brooks was taken aback by the word in a positive way because she said the word HOPE is a league theme word.
Vitatoe says of Miracle League, “I really think it is important for everyone to have access to fun activities. After I heard about the break-in I was really upset and wanted to help out.”
He said Mary Logan came up with the idea of a HOPE bench, “and we all got to work.”
The bench was donated to the league and the public is welcome to place bids on it now through July 27. It will go to the to the highest bidder, and be announced at noon, Saturday, Aug. 3 at the ballpark.
Miracle League is a club within a club as part of the Breakfast Optimists. Brooks says that all three local Optimists clubs help sponsor the organization, along with an anonymous sponsor that helps with uniforms and hats.
To place a bid, use the email in this article or go to the Facebook page of Miracle League of New Castle and private message.
Brooks says the cost to create a Miracle League complex – which could be done in phases, and one that would include lighting and bleachers – would come in around $900,000.
She would love to see corporate sponsors help with such a large figure. She says the city is working well with the league. “I would like to partner with Special Olympics to build a complex that would include a track, soccer fields, basketball court ...” says Brooks.
Miracle League Co-Director Tammy Rains thinks getting the complex is do-able. In addition to her player son, Mike Cole, 38, several members of her family are involved in various ways from coaching to offering support as volunteers.
“It’s just a joy to interact with all the players,” says Rains, who has been involved all 11 years. “Just to see the joy on their faces, the fun they are having ...”
While it might take a miracle to get a complex built here – that is, after all, the name of the league.
Says Brooks, “... We are praying that we can find a great place for this park.”
A reprint of my Sunday feature in The Courier-Times.
by Donna Cronk
The public is invited to the first of four annual concerts sponsored by First Presbyterian Church in New Castle. The first one is an hour-long organ concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9 in the sanctuary at 1202 Church St.
Presenting the concert is Mary Ragna Yetter, the church’s new director of music, with a program called Summer Wind Pipes. A fellowship reception will follow.
Selections include such pieces as “The Emperor’s Fanfare,” by Antonio Soler; “Sonata II in C Minor,” by Felix Mendelssohn; “Prelude” by Louis Vierne, “Adagio in G Minor,” by Tomaso Albinoni and an offering written by former local resident Robert A. Hobby, “Glorious Things of You Are Spoken.”
A special treat will feature “Haydn Clockworks,” which are little pieces of music written for high-end 18th-century clocks.
For Yetter, her work is about “making music happen in this building.”
That includes directing the choir, playing the church’s massive pipe organ, and producing various special musical performances throughout the year.
Yetter anticipates that the upcoming organ concert’s musical selections will “show off the sounds of this instrument.” She said this organ has incredibly good sound.
First Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Rod Smith says that Yetter brings “years and years training and experience, both in the USA and internationally, to one of the finest pipe organs in the state. I think of it as a perfect match of refined skills, talent, love of craft, brought to an instrument that knowledgeable musicians crave to play.”
Originally from Oklahoma, Yetter has been interested in the organ since she was a small child. Her mother took lessons but had to give them up. The daughter then started taking them at about age 5 and has been at it ever since. She played throughout high school and assumed she would continue playing and learning about her instrument.
Majoring in organ performance was the natural next step and she earned a bacehlor’s degree from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, a certificate of advanced study from the Royal College of Music in London, England, and has a master of music degree from the University of Memphis.
Yetter also plays harpsichord and violin, and has performed with a variety of orchestras, chamber groups, choruses and in solo concerts.
Since moving to Anderson last summer, Yetter has served as Anderson University organist. Throughout her adult years, she has been a professional organist and choir director at various churches in several states and in Ireland. Her husband, Erich, is an assistant professor of dance at Anderson University. They reside in Anderson and are parents to three grown children.
“In the arts, you go to wherever the job is,” says the master organist.
Yetter has taught both organ and piano in the past and is open to continuing that in the future. When she isn’t involved with music, Yetter enjoys reading, cooking and their pet dog, Shiloh.
She’s delighted by the welcome she has received at the New Castle church.
“They really are wonderful people,” says Yetter. “They really want to be singing and they are so appreciative. They really have just welcomed me here.”
Smith says the church historically maintained a strong music program and that the new director has arrived at a crucial and exciting time.
She says, “They needed me at exactly the same time that I needed them.”
Adds Smith, “I can’t wait for Mary Ragna’s first public concert and for her to unveil the musicians who’ll play at the four we are planning for each calendar year.”
She invites everyone to come enjoy the program and fellowship. “I just want it to be joyful,” she says.
We moved into our house 21 years ago this month. It was the age of a preschooler at the time. The previous owners, who had it built, were relocating to another state. Everything was in wonderful shape. They had just invested a lot of money in the surrounding landscaping the year before.
There wasn't much we needed to do when we moved, but that would change over two decades. And while at the time, we felt as though we had a "new" house, yesterday Brian pointed out, as only Brian can, "It's not a new house, anymore. It's gotten old like us."
We've replaced flooring more than once; added an open-air back porch; a new roof; painted the whole house and bought a new water softener.
We've updated both bathrooms, but not fully remodeled them, and because tastes and time changes things, we removed the ivy wallpaper in the kitchen that I adored for the first decade or more than we lived here.
But the laundry room had received no attention. It's the last of the house's wallpaper, and the only revision it got was when laminate went in the hallways, kitchen and dining room. I wouldn't have chosen the wallpaper the previous owner had, but until recent years, there was nothing wrong with it, and I didn't hate it. Opposite the washer and dryer is a closed pantry that covers the entire wall.
While the room is only a pass-through from the garage into the house, it's served us well. But it was neglected and I cringed every time the boys brought friends through the house that way.
We've been meaning to redo it. But working in a small space and wrestling washer and dryer never made it to the top of our to-do list. Until this week.
I have been gathering supplies and spent two evenings removing the wallpaper. Yesterday I started painting at 5:30 a.m. and all the related work went into the evening. We had some drama when moving the washer back into place and there was a leak. Everything went on hold until the plumber could get here and finally pronounce the leak repaired.
As my friend Cheryl said, we dodged a bullet because there was talk of cutting a hole in my newly painted wall to get to the deeper plumbing issues. Whew!
You have to practically wrestle Brian to get him to agree (even while rolling his eyes) with plans to hang new things on walls. He has a real problem with holes in walls, particularly new ones. But I insisted that we decorate the space.
So a print from Meijer went over the appliances. I bought a big white C that I wanted on the left-hand wall but there was a stud issue, so the first-runner-up, a wreath I had on hand, took the Big C's place to make use of the one existing screw. Brian insists that nothing else go on the wall.
I reorganized the built-in pantry, letting go of things such as five old-fashioned wood-handled dusters that we inherited from our folks, I guess. I only know in all my 60 years I had never once used one of them, preferring the light-weight feather duster.
Some other things went as well, such as the clothesline taken down for Sam's high school open house in 2005. The supplies we kept and use are all contained now in clear, lidded and labeled containers. We had three laundry baskets full of "rags" in the garage and those were pared down and placed in the pantry.
I still have a little touch-up work to do on the white woodwork but for the most part, I'm no longer embarrassed for people to come into the house through that entrance. I'm even showing it to you!
Here's the updated look.
Note: The following feature story appeared in the Sunday, May 19, 20019 Courier-Times and is reprinted here.
by Donna Cronk
Chuck Avery never minded the idea of growing older.
If you're waiting for the punch line, there isn't one.
“When I was younger, I thought older people seemed respected and settled,” he says, adding that they are “not trying to impress anyone. Just trying to relax. It turned out like I thought.”
Avery, 84, spoke during a Tuesday brunch at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle. His topic concerned thoughts on aging.
The Hagerstown resident and Connersville native is well known regionally for his regular humor column that still runs in The Courier-Times and Connersville News-Examiner along with two other papers. At one time during his nearly 30-year side career as a general-and-humor columnist, his work appeared in nine newspapers.
Avery said he almost never knows in advance what he will write about in any given column. He credits former Hagerstown Exponent and Courier-Times Publisher Bob Hansen with giving him his start. He has no plans to quit writing the columns. But as for speaking gigs, he doesn’t do so many anymore.
He said last year, he spoke in Richmond. The person who invited him mentioned a stipend and told him to keep the talk to 15-20 minutes. Avery asked if he could have 25 minutes, and the person said no, 15 would be better. Avery responded, “If you’d raise my stipend, I won’t show up and we’d both be happy.”
Avery says it’s a true story, the kind readers have come to expect from the retired 27-year speech, drama, and literature teacher at Hagerstown High School. Youngest son Ian now teaches writing in Ohio. Chuck and wife Michelle have four grown kids, 10 grandchildren and two greats.
The couple became interested in each other while doing a play in Angola many years ago. She taught school for 31 years in Richmond before retiring.
Michelle says in their family, her husband is known for his storytelling abilities. She says he has the same personality at home that comes across in his columns. But, he says he wasn’t known for his wit while growing up.
Of his hundreds of columns, Avery says a personal favorite is about Christmas when he was a kid. A local organization sent the family some holiday gifts – and the Averys sent them back, requesting that the group give the presents to a family who needed them.
“We didn’t have anything but pride,” he recalls.
As a young man, he worked in Connersville factories where he found the jobs boring. Yet the experiences were significant because they motivated him to head to college and pursue something more interesting.
Along with his teaching career and sideline of column writing, producing books, and public radio commentaries, he and Michelle built two houses in rural Hagerstown. They still live in the second one, built a decade ago, which they designed and mostly built themselves. He still works on their property and cuts wood to heat the house.
These days his hobbies include learning to play classic guitar and improving his pool game. He works at both daily.
On Tuesday, Larry and Norma Meyer of New Castle were part of a packed house to hear Avery’s program. She worked at Hagerstown High School with Avery when he served as department head. She says he was witty back then.
Avery said once he finished talking in Richmond last year, the event host told the audience, “Next month, we’ll have a really good speaker.”
It’s all copy. And for Chuck Avery, it’s a good life.
Tips on aging well from Chuck Avery
During his Tuesday program, newspaper columnist Chuck Avery offered thoughts on how to avoid appearing old. He suggests that folks implement these tips as soon as they get their first AARP solicitation. He mentioned that for many at the luncheon, that invite came long ago. He shared:
1. Once you are invited to join AARP, start using rear-view mirrors when backing up. Receiving the invite means it won’t be long before the recipient can no longer use the arm-over-seat, turn-your-head-around-to-see method.
2. Begin parking in the same general area in big parking lots. Avoid trying to get into a parked car you haven’t owned for two years.
3. Commit to memorizing the make and model of your current car.
4. Make lists of every act you intend to do wherever you’re going. Avery deadpanned that he doesn’t get to a big city such as New Castle often but he had a list with two things on it for Tuesday. The list included go speak at Forest Ridge, then go to Kroger for a big ham.
5. Avoid abbreviations on your list. If you just put P and B on your list, you might end up with pork and beans.
6. Learn to address everyone as “neighbor.” That way you no longer have to memorize names.
Note: This column appears in today's New Castle Courier-Times. A much shorter version appeared on Ovid Community Church's Facebook page as a Wednesday devotion. Times and seasons of life change. #Feelinggrateful.
By Donna Cronk
The first mother-daughter banquet I remember was at about age 4 in the basement of our little Methodist Church. It was also my first experience with favors, those pretty or useful “little somethings” appearing at each place setting – keepsakes to remember an event. Oh, I remember. I can still envision the plastic red roses. I thought they were gorgeous.
Through the years I looked forward to attending these spring affairs with my mother. Each was a chance to dress up, have a fancy (for us) meal, be entertained by a singer or speaker, maybe play a game or win a door prize. Most of all, it was a night out with Mom.
Then I grew up and moved far from my hometown. It no longer seemed feasible to make it back, about 160 miles, for the Mother’s Day banquet tradition. Still, I mentally sighed, wishing I could be no other place.
Even though I loved these banquets that celebrated mothers and daughters, we never attended one together in my adult years. When I think of the many do-overs I wish I had in life, this is one of them. I should have taken time off work and gone.
But when you’re 30, it seems a hassle for something so minor. It isn’t until you reach 60 that you know it wasn’t minor to spend a special night with your mom and to recognize what I would give for one more.
Then came the years of her Alzheimer’s disease, while at the same time Brian and I were raising two sons and working at our careers. These were years when a mother-daughter banquet seemed an alien concept. With my mother unable to attend, and having no daughters, not to mention no sisters, nor cousins to accompany me, I figured I’d never again attend such a sweet evening.
I didn’t feel I had a place at the table.
Who could guess the turns – I would call them blessings – that life can take? My Sam married a girl who not only relishes mother-daughter banquets, but Allison and her mother have often planned them at her Indianapolis church. It turns out I would be included each year on the guest list!
But there’s more. Once I published my novels, I started getting invitations to speak at mother-daughter banquets. Banquet season is when I’m asked to speak most. I’ve spoken twice each at my church and at Allison’s church in recent years. Not only did I have a seat at the table, but also a son in the kitchen helping with the meal and a husband serving food off rolling carts!
This season, I’ve spoken at two banquets and attended two more as a guest. My tea cup runneth over.
Mother’s Day isn’t all sunshine and flowers to every mother or daughter but you probably don’t know that because they tend to keep quiet this time of year. It can be painful to those who no longer have their mothers around on such a sentimental, emotionally charged day.
I like how my church started calling theirs Daughters of the King banquets. What a brilliant way to get around the high emotions of “mother-daughter.” We’re all daughters of the King! That means we each have a seat at the table.
If this day is hard on you for any reason, and you don’t feel you have a seat at a table, as I felt many years about mother-daughter banquets, ask the Lord to restore that seat to you – at whatever table it is that pains your heart. God is in the business of restoration and He can make things happen in ways we could not, even on our most creative days.
I’m thinking of that beautiful scripture of Joel 2:25 (NIV): “I will repay you for the years that the locust has eaten ...”
This restoration of mother-daughter banquets into my life may sound like a small thing. But it is not. Those banquets with my mother meant a lot. Now they mean a lot in a new way I – a way I had never imagined possible.
Courier-Times Neighbors Editor Donna Cronk also edits the quarterly her magazine for women. She is currently looking for essays from local women about great vacations they have taken, along with photos, for the next issue. Deadline is June 1.
When Judy Booe of Veedersburg surprised me with an invite to speak at the First Christian Church's Spring Fling mother-daughter banquet, I was delighted to say yes! The evening proved a trip down memory lane and a chance to reminisce with friends from the 1980s spent in Fountain County.
Following the lovely banquet, those with Fountain Central ties enjoyed gathering at Tom and Judy Booe's home to reminisce and laugh about the good old days. The joy of my book journey continues to be the memories made in renewing contact with so many wonderful people we've known throughout our lives. I didn't want the evening to end ...
And sure enough, it was about 12:30 a.m. before we rolled in back at home.
Then up and off for me to New Castle to attend the confirmation into St. James Episcopal Church of my friend and writing colleague, Stacey Torres. She was confirmed by The Right Rev. Jennifer Basketville-Burrows, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis -- the first African-American woman elected a diocesan bishop!
Then home ... and off again to the Mother-Daughter Banquet at my daughter-in-law's home church, Zion Evangelical Church of Christ in downtown Indy.
It's been a FULL but fully satisfying weekend. My gratitude to all involved.
When you climb the stairs, this marble-topped Victorian table that belonged to Grandma Jobe welcomes you. At right on the floor is a vase Brian bought his mother Mary long ago. He wanted to keep it and placed it here. I think it's the perfect spot. What's up with the rocking chair in Sam's photo? It's a reflection. The camera sees all, even when the photographer does not.
We replaced our sagging white bookcases (they're now garage shelving) with these black beauties from IKEA, at the suggestion of our daughter-in-law Allison. Part of our task in late winter and early spring was to edit our book collection. We donated more than 100 volumes; moved a lifetime collection of personal and Brian's career yearbooks downstairs to a doored cabinet, along with some text books he couldn't part with (although he did a great job of letting go of many). Special-edition books, such as signed author copies, those gifted to us by loved ones, and special ones for one reason or another, also went downstairs to our glass-front antique plantation-desk bookcase. It's full! But there's always room for one more. This bookcase also holds Brian's vinyl-record collection, lower left, and bunches of photo albums and scrapbooks. I'm in the process of covering and numbering in order the albums. I wanted to add some personality to the shelves so added career keepsakes for both of us. Brian said he always liked diplomas in their original folders so they went up too. The vintage fire extinguisher, right, is a unique gift from Brian's staff. Staffers signed it. The idea is that Brian "put out fires." It's been in his closet for several years and we thought it should come on out!
We needed the space to function more than only an office, but we needed that component too. Everything up here is a mixture of function, comfort, and heirlooms. Brian wanted to keep the desk. He and both our sons did their homework right there! Yes, it's pretty beat up, but it's in the "what we keep" department. The old chair gave out, and for now, we're using a dining room chair. Will likely buy another down the road with a spare to go where this little antique chair is now. The framed newspaper is a gift from one of Brian's building teachers who so thoughtfully found and framed a British newspaper from when Brian's dad landed there in World War II! He also included a picture of Brian's dad, Ray, from that time. What a gift! The little red chair was handed down in my family. I used to watch my favorite shows sitting in it, including the once-a-year showing of "The Wizard of Oz," and the weekly viewing of the original "Batman." I loved them both.
What I dig about this project is that it was Brian's idea! The space had been a repository for miscellaneous heirlooms, droopy overstocked bookcases, second-string sofa and loveseat for many years. We hadn't used it at all, basically, since the boys left home. It was their hangout for homework, entertaining, and video games. It took us quite a while this winter and spring to re-imagine. We wanted to make it our own personal space, editing out all the clutter, and filling it with comfortable seating, fully-loaded TV (cable, NetFlix, etc.), office area, Brian's vintage stereo equipment, and albums and important to me was a place to enjoy 150 years' worth of our families' paper trail of photos, special papers, and small heirlooms, tucked away neatly. I call the area Archives: Family Basket Cases. (Laugh! Even if you're family! It's suppose to be funny!) I also keep vacation keepsakes and photos in those baskets. We each picked out our own new recliners and had one recovered to match the coal-colored fabric in the other. The rocking chair is from Brian's family; the lamp tables from mine. The mirror spent all my growing-up years over a sofa in our home. It is reflecting a fan and drapes in the window on the opposite wall.
On the wall shared by the bookcases are Brian's 1976 stereo and turntable. The albums are out of view next to the turntable. Again, heirlooms are used. The cedar chest was my mother's "hope chest," refinished by Brian early in our marriage. The tiny table was made by Brian in "shop" class back in the day. The music stand comes in more handy than you know! Now I have room to leave it up and practice programs I write and give to women's groups. This spring I am debuting a new program for mother-daughter-banquets. It's about how we women are keepers -- of secrets, dreams, memories, mementos and of faith. Editing and re-imagining this room inspired the program.
Brian says we have "Ma and Pa chairs." We went for total comfort. The chairs and the carpet were our biggest expenses. The carpet is called "stone" and the chairs "coal." The previous carpet was a mess, and was also wrinkled. It had been through two teenage boys, their friends, and 14 years. It was time. But it was quite an effort to move everything downstairs, and the edited version of everything back up again.
Our "basket cases" are filled with 150 or more years' worth of various branches of our families' paper trails, old photos, vacation photos, and keepsakes, and more. I enjoy many trips down Memory Lane from these memory-filled baskets. Come visit our study and take in a movie with me. Or, we'll put up my folding table from behind the door and work on a project. I'm grateful for the space. Thanks for dropping by!
The following feature was recently published in the New Castle Courier-Times. It is my honor to share another story from our Greatest Generation.
by Donna Cronk
As one of the 16 million American veterans who returned from World War II, ready to restart their lives with jobs, marriages, families, and find a post-war normalcy, Forrest Owens resumed his life after serving with the U.S. Marines.
He became an electrician, married Mary, and started a family.
For 30-and-a-half years, he worked at Chrysler Corp. in New Castle, retiring in 1999. The Kentucky
native returned to his home state in 2017, and today, he and daughter Beverly reside together in
Grayson where they lead a quiet life.
Inside his storage bin are artifacts from a time that was anything but quiet. Among his honorable discharge and letters of commendation papers are two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Blue Enamel Star, Asiatic Pacific Combat Ribbon with two gold stars, and the American Defense Metal.
Owens’ service included first-wave invasion of the brutal island battle of Iwo Jima, located 660 miles
south of Tokyo. He was a part of it for the first nine days, there when one of the most iconic moments
in U.S. military history was recorded as the American flag was raised on the island’s highest point.
During this intense five-week battle, 7,000 Marines lost their lives and another 20,000 were wounded. One of the wounded was Owens, who was sent home to recover.
When Owens, who will be 94 on April 26, was asked what it was like to be at Iwo Jima, the Marine
says that he “never thought a lot about it until recently.” He adds that in the last few years he realizes
“how happy I was (that) I was there and did this and saw this.”
Excitement over the flag
On day five of the battle, U.S. Marines took the highest point, Mount Suribachi, and raised the
American flag. Owens recalls someone saying, “Look at Old Glory on Hot Rock.” He says everyone
started yelling and carrying on with happiness over the sight. He didn’t see the Marines place the flag
but he said the flag was “just starting to wave” when he spotted it.
The battle continued, and on the ninth day, the Marines were in the process of taking the second
highest point. It was then that Owens was wounded when a grenade exploded and hit his mouth,
injuring it and taking out two teeth. But instead of being treated and sent back into battle as Owens
expected, he was shipped back to the U.S. to heal.
“I was wanting to stay,” Owens recalls. “I was hoping to get through that without (being) wounded.” He
also wanted to remain with his buddies, and had been promised a promotion following his effort at Iwo Jima. Yet at the same time, he was happy to survive and go home.
After all, this was his third war wound. Prior to Iwo Jima, he fought in Guam scouting out Japanese
positions. He had been trained for the job by learning how to fight in thick jungles with mud, heavy rain and 100-degree heat. One sergeant told him that his background as a Kentucky country boy would serve him well, adding, “It’s like squirrel hunting, except the squirrels shoot back.”
In Guam, he was wounded in the right shoulder by shrapnel, then when leaving the hospital following
treatment, wounded again, that time in the left hip. He recovered at Pearl Harbor, and months later,
was sent in with the first wave to Imo Jima.
Owens said landing on the island was rough because the amphibious tracked landing vehicles
carrying soldiers came under immediate fire. The landing vehicle next to his own exploded and men
inside it were killed and wounded.
“Hell on earth, the first day,” Owens describes. That day alone, his outfit lost five of eight officers –
including the captain. Of the 220 soldiers, 111 lost their lives.
On that day, he did a lot of praying and imagines that most of the soldiers did likewise. Owens
describes his nine days on the island as a time of intense fighting and death.
“I was scared all the time I was there,” says Owens. “All day and all night you expected to get hit.
People getting killed all the time. I was happy to make it through.”
But make it he did, and he remembers so much about the period that he could fill a book, not just a
Taking the island was significant, according to information from The National WWII Museum in New
Orleans, because securing it meant the island would provide emergency landing space for 2,200 B-29
bombers and save the lives of 24,000 U.S. airmen. It was important in the war effort to fight the largest
Pacific battle of World War II – the invasion of Okinawa.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz is quoted as saying, “Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon
valor was a common virtue.”
Wanted to be a Marine
Owens volunteered for service on his 18th birthday and joined the Marine Corps. He enlisted because
the war was going on. “Everybody was patriotic and all the young men wanted to go.” He wanted to
be a Marine due to the heroic strides they were making. “They were heroes and I wanted to be part of
Following his service, Owens married Mary, and the couple had five children: Allen Owens (wife Teresa) of New Castle; Terry (wife Beverly A.) Owens of Noblesville; Beverly S. Owens of Grayson, Kentucky; the late Darryel Owens, formerly of Houston, Texas; and the late Rickie Owens, previously of Shirley.
Both Darryel and Rickie are buried in Knightstown. During Forrest Owens’ years at Chrysler, the family
lived in Wilkinson. Mary passed in 1998.
Says Owens, the two-time World War II Purple Heart recipient, “I’m very proud of our veterans today,
our service people. I have a great honor for them.”
His daughter Beverly, a former Wilkinson resident, says her dad still drives, needs no home assistance,
gardens and until last year, kept bees. He still has three living brothers of five original, and two living
sisters of three.
His involvements include membership in the Shirley Masonic Lodge No. 531; Shriner’s Club in Shirley;
life member of the New Castle VFW; member of the Scottish Rite in Indianapolis, and member of the
Willard, Kentucky American Legion Post 342.
His daughter said he often speaks of the boys from all over the country whom he served with in the
service, including those who were lost in battle. She said he would enjoy hearing from old friends who
probably have lost track of him. Cards may be sent to Owens at 204 W. 2nd St., Grayson, Kentucky
“I’m very proud of him and I’m honored that he’s my dad,” says Beverly.