Several months ago I was contacted by the Area VII Extension Homemakers Retreat Committee to see if I would be their opening-morning speaker as well as sit in on a break-out afternoon session, a review of my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast.
The retreat was earlier this week at Lake Placid retreat center near Hartford City. It took less than an hour to make my way to the grounds, complete with pretty scenery like this.
I found a table set up in the main auditorium for me to decorate and stock with books. On a whim, I grabbed the two teapots I had at home that were filled with flowers I bought at a local roadside stand. The flowers had already seen in two occasions by then: Sam's birthday dinner a week ago, and my church life-group's meeting Sunday night.
In some ways, the retreat was like old-home week. I hadn't been there long when here came two from my home county of Union: Sally Redinger and Marla Neukum. Sally is married to Art, who was my 4-H Extension director 41 years ago! Marla is a retired Union County Elementary School teacher.
Several Henry County Extension Homemakers were there, too, including state officer Teresa Bell who was the one who suggested my name for the program! Thank you, Teresa. Among other counties represented were my home county of Madison.
The retreat theme was RELIVE YOUR TEENS. During an entertaining video featuring people, music, trends and fashions from several decades, some "models" put on a style show of fashions from eras past.
It was fun to give the speech, written for this occasion, called BACK TO THE FUTURE: IT'S NEVER TOO LATE, then enjoy visiting over lunch with several women. I was delighted to meet and chat with Rush County Extension Director Gracie Marlatt. Then it was time for the book review break-out session where 13 gathered to discuss Sweetland. It's always interesting to hear questions and observations readers have.
I'm grateful for every opportunity as the journey continues.
By DONNA CRONK - firstname.lastname@example.org
South African native Rod Smith became First Presbyterian Church in New Castle’s new pastor on July 17. A U.S. citizen, he was ordained decades ago in South Africa. His official status with the Presbyterian Church is Commissioned Ruling Elder (CRE). He is believed to be the 38th pastor in the church’s history, dating to 1845.
He is delighted to be here.
“The people are hard working, committed, faithful,” Smith said. “They love their city. They love their church. They’re generous, kind, open.”
Smith resides with his two sons, Thulani, 20, and Nate, 16, in Indianapolis. He hopes to relocate to New Castle.
He is excited about being back in active ministry. His journey to this job dates back a couple decades. It also involves meeting the Danny Danielson family. The Danielsons were avid Henry County community supporters and philanthropists.
Originally from Durban, South Africa, several generations of Smith’s family had roots there. While serving a church in South Africa, he invited Christians from around the world to visit. A team from Tabernacle Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis visited and on that team were Duane and Susie (Danielson) Anderson, the daughter of the late Danny and Patty Danielson.
“We had a wonderful experience together,” Smith said. After that meeting, he was asked by a church search committee to move to Indy and be part of the church’s pastoral staff. He was there for eight years starting in 1990.
An avid traveler, Smith said, “I always knew I’d live in another country but I didn’t know what that country would be. When the invitation came to move to the states I just took it because it fit with what I knew.”
From his service with the Indianapolis church, he left to establish with friends a faith-based counseling service, Open Hand, for the juvenile courts system and for the state office of Family and Children.
Along the way he adopted two sons, Thulani, 20, now a junior at Butler University and Nate, 16, a sophomore at North Central High School.
When the boys became school-aged, he went to work as an English teacher and later dean for St. Richard’s School where the boys attended.
New Castle connection
Twenty years ago he spoke at a New Castle Presbyterian Church’s family retreat where he met Dan and Becky Riley of Greenfield, members of the New Castle church. He recently reconnected with them and learned that Dan was filling in at churches in Lewisville and Knightstown that were in between pastors.
Smith said of the work, “I want to do that.”
He had been aching to preach.
“I even prepared a Christmas sermon in case someone got ill,” Smith recalled of last year.
He was asked in fill in on Jan. 28 in southern Henry County.
“I felt like a jockey who had found his horse after many years,” Smith recalled.
After being asked back to preach again, he was told that New Castle Presbyterian was still looking for a pastor. He was quite interested but didn’t know if it would work out since he is not Presbyterian. But it did, and the rest is history.
“Here I am and I’m having fun,” Smith said, adding, “I’m enjoying learning New Castle, enjoying learning what the culture is all about.”
New Castle Presbyterian Church elder, John Lansinger, has been a member there for 43 years. He said of Smith, “He is a breath of fresh air.”
Lansinger lauds the pastor for his “tremendous amount of energy, care for people,” and the time he has spent meeting with members and shut ins. He spoke of Smith’s “great sense of humor,” and how he has new ideas and jumps right in to implement them, such as contributing to some community services and a new Wednesday-morning Bible study.
Smith also teaches internationally and interdenominationally with a Christian organization, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) which he has done for 30 years. The idea is to train young people to serve around the world. He has taken his sons on countless trips throughout the world.
He has also maintained a daily South African newspaper column for 17 years called “You and Me.” It’s the longest-running newspaper column by one writer in the country,” he said.
Not only is Smith close to his sons, but he speaks with his own siblings daily. His family was close growing up. Along with photos of his boys in his office, there’s one of Smith’s father taken during his service in the British Navy during World War II. The sailor’s wartime boat sank and he survived by swimming in the ocean for days. He swam in oil to keep the sharks away but suffered for months with blood poisoning as a result. He went on to live, however, until 1994.
“He was a paragon of generosity and courage,” the son said of his father. He would like to add a photo of his mother from that period but cannot find it.
The church has Sunday school weekly at 9:15 a.m., followed by services at 10:30 a.m. This Sunday, Aug. 26, however, is a special Sunday when the church will celebrate public education and educators. The pastor issues a special invite to everyone who has served as a public educator, administrator or to people who love or loved educators. They will be honored during the worship service.
Smith has sent invitations to a dozen or more schools and to New Castle Mayor Greg York. York has accepted the invitation to Sunday’s services. First Presbyterian Church is at 1202 Church St., New Castle.
The pastor said that only a fool would not want schools to be safe, but he also sees a danger in making things so safe that freedom of thought and creativity would be stifled.
“I have great faith in this particular community at this particular time at this particular location,” Smith said.
Note: Through the years, I've had the pleasure of writing about many World War II veterans. I always wonder how many more years they will be around to share their stories. It is always my honor to hear them. This article is in today's New Castle Courier-Times.
By DONNA CRONK
On Monday, Aug. 13, Frederick Carmichael Sr. found himself back where he started 95 years ago to the day -- in New Castle, Indiana.
During the years in between, he traveled many miles, including difficult ones in service to the U.S.A. and the free world at large as a U.S. soldier in World War II, a career in Chicago, a move to Arlington, Virginia, where he retired from the Department of Agriculture and then a retirement spent traveling the country in an Airstream trailer. He’s even been back to Europe twice to revisit sites where he served in the Battle of the Bulge.
The battle is considered the turning point toward the Allies’ victory in World War II when Hitler’s last major offensive failed. However, 62,000 American soldiers died in the fierce conflict.
During the battle, Frederick was left behind due to severely frozen feet. He was discharged due to his injury. But today at 95, while he has some difficulties with those feet, he’s still walking. He sat down for an interview Monday with his hometown newspaper.
Born in New Castle on Aug. 13, 1923 to Emory and Freda Carmichael, Frederick was the middle of five children, including Marion, Helen, JoAnn and Jack. Sister JoAnn Carmichael Jones is a lifelong New Castle resident who still resides in town, where Frederick visited her over the weekend and on his birthday.
Their father, Emory, retired from Chrysler Corp. and served as a city councilman. The family lived on 21st, Vine and 17th Streets. Memories include playing basketball in the gravel alleys, using an oatmeal box for a basketball rim and playing marbles. His folks listened to the radio for entertainment. The family attended St. Anne Catholic Church, and Frederick’s faith has continued strong throughout his life.
He worked before and after school for Oscar Ellison cutting meat at two locations. “I had fun too – Memorial Park, St. Anne’s Church ...” adds Frederick, who graduated from New Castle High School in 1942. His buddy, George Todd, played a role in Frederick meeting the woman he loved, Christine Cloud of Mt. Summit. But she wouldn’t marry him until after the war.
Before the war, he took the civil service exam and landed a job at the Chicago stockyards where his older brother worked. Six weeks later he was drafted by the U.S. Army and insisted on returning to New Castle to enlist with his hometown friends.
In the army now
Basic training took Frederick to Camp McCain, Mississippi, then to Fort Jackson, S.C. While he had wanted to become a cook, the army had other plans, training him in jungle warfare. He became a corporal, then went on to South Carolina as a communications sergeant, a role he continued for F Company. From there, it was to New York where he boarded the Queen Elizabeth bound for Scotland, then off to England, and LaHarve, France.
The Battle of the Bulge ensued, with Frederick serving in F Company, 347th Infantry Regiment in the third army under Gen. George Patton. He and his captain were inseparable, and Frederick’s son Tom said the captain kept saying, “Mike (nickname for Frederick, abbreviated from his last name Carmichael) will make it.”
It was tough, with U.S. soldiers dying all around him. He describes the horrors of war in a book he helped write, published in 1997, “F Company 347th Infantry Regiment 1942-1945,” by The Men of F. Company.
One passage describes losing buddies. Wrote Frederick, “It was a terrible shock to learn how many of our men were killed or wounded – one officer and nine enlisted men died. Many enlisted men were wounded. I lost several good friends.”
During the historic Battle of the Bulge, Frederick’s feet were deeply frozen in the snow and cold, and he was left behind. Ironically, however, his friend and captain would soon be ambushed and killed. When Frederick’s boots were removed, his skin came off with them. He spent 90 days in the hospital and was discharged from the Army at 50-percent disabled.
One of three soldiers in the 180-member F Company were wounded or killed by the end of the Battle of the Bulge. Frederick left the war with the Bronze Star and three clusters signifying three battles. He carries with him constantly the memories of all the soldiers who died along side him in battle. He prays for them by name weekly, still.
His own mother prayed the rosary every night until she passed at age 89 in New Castle.
Faith is a large part of his life. He said of wartime, “You pray every day. It’s easy. You’ve got to have a buddy.” In keeping with his St. Anne upbringing, Frederick remains a devout Catholic.
After the war
When he returned to the states, Frederick married Christine on July 15, 1945. At the wedding he wore the same Army-issue shirt he wears today. He returned to his job in Chicago and for the next 37 years, he worked as a federal meat inspector. The family expanded to include three children, all still living: Fred Jr., Cindee and Tom. Cindee and Tom accompanied their dad to New Castle last week for the visit. There are also now six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Through Frederick’s working years, the family moved several times, including a 1966 move to Arlington, Virginia, where Frederick retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1979. Frederick and Christine bought an Airstream trailer in which they traveled all over the U.S. She was tragically killed in a car accident in 1999. Frederick survived and after recovering himself, continues to travel. At 85 he had open heart surgery and sold his Airstream but continues to travel with family.
Christine is buried in Arlington National Cemetery where Frederick will one day join her. The couple became eligible for burial there due to his war injury.
Frederick resides in Richmond, Virginia. He still enjoys life and will break into a flawless song from his war days at a moment’s notice, as well as reflecting on those years, his faith, and his happiness in being alive.
“I play golf on Mondays and Fridays go dancing at the Elk’s,” Frederick says with cheer in his voice. “I work in the yard.”
For years he never mentioned the war, but that changed. His family has taken him to Europe twice to revisit sites he recalled from his time in the war. Son Tom is amazed at how well his father recalls various locations and they were even able to visit with a family member whose same family was there during the war. He also enjoys attending Army reunions. His last was a year ago at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina where 15 of the 17 men remaining from his company were able to attend.
Frederick contributed his wartime memories to the book that Barbara Strange, the daughter of a soldier in Frederick’s company, put together some time ago. Frederick donated a copy to the New Castle-Henry County Public Library. The family donated a copy to The Courier-Times for a reader giveaway. (Details at the end of article.)
Cindee Kight says of being her father’s daughter, “It’s an honor, I’m proud of him. He’s always taught us to do our best and have strong faith.”
Son Tom says that he is “extremely proud to have a father in The Greatest Generation ever.” He adds that his father taught the kids the Golden Rule – to treat people the way you want to be treated. “He makes a friend wherever he goes.”
While Monday’s interview was conducted in the library, patron Ashley Delk of Springport studied nearby. She also listened in to the discussion and when it was over, she came over to Frederick and asked if she could shake his hand.
“It was an honor,” she said of hearing what the soldier had to say. “How often would you (get to) listen to a 95-year-old war veteran?”
And then, the Carmichaels got up to leave. Frederick was on his feet and on his way with the use of a cane. “You’ve got to keep moving,” he said.
Win copy of book detailing WW II memories
New Castle native Frederick Carmichael Sr. contributed his wartime memories to a book that Barbara Strange, the daughter of a soldier in Frederick’s company, put together some time ago.
Frederick donated a copy to the New Castle-Henry County Public Library. The family donated a copy to The Courier-Times to use as a reader giveaway. It is called “F Company 347th Infantry Regiment 1942-1945,” by The Men of F. Company.
Enter to win the book by 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 23 by emailing or calling: email@example.com or 765-575-4657. Say “World War II book” and leave your name, city or town and daytime phone number. One entry per household please; winner must arrange to pick up the signed book at the newspaper. The drawing is 10 a.m. that day.
Donna Cronk photo // For The Courier-Times // Magician Marcus Lehmann prepares to "saw" Fayth Koontz in half. But the gag was much more campy than scary, and Koontz reported afterward that she loved it and never misses the magician's return to the fair. She's been attending the show since she was 1.
It happens every August, at the same time the Indiana State Fair is under way, and long after all the county 4-H fairs have wrapped up. It's not 4-H based and there's no corporate sponsor, unless you count the corporate efforts of volunteers on the fair board who run the big show in a seamless manner. These are farmers and retirees, working folks and more than anything, their qualifications are hard work and a love for Mooreland, Indiana and its annual fair.
The Mooreland Free Fair, to be exact, although I often refer to it fondly as The Mooreland World's Fair.
When you enter the fairgrounds on the southern edge of this small northeastern-Henry County town during this festival, you might think you've arrived inside a time capsule and the year is 1952. Oddly, I could get no phone service on my cell from the grounds. Maybe it is 1952 and cellphones have not been invented.
Fairgoers can enter their pumpkins, eggs and other agricultural products. Or, they can enter their kids or grandkids in kiddie pedal pulls or baby contests. You can enjoy the finest bowl of ham and beans with a side of cornbread this side of heaven, prepared by the local Friends Church volunteers. There's a carnival, a building filled with local and state politicians and business people and moms with side jobs selling various goods. There are the Cornfield Cloggers to watch, or the magician, parade or talent shows.
There are queen and princess candidates, tractor and truck pulls. There are couples who appear to have been married for decades walking around holding hands. There are overall-clad farmers right out of central casting filling benches to watch the crowd. People just seem to flat like The Mooreland Free Fair. They like it a lot.
It is a throw-back festival with no sign of dying.
And of course, my newspaper, The Courier-Times, covers the Mooreland Free Fair.
This year I had the opportunity to work two things I have never done before, in 35 years of community reporting. One was an antique tractor pull; the other a family-friendly magic show. I decided to approach it the way I approach anything I cover: Why is this activity important to these people? Why does the community at large care?
So I called the magician early and got some background. He left me a saved seat for the show.
And I talked to the tractor pull guys before it was time to start their engines. What interested me was how they had more to say about the relationships with each other than of boasting of their mutual competitive drives.
Here's the tractor-pull story which ran Wednesday in The Courier-Times.
I'm almost 60 but when you work in community journalism, there's always something new. Even if it's something old and charming such as The Mooreland Free Fair -- no, make that The Mooreland World's Fair.
Antique tractor pull: 'It's a friendly competition'
By DONNA CRONK - firstname.lastname@example.org
MOORELAND — For Ron Peavler, who lives near Mechanicsburg, the antique tractor pull at the Mooreland Fair is not so much about winning as it is about enjoying friends and reliving memories.
“It’s a friendly competition,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
Monday night, he entered his 1953 Oliver Row Crop 88.
“It’s what I grew up with as a kid,” said Ron of the vintage model. “We helped different farmers and we had these kind of tractors.”
The pull brings back memories. “I came here as a kid and watched them (pulls),” he said.
But now he’s making new memories. His son, Ron Peavler Jr., was the team’s driver Monday night.
“I like to be able to hang out with my dad and my brother,” the younger Peavler said of his favorite part of participating in the pull.
Their tractor is 150 horsepower now, a far cry from the 36 to 42 it contained new out of the factory. While he’s participated for several years, the senior Peavler jokes that he’s “still a rookie.”
Definitely not a rookie is Richard Winter, originally from the Sulphur Springs/Middletown area and now of Yorktown. He’s been coming to the Mooreland Fair since he was a little kid.
“The town’s not changed much and the fair’s not changed much either,” said Winter, who’s won a few pulls. In Monday’s show, he entered a 1954 McCormick Farmall 400.
“I’ve been doing this off and on since I got back from Vietnam in the ’70s,” he said of pulling.
He and his brother used to team up but now, “I pull when I feel like it. I bought this thing. It looked terrible,” deadpans Winter, adding that the tractor is “all beefed up” now.
Winter said a stock tractor would “probably never get the sled going.” The sled is what contains the weight that the tractors pull as far as they can.
But the best part of the pull for Winter seems to come in the friendships.
“A lot of it’s just seeing the guys I’ve known all the years,” said Winters, adding that it’s like family. Working with him Monday night was his nephew, Al Winter.
When asked why he enters tractor pulls, Dick Gettinger of Springport said, “It’s in the blood.” Relative Brian Gettinger of Knightstown said, “Our family’s been pulling for 60-plus years.”
The Gettingers brought Dick’s 1957 Minneapolis Moline 445. Dick laughed about it, saying, “It’s a piece of junk. It wasn’t running when we got it. So we tinkered.”
Perhaps the tractor is not junk, after all. The Gettingers said it has placed in the top five many times.
Brian said of working on tractors, “Some of the new stuff’s easier, but I enjoy working on the old stuff more.”
Dale Marling and Delbert Hertel brought tractors from Liberty to enter in the pull.
“It’s just a neat place to pull,” Marling said of the Mooreland venue.
What are you reading this summer?
Just this morning I finished one of those books so delightful that I didn't want it to end. The title caught my eye while headed out of the library: Strangers tend to tell me things.
Hey, that's my story, I thought. As a writer, it's what happens; often they tell me lots of random things. Last week I sat next to a fairly recent resident of New Castle who transplanted from Nebraska while I covered a senior center luncheon for the paper. She unpacked her story so thoroughly and personally, and gave such a splendid shout-out to how much the local senior center means to her, her photo and comments became leads to my resulting story.
But what's interesting about Amy Dickinson's book, mentioned above, and subtitled: A memoir of love, loss, and coming home, is that while I figured that our writing careers would be what we had in common and why I would enjoy her memoir -- that's the least of what drew me in.
She is famous for her Ask Amy syndicated column and I am not famous for anything but, I imagined that she'd talk a lot about her career and life as a columnist.
Turned out though, that the writing experience is a minimal part of the book. We have so much more than writing in common such as our mutual core loves for our tiny hometowns. Hers is even smaller by a lot than mine. She was raised in the boonies of that town on a farm. I was raised in the boonies of my hometown on a farm. Consider even the names of our hometowns: Hers is Freeville. Mine is Liberty, or fictionally honoring the town, I call it Freedom in my novels.
We're both the youngest in our families of origin. We're about a year apart and as kids, had trouble sleeping, wanting our mothers near at night after our grandmothers died. We both grew up in small Methodist churches. We both get the utter goodness and whip-smart insights of rural folk.
Amy, who also works for NPR and appears on the show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," could live anywhere she wants but instead, settled back in her New York-state hometown as soon as she became an empty nester. Becoming an empty nester inspired the theme of returning to a woman's roots in my first novel.
In another oddly ironic moment, when I snooped around the internet for images of Amy, one popped up of her wearing a dress nearly identical to the one I chose for son Sam's wedding.
I also related to Amy's stories of coping with her mother's decline and death, and I swooned with her over her romance with -- get this, for real -- falling for the "boy next door" who had grown at midlife into the man of her dreams and she married him.
You can bet that I'll soon be reading Amy's first book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville.
My small group from church, the Midlife Moms, just finished our study of Priscilla Shirer's book, Fervent, and I'm placing it on the bookshelf today. The new one we'll start a week from tonight is Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible: And what we can learn from them.
This summer I read the proof copy of friend Janis Thornton's true-crime book, Too Good A Girl, now available from her or on amazon. And out of the blue, the church sent along Henry Cloud and John Townsend's book, Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know.
In a few weeks Bible Study Fellowship resumes and we'll start our journey with Joshua in the year's study, People of the Promised Land. Ovid Church is hosting a satellite group on what I hear will be Thursday mornings, an extension of the New Castle group that meets Tuesday mornings. I attend the Middletown group that meets Monday nights in Middletown. These are women's Bible studies and if you are interested in joining BSF, you are more than welcome to do just that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some summer porch reading to get to.