Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009
No less than three people were rescued from a river in Tuscaloosa County.
Two were adults, one a three year old child.
The sheriff’s office reported that a car had gotten involved in an accident last Saturday and as a result had plunged into the Sipsey River.
Police officers arriving on the scene noticed that the two adult inhabitants of the card had been able to get out and were sitting on the roof of the car. The adults warned the officers that a three year old child was still trapped in the car.
Approaching the car they didn’t see the child
Emergency services arrived, illuminating the area and the surface of the water to help the officers get to and find the child.
The search was extended in a 300 yard radius when one of the deputies saw the child floating on the water.
He brought the child back to the bank of the river where volunteer firefighters performed CPR. Medics brought the child to the hospital.
The child is said to be out of harm.
Monday, Jul. 21, 2008
Too bad sainthood is not generally conferred on bakers, for there is one who is a possible candidate for canonization.
She fulfills most of the requirements: (1) She’s dead. (2) She demonstrated heroic virtue. (3) Cults have been formed around her work. (4) Her invention is considered by many to be a miracle. The woman: Ruth Graves Wakefield. Her contribution to the world: the chocolate chip cookie.
One day in the 1930s, Wakefield, an owner of the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Mass., was busy baking in her kitchen. There are many legends of the fateful moment, some crediting accident and some crediting design, but the result – Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies – became the culinary mother to an august lineage that is still multiplying and, in some cases, mutating.
The humble chocolate chip cookie is the baker’s crucible. So few ingredients, so many possibilities for disaster. What other explanation can there be for the unfortunate misinterpretations that have popped up everywhere – eggless and sugarless renditions; cookies studded with carob, tofu and marijuana; whole-wheat alternatives; and the terribly misguided bacon-topped variety.
Eighty years later, has anyone trumped Ruth Wakefield? To find out, a journey began that included stops at many bakeries as well as conversations with some doyens of baking. The result was a recipe for a consummate cookie, if you will: one built upon decades of acquired knowledge, experience and secrets.
The first visit was to the City Bakery, on West 18th Street in Manhattan, owned by Maury Rubin. When asked about the secret to his cookies, he said, “We bake them in small batches every hour so they’re always fresh.”
Why, in his view, does almost everybody say they prefer homemade to bakery bought?
“It’s the Warm Rule,” he said. “Even a bad cookie straight from the oven has its appeal.”
It’s an opinion expressed by every baker visited. Jacques Torres, who has three branches of his Jacques Torres Chocolate in Manhattan and Brooklyn, has a small warming tray set up near the register so customers can get their cookies soft and gooey.
Given the opportunity to riff on his cookie-making strategies, Rubin revealed two crucial elements home cooks can immediately add to their arsenal of baking tricks. First, he said, he lets the dough rest for 36 hours before baking.
Asked why, he shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “They just taste better.”
Why dough resting is key
“Oh, that Maury’s a sly one,” said Shirley O. Corriher, author of “CookWise” (William Morrow, 1997), a book about science in the kitchen.
“What he’s doing is brilliant. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid – in this case, the eggs – in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency.”
A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving, she said. Making matters worse, the butter coats the flour, acting, she said, “like border patrol guards,” preventing the liquid from getting through to the dry ingredients. The extra time in the fridge dispatches that problem. Like the Warm Rule, hydration – from overnight to a few days – was a tactic shared by nearly every baker interviewed.
To put the technique to the test, one batch of the cookie dough recipe given here was allowed to rest in the refrigerator. After 12, 24 and 36 hours, a portion was baked, each time on the same sheet pan, lined with the same non-stick sheet in the same oven at the same temperature.
Going the full distance seemed to make the biggest difference. At 36 hours, the dough was significantly drier than the 12-hour batch; it crumbled a bit when poked but held together well when shaped. These cookies baked up the most evenly and were a deeper shade of brown than their predecessors. Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence.
The second insight Rubin offered had to do with size. His cookies are six-inch affairs because he believes that their larger size allows for three distinct textures.
“First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so,” he said. A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. “Then there’s the center, which is soft.”
“But the real magic,” he added, “is the 1 1/2-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”
Testing once again bore out Rubin’s thesis, which might be called the Rule of Thirds. The 24-hour and, especially, the 36-hour cookies developed the ring Rubin enthusiastically described. The crisp edge gave way to a chewy circle, with a flavor similar to penuche fudge, surrounding a center as soft as that of the first batch.
His theory on the impact of size on texture so delighted Corriher that she wanted to include it in her new book, “BakeWise” (Scribner, $40), due out in October.
And what would a chocolate chip cookie be without the wallop of good chocolate? According to most of the bakers, only chocolate with at least 60 percent cacao content has the brio to transform the dough into the Hulk Hogan of cookies.
Many, like Rubin and Torres, have their chocolate made exclusively for them. Others use high-quality imported brands, like Callebaut or Valrhona, and shoot a ratio of chocolate to dough of no less than 40 to 60.
Break apart a Torres cookie and a curious thing happens. Inside aren’t chunks of chocolate, but rather thin, dark strata.
“I use a couverture chocolate, because it melts beautifully,” he explained, something traditional chips don’t do. Couverture is a coating chocolate used, for instance, for covering truffles.
To get his trademark layers, Torres has his chocolate, which is manufactured by the Belgium company Belcolade, made into quarter-size disks – easily five times the volume of a typical commercial chip. Because the disks are flat and melt superbly, the result, he said, is layers of chocolate and cookie in every bite.
Dorie Greenspan, author of several baking books including “Baking: From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), was asked to fill in any blanks left by the master bakers during the quest for the ultimate cookie.
Improving upon a winner
Although unsure she could bring anything new to the party, she went through the usual checklist: read through the recipe first, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature, use the best-quality ingredients you can find, don’t overmix.
Then she hit upon something everyone else had missed, and some home bakers are nervous about: salt.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of salt in sweet baked goods,” she said. Salt, in the dough and sprinkled on top, adds dimension that can lift even a plebian cookie. To make the point, she referred to her recipe for Sables Korova, a chocolate chocolate-chip cookie with a hefty pinch of fleur de sel, from her book “Paris Sweets” (Broadway Books, 2002).
After weeks of investigating, testing and retesting, the time had come to assemble a new archetypal cookie recipe, one to suit today’s tastes and to integrate what bakers have learned since that fateful day in Whitman, Mass.
The recipe included here is adapted from Torres’ classic cookie, but relies on the discoveries and insights of the other bakers and authors. So, in effect, it’s all their cookie – the consummate chocolate chip cookie.
Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2008
The observations of a woman delivering newspapers led to the rescue of an elderly Moncton resident who was stuck in her bathtub for two days.
Bonnie Moore thought it was a little odd to see the elderly woman’s front door wide open at 3 a.m. one morning last week.
But the next morning around 4 a.m., Moore saw the front door still open, with the previous day’s paper lying right where she had dropped it the day before.
She knew something was amiss.
Moore called the RCMP and asked them to check on Lorraine LeBlanc. “I didn’t want to sound paranoid, but it really bothered me,” Moore says.
Her instinct was correct. LeBlanc had been stuck in her bathtub without food or water for two days.
LeBlanc, 85, decided to take a bath last Thursday night after a day working in her garden.
Normally she would give herself a sponge bath because last time she took a bath she got stuck. A hip replacement and bad knee have made it hard for LeBlanc to walk. But last Thursday, she says she wanted to get her “butt in the water.”
While she is still suffering some pain from her ordeal, it hasn’t affected her sense of humour.
LeBlanc laughed when a reporter called about the incident.
“You’re not going to put that in the paper, are you?” she said with a hearty laugh.
She says she tried numerous times throughout the harrowing experience to climb out of the tub, but her legs simply weren’t co-operating.
Monday, Jul. 7, 2008
Thumbelina, a 9-week-old pit bull who was ripped from her owner’s arms, has been safely returned after a woman walking along the Greenway bike trail off of Paxton Street in Swatara Twp. found the dog abandoned on the Fourth of July.
Angie Shives’ cell phone rang at 3 a.m. Saturday. On the other end was a woman who claimed to have found the puppy, whose plight was reported in The Patriot- News on Friday.
“Someone showed her the article in the newspaper and told her they thought she had the puppy,” Shives said. “I asked her so many times, ‘Are you sure?'”
On Monday, Shives was lured to a home near 17th and Market streets in Harrisburg by two men claiming they wanted to adopt the puppy she’d advertised for sale, she said.
Shives, who runs an informal pit bull rescue out of her Chambersburg home, said she tried to do all the right things before selling the dog, including getting references and conducting a home visit. She was trying to start the visit when the younger of the men grabbed the dog and ran.
Shives notified police, deluged shelters with e-mail, posted flyers and contacted the media.
“I figure with the article in the paper, and then two news crews showing up, he got scared and dumped her,” Shives said. The woman who rescued Thumbelina agreed to meet Shives and her husband at a Swatara Twp. gas station at 4 a.m., where she handed back the puppy.
The woman refused a reward, Shives said.
“She gave me hope,” Shives said. “My trust was down to nothing, and now it’s restored a little.”
For now, Shives said she’s stopping her pit bull rescue effort.
Harrisburg police did not return a call for comment.
As for Thumbelina, she’s rejoined her brother, Mickey, and sister, Patches, in romping around the Shives home.
Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2008
It was a day of minor miseries. There was a new eight-page form that replaced an old one-page form. Two pharmacies called about patients whose medications had run out but could not be renewed without prior authorization. A social security application required more documentation. We live in a mad land where helping people rests on faxing paperwork.
That night I went to the shelter. I have always thought of it as the last outpost where forms have not taken hold yet. But they had introduced a new form there, too. It involved arrows, decision trees, and subparagraphs. It was dispiriting.
The staff members were in their usual perpetual motion. They work long shifts, turnover is high, and many of them also work second jobs in other shelters, other outposts. The evening supervisor is African and tall as a tree. He wears loose cotton shirts, bone dry in the absence of the African sun, a gold wedding band, a baseball cap. Drunken clients misunderstand his accent, and he has experienced the casual racism of those who, with nothing else to their names, feel entitled to claim the United States as their exclusive property.
The shelter wheels turn smoothly under him. But that night the wheels were falling off. Plumbing had broken in the men’s dorm, there was a fight in the dinner line, something was going on with the ventilation, someone was being taken away to detox. The supervisor was running like a madman with his notebook in his hand.
In the middle of the shift, a woman arrived, in tears, but not for psychiatric reasons. She had been living in the shelter a few months, valiantly sober, managing a full-time job. She was slogging through the necessary steps to self-financing and getting an apartment: paycheck, bank account, first and last month’s rent.
A few days earlier, she thought she had found a place outside of the shelter to stay while accomplishing all this. She had handed in her notice, returned her locker key, and packed her stuff. This meant giving her bed up to someone else.
But her housing situation fell through. Now she had lost her bed and locker. Without a locker, she had no place to keep her uniform; without a uniform, she could not keep her job; without her job, she could not keep her bank account. Entropy was rising all around her.
We clucked helplessly and passed tissues. The bed belonged to someone else now; the shelter was full. At this hour of the night, other shelters were probably also full. She held up her hands in defeat.
The case manager decided to consult the evening supervisor. There was not much anyone could do – numbers were numbers – but it seemed like a supervisor should know the situation. Besides, productive feelings come from sharing a problem without a solution, even though the feelings are usually illusory. As a former boss once said, never suffer alone, and always kick it upstairs. The case manager left, and we sat in silence, listening to noise from the other side of the door.
There was nothing therapeutic to say.
It took a long time to track the supervisor down. That tall, treelike man was in Heisenbergian motion, disappearing between plumbing repairs and ambulances. At last he was located.
His response was prompt. No problem, he said. He would find a bed for her on the floor. This was an executive decision. He would use his authority and arrange the details.
The whole sobriety-saving, future-saving transaction occurred quickly, efficiently, and without a single fax (though there must have been some form to fill out afterward – if it wasn’t recorded, how could it exist?).
Comparisons are irresistible. Paper is self-important and often unhelpful. The supervisor was humble and promptly able to accomplish the necessary. I regret I know nothing of the details of this man’s life – what country in Africa he is from, how many children he has, what second or third job he works. I only know he is flesh instead of paginated sheets or self-addressed stamped envelopes, an unsung hero of whom I sing.
Monday, Jun. 9, 2008
There were no classmates to share memories with, but 100-year-old Alfred Webber found plenty of admirers when he returned to Bates College to mark his 80th class reunion this weekend.
“They really make a lot of it,” said the Chadds Ford, Pa., resident, who flew to Maine for the gathering of about 1,000 Bates alumni from classes spanning several decades. Webber is the only member of any of the classes of the 1920s who attended the reunion, the college said. A Lisbon Falls, Maine, native, Webber majored in physics and math at Bates before launching a three-decade career with DuPont Co. that took him to southeastern Pennsylvania.
He stays active and involved in his hobbies, which include astronomy, and drives a car. “My license expires in 2011,” he said during a telephone interview yesterday.
Born on Oct. 10, 1907, when Theodore Roosevelt was president, Webber graduated from high school in his hometown before enrolling at Bates. The private, liberal arts school’s 1928 yearbook makes reference to Webber’s interest in French and music.
His first job after graduation was orchestra director at Franklin High School in Franklin, Mass. Webber became principal at Brookline High School in Brookline, Mass., in 1937, but returned to school for graduate work in physics.
Asked what he credits for his many years, Webber said: “If a woman asks me that, I say I had a good wife.”
Friday, May. 30, 2008
More than six decades after the end of World War II, the question still boggles the mind: How did they survive?
After all these years, even the heroes of the story find it hard to believe that they came out alive. It was 1942 in German-occupied Poland.
The Jews of Dubno, then located along the Polish border with Ukraine, were incarcerated in the city’s ghetto.
A Polish family of five offered to hide a Jewish family whom they knew from before the war in their home on the outskirts of the city if they felt their lives were in danger.
As the Germans prepared to liquidate the ghetto that fall, eight members of the Fiszer family and seven other Jews managed to escape the ghetto, and made their way to the Kwarciaks’ backyard.
An army man, Piotr Kwarciak, his wife, Maria, and their three boys, aged 12 to 15, had built a well-camouflaged underground shelter beneath a pig sty nearby.
The shelter was tiny, with only room to sit.
But it was life.
The 15 Jews would remain underground for the next year and a half, only able to stretch, stand and exercise on a small ladder in the shelter.
The Kwarciak family provided the Jews with food and clothing despite the great risk to their own lives.
“We knew that we couldn’t say a single word to our neighbors or closest friends or we would be killed by the Germans,” recalled Alfred Kwarciak, 76, who was the youngest of the family’s boys, during a reunion with the Jewish family he helped save at Yad Vashem on Sunday.
At first, the Jews paid for their food, but when their money ran out the Kwarciaks continued to hide and feed them, motivated by friendship, compassion, love of humanity and fervent Christian beliefs.
The Polish boys stole food from summer camps to feed the 20 people in the household, and were charged with ensuring that no one came to the house.
The worst was yet to come.
In 1944 the Kwarciaks were also forced to take refuge in the shelter, as the front line between the approaching Red Army and the Germans approached their home. Then 12 German soldiers took up residence in the empty house, maintaining it as an observation post and command center for more than three weeks.
Day and night, the house came under constant mortar and gunfire from the Soviet Army, as the 15 Jews and their Polish protectors sat hiding in the shelter and approached starvation. As the families lay huddled in darkness, mortar shells struck nearby.
“Until this very day I do not understand how a mortar did not hit us,” Kwarciak said on Sunday. “They say that a soldier shoots but the Lord carries the bullets. It must have been divine supervision.”
Hungry and exhausted, the mothers of the two families decided to leave the shelter, and came upon the German soldiers who were staying in the home.
Pretending to be Poles from a neighboring house, they were able to get the soldiers’ leftovers by cleaning up for them, and managed to smuggle some of the food back to their families in the shelter. Finally, salvation came.
In March 1944, exhausted, starving and filthy from their stay underground – but all alive – the families were liberated by the Red Army.
After the war, most of the survivors immigrated to Israel, and the Kwarciak family moved to an area within Poland’s new borders.
The families kept in touch.
In 1989, Yad Vashem recognized the Kwarciak family as Righteous Among the Nations.
“You have been in my heart since I was a young boy,” survivor Michael Fisher, 80, from Kiyat Tivon near Haifa, who was a boy of 15 in the shelter, told Kwarciak.
Fighting back tears, Fisher told how Kwarciak gave him an apple one day when he was in hiding.
“Here, eat this,” he recalled the Polish teen telling him, the memory still fresh in his mind.
Fisher, who immigrated to Israel in 1946 and fought in the War of Independence, is the father of the celebrated singer Dudu Fisher.
Sunday’s reunion in Jerusalem, which was organized by Fisher’s family for his 80th birthday, was attended by 60 family members and friends.
“I want you to look around this room,” Dudu Fisher told one his father’s rescuers. “Most of the people sitting here today are here because of you.”
Friday, May. 16, 2008
Kate Spall has become an unlikely hero. A 36-year old housewife from Chester, she’s become a life-saver to cancer patients around the UK.
Kate is not a doctor, she has no medical training at all, but she’s become successful at obtaining new cancer drugs for patients that have yet to be approved for use on the NHS.
Kate’s journey began when her own mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 56. Pamela Northcott was told by her hospital that there was a drug which could extend her life, but she couldn’t have it because it hadn’t been assessed by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice).
Nice is an independent body which decides whether many new treatments can be used on the NHS in England and Wales. It was set up in 1999 to give national advice to consultants. It assesses drugs referred to it by the Department of Health and decides on a drug’s clinical and cost-effectiveness.
Kate wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer. She lobbied and harassed and eventually won the drug for her Mum, but too late. Soon after Pamela died. Kate is extremely critical of the process she went through.
Kate told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a system of blocking. They’re not looking at patients and saying “how can we fund it?”, they are saying, “how can we not fund it?””
Spurred on by the guilt and anger she felt at what happened to her Mum, Kate set herself up as a one-stop shop to help other patients get cancer drugs.
Bruce Leverington, who has kidney cancer, approached Kate after he was told a drug called Sutent could prolong his life, but wasn’t allowed it on the NHS. Bruce was told if he wanted the drug he could appeal to an Exceptional Case Review Panel.
“I was just so shocked and humiliated. I had to go and plead for my life,” says Bruce.
“They made me feel inferior and that I wasn’t worthy of this drug.”
Bruce found Kate on the internet and she started work on his case. Kate had to prove Bruce was an exceptional case. She spoke to his consultant, went through his records, looked closely at the hospital’s appeals procedure.
Kate describes the appeals process as complicated, daunting and legalistic. Hard enough to do in normal circumstances, but almost impossible if you’re also fighting cancer.
After weeks of hard work, Kate produced a dossier of evidence and helped Bruce to win his case.
Bruce says without Kate’s help he would not have succeeded. “I believe she has saved my life. She gave us endless hours of help, endless boosting up when I was down. I cannot describe what she has done for us – for me, my wife and my two sons.”
Kate has an astonishing success rate. So far, she’s taken 52 exceptional review cases and won 50. “It’s absolutely outrageous that you will live or die depending on how much you’ve researched, how much information you have, how well you put that across,” she says.
Kate is most critical of the amount of time it often takes for Nice to make its decisions.”How ironic that when we’re paying for all this cancer research, these medicines are licensed and working yet we in Britain aren’t allowed to access them. While we wait for Nice to decide, patients are dying.”
But while some patients complain it takes years for a drug to become available on the NHS, Nice can only consider a drug once it’s been referred to them by the Department of Health. They gave BBC Breakfast this statement:
“The reason it takes time for us to do our job is because we have to make sense of a large amount of complex and sometimes conflicting medical evidence. It also takes time because we make sure the views of healthcare professionals and patients are taken into account when developing our advice.
“We could do our job more quickly but we wouldn’t be able to consider the evidence as carefully or consult with patients and doctors as widely as we do currently. This could mean that we don’t make good decisions which would affect not only patients who currently have cancer but all the cancer patients that will need care and treatment in the future.
“Our job is to make sure taxpayers’ money is only spent on healthcare that works and is good value. Since Nice was set up in 1999 we have said yes to 91% of the cancer drugs we have looked at. The cost to the NHS of providing these cancer drugs to patients is approximately £337.18 million per year.
“NICE multiple appraisals take 12 – 18 months to complete once they have been referred to us by the Department of Health. Our single (rapid appraisals) take an average six months to complete, these appraisals are for newly licensed treatments and we are able to publish guidance to the NHS within months of the new drug getting a licence.”
But until new drugs are made more available more quickly Kate says she will continue to help other patients beat the system.
“It’s bizarre. Here I am, a mum, a wife, sitting in my little office in Chester taking on this huge monster the NHS. I can’t really believe it. But I’ll never give up on a patient, ever. And I think that’s what’s important, that a patient feels like there is somebody there who won’t give up on them, and I won’t give up on them.”
Tuesday, May. 13, 2008
Australia will spend A$3.8 billion ($3.5 billion) to fight climate change, including A$200 million to rescue the Great Barrier Reef, as part of a four-year plan outlined in the government’s budget on Tuesday.
More than A$1 billion would be spent to improve renewable technologies like solar, wind and geothermal energy over six years, as well as clean-up heavy-polluting coal power, centre-left Labor said in its first budget since it last held power in 1995.
“The government is addressing the fundamental environmental and economic challenge of climate change,” Treasurer Wayne Swan told the country’s parliament.
The Great Barrier Reef, Labor budget papers said, was particularly sensitive as the world’s largest coral system to rising sea temperatures and acidification in the oceans.
The government did not give details of any new measures, but Australia is already trialling projects to shade damaged parts of the reef, one of the country’s best-known tourist attractions, as well as to control run-off of coral-harming agricultural chemicals into the sea.
Environment experts have warned Australia is suffering an accelerated form of climate change, with some food growing areas of the country slipping back into drought this week after a brief respite, and with temperatures tipped to soar over the next century.
Already the world’s most parched inhabited continent, the country is responsible for 1.2 percent of global emissions but is the industrial world’s top per-head greenhouse gas emitter.
The 2008-09 budget, which included A$2.3 billion to fight climate change, comes ahead of a June draft report into a carbon trading scheme and recommendations for an interim 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target.
Swan said the government would spend A$300 million on low-interest loans for families to install solar or other green technologies like rain water tanks and water recycling at home.
It would also recruit Aboriginal rangers, equip every school with solar panels and spend A$180 million “to ensure we have parks and reserves as refuges for biodiversity in the face of climate change”, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.
Currently only 8 percent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources and Labor is aiming to lift that to 20 percent.
With rivers drying in the nation’s south-eastern food bowl, Swan said the government would spend A$1 billion to end water shortages in cities through desalination, while A$12.9 billion would help protect rivers and buy back water from irrigators.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made ratification of the Kyoto climate pact his first act after sweeping aside conservative rule in elections last November.
Rudd’s government has promised to slash greenhouse emissions by 60 percent from 2000 levels by 2050, mostly relying on the new emissions trading scheme.
The Vermont Veterans Home is planning to replace the worn headstones in its cemetery, some of which are more than 115 years old, with new marble grave markers.
Lewis Bowman, veterans’ liaison at the home, said some of the headstones erected for Civil War veterans date back to 1891. Among the earliest headstones are those for Curtis Hicks, a soldier with the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, and Patrick Brannon, a member of the 1st Vermont Cavalry.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for soldiers who fought in World War I and World War II. As recently as last week, Thomas Rosetti, a veteran of the Vietnam War was buried on the grounds.
Many of the headstones, some of which are flat and flush with the ground, have become worn and difficult to read.
With the support of state Rep. Joseph Krawczyk Jr., R-Bennington, Bowman said he was able to contact Veterans Affairs about a program that will allow the home to replace about 200 headstones.
The new headstones will be marble and uniformly vertical, according to Bowman. While there will be no charge for the replacement of the headstones, Bowman said the federal government requires proof of the destruction of the old grave markers.
Veterans home administrator Colleen Rundell said the government doesn’t want soldiers’ headstones to be sold online or otherwise trivialized.
Krawczyk said on Saturday that he and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who was in Bennington on Friday, discussed the possibility of preserving the headstones as historic objects.
The Wreaths Across America project led to Krawczyk’s involvement in the headstone replacement, he said. The wreaths were first supplied by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2006, they expanded their donations to military cemeteries across the country.
For two years, Wreaths Across America has made donations to the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. As people decorated the graves, they noticed the worn appearance of the stones and brought their concerns to Krawczyk, a veteran and chairman of Gov. James Douglas’ Veterans Advisory Council.
“I think this is something that has taken on new significance to Americans,” Krawczyk said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery, but for me it was breathtaking to be on those grounds. It really made me think about the service these men and women have provided to this country, selfless service. It makes you think about our history and how many of them gave their lives protecting the freedoms we have.”
Krawczyk said his father served as the grand marshal of the Veterans Day parade in the early 1950s that ended at the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. He said he wanted to see the “significance and reverence” the cemetery held for the town at the time restored.
According to Bowman, the headstones that will be restored, primarily from soldiers who served in the Civil War and World Wars I and II, along with some from veterans of wars in Korea and Vietnam, will be ready for an unveiling on Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Family members of the veterans interred in the cemetery will be invited to the ceremony.
That leaves a lot of work for Bowman and Dick Francis, who is in charge of grounds maintenance at the home. Because of the weight of the headstones, there are only so many that can be delivered and installed at a time.
“We’ll complete it on time. We want to be ready for Veterans Day,” Bowman said.
Tuesday, May. 6, 2008
A MOTHER who lost her husband to kidney disease has saved the life of their son by giving him a kidney.
Devastated by the death of her husband of 32 years, Christine Miller spared their youngest child, Damian, the same fate.
And this week, having recovered from their simultaneous operations for the transplant, they are celebrating the arrival of a new son and grandson.
Damian’s wife, Jenni, gave birth to Beau, the couple’s second child, last weekend.
It was a joyous finale to a remarkable series of events that began with heartbreak for the Miller family.
Damian’s own kidney problems were discovered in 2000, when he and older brother David were tested for kidney compatibility with their father, Peter.
Peter Miller suffered polycystic kidney disease, a condition that required blood dialysis for more than three years and ultimately proved fatal.
He died in September 2003 after years of waiting in vain for a compatible donor.
Damian, now 32, was distraught to learn his kidney was not a match for his dying father.
“It hit me pretty hard,” he said.
“All I wanted was to be able to give Dad my kidney.”
To make a grave situation worse, tests revealed the Miller brothers suffered the same condition as their father – the growth of cysts on their kidneys – and could one day need life-saving kidney transplants themselves.
Both were initially told it would be at least 15 years before the disease affected them.
While David remains in good health, Damian’s condition took a dramatic turn.
“Within a year my kidney function dropped to about 25 per cent,” he said.
When it fell to 11 per cent a year ago, doctors told Damian he also needed a transplant.
But a combination of his mother’s love and improved technology since his father’s death gave Damian a second chance at life.
Last November, one of Christine’s kidneys was successfully transplanted into her son, despite their different blood types.
It was the first time the surgery had been performed at Monash Medical Centre using an “incompatible” donor.
Professor Peter Kerr, director of Monash’s Department of Nephrology, said it was possible by “teaching the recipient’s body to accept other blood types”.
“Just like you can’t give blood from somebody with type A blood to somebody with type B, you can’t transplant a kidney from an A to a B,” he said.
“If you were to do a transplant in that situation, the kidney would go black in about 30 seconds because we all have antibodies that (reject) other blood groups.
“But before this type of transplant, we basically take all the antibodies out of the (recipient’s) blood.”
Knowing her kidney could be made a match for Damian, Christine said she didn’t give the major operation a second thought.
“It was an instant decision,” she said. “I would have been devastated if it hadn’t have been possible to give him one of my kidneys.
“If you go through something like this together, it shows there’s something pretty wonderful there.”
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2008
Heroism no longer has the distinction it once did. Athletes are called heroes for tossing a ball through a hoop. Philanthropists are called heroes for signing a check.
On Wednesday, a group of real heroes — people who over the last year put their lives on the line for others they never knew — got their due at the annual American Red Cross Heroes of Mid-Fairfield County Breakfast at the Trumbull Marriott.
Among those honored was Bridgeport City Councilman Angel dePara, who on June 30, 2007, dashed into a burning tenement on Stillman Street to save an elderly woman and a young girl, and returned to the flames to save another man in his 20s. He returned a third time to make sure no one was left behind.
“I still run into him sporadically,” dePara said of the man he led to safety. “I was walking down the street a few weeks after it happened and I hear this guy call out, ‘Hey hero!’ — it turned out to be him.”
He also said that the elderly woman didn’t seem too eager to be rescued. “She thought that I was going to kidnap them or something. I literally had to drag them out.”
Another of the Heroes was Fairfield police Officer James Pauciello, who on Feb. 1, 2007, rescued a 13-year-old girl trying to take her own life by standing on the train tracks. He pulled her to safety just as a 100-mph Acela Express train was bearing down on her. As the train rushed by a few feet away, he had to fight her struggles to throw herself under its wheels. Hero honors also went to Lee Cooper, of Westport, who while vacationing in Palm Beach, Fla., over last Memorial Day weekend, rescued a 12-year-old girl and an older man who got caught in the ocean’s riptide.
“When I got out there, I realized that I could only save one at a time,” he said. “The man said, ‘Well, what about me?’ but I told him, ‘Hey she’s a girl, I have to get her first. But I promise, I’ll come back to get you.’ ” Cooper kept that promise. One of the Red Cross heroes saved a life with her voice.
On July 29, K.C. Duffy, of West Haven, an emergency medical dispatcher with the Southwestern Regional Communications Center in Bridgeport, talked a man through helping his wife deliver their baby. Twenty minutes later, his wife gave birth to a 6-pound, 2-ounce, 19-inch boy. Eleven emergency responders, a radio dispatcher from Fairfield and an American Medical Response ambulance crew were given hero awards for saving the life of bow hunter Neil Champagne, who suffered a heart attack while sitting in his tree blind platform 25 feet up.
“I owe you all venison dinners,” Champagne told his rescuers.
Trumbull lifeguards Cody Hutchinson and Matt Cellini were honored for a rescue July 11, 2007, of a young girl who was pulled, nearly lifeless, from the bottom of the town’s Beaches Pool.
After two minutes that must have seemed like an eternity, the girl coughed up pool water and began crying.
Also receiving the award were Trumbull police Officers Douglas Smith and Jay Leos, who responded to the scene of a horrific accident on the Merritt Parkway on Jan. 26, 2007, in which a Subaru split in two after striking a tree.
The driver, a young woman, is believed to have suffered among the worst injuries ever suffered in a Trumbull car crash and survived.
The two Trumbull rescues prompted Trumbull First Selectman Raymond Baldwin, the ceremony emcee, to remark: “After hearing these stories, it sounds like Trumbull’s a very dangerous place to live.”
Bridgeport Firefighters Eric Levine, John Prusak and Frank McNellis received an award for saving a woman on March 7, 2007, from a burning home, which involved setting up a 28-foot ladder to reach a second-floor porch roof, and another 14-foot ladder to access a third-floor window.
The woman, who was unconscious, had to be revived on the porch roof before she could be brought to the ground.
Also honored were Stratford sisters Caitlin and Rebecca Simon, who collected more than 1,000 Beanie Babies to send to soldiers in Iraq so they could be given to children in that war-torn nation.
The sisters also sold bookmarks to purchase defibrillators for the town of Stratford.
The students of Monroe’s Chalk Hill School were honored for a variety of charitable endeavors, such as organizing a coat drive, collecting food for the hungry, and collecting Halloween costumes for needy children.
Also, George Ciaccio, of Wilton, was cited for spearheading Wilton Commons, a reduced-cost housing complex for the elderly with 77 one- and two-bedroom apartments. It will be completed in 2010.
Friday, Dec. 14, 2007
Tiffanie Joost knew her husband was facing a lot of odds in making it to the birth of their first child.
But she never could have imagined the incredible journey he would eventually take to get there, and the stranger who would make it all possible.
“We’re really blessed and happy, it is like a Christmas story, a Christmas miracle,” she said.
James Joost is an AT3 in the Navy and is stationed in Brunswick, Maine.
But only a few months into the pregnancy, he was deployed to Japan for six months and Tiffanie returned home to central Illinois to be with family for her pregnancy and birth.
James knew he would return sometime at the end of November and Tiffanie’s due date was Dec. 13. So to be safe, he bought his plane ticket from Maine to Illinois for Monday, Dec. 10.
But there is a saying about the best-laid plans – and it seems to hold especially true when babies are involved.
On Monday, as James was getting ready to board a plane to come see his wife, she called him after a routine prenatal appointment that was changing everything – her blood pressure was alarmingly high and her doctors wanted her admitted immediately to induce labor.
But there was a bad winter storm headed for the Midwest, and flights were being canceled everywhere.
“I felt bad for him because he was en route to get here and all the flights were getting canceled,” said Tiffanie. “He was practically helpless. I have family here so I wouldn’t have been alone, but he just would have been stuck.”
With a stroke of good luck, he managed to get a flight to Cincinnati and a connection to Chicago, but he would arrive too late at night for a bus or train.
Frantic about his situation and nervous about the upcoming birth, he struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to him on the plane to Chicago.
“She starts to read a book and I’m looking out the window and then I just started talking about how my wife’s about to have a baby,” Joost said.
The woman was Cindy Grady, an airline attendant from Wheaton who was returning home after a four-day work stint.
Immediately, she felt compassion for Joost and she called her husband for help.
“She said, ‘I need a favor Š see what you can do about a bus schedule or a train to Peoria or Bloomington, see you later bye,’” said Grady’s husband, David.
Cindy Grady had to hang up quickly, as the flight was getting ready to take off.
“So I’m thinking, ‘Oh my wife, she’s out of her mind again,’” David Grady said. “Right away I was pretty negative because I knew there wouldn’t be anything available.”
Grady contacted Ground Transportation at O’Hare International Airport, and his 17-year old son Trevor scoured the Internet.
By the time Grady left to pick up his wife at the airport, he knew what he would do – and when he finally heard why Joost needed to get to Pekin that night, there was no doubt in his mind.
“You know, I was at every one of our (four) sons’ and daughters’ births and I wasn’t going to let this guy miss his,” he said. “I told him, ‘You know what? We’ve gotta get you to this birth.’”
Joost was stunned.
“I was speechless,” he said. “I didn’t know if I should be thanking him or running!”
“I said are you kidding me? You’re serious?” Tiffanie said of her reaction to the news that James would be arriving soon. “You don’t hear of things like that except in movies or books, you would never expect some stranger to drive three hours to take some stranger home.”
But that is exactly what Grady intended to do, and after a quick stop in Wheaton to drop off Cindy, they headed out for Pekin.
“We have kids that are around this age and I’ve got a real heart for all these guys and gals that are in the military right now Š having a baby is a huge deal so there was no way not to do this,” Cindy Grady said. “My husband loves helping people, I knew he’d be fine with it.”
Grady had promised Joost he’d be in Pekin within three hours, but right away it became clear the trip wouldn’t be easy.
“We went immediately into fog, we weren’t even 10 minutes from the house,” Grady said. “So a couple miles more and it clears, but it starts raining, then it gets into freezing rain, then fog Š the long of it is we did get there by (3 a.m.) and God was with us all the way. It was his plan to have Jim there for his birth.”
David stayed long enough to meet Tiffanie and wish the couple well, and then he turned around and drove straight back home.
James asked how he could possibly repay the favor, and jokingly David told him, “Name your firstborn after me.”
The baby was born by caesarean section late Tuesday night, well after James arrived at Pekin Hospital early Tuesday morning.
He weighed 7 lb. 14-1/2 oz. and was 19.5 inches long.
His parents think he’s “perfect.”
The Joosts named him James Wesley, named after his father and grandfathers.
But as it turns out, David Grady’s full name is actually David James Grady.
And that’s not the only thing he has in common with this couple.
“I can relate to his trying to get home to see a baby,” Grady said. “For our last baby, Trevor (the one who did the Internet research), I was in Boston when Cindy called me and said, ‘My water just broke and we’re going to the hospital.’”
Grady made a quick call to United Airlines – and arrived back in Chicago in time for the birth.
“I can totally relate with having to get to his wife, so I think that’s great that it worked out,” Grady said.
“Our prayers and best wishes are with this couple.”
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007
North Dakotans are invited to Bismarck to celebrate North Dakota’s snow angel record of 2007 listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
The celebration reception will take place at noon Dec. 26 in Memorial Hall in the state Capitol building. Gov. John Hoeven and fFirst lady Mikey Hoeven have been invited to host the celebration.
The celebration is the kickoff event for Showcase North Dakota, a two-day festival of entertainment and art displays at the North Dakota Heritage Center, and Memorial Hall.
Visitors are also asked to “be an angel” by bringing non-perishable items to help those in need during both days. Drop spots for the donated items will be at vans parked in front of the Capitol and in boxes at entries to the Capitol building (the south entrance), the North Dakota State Library, and the North Dakota Heritage Center.
Refreshments will be available throughout both days, courtesy of North Dakota state employees.
“We want to make sure North Dakotans have a chance to celebrate this unique and very special world record,” said Marilyn Snyder, curator of education for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, who organized the event on the Capitol grounds on Feb. 17, when 8,962 “angels” beat the previous record of 3,784 set at Michigan Technical University in 2006.
North Dakota was the original record holder when 1,791 people participated in March 2002.
Each participant in the record-breaking snow angel event who attends the Dec. 26 celebration reception will receive a free replica of the Guinness Book of Records certificate as a keepsake of the activity that attracted national and international media coverage.
Monday, Nov. 12, 2007
As a chill wind blew over the veterans and their families at a cemetery in Port Huron on Sunday, Katie Stephens took her audience to Flanders Fields in Belgium.
“In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow/between the crosses, row on row,” read Katie, 10. “That mark our place; and in the sky/the larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.”
The poem – written from the perspective of fallen soldiers – was written about WWI, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when Germany signed the Armistice treaty agreeing to end the conflict.
Nov. 11 now is recognized as Veterans Day in the United States. Today, government offices and many businesses are closed to observe the holiday and honor all of the veterans who have served for the country.
On Sunday morning, veterans and their families gathered at the St. Clair County Allied Veterans Memorial Cemetery to watch a ceremony that included presentations by the fifth grade students from Howard D Crull Elementary in Port Huron and a performance by the St. Clair County Honor Guard.
All of the students involved in the presentation have family members who are veterans or active duty soldiers.
“I learned that it means a lot to people that their family served,” Katie said.
“We’re grateful to the men who served to keep us free,” said Katie’s mother, Karen Stephens. The two were planning to visit the grave of one of Katie’s uncles, Vietnam veteran Michael Stephens.
Alyssa Barr, 10, read about the history of Veterans Day at the ceremony. She said she was thinking about her father, Sgt. Jason Barr, who is currently serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Fifth-grade students raised the money to buy flowers for a wreath and urn that were added to the veterans memorial, said fifth-grade teacher Marc Polack.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, veterans, soldiers and their supporters gathered at the American Legion Hall in Port Huron to remember the day and listen to a speech by Col. John Theisen, commander of the 127th Maintenance Group (Air Combat Command) at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
There are 16,500 veterans in St. Clair County, said Raymond Carrier, president of the St. Clair County Allied Veterans Council, who was master of ceremonies.
Theisen, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, addressed the current state of the military. He said the military needs more funding and troops to support defense efforts at home and abroad and predicted that cyber attacks would pose a threat to national security in the future.
He also gave thanks to yesterday’s soldiers.
“That’s the greatest you’ll give to any one is yourself,” he said. “I pallor when I look at you. If we didn’t have you, as a country we would not be where we are today.”
Art Boerre, 88, of Marysville, is an Army vet who attended the ceremony to remember those who didn’t return with him from the Pacific Theater in WWII.
“I’m just paying recognition to all the fallen comrades,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything because they deserve to be honored.”
There were also Veterans Day events Sunday in Peck and Port Sanilac and a ceremony was planned this morning at Fort Gratiot Middle School.