Features

Kindness Rocks Project rippling through Huntington and beyond

Seven-year-old Noah Crittendon poses next to a painted rock he’s hidden at the base of a tree in Hier’s Park. Noah’s mom, Ashley Crittendon, discovered the Kindness Rock Project while vacationing in Florida and spearheaded the organization of Huntington Indiana Rocks. The venture, she says, is meant to “make people happy” by painting and hiding rocks for others to find.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Aug. 10, 2017.

Ashley Crittendon was on vacation in Florida over spring break when she found a rock hidden in a hole in a palm tree.

It wasn’t just any old rock; this one had been painted blue and was adorned with a picture of a sun.

“It was really exciting, just finding a simple rock,” Crittendon says.

Cleanup at old H.K. Porter site in Huntington among the less worrying ones for EPA coordinator

Jorge Gonzalez pumps liquids from a benzene storage tank on the site of the H.K. Porter/Friction Materials site on Thursday, Aug. 10. This particular tank contained only rainwater and rust, but the EPA team will cut holes in it so it can’t be used.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

The old H.K. Porter/-Friction Materials is full of stuff that shouldn’t be left laying around.

There’s lead and asbestos, raw materials used in the manufacture of linings for automotive parts including brakes and clutches; and benzene, a solvent used in the manufacturing process.

All are known or suspected carcinogens, but all are still used — under strict regulations — in manufacturing today.

HCCSC superintendent stoked about upcoming school year

Lancaster Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Kayla Whitacre works on a bulletin board offering tasks for her students that can earn them extra credit or prizes in her classroom on Thursday, Aug. 3. School begins for students on Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Aug. 7, 2017.

While Huntington County’s schoolchildren may not be all that fired up about returning to the classroom, Huntington County Community School Corporation’s superintendent, Randy Harris, is stoked about the 2017-18 school year, and ready to take the proverbial bull by the horns for the year’s tasks ahead.

Student council fund-raiser turns HNHS parking lot into art canvas

Katie Paolillo, an incoming senior at Huntington North High School, puts the finishing touches on her own personalized parking spot in the HNHS student parking lot Friday, July 28. This is the first year that senior students can reserve a spot and paint it. So far, the student council has sold 69 spaces, raising $1,380.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Aug. 3, 2017.

It seems everybody likes the idea that incoming seniors who reserve a parking space at Huntington North High School can paint their space in a creative way. It’s the first year the school has allowed the painting of the reserved spaces, serving as a fund-raiser for student council.

A photo of a painted spot posted on the high school’s Facebook page has already received more than 330 “likes” – from the likes of fellow students, teachers and even Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters.

Old-fashioned milk shakes still a big hit at county’s 4-H fair

Taking advantage of the calm before the storm on Thursday, July 20, Kathy Blinn readies a milk shake machine to churn out hundreds of cold and creamy treats for visitors to the Huntington County 4-H Fair.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published July 24, 2017.

Mix 1,500 gallons of ice cream with a few hundred gallons of milk, toss in some chocolate syrup, and what do you get?

New pens for the goat barn.

That’s after you serve hundreds and hundreds of milk shakes.

Shakes that have developed such a following that the line to order one sometimes snakes clear across the Huntington County Fairgrounds.

Peer supporters help local responders deal with tough calls

Huntington firefighter Jason Meier (right) works with firefighters (from left) Andrew Wust and George Markou to fold a hose onto a fire truck. Meier is executive director of the newly organized Indiana Public Safety Peer Support, which offers a listening ear to anyone involved in public service.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published July 17, 2017.

You may think the firefighter freeing your loved one from a mangled vehicle is a god.

He’s not.

Neither are the dispatcher who sent him out, or the police officer or the emergency medical technician also working the scene.

Sure, sometimes they go back to work unscathed and wait for the next call.

But sometimes that horrible thing that just happened eats at them.

“We’ve had some pretty tough hits on the fire department,” says Huntington Firefighter Jason Meier.

Pair of Mustangs at Rolling into Roanoke come with happy ending

Steve Federspiel (left), of Roanoke, stands beside his 2016 Shelby Mustang GT350 while Blake Caley, of Markle, stands beside his 1967 Shelby Mustang GT350. Tony Cotterman, of Fort Wayne, won the cars in a national contest in March, but was unable to drive them due to a physical disability. Federspiel and Caley stepped up and purchased the cars from Cotterman for more money than the contest’s cash prize alternative. Both vehicles and all three men will be at this year’s Rolling into Roanoke car show on Saturday, July 22. Photo by Steve Clark.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Tony Cotterman was surprised when he won a pair of Ford Mustangs in a contest earlier this year.

What’s even more surprising is that he almost turned them down.

Cotterman, of Fort Wayne, was awarded a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT350 and a 2016 Shelby Mustang GT350 in the Mustang Dream Giveaway. The contest, which is open to residents of the United States and beyond, is conducted annually by Dream Giveaway Promotions, an organization that raises funds for charities through prize drawings. Cotterman made a donation and entered the contest last fall.

Old house helps turn Andrews woman into ‘treasure’ finder

Sonya Harshman, of rural Andrews, shows off the collection of objects she found while using a metal detector. She has traveled to several states to enjoy her hobby, which has netted some important finds including a gold coin.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published July 13, 2017.

Sonya Harshman moved to Andrews about three years ago so her husband could be closer to work. But an old house located on their new property provided the inspiration to hunt for historic treasures. And, catching the “bug,” Harshman hasn’t stopped hunting.

“That’s an 1857 log cabin,” she explains. “Whenever we moved here I thought, you know, I’m going to get a detector and just see what’s out in the yard. And that was it.”

Local 12-year-old gets to hang out, share with another guy through BBBS program

Jason Meier (left) and Connor Huff hang out on the patio of the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library. They discovered a mutual love of the outdoors after being matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program about two years ago.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published July 10, 2017.

Connor Huff has two sisters at home, but they’re, well, girls.

He has “a whole bunch of brothers,” but they don’t live with him.

There are some other kids in his neighborhood, but they’re all younger.

Luckily for 12-year-old Connor, he has Jason.

“I actually get to hang out with another boy,” Connor says. “I actually get to talk to him.”

Like himself on bicycle, local BMX racer’s career moving along at fast rate of speed

Paul Bickel, of Huntington, stands surrounded by trophies he’s won since becoming a BMX racer a year ago. While the 22-year-old travels around the country to races, he also works to raise the sport’s profile in Huntington, having helped build the new BMX track in Yeoman Park.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published July 6, 2017.

Paul Bickel moves fast on a bicycle.

As a result, his career in bicycle motocross has moved fast, too.

Bickel, a Huntington native, has competed in over 50 events. He’s raced in places as far-flung as Australia. He’s upped his proficiency from intermediate to expert.

And he’s done it all in just 12 months.

Not expected to make first birthday, Huntington woman beats odds again to make it to 50th year

Melissa “Myndi” Greer, who wasn’t expected to live through her first year, recently celebrated her 50th birthday.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published July 3, 2017.

Melissa “Myndi” Greer threw a party on June 25 to celebrate her 50th birthday.

She was also celebrating beating the odds — again.

Doctors told her parents that their newborn wouldn’t see her first birthday; then they told her she wouldn’t live through her teenage years; then they said she’d be lucky to see 30.

“Now, the doctor says, ‘You’re going to live as long as you want,’” she says.

Greer has the most severe form of osteogenesis imperfecta — brittle bones that break easily, and frequently.

Four area girls form friendship of gold bonded by scouting

Four Girl Scouts in Troop 20083 have been in scouting together since Daisies, continuing through to the uppermost Ambassadors level. They are (from left) Grace Moser, Shania Brown, Lily Sabinske and Olivia Bowman. Their career as scouts will end in September, but they say they will continue as friends.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 29, 2017.

The Girl Scouts have a song that goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold.”

In 2004, four little girls in Markle decided to join Daisies, the youngest level of Girl Scouts, when they were in kindergarten.

Thirteen years later, the girls — now high school graduates and headed to college — have forged a friendship of gold together bonded by scouting.

Local resident earns induction into worldwide chefs’ group

Chef Jeff Albertson, a Huntington resident and chair of the hospitality administration program at the Fort Wayne campus of Ivy Tech Community College, is one of two Ivy Tech chefs to be inducted into Disciples Escoffier International USA.
Photo provided.

Originally published June 26, 2017.

The name Georges Auguste Escoffier isn’t one that makes it into everyday conversation.

But everyone who eats owes a debt to Escoffier, says Jeff Albertson, one of the French chef’s newest disciples.

Albertson, a hometown chef who chairs the hospitality administration program at the Fort Wayne campus of Ivy Tech Community College, was one of two Ivy Tech chefs to be inducted into Disciples Escoffier International USA during a recent food tour in France and Germany.

New group in county helping women to feel more confident behind the trigger of a gun

Under the watchful eye of The Well Armed Woman leader/instructor Alysha Wilson (left), Jo Ann Reed, of Andrews, practices taking aim at a target at the outdoor range at Hillside Shooting Sports, in Roanoke. The club had its first Roanoke chapter meeting on June 15.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 22, 2017.

As a nurse, Huntington resident Alysha Wilson found herself working in some very unsavory neighborhoods in Fort Wayne.

Jenny Eversman, a Fort Wayne resident, was fearful for her young family when her husband was away at work.

Both women found a way to deal with their trepidations and now have formed a new club in Huntington County to help other women become confident behind the trigger.

New ministry designed to help women with children find shelter moves to build stage

Rev. Jimi Staton, pastor of New Life Fellowship, stands in front of the house the church purchased for $50 that will become the Women and Children’s Life House residence, once renovations are complete. The ministry is expected to be open to residents in October.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 15, 2017.

A new ministry devoted to helping women with children find shelter and get back on their feet has moved from the vision stage to the hammer and saw stage.

Salvation Army going back to its past to serve original ‘doughnut girl’ treats at HD balloon fest

Huntington native and Salvation Army officer Helen Purviance became known as the original “doughnut girl” after frying the treats for World War I soldiers serving on the front lines in France in 1917.
Photo provided.

Originally published June 12, 2017.

Helen Purviance was 28 when she gained fame as the “doughnut girl” of World War I.

The Huntington native, then an ensign with The Salvation Army, was ministering to soldiers on the front lines in France in 1917 when she and a friend surprised the men with freshly-fried treats.

A century later, the doughnuts are coming back to Huntington, served up freshly made by Salvation Army Capt. Dennis Marak and his crew using Purviance’s original recipe.

Naturalist blends history, acting, with passion for native plants

Salamonie Lake Interpretive Naturalist Laura Whiteleather, as Millie the pioneer granny doctor, forages for some plants to add to her basket of wild herbs used to treat illnesses and maladies such as poison ivy. Whiteleather has been giving her presentation for the past nine years.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 8, 2017.

The story goes, she rode along with her family from Pennsylvania, traveling in a canvas-covered wagon to the frontier known as Indiana – the “Land of the Indians.”

It was the early 1840s, and Millie was a pioneer woman in a rough, new, unforgiving country.

Although time has made her appear a bit older, in her long pioneer dress and frilly bonnet, Millie is only about 9 years old – a fictional character made up by Laura Whiteleather.

UTEC worker shifts to Plan B ... with a technology twist

Steve Mitchell shows how his 3-D printer lays a thin layer of plastic at a time to make the fidget spinners he is creating with the machine.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 5, 2017.

When Steve Mitchell learned he was going to lose his job as a surface mount technician at United Technologies Electronic Controls in Huntington, his world was in for a major shift. After working there 23 years and close to retirement age, he needed to kick in Plan B.

“They decided to move to Mexico; I don’t really have a choice,” Mitchell says. “My family is here; that’s where I belong.”

People seeing double a lot at Roanoke this year

Eight sets of twins at Roanoke Elementary School celebrated the last days of school this year by getting together for a group photo. Pictured are (front row, from left) Kennedy Zahm, Sophia Scheer, Matthew Gross, Chloe Horne, Ethan Kelsey, Layla Wigmore, Delaney Molitor and Ellison Smith; and their siblings (back row, from left), Jerica Zahm,  Stella Scheer, Tyler Gross, Danny Horne, Evan Kelsey, Logan Wigmore, Alexis Molitor and Elliott Smith.
Photo provided.

Originally published June 1, 2017.

This past year at Roanoke Elementary School, people were seeing double a lot more than at other Huntington County schools — make that double times eight.

The school had eight sets of twins this year — three sets of girls, three sets of boys and two sets of boy/girl twins.

“We have kind of a ‘twin anomaly’ here,” says Principal Chris Tillett. “They’re just cute … They’re a lot of fun.”

Local Rotary Club has seen its share of changes in first century

Current members of the Huntington Rotary Club are (front, from left) Annette Carroll, Beka Lemons, Holly Saunders and Nicole Johnson; (second row, from left) Rich Beaver, Adam Drummond, Joe Santa, Dawn Harvey and Megan Reckelhoff; (third row, from left starting in the middle of the photo) Natalie McConnell, Kathy Branham, Mandy Reber and Cindy Krumanaker; (fourth row, from left) Mike Perkins, Jim Hoffman, Steve Pfister, Matt Roth, Chris Sands and Rose Meldrum; (fifth row, from left) Mel Ring, Lyle Juillerat, Randy Sizemore, Mark Wickersham, Kevin Killen, Lori Mickley and David Dyer; (sixth row, from left) Sarah Hain, Rose Wall, Stefan Poling and Billy Winter; (seventh row, from left) Joe Hake, Brooks Fetters, Pat Brown and Chris Fleck; and (eighth row, from left) Dave Mettler John Jepsen and Michael Howell.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published on May 29, 2017.

Like most things that have lasted for a century, the Huntington Rotary Club has seen its share of changes.

“It’s really evolved, because it was at one time a good old boys’ club,” says Jim Hoffman, who’s been a Rotarian since 1973.

“It used to be men who didn’t punch the clock, and they had secretaries,” says Mel Ring, whose 57 years of membership makes him the longest-standing Rotarian in Huntington.

There were no women, and there were strict limits on the number of members from any one profession.

California couple looking for Midwest farm and land instead winds up with lodge hall project

Theresa and Atom Cannizzaro are the new owners of Huntington’s former Masonic Temple, a 20,000-square-foot building that has become their home and may, eventually, house a business.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published May 22, 2017.

Theresa and Atom Cannizzaro were looking for a Midwest farmhouse surrounded by a couple hundred acres of land.

They bought a massive former lodge hall near downtown Huntington, complete with two parking lots.

“We just really fell in love with this,” says Theresa, who, like her husband, Atom, was born and raised in San Diego, CA.

Huntington’s Carroll enjoys his work at ‘happiest place on Earth’

EJ Carroll, of Huntington, stands by a flag for The Masters, one of the most famous golf tournaments in the world, which is held annually at Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, GA. In April, Carroll got to fulfill a lifelong dream and go to Augusta National, working in security at The Masters.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published May 15, 2017.

Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA, is widely known as the home of The Masters, one of the most famous golf tournaments in the world.

EJ Carroll, of Huntington, has another name for it.

“It’s the happiest place on Earth,” he says. “It really is. Everybody wants to be there.”

Zay notes being new guy in statehouse a bit tough, but not overwhelming with some help

Indiana State Sen. Andy Zay, who was appointed to represent the 17th District when Jim Banks was elected to Congress, makes a point during a senate session earlier this year.
Photo provided.

Originally published May 12, 2017.

What’s it like to be the new guy in the Indiana Statehouse?

There’s “a little bit of learn by fire,” says Sen. Andy Zay, fresh off his first term as a member of the state’s legislative body.

On the other hand, he says, there was always a seasoned lawmaker, an aide or a representative of a state agency available and accessible to provide him with the information he needed.

Rotary Reading Buddy partnership turns into long-term friendship for Schwob, Snyder

Rotary Club member Kay Schwob (left) and Sarah Denton Snyder take a break at Café of Hope on Monday, May 1. The two have remained friends ever since they were first paired in the Rotary Reading Buddies program at Lincoln Elementary School back in 2000. They have kept in touch through letters, cards, get-togethers and Facebook.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published May 8, 2017.

When Kay Schwob signed on to help out her Huntington Rotary Club with its newly-launched Reading Buddies program at Lincoln Elementary School in 2000, she thought she was helping to give back to the community she loves.

Courthouse clocks not just a way to look at time, but their workings are way to look back in time

Greg Ricker, facilities manager of the Huntington County Courthouse, cranks one of the building’s four exterior clocks on Tuesday, April 25. The clocks, which require cranking once a week in order to function, have been in continuous use since they were installed in the courthouse in 1907.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published on May 5, 2017.

Looking at one of the clocks outside the Huntington County Courthouse isn’t just a way to look at the time — it’s also a way to look back in time.

The clocks were installed in 1907. And while many aspects of the courthouse have changed since that time, the devices in charge of keeping the time have not.

There are four exterior clocks in all at the courthouse. None of them are automated. To keep the clocks running, maintenance workers must trek up to the courthouse attic once a week and wind each one of them up.

Cancer survivor helps raise funds with her apron-making skills

Roberta Rector models one of her cancer-fighting aprons, with more aprons laid out on a sofa in the lobby of the LaFontaine Center.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published May 1, 2017.

It all started eight years ago when Roberta Rector received a cancer diagnosis.

Now, Rector is turning out aprons by the dozen in an effort to keep others from going through what she went through.

“I’m a survivor,” she says. “I’m just making aprons to try and help get rid of the disease.”

Once about the future, Kirby now heads into past with spirit

Sarah Kirby, librarian in the Huntington City-Township Public Library’s Indiana Room, has a career that began in rocket science and has evolved into library science.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published April 27, 2017.

Sarah Kirby’s trajectory has taken her from the future to the past.

Once part of a team that sought to explore the outer reaches of space, Kirby now heads a team whose mission is firmly planted on (or in) the ground.

Her new job as librarian in the Huntington City-Township Public Library’s genealogy collection is, she says, the answer to her question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

As a child, she says, the answer was space.

“I was a space cadet when I was 3,” Kirby says. “I named my dog ‘Star.’”

County woman says achieving inner peace and tranquility may be as far away as own back yard

Taking advantage of the wooded property at her parents’ home on Rangeline Road on April 12, Christy Thomson demonstrates how taking time to sit and take in the sights, sounds and scents of the woods can help hikers relax and reap several benefits to their physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published April 24, 2017.

A rural Huntington woman says achieving inner peace, tranquility and spiritual renewal may be just as far away as your own back yard.

Christy Thomson, who may be better known as the music coordinator at the Parkview Huntington YMCA, calls it “forest bathing” or “forest therapy.” The moniker is derived from the Japanese word Shinrin-yoku, which is translated as “bathing your senses in the forest.”

Genius Hour showing educators that letting students pick studies might be right track

Alayna Pohler (left) and Josie Eckert, members of the Riverview Middle School Seventh Grade Blue Team, explain to the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees at its April 10 meeting how they decided to create a lip balm product for their Genius Hour project. The profits from sales of the lip balm are being donated to The Salvation Army.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published April 20, 2017

The idea of letting kids learn what they want to learn sounds like a recipe for disaster, but as the seventh-grade Blue Team at Riverview Middle School has proven, it’s sheer genius.

It’s called Genius Hour, a program that is teaching middle school students to not just think out of the box, but for themselves as well. The results have been impressive, says Assistant Principal Michael Parsons.

Chance calling has county resident among best in world

John Nixon, of Huntington County, stands with the Founders Award, an accolade given out by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences that recognizes outstanding service to the engineering sciences. Originally from Scotland, Nixon has made a name for himself in the United States as a forensic consultant and expert on weapons systems and explosives.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published April 17, 2017.

John Nixon found his calling in life by chance.

While training to be an engineer in London, he was approached by government representatives who were searching for engineers to work on munitions and ordinance.

“They kind of picked me out and said, ‘Come for an interview,’” Nixon recalls. “So, I had an interview and then got the job. I was kind of like a troubleshooter, going from one technology area to another.

“So, I worked on a lot of things – like missiles, explosives, small arms.”

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