HNHS Academic Super Bowl team scoring with and beating ‘big boys’

Intently focused on a question projected on a screen, Huntington North High School Academic Super Bowl team members (from left) Bethany Williams, Emma Gordon, Charles Grey, Audrey Marjamaa and Zach Lippe get ready to write the answer down before the time limit expires during a practice session on Feb. 29. The team went on to place in the social studies, math and English sections of the multi-school competition held on March 2.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published March 10, 2016.

It was a proud, proud teacher who boasted the scores of Huntington North High School’s fledgling Academic Super Bowl teams, fresh from their competition on March 2 at South Side High School. For science teacher and co-sponsor Andrew Villanueva, it was also sweet vindication.

“You don’t necessarily think about Huntington North being highly academic,” he says. “We don’t know that we’re good at these things until we go do them.”

Ex-local overcomes rocky start to become top medical entomologist

Stan Cope Jr.

Originally published March 7, 2016.

Long before Dr. Stan Cope Jr. was a respected figure in the field of medical entomology, he was an object of ridicule in his freshman biology class at Huntington North High School.

It had to do with an insect collection that was due for the class. Cope hastily threw his together the night before, transferring bugs from trees and bushes into a shopping bag, which he then stuffed into a Budweiser box.

Sitting in class the following day, Cope’s teacher singled him out. Initially, he thought it might be for praise.

After 30 years, Pulse director knows costumes help cast spell

Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok, founder and managing director of the Pulse Opera House in Warren, is surrounded by just a fraction of the costumes the Pulse has amassed during its 30-year history. Smyth-Wartzok also serves as costume designer for the Pulse and, for most of those 30 years, single-handedly designed and constructed all of the actors’ costumes.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published March 3, 2016.

The actors get all the glory.

But their costumes have just as much to do with casting the spell of the story.

“What that person decided to put on that day tells you a lot about who that character is,” says Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok, costume designer at the Pulse Opera House, in Warren.

The thousands of costumes that have appeared on stage at the Pulse over its 30-year history are largely the work of Smyth-Wartzok, the community theater’s founder, who also serves as its managing director and artistic director.

Mother Nature not very kind to syrup producers this year

Deloris Smith hangs a 10-quart metal bucket on a spigot that has been freshly driven into the side of a maple tree on Tuesday, Feb. 16. When the sap begins to run, the trees can fill the bucket, sometimes spilling over with the sweet, watery substance, which will be boiled down to make syrup.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 29, 2016.

Mother Nature has been kind to nearly everyone in Huntington County this year — except John and Deloris Smith.

The couple depends on the usually below-freezing wintry weather for their one and only crop, maple syrup.

But finally, some cold temperatures did hit local “fields” — comprised of wooded stands of huge maple trees — prompting the sap to rise. The Smiths were there to harvest it.

Huntington resident asking people to pitch in shoes as part of Relay for Life fund-raiser

Deb Christman, a dietary aide at Parkview Huntington Hospital, holds just a few of the new and gently used shoes she has collected for the upcoming Huntington County Relay for Life. A hospital-wide drive to collect shoes will begin March 1. Drop-off boxes will be located in the hospital lobby and the public is invited to help fill them with all types of footwear.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 25, 2016.

Debra Christman has seen far too many family members and friends succumb to cancer. She’s enlisting the support of everyone she knows to fight the disease, and she wants their shoes to do it.
The Huntington resident, who is a dietary aide at Parkview Huntington Hospital, has continued the fight for the past 10 years as a participant and team captain in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Her indignation at being among the living “victims” affected by cancer fuels her actions.

Robotics team readies for competition season

Team THRUST Coordinator Chris Elston (center) coaches his team on how to make its robot fire cannonballs at the Vocational Technical Center on Monday, Feb. 8. Team members pictured are (from left) Jake Garlits, Jacob Burns, Doug Melchi, Andrew Land and Noah Nguyen.
Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Feb. 22, 2016.

Chris Elston gathers his team of high school students around their mechanized war machine.

In their workshop littered with scrap metal and computer parts, and the air filled with the whirring of saw blades and heavy tunes by popular rock band Disturbed, Team THRUST is hard at work to make a robot that will lead them to victory.

The team kicked off its 11th season on Jan. 9 and must complete its robot before the first regional competition in Tippecanoe on March 11.

Local man on mission to teach kids ‘real game’ of chess

John Martinez explains a chess move to one of the members of the chess club he coaches. The club, an extension of Martinez’s love of the game, meets monthly at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Feb. 18, 2016.

John Martinez has the pawns, the rooks, the bishops and the royal couple in place on the tables, ready to roll.

But as his players arrive, he quickly realizes there aren’t enough places at the boards.

No problem. He grabs a few long green bags, slides out rolled-up chess boards and covers another table.

He matches up the players, and the first games begin.

The competitors are young, most no older than middle school. But they’re all older than Martinez was when he started to play.

HNHS Spanish class project having impact many miles away

Advanced placement Spanish classmates Alexa Hill (left) and Hannah Williams (center) discuss story ideas for the children’s books they are writing in Spanish as Madi Canady (right) notates during the initial phases of the class project on Feb. 2. After their assignments are completed, the books will be sent to school children in the Dominican Republic.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 15, 2016.

A classroom project in Beth Beery’s Advanced Placement Spanish Class at Huntington North High School is making an impact on youngsters thousands of miles away.

The 20 students in the class are creating children’s storybooks in Spanish, each coming up with his or her own unique story. Any number of subjects may be the focus.

“Some of them make them personal, about their own lives,” Beery explains. “Some of them make them kind of like a moral-to-the-story type books. So they have all different kinds.”

New historical museum director working on less is more theory

Huntington County Historical Museum Director Mark Stouder (right) and museum volunteer Jim Dinius look over a model of Huntington as it appeared around 1835. Stouder joined the museum as director late last year.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Feb. 8, 2015

Mark Stouder is going with the theory that more can sometimes be done with less.

So while the Huntington County Historical Museum was on its regular month-long shutdown in January, Stouder and the museum’s volunteer crew were weeding through the displays.

“What we’re trying to do is thin it out a little bit and let the exhibits tell a story,” Stouder says.

‘Tap boys’ at YMCA know dance not just for girls

YMCA dance instructor Brooke Farrington (second from right) shows her pupils how it’s done as they practice their steps in the boys’ tap dance class on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Students are (from left) Austin Taylor, Zander Mason and Tyler Gradeless.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 4, 2016.

Some of the coolest boys at the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA wear tap shoes.

They’re really cool.

Just ask them.

“It’s really fun and really cool,” says newbie Austin Taylor, 11, of Roanoke. “It keeps my feet moving and it’s fun to learn new things.”

He’s not alone in his praise of tap.

It’s not hard to see that the boys, without exception, were having fun as they worked diligently on learning how to hoof it with metal plates on the toes and heels of their shoes.

No joke -- Huntington partners actually ‘running off with circus’

Lori VanOver (left) nuzzles Cash the camel as Evan Wall holds the animal’s harness. A pie-in-the-sky conversation between VanOver and Wall quickly became reality, and the two now share ownership of five camels and seven ponies.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Feb. 1, 2016.

Evan Wall is on his way from Huntington to Florida, pulling a gargantuan trailer filled with five camels and seven ponies.

He and his crew — including his dad, Tom Wall, and friends Michelle Amor and Rocky Mills — will meet up in Florida with business partner Lori VanOver, who’s bringing along her mom, Joan Keefer, and friend Mary Stein.

Then they’ll join the circus.

“It’s been Evan’s dream to run off with the circus,” VanOver jokes.

That wasn’t quite the dream, but that’s what the dream has morphed into.

Local women’s home rehab talents put to good use by Habitat

Dawn Harvey directs volunteers at a Huntington County Habitat for Humanity home rehabilitation project on Saturday, June 23. Harvey, a member of the local Habitat board, is using her experience in home rehabilitation while working on the Walnut Street house.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Jan. 28, 2016.

The house in the 1500 block of Walnut Street has seen better days.

Crumbling cement steps, a saggy ceiling and less-than-weathertight windows were among its problems.

But since the house fell into the hands of Huntington County Habitat for Humanity, its future has started looking a lot brighter, with crews of volunteers in and out as they revamp the home’s layout, install new windows, shore up the ceiling and more.

If there’s a youth sport being played somewhere in Hgtn. County, Houser’s probably coached it

Ray Houser (right), a coach for the Crestview Middle School wrestling team, gives some instruction to wrestler Riley Bowman during a meet. Passionate about coaching, Houser has called the shots for numerous teams in a variety of different sports through the county.
Photo provided.

Originally published Jan. 25, 2016.

Ray Houser has held more coaching positions than he can remember.

Well aware of this, he produces a piece of paper from his pocket baring the names of his many coaching gigs to trigger his memory.

It’s a long list: flag football at the Huntington Police Athletic League; Huntington Parks and Recreation Department soccer; Upward Sports basketball, as well as hoops at Horace Mann Elementary School and the Salvation Army; Roanoke Youth Sports soccer; football, wrestling and soccer at Crestview Middle School.

HU students using J-Term to learn much-needed skill that instructor says is becoming a lost art

Berlinda Nibo, a junior from Los Angeles, CA, concentrates on the seam she is sewing on her apron project in the Basic Personal Sewing class at Huntington University on Thursday, Jan. 14. Two classes of 10 students in each class are learning sewing basics as they put together an apron and potholder project for the class.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Jan. 21, 2016.

Twenty students at Huntington University are spending their January term learning some much-desired skills their instructor says are threatening to become a lost art.

Mary Zellers, adjunct professor and costume shop supervisor, says the popularity of the Basic Personal Sewing class necessitated adding a second session so students could learn what she describes are the basics of sewing and clothing repair.


Huntington youngster develops early affinity for feathered friends

Hunter Saunders (right) gets a little help from his grandfather, Rick Saunders, as they fill the bird feeders in the back yard of Rick’s residence in rural Andrews. Hunter is credited with being able to identify nearly 80 birds.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Jan. 18, 2016.

At the tender age of 4, Hunter Saunders can point out a cardinal, a blue jay, a sparrow, a cedar waxwing … and that’s just a start.

He knows by sight all kinds of ducks — from wood ducks to golden eyes and mergansers.

He can identify nearly 80 species of winged creatures, by his father’s guess. And Hunter hasn’t yet begun an official “life list” of birds he’s sighted so far.

“I started writing them down, and I got to about 35 or so,” says Hunter’s dad, Justin Saunders, of Huntington.

Riverview’s Parsons earns grant to shoot inspirational posters

Michael Parsons, assistant principal at Riverview Elementary School, stands in his office beside pictures he and his wife, Arlene, have taken during their trips around the world. Parsons was recently awarded a $12,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation, in Indianapolis, to travel out west, where he’ll photograph locales such as Yellowstone National Park and subsequently make unique inspirational posters that will be hung up around Riverview.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published on Jan. 14, 2016.

Inspirational posters adorn the walls of the Riverview Middle School main office, bearing the words and outdoor images that onlookers have come to expect from posters like them.

2009 Huntington North graduate doesn’t have to go too far to find the place that makes him happy

Nicholas Stephan sits at his desk in the Markle Public Library, where he is now serving as branch manager.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Jan. 11, 2016.

Nicholas Stephan didn’t have to go far to find his place.

It’s just 18 miles from his boyhood home in Bippus to his new desk in Markle.

From that desk, he directs the workings of the Markle Public Library, a place he’s come to love.

“I like the order,” he says. “I like the peacefulness.”

Stephan has been at the Markle library since mid-December as branch manager, a title that’s new to the facility.

New program could bring hope, new start for drug offenders

Huntington County Superior Court Magistrate Jennifer Newton (left) and Probation Officer Desiree Fritcha will head up the county’s new Drug Court program, which is expected to begin in January, thanks to a grant awarded through the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Dec. 31.

A new program administered through the county’s court system could bring hope and a new start for those whose drug habits have landed them on the wrong side of the law.

It’s called Drug Court – an intensive rehabilitation program that targets mainly high-risk offenders who plead guilty to drug felony charges.

Andrews library hailing Indiana bicentennial with homegrown prizes

Readers willing to read 200 books — or read for 200 hours — during Indiana’s bicentennial year can earn some of the Indiana-made prizes displayed here by (from left) Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library staff member Dee Kochensparger; ADTPL Friends of the Library member Sandi Denney; and library Director Nancy Disbro.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

What do Sechler’s Pickles, Hurst Beans and Dad’s Root Beer have in common?

Besides being the makings for an unusual meal, they’re all made in Indiana.

And they’re all prizes that will be given out by the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library during 2016 as the library and its readers celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial year.

Anyone can sign up for the library’s 200 Club, says library Director Nancy Disbro, and a chance to win Indiana-made prizes.

Church sends skilled workforce into own backyard to help others

Mike Duggan, one of the ministers at the Markle Church of Christ, is among the more than 50 volunteers constructing a 5,376-square-foot building on the church’s property, enabling the church to save “several hundred thousand dollars” on the project. The new building will be used not only by the church, but also by The Master’s Pantry, a Markle-area food pantry, and Jennifer’s Closet, a clothing ministry operated by Karing for Kids.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

A Markle church blessed with an abundance of skilled workers often sends those people out into the field to use their carpentry skills for others.

They’re currently working on another project, but this time they haven’t gone any farther than the church’s own back yard.

They’re working on what Mike Duggan, adult ministries and administrative minister at the Markle Church of Christ, calls a “multi-functional storage barn.”

Markle native Wagner to put many miles on car promoting art of poetry as state’s new poet laureate

Markle native Shari Miller Wagner, pictured here at Pine Hills Nature Preserve, in Waveland, was named the new Indiana poet laureate by the Indiana Arts Commission in November. Over the next two years, Wagner will be promoting the art of poetry across the state, making stops at state parks, historical sites, schools and more.
Photo provided.

Originally published Dec. 21, 2015.

For the next two years, Markle native Shari Miller Wagner will be traveling all over Indiana.

Though the locations in her rearview mirror will be changing constantly, her reason for visiting them will remain the same: promoting the art of poetry.

Wagner, now a Westfield resident, was named Indiana poet laureate by the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) in November. She’ll be the fifth person to hold the post, with her term running from the start of 2016 through the end of 2017.

Locals who share Dec. 25 birthdate know both sides to story

Roanoke resident Merry Christine Elliott will celebrate her birthday along with Christmas on Dec. 25.
Photo by Ehren Wynder.

The official birthday of one of the most famous persons in the universe will be celebrated around the world on Friday.

However, that celebration sometimes overshadows lots of other people who just happened to be born on Dec. 25, including some in Huntington County.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Sandy Feichter, of Huntington, who will turn 33 on Friday.

“I really enjoy it because I get to spend that time with my family every year, so you’re always together celebrating.

Light show a tribute to group that impresses local couple

Chad (left) and Danielle Waters stand outside their home at 1220 Superior St., Huntington, where they have created a computer-programmed light show. The display is in honor of Jamie’s Legacy, an organization which traps, spay/neuters and releases feral cats.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Dec. 17, 2015.

A small but mighty Christmas light show is not only the creation of a Huntington couple, it also pays tribute to an organization that has helped them and made an impression in their lives.

Roanoke 2nd-grader tearing up roping circuit

Dalton Husband, of Roanoke, prepares to lasso a target steer during practice in the corral of his family’s farm. The 7-year-old second grade student has already won numerous awards for his roping proficiency.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Dec. 14, 2015.

Dalton Husband already needs a big box to hold all the trophies, statues and belt buckles he has won for his dead-eye skill at roping.

He is tearing up the roping circuit early in his young career. Dalton is 7.

The second-grade student at Roanoke Elementary School began learning how to rope at the tender age of 3. He has since traveled to roping events around the Midwest, tackling targets both stationary and moving. And he keeps on winning.

Local help groups have their own ‘wish lists’ as they endeavor to make holidays brighter

Huntington House Manager Rosella Stouder adds a teddy bear “elf” to the Christmas tree at the women’s homeless shelter. Several items are on the “wish list” of that and other area homeless shelters.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Dec. 10, 2015.

It’s a scenario as old as the Christmas story itself: a family, finding themselves alone, in a city without shelter — in other words, homeless.

Folks still find themselves in that position more than 2,000 years later, even here in Huntington.

Although there may be no rooms available at some inns, three local ministries work hard to provide the homeless a place to stay, some food, and hopefully a leg up to turn their circumstances around.

Tom and Winnie Eckert: 65 years, 14 kids, always lots of love

Tom and Winnie Eckert have cut back on the size of their garden, now that their kids are all out of the house, but after 65 years of marriage they’re still enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 7, 2015.

It all started at a skating party.

He was 16; she was 15.

“She went to a skating party with … ,” he says.

“Oh, don’t name names,” she says, interrupting him good-naturedly.

“And I took her home,” he says. “And that was the beginning.”

Five years after that, they were married. And 65 years after that, the Huntington County couple is still married.

“Just a lot of love,” Tom Eckert says.

His bride, known many years ago as Winnie Nicholson, pats him affectionately on the leg.

OSV’s 50-year employee doesn’t plan to slow down

Mike Thomas (second from right) holds a certificate commemorating his 50 years of service at Our Sunday Visitor during a reception held in his honor on Nov. 18. With him are (from left) his supervisor, Michelle Hogan, of the publishing division; Tim Shoup, executive director of manufacturing; Cheryl Moore, director of human resources; and Kyle Hamilton, president and general manager, offertory solutions division.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Dec. 3, 2015.

Huntington resident Mike Thomas has been working in data processing at Our Sunday Visitor since 1965. During his 50 years of work, he has seen the field of data processing change from punch cards to PCs.

Thomas went to school for data processing at Fort Wayne International Business College in 1964. When he started his job at OSV, computers were just arriving on the scene.

Andrews man’s HS football ‘addiction’ puts miles on the car

Andrews Clerk-Treasurer Bill Johnson hangs on to a football outside of Andrews Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Johnson attends high school football games all over the state of Indiana to satisfy what he calls an addiction to the sport.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 30.

Bill Johnson has big plans for the evening of Friday, Sept. 26, 2016.

Johnson, of Andrews, intends to be sitting in Eagle Stadium, which is located in Allen, TX. It’s an 18,000-seat high school football stadium, replete with luxury boxes and a gigantic high-definition screen. It cost $60 million.

Johnson will be watching the home team, the Eagles of Allen High School, take on the Buccaneers of Hoover High School, from Alabama. Both schools’ football programs are among the nation’s elite.

Area Native American drum group moving foward

Members of the Medicine Woman Singers keep beat as they practice a song Thursday, Nov. 19. Pictured (clockwise from left) are Chad Roop, Dave Meyers, Holly Meyers (partially hidden), Gary Shoemaker, Jerry Anders, Tim Lawhead and Jay Hyland (partially hidden). The group, which has about a dozen members total, has been together since 2009.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 26, 2015.

The death this past summer of a beloved elder, mentor and singer in a Huntington County-based Native American drum group left a huge hole in the group, something her widower calls “a stumble.”

But in the wake of their grief, the Medicine Woman Singers are finding their strengths in each other, and are ready to once again honor their ancestors and the Creator with the drum and their voices.

YSB’s Williams gets to help youth on natl. level with recent appointment

Jan Williams (right), executive director of the Youth Services Bureau of Huntington County, gives some advice to William Bradley, 15, of Huntington, on food preparation as he and Brice Estep (left), 15, of Huntington, work on the Thanksgiving dinner they shared with the Youth Services Bureau staff on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Williams, a longtime youth advocate, has recently been named to a national advisory board for the Safe Place Network.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 23, 2015.

Jan Williams has been the tip of the spearhead to help Huntington County’s troubled youth for more than 20 years. Now, the efforts of the executive director of the Youth Services Bureau of Huntington County will be recognized on a national level.