On Christmas Eve, one of my favorite people, Anna M. Skocaj, went to a better place.
Not only was Anna, 85, my next-door neighbor, she was my mother-in-law and one of my biggest supporters.
In the 30-some years that I knew her, not once did she ever have a cross word for me though as I think back she certainly had reason for a critical review of her son-in-law's performance as husband and father.
In early November, when we learned of the extent of her illness, her response was, "I'm 85. I've lived a good life."
As the disease took control, Grams never complained about her fate, underscoring again what a terrific role model she had been for family and friends.
We are left with memories of Grams holding her three great-grandchildren, all delivered in 2009 and a good reason to not totally write off the year as a bad one for our family.
We look forward to a better 2010 as we're sure that you do, too.
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If you're looking for a charity to believe in, look no further than Hospice of Tuscarawas County, which provided a crew of angels for our journey with Grams over the last two months.
You've probably heard of the fine work Hospice does but not until its team touches your family will you ever totally appreciate its work.
Hospice allowed Grams the dignity she deserved as she left this world. If you have a couple bucks to spare...
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Since we last talked, the Tuscarawas County community also lost former Sheriff Lou Clark.
Clark was one of the first elected officials I dealt with as a young reporter and looking back I'd have to report that he didn't really like what I represented -- the news media.
In fact, Clark yelled at me on a regular basis when I visited the sheriff's department/jail, which at the time was located on 2nd St. NE in New Philadelphia.
Oftentimes he was upset because a story referred to "sheriff deputies" when it should have referred to "Sheriff Lou Clark" as in "Sheriff Lou Clark solved the case."
Nonetheless, Clark, I think, grew to accept me and we exchanged many pleasantries in later years. My condolences to his family.
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The December issue of Ohio Schools, published by the Ohio Education Assn., focuses on Newcomerstown Village School District's Project Hope, which aims to involve parents in the education process and provide a foundation for a sucessful future for their children. An article detailing the project by Mike Harden is not yet online, but should be soon.
Some interesting tidbits from the article:
-- Some 70 percent of students are receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
-- One teacher, Paul Miller, said that out of 100 students, only four parents scheduled parent-teacher conferences and only three actually showed up.
The article also points out that there are few opportunities to return home for students who do achieve a high level of education. I believe that might be true for all school districts in Tuscarawas County.
Evidence of that phenomenon can be found in the engagements/wedding announcements published in your favorite newspaper. Those who have achieved a higher level of education are residing in Ohio's larger cities (if they're staying in Ohio) rather than returning to Tuscarawas County. Those receiving education degrees might be the exception, although there are limited opportunities in that direction as well.
The challenge, of course, is to create a Tuscarawas County that will be an example of prosperity rather than poverty. We've much work to do.
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See you next time.