Monday, January 4, 2010


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.

* * *
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.

* * *
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.

* * *
See you next time.


kyle@sift said...

The school lunch program bothers me. The program was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses back in 1946. The quality of the food served in schools is below that served in fast food restaurants. The idea that 70% of students are eligible to receive free or reduced garbage is beyond sad. The poorest members of our community need nutritional assistance not just calories. The current nutritional guidelines are deplorable.

The 97 parents who did not show up for parent teacher conferences should be riddled with shame. Teachers go out of their way to schedule these conferences to accommodate the schedules of today's busy families...even a telephone conference is available. These children will probably have children who are also eligible for free or reduced lunches because no one is taking the time, save the handful of teachers who care enough to have become educators in the first place, to show them how to be productive adults. And certainly by then there will be enough genetically modified, government subsidized agricultural surplus to feed a new generation of mutants.

Melvin said...

Dick, it's the end of an era. We're all orphans now. Grams was real cool. She was the ideal mother in law for you. Like you said, she tolerated a lot...important for us all! She enjoyed the things that I like...the lake, the boat, and the veranda. Tonight you must feel like the luckiest man on the face of the oith.

Hospice did the same service for my father. It took a while longer but was no less difficult. It would have been impossible without them.

I really like Lou Clark...the last of the 'old time' sheriffs around here on maybe in Ohio. Lou was alway running for reelection and I know how sensitive he was to how news was played in the TR. The deputies back there were real characters, but also really good guys and I miss hanging out there shooting the breeze.

As for exporting our best and brightest...Ohio is becoming a third world state. Old people living in old houses, hoping their social security is enough to get them buy until they die. Unless you can work for government (city, county, or schools) there's really no job opportunities here. Most 20 somethings can't wait to get out...from what my kids tell me they don't even like to visit here!

As for the comment, my kids grew up eating McDonalds finest and still graduated from college and are all working (not around here, are you KIDDING!) Feeding the guy isn't nearly as important as feeding the mind and spirit.

Got to shovel snow.