Hometown Heroes: Flag City Honor Flight 2013

Sue escorts her dad on Flag City Honor Flight 2013

Sue escorts her dad on Flag City Honor Flight 2013

Did anyone see the V.I.P. motorcade rocketing up Interstate 75 at 4:30 a.m. on June 4?  At that early hour, several busloads of V.I.P.s escorted by motorcycles and police cruisers sped by North Baltimore en route to the Grand Aire Hanger at Toledo Express Airport.  The buses were full of northwest Ohio’s hometown heroes:  Flag City Honor Flight veterans and their guardians.


Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. Honor Flight transports heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans:  World War II and Korean War survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Initially, Flag City Honor Flight was formed as a branch of Honor Flight NW Ohio in Toledo.  In 2010, local leaders of the initiative felt a sense of urgency prompted by the age of World War II veterans to get more area veterans to their memorials.  At that juncture, Flag City Honor flight was established as an independent nonprofit agency.   North Baltimore has been well-represented on all three Flag City Honor Flights as both veterans and volunteer guardians.


Again, there was a local presence on the June 4, 2013 flight as Sue Crouse, escorted her dad, Harold “Fuzz” Crouse.  Sue shared, “If you haven’t gone to Washington, D.C. with a veteran, you haven’t gone to Washington, D.C.  I had the privilege to join my dad and over seventy other WW II and Korean War veterans and their guardians for the day. It was a long day but well worth it!”

This year, Melody (Blake) Drewes participated as a guardian for the third time.  Also on the flight was her uncle, Paul Johnson (Hoytville).  “I was so grateful to spend the day with many wonderful veterans, especially my Uncle Paul! He met my Aunt Ruth when they were both serving in the Korean War. Unfortunately, Aunt Ruth passed away, but I’m sure the Honor Flight trip brought back many wonderful memories for Uncle Paul.”

Each Honor Flight includes its very special stories.  This year, two area Korean War veterans from the same unit unexpectedly reunited after sixty years.  Together they reminisced over a picture from their unit from sixty years ago that one of them had brought on the flight.

Jerry Murray, Findlay, shared another similar story.  “I had the honor of accompanying my father, Buddy, on the trip. When we arrived at 4:00 am, the first person he met was a fellow Korean vet from his same division in the Army! They shared all day long. When we arrived at the National Mall, we chose to go straight to the Korean War Memorial. As we were viewing, a team of Navy media people asked if they could record us. Dad said, ‘Sure, would you like to hear my poem?’ I didn’t know that Dad had brought his discharge papers and a poem he had written prior to landing in Korea. They wired him for sound and began the interview. People began to gather and listened to the reading and thanked him for his service.”

Each veteran on the flight is a hero with an important personal story of his service.  Some veterans want to share their stories and others do not.  I overheard one story of sacrifice that I found especially powerful.  Kenneth Lentz, WW II veteran, shared a story of his 18th mission as a tail gunner on a B-17.  On that flight he saw an angel.

“Our bomb blew our plane up,” Lentz said, “I was very lucky. There were nine of us on the crew. Eight of them were killed.” After being blown out the tail and severely injuring his leg, Lentz pulled his ripcord at 22,000 feet above the earth and then quickly passed out.

“It was white,” Lentz said, “It stayed right with me all the way down.  It never touched me all the way down. I can still see it as plain as day. I had a guardian angel. It must have guided me down.”

Mr. Lentz, 19, was wounded and passed out when the Germans found him hanging by his parachute from the corner of a building. Presumed dead, they took him to a P.O.W. hospital on a horse and buggy where he spent the next 10 months of his life.

As you can tell, a day on Honor Flight is not for the weak of heart.  It is guaranteed to provide the highest emotional highs and also tire you to your absolute physical limits, but I encourage you to find a way to participate in an Honor Flight. 

For veterans, you deserve to spend a day being celebrated as the heroes you are.  You deserve to be mobbed at the monument honoring your service by everyday citizens who just want to shake your hands. 

For the rest of us, find a way to help.  It can be as easy as greeting the returning flight at Toledo Express Airport and giving our veterans the welcome home celebration they never received.  If you are physically fit, and especially if you have some medical or E.M.T. training, volunteer to serve as a guardian for a veteran whose family cannot accompany him.  I promise it will be the best volunteer experience of your lifetime.

For additional information on future flights or to volunteer or donate to Flag City Honor Flight, please visit http://www.flagcityhonorflight.org/.


Cable Television: Blessing or Curse?

Wonderful World of Disney

September 1978:  As a freshman at the Ohio State University, I am excited to learn that one of the benefits of living in Columbus is access to cable television.  Back home in North Baltimore, we are still using antennas to capture our four television stations.  Since I’ve watched cable television at my cousins’ home in Findlay, I know that cablevision means more selection and clearer pictures.  I feel like I’ve just entered the future.


June 2013:  I’m having trouble sleeping tonight so I flip on the television and begin to channel surf.  Our remote control has nearly 30 buttons on it.  Each channel has a four digit number.  We can restart   programs that we joined midway or record them for later viewing.   Even at 4 a.m., there are endless options for viewing:  news, sports, nature, documentaries, and movies.  I begin to wonder if access to so much television is a blessing or a curse.  Tonight, navigating the 30 button remote and the unending list of channels seems too complicated for an insomniac so I turn the television off.  My mind begins to wander back to the simpler days of only four television channels.  Soon my mind had recaptured my happiest television memories.  


Sunday night, late 1960s:  I’ve had my bath and am snuggled into my pajamas.  My brother and I are sitting on the floor in front of our color television awaiting our favorite show of the week:  “The Wonderful World of Disney.”  This program has many different formats.  It might be a show about history, animation, adventure, nature, or even Disneyland.  Some of the programs are too long for one week and might span up to three consecutive weeks.  We wonder what tonight’s format will be.  Among our favorite episodes are “The Ugly Dachshund,” “The Yellowstone Cubs,” and “Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar.” 


Monday morning, late 1960s: There is great energy in front of Powell School as we await the morning bell.  One classmate shouts, “Did you see that show about Disneyland last night?  I want to go to California!”  We all discuss the magical park that we saw on last night’s “The Wonderful World of Disney.”  One boy said there are submarines there.  Another says there is a magical mountain.  When the bell rings, we are still discussing the life-like Pirates of the Caribbean. 


Television brought us together.  Even though each family watched television in its own home during the 1960s, the limited number of channels made television a community event.  We often watched the same programming and we loved to talk about it. 


Personally, I loved the exotic National Geographic specials that CBS aired four times per year.  They had titles like “Miss Goodall in Africa,” “Dr. Leakey and the Dawn of Man,” or “Man of the Serengheti.”    I can still vividly remember one called “Amazon” where a pack of piranhas devoured a capybara.  This was discussed at length on the North Baltimore Elementary School playground the next day. 


Another program from the same genre that generated great enthusiasm was the “Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau.”  Who could forget Jacques Cousteau with his consummate French accent wearing his fishing sweater and red knit cap?  This thrilling program, narrated by Rod Serling, aired between 1968-1974 and seemed equal parts science and adventure.  It was guaranteed that lunch period  on the following day would focus on discovering shipwrecks, the most deadly sharks, or dragons of the Galapagos!


Blessing or a curse?  I do appreciate the smorgasbord of television viewing options available to us today.  While I watch an episode of “HouseHunters International,” my husband can watch fishing in the Keys.  On the other hand, the wide selection has sacrificed the sense of community and follow-up discussion that once was generated by television.  With today’s access to hundreds of channels, there are almost no programs that many people watch: maybe the Super Bowl or more likely, news coverage of a large disaster like September 11, the Boston Bombing, or a natural disaster. 


In its infancy, television was a medium that brought us together and gave us reasons to discuss a common topic on playgrounds, around water coolers, and over backyard fences.  Today, television is just another medium that segregates us into highly-specific interest areas.  I really do miss our old chats about last night’s television show.

Endless Summer

May 1967 Powell School

For schoolchildren in the 1960s, May was a busy month full of exciting culminating events to a long school year:  school concerts, scouting events, class trips to the Toledo Zoo or the Toledo Museum of Art or Greenfield Village.  Each school year’s grand finale was an entire carefree day playing and picnicking at the North Baltimore Park. 

Interspersed with all of this excitement was the inevitable countdown to the last day of school.  During this waiting period, time crept slowly, but finally the much anticipated day would eventually arrive.  Farewells were shared with teachers and classmates who lived in other neighborhoods. Finally, with our hearts bursting with freedom, we would gleefully ride our bikes home to begin what seemed like an endless summer.

The title “Endless Summer” has been used many ways:  first for an acclaimed 1966 documentary about surfers, then for a hit Beach Boys album, more recently as the name for a genetically modified tomato, and even as the title of a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon.  For me, “Endless Summer” signifies a sentiment that I experienced many times as a child in North Baltimore.  If I could recapture just one thing from my childhood, it would be that magical feeling of summer stretching out ahead of me, unplanned and with no end in sight.

On the first day of summer vacation, I remember the kids from the Beecher Street gang discussing the upcoming summer.  Little League games were always a hot topic, both for the boys and the girls.  The boys played on baseball teams and the girls liked going to the park on summer evenings during the boys’ games to snack at the concession stand and chat with friends.  Family vacations were always part of the conversation.  For me, I was awaiting an annual family trip to northern Michigan.  Some of us went to church camp and there was much discussion about which church camp was best. I don’t know which was best, but I do know that my Camp Mowana memories, a Lutheran church camp near Mansfield, are among my very favorite. Other events sure to become part of the endless summer were a trip to Cedar Point, a drive-in movie, July 4 fireworks, and the Wood County fair. 

I clearly recall the most urgent question asked by the Beecher Street gang in early June.  “When will it be warm enough to start swimming at the Wixom Quarry?”  During my childhood, it seemed like the first couple weeks of summer were often too cool for comfortable swimming at the quarry.  This is possibly my only summer disappointment that I still recall.

As a true lover of summer, warm weather, outdoor activities, and time spent in a lawn chair, I grieve for that endless summer feeling I experienced as a child in North Baltimore.  I structure my vacations to add a little more summer to my life by staying in Ohio as much as possible during our beautiful summers and using my vacation time to add some tropical warmth during the cooler Ohio months.  As hard as I try, I know that magical feeling is long gone though. 

Unfortunately, current research proves that my endless summer feeling is gone forever.  “As people get older, they just have this sense, this feeling that time is going faster,” says Warren Meck, a psychology professor at Duke University. “This seems to be true across cultures, across time, all over the world.”

As adults, we know that summer no longer seems endless, but I’m going to do my best to embrace every marvelous minute of summer 2013.  I plan to wear flip flops, eat fresh sweet corn and tomatoes, sit in a lawn chair chatting with my friends at a neighborhood pool, take a long walk every day, read good books, and enjoy outdoor festivals. 

And here’s wishing that you enjoy your best Ohio summer ever!

Darrell Prichard: Local Hero

Rep. Marcy Kaptur/Darrell Prichard

Each year brings its special gifts.  For me, the greatest gift of the past year is the opportunity to know Reverend Darrell Prichard of Findlay and his amazing family.

My work role as a program officer for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation allows me to partner with many nonprofit agencies and their various stakeholders:  board members, staff, volunteers, and clients.  These are people who are passionate about the missions of the organizations they represent:  mental health, homelessness, hunger, mentoring, specific diseases, and more.  More importantly, they are passionate about the people they serve.  I once heard Pete Seeger refer to these types of servant leaders as people with the “live hearts, the live hands, the live eyes.”

About a year ago, I was sitting around a table with two staff members of the Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter discussing a very successful program funded by the Community Foundation:  the Transitions group for individuals with a diagnosis of early stage dementia and their caregivers.  Through this conversation an amazing story began to emerge, it was the story of Reverend Darrell Prichard of Findlay.

Most people know Darrell from his sixty years in the pulpit.  Darrell retired as president of the Foundation of the Great Lakes Conference, Churches of God.  Two years ago, Darrell received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.  Darrell considered withdrawing but bravely decided to begin a new ministry as an advocate for families affected by a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  His first act of courage was similar to President Ronald Reagan who sent a letter to the nation stating “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”  Darrell sent a similar letter to every person he knew and to every church he had served.  Then Darrell boldly launched his new ministry with a positive spirit.

Today, Darrell is an incredibly active advocate for families affected by a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  His days are filled with visits to politicians’ offices, fundraising for the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and even serving as a presenter at trainings for Alzheimer’s professionals.  Spring 2013 found Darrell on Capitol Hill talking to U.S. Senators Portman and Sherrod Brown and chatting for an hour with U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Representative, Bob Latta.  Darrell also traveled to the Statehouse to visit Ohio Senator Cliff Hite and Ohio Representative Robert Sprague.  He presented at the regional Early Stage Dementia conference, Hancock Leadership, and the Ohio Association of Gerontology Education.  Wherever Darrell speaks, a standing ovation is likely to follow.

In an attempt to share Darrell’s message far and wide, the Alzheimer’s Association is capturing Darrell’s courage in facing his diagnosis in a visual format.  For the past six month, Ben Severance, a visual storyteller from New Hampshire who was trained at Western Kentucky University, the premiere photojournalism program in the country, has been creating a documentary about living with early stage dementia.  The documentary will chronicle the adversities that Darrell faces and how he overcomes those obstacles to continue a lifetime of service that he has refocused on Alzheimer’s advocacy.  The cast of characters will include Darrell’s loving family and his multitude of friends.

Through this documentary, a local hero has found his voice and is sharing his courageous story with the millions of people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease throughout the country. The finished piece will be entered in film festivals, hosted on the Alzheimer’s Association website, the Minnesota Alzheimer’s 2020 website, and shared with people who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease and related dementia.

Wherever it lands, Darrell Prichard’s story of bravery, advocacy, and kindness will help break the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, empower individuals living with this disease and their caregivers, and share a message of hope.  Maybe best of all, we captured a little bit of Darrell’s magic.

Please join us for the world premiere of the documentary June 29, 2013.  I would love for you to meet my very special friend, my best gift of the past year, Reverend Darrell Prichard.

Documentary Premiere

June 29, 2013

2 p.m.

Winebrenner Theological Seminary

950 N. Main Street

Findlay, Ohio

No admission fee

Light Refreshments will be served

In celebration of Darrell’s spirit of community, please bring family and friends