County trying to keep up with bridge repairs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It takes an awful lot of bridges to crisscross the drained Great Black Swamp’s ditches and creeks – 441 bridges to be exact. And it takes an awful lot of money to keep those bridges in good repair. So once again Tuesday, officials from the Wood County Engineer’s Office came to the county commissioners to seek funding for bridge design. Since the county began receiving casino tax revenue, the commissioners have dedicated those funds to bridge design. Last year, $615,997 was put toward design costs. The actual bridge construction is then funded by the engineer’s office. Even with that, it’s difficult to keep up with repairs, according to Joan Cherry, of the engineer’s office. All bridges in the county are inspected annually and then appraised on a scale of 0 (failed) to 9 (excellent), she explained. Last year’s inspections found one bridge in failed condition; 4 critical; 15 serious; 52 poor; 45 fair; 78 satisfactory; 110 good; 88 very good; and 48 excellent. “I would love for all of them to be a 4 or higher,” Cherry said. The rankings continue to slip as the years pass. Once they hit the “serious” 3 ranking, “they start to go on the replacement list.” Construction costs also continue to rise each year, with a small box culvert bridge costing about $150,000. The average bridge costs $350,000 to replace, while the larger structures can cost close to $1 million, Cherry reported. With the minimum lifespan for a bridge being 50 years, and more than 70 bridges currently ranked at “poor or worse,” Commissioner Craig LaHote asked if the county needs to plan accordingly. “Should we be anticipating we will have to fund this at a higher level in coming years?” That’s hard to determine, Cherry said. “Some years you may only get a handful that drop down” in the ratings. Top on the list of structures needing replacement are the following bridges. The estimated cost for designing all these bridges is $995,000. Poe Road east of Rangeline Road. Mermill Road, west of Huffman Road. Huffman Road north of Mermill Road. East Broadway north of Ohio 795. Hammansburg Road east of Roundhead Road. Pemberville Road south of Latcha Road. Anderson Road south of Ohio 199. Stony Ridge Road north of Ohio 582. Bays Road west of Rudolph Road. Rangeline Road north of Kellogg Road. Weston Road…


Oil drilling not thrilling to county park district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An oil and gas exploration business failed to return to the Wood County Park District board meeting Tuesday to follow up on its pitch to test in parkland. The park commissioners did not seem disappointed, and had no intention of inviting the company back. “To be honest, it’s not going to change my mind,” said park commissioner Denny Parish. Sean Haas, of Reserve Energy Exploration, in Chagrin Falls, asked the county park commissioners last month for permission to do testing in Baldwin Woods. He said he would return with a more detailed presentation this week, but canceled. The company was interested in doing seismic testing for oil and gas in the 124-acre preserve, off Euler Road near Weston.  The preserve is a mix of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Seismic testing is a process where an image of the subsurface is created. That data is then used to locate the most optimum place to drill for gas or oil. Haas explained the seismic testing does not use explosives, but rather shakes the ground to discover gas or oil. During last month’s board meeting, Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger expressed concerns about any type of testing. He referred to Baldwin Woods as a “sensitive natural area.” “It’s not something I would encourage or something I would support,” Munger said. “I would not recommend it.” Haas countered that process is “non-invasive” and should be thought of as “scientific research” that could be of benefit to the community. “It shakes the ground,” he said of the testing. “It doesn’t create any tremors or earthquakes.” However, a park district employee asked Haas last month if he was aware of a recent report by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that states seismic testing is harmful to fish and wildlife. Haas said he was unaware of the report. If approached again by the energy company, the park board will allow a representative of the firm to speak at its monthly meeting just like any member of the public. Also at this week’s meeting, the park board discussed several projects underway or planned at parks. At Sawyer Quarry Preserve, in Perrysburg Township, the first limestone trail will be put in soon.  Munger explained that the trails will vary at the preserve, with some being a more natural surface. Munger said the Perrysburg Country Garden Club had donated…


Holocaust survivor witnessed the fruits of hate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Martin Lowenberg grew to manhood despite the concerted efforts of the Nazis. Lowenberg was 5 when Hitler came to power in 1933, and from then until he was finally liberated 12 years later, his life became increasingly hellish with death always at hand. “I faced the devil,” he said. He lost his younger twin brothers and his parents to the Nazis. He lost his childhood. He did not lose his will to live. All this tragedy, he told, more than 225 in the student union theater at Bowling Green State University, was caused by hate. It is a word he wishes would be banished from the language. It is hatred of people of different beliefs that leads to so much evil. It leads to attacks like those at Columbine, Brussels, and San Bernadino. Hatred of people because of their religion makes no sense, he said. The event was sponsored by BGSU Hillel and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Showing a slide of his grandparents, he noted that they were buried in their village, but during the Holocaust their gravestones were toppled (and after the war erected again). His parents, he said, were not buried in the cemetery in the village they helped make prosperous. “Their ashes are scattered around Auschwitz,” Lowenberg told a rapt audience. “And every time I say that, it hurts.” He doesn’t really know what happened to his younger twin brothers. He hopes they died with their parents in the gas chamber and were not subjected to the brutal experiments performed by Josef Mengele, who pulled twins for study from those flowing into the camps. “I’ll never know,” Lowenberg said. In her introduction Hindea Markowicz, of the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Center of Greater Toledo, said that the Holocaust was not carried out by the uneducated, but by the elite, doctors, like Mengele, engineers, lawyers, industrialists, psychologists and logistics experts. All had a hand in the terror that befell the Lowenberg family and all the Jews of Europe. The Holocaust, she said, claimed the lives of a third of the world’s Jewish population, 6 million of the 11 million claimed by the terror. Shortly after Hitler came to power, Lowenberg said, some drunken farmhands were urged on to burn down his family’s house because the Lowenbergs were “damned Jews.”  The family was able to rebuild. His two older brothers were able to emigrate…


Kids calm during house fire thanks to safety training

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When lightning struck, setting fire to a home south of Bowling Green in the middle of the night last month, the parents expected their three young children to panic. “I was expecting to have three crazy, screaming, hysterical children,” said Melanie Yarger, of Rudolph. But instead, Hannah, 9, Nicholas, 8, and Natalie, 6, knew exactly what to do. “The kids were so calm,” Yarger said. So their mom wrote a letter thanking those who taught her children how to respond – Bowling Green Fire Department. “Through their visits when Hannah was in kindergarten, we developed our home fire plan (several years ago) and always talked about the ‘safe spot’ and what to do,” she wrote to the department and specifically to Lt. Mike Leestma who heads the school visits. The lightning struck the home of Curt and Melanie Yarger on March 28 at 12:15 a.m. They know the exact time because the blow knocked the clock off their mantle. “It was quite a loud boom,” Melanie Yarger said. Immediately, the smoke detectors started going off. “It was quite a shock,” she said. Her husband ran to see if the smoke alarms were going off just because of the lightning strike. “He flew down the steps,” but quickly released that it wasn’t a malfunction since the house was filling with smoke. “I grabbed the dog and the kids met me in the hall,” with Hannah holding her siblings’ hands, Yarger said. “They were automatic. They said, ‘we have to go to the safe spot, and call the fire department.’ They had the whole thing down. They were so calm in the chaos.” Yarger credits the annual visits by the fire department to St. Aloysius School, where their children attend. When their oldest, Hannah, was in kindergarten, she came home talking about the visits and carrying the fire safety coloring book. “It made my husband and I think about it,” Yarger said. The lesson was repeated each year when the firefighters returned to reinforce their safety talks. “It made it a conversation piece. Every year when they came home, we talked about it,” Yarger said. Since the Yargers live in Rudolph, it was Central Joint Fire District that responded to their home. “They responded, expecting the worst,” she said. But the home is repairable and no one was hurt. “I’m happy. I have a…


Pinwheels a reminder of 718 cases of child abuse last year in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the giggling preschoolers planted the field of spinning pinwheels in Bowling Green Wednesday morning, they were standing up for less fortunate children. “We told them they are going to be planting these pinwheels to help boys and girls who have had bad or sad things happen to them,” said Susie Dunn, of Dunn’s Kiddie Kare, who brought 24 children to help at this year’s Pinwheels for Prevention project. Each of the 718 pinwheels represents an investigated case of child abuse or neglect in Wood County last year, according to Sandi Carsey, director of Children’s Services. The purpose of the annual event is to remind people to not sit by quietly as abuse occurs. “We want to raise awareness for child abuse – to get people to make reports when they see something,” Carsey said. The 718 case count last year is just two over the number from 2014. But Carsey noted that the reports of abuse or neglect have increased greatly early this year, with 89 in February and 80 in March, compared to the average of 60 to 70 a month. Carsey also said that more cases continue to be seen with parents addicted to opiates. As Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson helped the children plant the pinwheels, he talked about the serious side of the event. “We want people to pay more attention to concerns about child abuse, and to learn to report it,” he said. Dobson echoed the concerns about opiate addictions having an impact, saying an analysis of criminal cases in Wood County during 2015 showed that 22 percent involved opiates in some way. Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Job and Family Services, said the numbers of child abuse cases here have remained pretty stable, rather than increasing as expected. That means, he added, “they are also not going down.” That is the goal of the annual pinwheel project. “We are trying to keep the county aware that we still have child abuse in Wood County,” Wigent said. “We can’t do anything unless somebody reports it.” This year, the pinwheel project is rooted in front of the Lubrizol plant, at 1142 N. Main St., Bowling Green. Matt Paquette, plant manager, said he is pleased to host the field of pinwheels. “We’ve seen this going on for years, and the tremendous work that Children’s Services does,”…


Cocoon in line for $800,000 to help care for domestic and sexual abuse victims

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Cocoon, which serves local victims of domestic and sexual abuse, is in line to get $800,000 in the state’s Capital Budget. “It’s pretty amazing,” said Michelle Clossick, executive director of the agency that serves all of Wood County, responding to emergencies 24 hours a day. Last year alone, the Cocoon had more than 6,000 requests for services, she said. The $800,000 will help the agency meet those needs by helping to double the number of its emergency shelter beds to 24 at the yet-to-be completed facility at 200 Campbell Hill Road. The funding will also help with the renovation of the site to make it a fully accessible comprehensive advocacy center for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. According to Clossick, the goal is to have shared community space in the center, “where everyone can come together.” There is not room for that in the existing shelter. The plan also calls for spaces for children to play inside and outside the facility. The new Cocoon facility, including the emergency shelter space, should be open by May 2017. Clossick explained that the program, formerly called the Cocoon Shelter, is now going by the name of Cocoon. “We’ve expanded our mission so we are now doing more comprehensive services.” When the first Cocoon shelter opened in Bowling Green 11 years ago, there was one paid staff person. That number has grown to 25 staff now to meet the needs, Clossick said. Clossick thanked State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Tim Brown, both R-Bowling Green, for pushing for the state funding. “This was a very hard fought battle this year,” she said. “This is one of the largest funded community projects that’s ever happened in Wood County.” “They chose to invest in this project because they saw a need,” Clossick said. Gardner echoed those comments in a press release on the funding. “New support for the Cocoon Shelter became one of our area’s top Capital Budget priorities. This funding will assist in the expanded ability for the Cocoon Shelter to help, support and protect women and children in need when domestic violence traumatizes their lives,” Gardner said. “We wish there was not such a need for places like the Cocoon Shelter, but as long as there is we must do what we can to help.” The Capital Budget was introduced in the Ohio…


Education learns new moves in active learning classrooms

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s not even 8 o’clock yet and Susan Kleine’s morning Business 1100 class is already on a roll. As students come in, they gather Sharpie markers, Post-It Notes, tape and colored pipe cleaners from a table at the front. Then Kleine directs them to get into groups of four. The students roll their chairs, some without even getting up, around small tables, also on wheels. The assignment is to design the ideal wallet. Now students face off to question each other about their wallets, or the equivalent, how they use them and what their drawbacks and advantages are. The students, meeting on the second floor of the Education Building, are involved, though they may not be aware of it, in a movement to redesign the university classroom. Bowling Green State University is engaged in an ongoing effort to improve its classrooms. The project is part capital renovation, and part ongoing experiment. These new active learning classrooms have their share of technology, yet the emphasis is on the human touch. They are reshaping teaching on campus. “In traditonal sense, we think of the classrooms as being neat rows of students and the teacher in front of those rows spouting out information,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, who teaches nutrition classes. “If I think about that happening in classrooms today, if they’re not engaged, they either fall asleep or they do something else.” Instead of fighting those tendencies, the new active learning classrooms put them to use. Many of the classrooms have whiteboards on all walls, so students can get up work out problems and brainstorm ideas. Then they take out their own personal technology and take photos for later use and sharing. John Fisher, vice provost for academic affairs, said the process of upgrading the classrooms began about three years ago with an inventory of learning spaces on campus, and a calculation of how many would be needed. This comes as the university is in the midst of a renovation boom, retrofitting classic buildings for the demands of contemporary education. Two years ago, work started on the west side of Olscamp Hall. This was the beginning of an “ongoing research” project to find what works best, he said. The classrooms in Olscamp were used as prototypes for the way learning spaces were then developed on the second floor of the Education Building, in Math and Science, in…


Refugees test Germany’s services and goodwill

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across Germany, more than 1 million refugees are packed into school gyms, old military bases, unrented apartments and tents. The influx of the migrants has divided the nation. But where some people see a crisis, Christian Schlegel sees a challenge. Schlegel, who works for a news and documentary channel in Germany and is in the U.S. as part of a journalism exchange program, talked to Bowling Green State University students and faculty Tuesday about the refugees who flooded his country in the last months. Countries like Germany and Sweden were a natural choice for the refugees, some fleeing war and famine, and other trying to escape extreme poverty. “I think they thought we were a relatively rich country,” with good social services, Schlegel said. But the influx of 1.1 million migrants in the nation of 80 million tested the social services and the good will of some Germans. “Germany was unprepared,” Schlegel said, explaining that in 2003, just 127,000 applied for asylum in his country. Processing of the latest refugees has moved slowly. “Refugees have to wait for appointments for several months.” Meanwhile, some Germans have remained welcoming to the migrants, but others fear it will ruin their culture and security. Those feelings were magnified after the mass assaults reportedly committed by Muslim migrants on New Year’s Eve in the cities of Cologne and Hamburg. Those attacks “mostly served right wing political parties,” Schlegel said. The welcome mat that had been cautiously extended, was pulled back. The New Year’s Eve attacks fed the “hysteria,” though Schlegel pointed out that far more people die in auto accidents a year than from terrorism. Schlegel estimated that those vehemently opposed to the refugees – especially Muslims – measure between 10 and 20 percent of Germany. Initially, some clung to the traditional “Dublin Rule,” which states that the European member country where a refugee first hits ground is responsible for that person. “It’s not our problem,” many Germans felt when the mass migration of refugees began. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed them. “Let them through to Germany,” she said, according to Schlegel. Germans soon saw that vast numbers of refugees, who out of desperation put their lives in the hands of ruthless smugglers, ended up perishing in locked trucks or drowning at sea. “Hundreds die every year at Europe’s doorstep,” Schlegel said. But the 1.1…


BGSU faculty, administration move beyond acrimony with new contract

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The tentative three-year contract between Bowling Green State University and the BGSU Faculty Association will get scrutiny from union members this week. Forums are scheduled for both the Bowling Green and the Firelands campuses. Then next week, union members will vote on whether to ratify the pact. The faculty association represents all 711 faculty, both tenure track and non-tenure track, on campus. Only association members get to vote. If approved, the contract will be considered by the Board of Trustees at its May 6 meeting. David Jackson, the union’s president since it was formed in 2010, believes the contract should be ratified. “It’s a very good contract and I’m strongly encouraging people to vote for it.” The pact represents a breakthrough for the union, not just because of what’s in its 210-plus pages, but because of the way it was achieved, and the good will the process engendered. The previous union negotiations were “combative” at times and interrupted by an effort by the administration of Gov. John Kasich to eliminate state employee unions. The first contract took 22 months to reach and was finally agreed on in March, 2013. This time negotiations began in earnest this fall and with the tentative pact reached in late March. “The whole process has been so much more collaborative and collegial than it was last time,” Jackson said. BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey echoed those sentiments in a statement released by the Office of Marketing and Communications. “We are extremely pleased, both with the collegiality of the process and the outcome. The agreement lays the foundation for closer collaboration with our faculty which will strengthen our University and help us continue to meet the needs of our students.” While much credit has been given to the sides using Interest-Based Bargaining in the negotiations, the groundwork was actually laid during the three years since the last agreement. Jackson said that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service evaluated the situation to assess whether Interest-Based Bargaining would work. “Over the last few years the administration and faculty association has worked very hard to develop a level of trust,” he said. “President Mazey and I have developed a good relationship.” In the three years under the first union contract, Jackson said, “most of what we’ve done … has been discipline and grievance cases. … That’s what made the relationship better – working…


Smith reaches for the stars at planetarium

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the stars filled the domed sky and the cardboard rocket took off into space, one of the students quietly slid over to sit in her teacher’s lap. “This was so real, one little girl thought the dome took off,” teacher Nancy Frankart said after the planetarium show was over and the lights came on. “She thought we were traveling to space.” That is music to Dale Smith’s ears. Smith has been director at the Bowling Green State University Planetarium since it opened in 1983. “I came with it. That makes me the best director they’ve ever had and the worst director they’ve ever had,” he said, smiling. Smith started focusing on the stars as a child in upstate New York. “In third grade, a friend lent me a book about planets, and I was hooked,” he said. “A lot of astronomers have similar stories. Something grabbed ahold of us.” For some, like Smith, it’s not enough to look skyward themselves. They want others to enjoy the view as well. “Something inspired us and we want to share our love of the universe with audiences.” And that’s exactly what Smith does as he turns off the lights, asks the children to put on their imaginary seatbelts, lean back in the planetarium chairs and travel through space. Last week, he took first through third graders from St. Wendelin Catholic School in Fostoria on a ride in the “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.” This particular show tells of siblings who build a spaceship out of cardboard and spend the night in it in their backyard. The rocket blasts off in the night, taking the pair to every planet in this solar system. The students’ eyes were glued to the dome ceiling for the 40-minute trip to Pluto and back. The shows get routine for Smith, but the children’s questions after the show continue to thrill him. “Once the first one asks, the ice is broken,” Smith said. And the flood of questions began. “You never know what you are going to get.” Last week was no different, when the lights came on, the little hands shot up. How do the gas giant planets stay together? Are all the planets real? Why don’t all planets have gravity? Why is Uranus on its side, was it knocked over? Are ice crystals worth money? Smith answers them…


Summit to teach how to build survival bunker, stock up on supplies

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Nick Getzinger and Dave Morris put another coat of paint on the Oath Keepers Outpost at Woodland Mall, they talked about their organization being misunderstood. The Oath Keepers organization, they said, is nothing for people to fear. “Our goal is not to scare people, it’s to help,” Getzinger said. Woodland Mall manager Michelle Beaverson also wants people to know she is committed to the mall being family friendly. “We have so many family-based businesses in the mall,” Beaverson said. Both the mall and Oath Keepers organization were rattled a bit last week when questions arose about the new business and the plan for a multi-state summit at the mall this summer. Beaverson said an email about the summit was sent out from the organization prematurely, before she had an opportunity to review it. With the help of Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick, Beaverson revised the summit announcement to include only the activities that would adhere to the mall’s standards. The new summit description also clarified that any firearms events would be held at other sites, not at the mall, Beaverson said. The initial email stated the mall allows people with concealed carry permits to bring firearms into the mall. However, the mall currently does not allow firearms. Beaverson said Friday she is undecided about lifting that ban, but will probably keep it in place. That email also said those attending the summit could camp on mall grounds. However, Beaverson said she has to get permission from city zoning before that can occur. But Beaverson said most of the activities planned for the summit have now been approved by herself and the police chief. There will be classes on gunsmithing, ham radio operation, food canning, self defense, survivalist training, building a survival bunker, making fuel, building a hydrogen generator, and concealed carry classes. Originally the plans offered an opportunity to do gunsmithing on AR-15 rifles. “The AR-15 thing is not going to happen,” Beaverson said. The mall manager said the summit offers a lot of family-friendly events, but the original email about the event buried those activities behind “too much gun stuff.” Getzinger explained the Oath Keepers is not a radical organization. The members just believe in the U.S. Constitution and in being prepared in case of natural, manmade or financial crises. The group is made up of current and former…


BGSU athletic director Kingston takes private sector job

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS Bowling Green State University’s athletic director Christopher Kingston is leaving to take a job in the private sector. The university announced this morning that Kingston will leave May 10 to take a job with Learfield Sports, a firm that works with top college sports programs on marketing and multimedia rights. In a letter to the BGSU community, Kingston said he would be a vice president at the company which he has “admired from afar during my professional, collegiate career.” In her letter to faculty and staff, BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said: “I greatly appreciate the energy and enthusiasm Chris brought to BGSU athletics. Under his guidance, our student athletes found great success in the classroom and on our fields and courts.” Kingston was named athletic director in 2013. He came here from North Carolina State University. In his letter, Kingston writes: “This career change is an opportunity for me to continue serving in the collegiate space and positively impact the resources and opportunities for Student-Athletes, nation-wide. During my time serving as your director of athletics, we have experienced record-setting revenue growth across new and existing mediums, competed at the highest levels and won championships, and most importantly, graduated young men and women at rates that far exceed the national average.” Mazey indicated that plans for filling the post are being finalized. Below is Kingston’s letter to the BGSU community: Dear Falcons: Honor the Past, Create the Future, Make History Now! Those words serve as the motivation for me everyday, to give Bowling Green State University my absolute very best. My time here has come to a close and I am so incredibly pleased with the upward trajectory of this institution. I cannot imagine a more exciting time to be a Falcon. I have made a decision to accept a Vice President position with Learfield Sports, a leadership organization I have admired from afar during my professional, collegiate career. With that, I wanted to reach out to Falcons everywhere with this heartfelt message. Bowling Green State University is a truly special place and this is one of the most innovative and transformational times in Falcon History. That excitement starts with leadership, and I continue to be impressed with the energy, vision and guidance of President Mary Ellen Mazey. “Onward and Upward” are the three words that come to mind when I think about the incredible opportunity…


Singers celebrate the art of song on BGSU’s Conrad competition

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Minnita Daniel-Cox knows what it’s like to sing a few bars in these young singers’ gowns. Daniel-Cox, a Bowling Green State University graduate, returned to campus Saturday to help judge the Dr. Marjorie Conrad Art Song Competition. Now an accomplished professional singer and professor, she knows how participating in the competition can help the young vocalists develop their artistry. When she was at BGSU, the Conrad event, now in its 17th year, was in its infancy. She participated in 2001 as a sophomore and “surprised myself,” she said, when she placed second. As a junior, she returned overconfident, she said, and didn’t make the finals. She won first place as a senior, knowing that talent must be paired with hard work to achieve her goals. Those are the kind of lessons that have shaped her career, she said, and will provide a solid foundation for the young musicians who participated on Saturday. The competition honors both the singers and pianists. Daniel-Cox with fellow judges Carol Dusdieker, who teaches voice at Heidelberg University, and Anne Kessel, director of collaborative piano at SUNY Fredonia, listened and evaluated 12 undergraduate duos and 15 graduate duos. (In all 42 musicians participated with some pianists working with as many as three singers. The division is determined by the singer’s status.) Undergraduate winners were: soprano Jenna Seeright and pianist Benjamin Crook. Graduate winners were: soprano Kate Pomrenke and Crook. Also honored in the undergraduate division were: mezzo-soprano ShayLyssa Alexander and pianist Xiaohui Ma, second place, and baritone Luke Serrano and pianist Yi Chieh Chiu, third place. Other winners in the graduate division were: soprano Fidelia Esther Darmahkasih, who won the undergraduate division in 2013, and Chiu, second place, and baritone Brett Pond and Crook, third place. The performers are required to sing repertoire from different periods, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century, including at least one piece from a living composer. They must sing selections in English, Italian, German and French. Undergraduate winner Jeena Seeright said it was the poetry of the songs that captivated her. A junior, this was the first time she has competed. “It’s a lot of work but I love performing. I had a lot of fun doing it.” She connected with Crook, her pianist, through Pond. Both study with Christopher Scholl, who coordinates the event. When they first rehearsed together “it just clicked,” she said. Pomrenke,…


WWII tanker model in BG headed to Navy museum

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Elmer Long’s home for four years during World War II was in the belly of a Navy oil tanker. A small version of that ship, which became a big part of Long’s life, will soon have a new home at the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. Betty Long, Elmer’s widow, is donating a detailed replica of the USS Mattaponi tanker to the museum later this month. The model was a Father’s Day gift to Elmer in 1997 from the couple’s sons, Wes of New Rochester, Chuck of Perrysburg Township, and Dana of Gibsonburg. “Elmer would be excited,” Betty said. Elmer and Betty Long grew up in the tiny town of Hoytville, in the southwest corner of Wood County. Elmer enlisted in October of 1942 and served until April 1946. “He was on the ship the whole time,” Betty said. “He was down in the boiler room,” serving as a machinist mate. The oilers, as they were called, were important because they allowed other Navy ships like destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers, to have greater range. The ships could be refueled while underway, rather than having to come into port for fuel, according to Dave Chilson, retired Navy captain from Bowling Green. “He talked about it all the time,” Betty said. “He was proud to have been in the service.” When Elmer returned from the war, he and Betty began dating, and married in February of 1947. The couple moved from Hoytville to even tinier Scotch Ridge. Elmer worked in heating and air conditioning in a federal building in Toledo, and as custodian at Webster Elementary for 28 years. He retired in 1986. His sons, recognizing how much his Navy service meant to Elmer, asked Andy Trummel, of Lorraine, to build a replica of the USS Mattaponi. It took Trummel a year to build it to scale. “He couldn’t even talk,” Betty said of her husband, when his sons presented the ship to him on Father’s Day. The ship sits in a glass case in Betty’s Bowling Green home, next to the map showing all the places Elmer traveled on it during the war. “He almost made it around the world,” she said. When Elmer passed away in 2012, the family debated what to do with the tanker replica. “We didn’t know what to do with it,” Betty said. So officials at the…


Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates Japanese culture

Fifteen years after Japanese graduates of Bowling Green State University showed their appreciation for the school by planting cherry trees on campus, several are returning. In fall, 2001, eight Japanese alumni came to campus for the planting of the trees. Graduate Masatoshi Emori had spearheaded the effort, inspired by the cherry trees in the nation’s capital. Fittingly then First Lady Hope Taft was on hand for the planting. Her husband’s great-grandfather was president when those trees took root in Washington D.C. as a sign of peace between Japan and the United States. Thanks to the Schedel Garden three of the BGSU trees were cuttings from the originals. The next spring Akiko Jones, an instructor of Japanese, initiated the first Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the plantings. Over the last 15 years, more trees have been planted and the Cherry Blossom Festival has grown. Now there are about 80. In Japan, the blossoming of the cherry trees is celebrated by outdoor hikes and picnics. Given the questionable weather in Northwest Ohio, the ceremony has been moved inside since its damp, very windy inaugural event in 2002. Last year with the event staged in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, more than 800 attended. Jones expects to attract even more celebrants this year when the event is held Saturday, April 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. in the ballroom. Attendance at the event, a celebration of Japanese culture, has increased in every year, outgrowing several venues. Jones credits the involvement of students with keeping the event going. When it started, she said, she never imagined it lasting this long. “I thought I’d retire” before now, said Jones, who has taught at BGSU for 33 years. She started the Japanese Club to introduce students to the culture and customs of Japan beyond what could be covered in the language class. “My students really work hard. It’s nice to see my students working together to make it really successful. Certainly I could not do it without the students,” she said. That includes graduates coming back to help. Last year, one of the most popular activities was caricature artist Theo Rollock. Jones said he continued drawing until midnight. He graduated last year and now lives in Indiana, but is returning to campus to participate in the festival. Caricatures will be just one of more than a dozen activities including a sumo game,…