Challenges ahead for Richmond parks

When asked the question, what’s ahead for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department, superintendent Denise Retz shakes here head and smiles.

“We’re gonna do it. We’re going to make this happen. We’re rocking and rollin,’” she said.

But future is cloudy, filled with twists and turns. Lots of issues and challenges await and money is short. Still the public, those for whom the parks are created and maintained, are standing at the ready to use a park system they expect to shine. They know what the parks could be, what they should be.

Many wonder, Can we get there?

Full disclosure here, I am finishing my first year on the park board and in January I was elected president.

Now, I am a pretty smart guy and I use the parks just like everybody else. But I don’t have all the answers, just a willingness to serve and a concern about my community.

I have seen positive things during my first year on the board. Retz continually talks of projects accomplished in 2016 (75 if memory serves), a sterling staff, partnerships with street and sanitation workers and partnerships throughout the community.

More is needed.

I did a quick (totally unscientific) survey of 10 Richmondites about what the parks need and the No. 1 response was “keep the parks mowed, playground and other park facilities repaired and keep them free of trash.”

“Keep them safe.”

I think that can happen.

But bigger projects, at McBride Stadium, Cordell Pool, the senior center, may take time.

Mayor Dave Snow is on board. He knows what he wants and also knows the realities.

“Our parks are there, as I look into 2017, to serve a function and that is to provide a communal space for our city, and to provide an outlet for recreation, to stage events and to be a meeting space,” he said.

“So they need to be in a condition and to be programmed and kept up. There needs to be a maintenance plan in place so they are always ready for the community to use them as they see fit.”

That’s pretty simple. Accomplishing it will be the challenge.

The Richmond Common Council has done its part, approving $249,000 additionally in this year’s $2.43 million budget for things like equipment, contractual services, better pay for seasonal workers, utility payments and eliminating dead trees.

So where do we go from here?

Retz recently asked park board members to list their goals for the coming year.

Former board president, Mike Foley, who is the longest serving board member, wants a review of all the parks “to learn the positives and negatives about each. If a negative (exists) then what is needed to make it into a positive.”

“We spend a lot of time on Glen Miller, which is correct, but with a total of 19 parks… I think we need to know what we get from all of them,” he said.

Clay Miller, who serves as the non-voting member representing common council, said “all playground equipment should be repaired in good condition.”

“Broken equipment or equipment in disarray or that looks bad is disinviting to the customers we desire…” he said.

Board member Tiauna Washington also wants a review of all parks and is organizing her Hibberd students to do a year-long survey of all city parks.

“They didn’t know we had so many parks,” Washington said.

Board member Cathryn Dickman called for “increasing the public’s sense of safety and park accessibility.”

“Driving through the park in the evening, the area is especially dark, particularly the north portion of the park,” she said.

Dickman also recommended a community survey to identify what the community feels is attractive about the parks and what would increase usage.

Foley also wants to “develop a plan to get the (Middlefork) Reservoir into a positive cash flow.

“We have put up with it being a (drain on city finances) for too long. If we can’t reverse that then we need to look at what decisions need to be made,” he said.

For me, I’d like to see a survey of work needed at McBride Stadium so we can begin to tackle the small repairs and improvements and also put in place a plan for future (read larger) repairs. I’d also like to see us develop a plan to expand the use of McBride as a way to create additional revenue flow.

We also need to develop a larger volunteer and donor base to help with projects at the ballpark. Spring is just around the corner and small projects remain for willing hands. Also pockets, deep and not-so-deep, are needed to support the park.

We also need a tree plan in place to remove the dead trees from all parks, especially Glen Miller.

I believe 2016 was a good year. Projects were tackled and completed. Glen Miller received some needed attention as did Springwood and Clear Creek. The Dream Court in Clear Creek remains one of the biggest pluses in a year of catch up.

The senior center has a new gym floor and hot water in the bathrooms, something absent for at least five years. The Glen Miller tennis courts have a fresh surface and the hulking white barn near the courts, long a home to stray cats and raccoons (gee, they’re cute, as long as you can stand the stench and don’t want to use the space) is no more.

Springwood is looking better yet with a long way to go to be the safe, usable space it needs to be.

Freeman Park now has new lighting, a shelter, grill area and swing set, thanks to a partnership with the city’s Latino community.

In fact, it’s that partnership and ones like it, that give us encouragement moving ahead.

The Dream Court would not be the dream it is without a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wayne County and the citizens that brought that national program here.

Last year when citizens saw the condition of McBride Stadium (some angered by what they considered neglect and disdain), they also saw a chance to help. They painted, fixed up, cleaned up. They made a difference.

Others, like the Republican Women of Wayne, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Richmond Lions Club, neighborhood groups, RHS, Earlham and Seton, stepped forward to do what they could. The Wayne County Foundation and local donors helped. They always help.

We need that grassroots effort to grow.

Did they solve all our parks’ problems? Of course not. But they made the effort. Any solution can only be found in a community effort.

Snow is also exploring a plan to limit through vehicular traffic in Glen Miller Park.

“I love Glen Miller Park and Glen Miller was created to be vehicular friendly. Now I think it’s time to transition to be more pedestrian friendly,” he said.

What that means should become apparent in the months ahead.

But nothing will be easy.

Retz envisions:

— Work at McBride renovating the locker rooms, work on the field and fixing a light tower that fell earlier this year;

— Making the greenhouse more sustainable, partnering with groups like Sprout of Control, Cope Environmental Center and Reid Hospital;

— Work with Richmond Power & Light on construction of the solar canopy atop the new structure to be built at Elstro Plaza;

— Construction of a pocket park between Joy Ann Bakery and Chase Bank to tie into Elstro Plaza.

But bigger projects remain, like anticipated work at Cordell Pool, increasing programming at Glen Miller and all other parks, improvements to the Clear Creek horseshoe courts and assisting the Society for Preservation and Use of Resources with the planning and paving of Riverside Trail.

One project that Retz has begun is a partnership with Earlham College sustainability seniors to build a “sensory park” for toddlers and children with autism and developmental delays in Clear Creek Park.

“It’s an exciting project,” she says. “Their goal is to have the project substantially completed by their graduation in May.”

All the work lies ahead.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year,” says Retz, who is just now completing her first year as parks superintendent. “But we obviously have a lot to do. We have concentrated on beautification and safety and I think we are seeing the benefits.

“People are doing more in the parks. We’re seeing that. And people are asking how they can help. We’ll need that,” she says. “There are a lot of exciting things to come.

“But remember, I’m only as good as the people around me,” she said. “I can’t do it all by myself but I can lead and try to find ways to get things done.”

We’ll need all of that and more.

What are your thoughts? What else needs to be done to improve Richmond parks?

My year in movies

The year 2016 was a good but maybe not great year in film and since I love movies I thought I’d take this opportunity to list my favorite films of the past year.

Okay, so I’m no movie expert. I wouldn’t know a key grip if one were siting next to me.

But I do enjoy the movie experience, what they mean to me and how they move me. So, between Richmond and Dayton I try to see as may as I can each year. I have to say, 2016 was a strange year in which there were not a lot of great movies until late in the year.

So, after a mediocre spring and summer movie season, the year ended on a tremendous high note with a glut of great movies. That was both good and bad since it was difficult to see all the best movies by the end of the year.

And (again) since I’m no expert I base this list on sight, sound and emotion; movies that moved me, made me think, made me laugh, entertained me, opened my eyes. I ‘m especially drawn to the ones that haunted me and stayed with me for days after a viewing.

So with apologies to movies like “Jackie,” “Silence,” “Loving,” “Lion” and “Birth of a Nation,” none of which I saw, here is the list of my faves.

Again, I base these movies on what they meant to me.

1. Manchester by the Sea (Gritty yet so powerful, so sad, so haunting. Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are superb, as is Michelle Williams in a smaller role. Just the best.)

2. La Land Land (Just loved it. It made me smile throughout. Grand performances and there is something I love about Emma Stone.)

3. Moonlight. (Another great film. Troubling and sad yet tender and beautiful. Moving and unsettling with extraordinary performances by a relatively unknown cast.)

4. Sing Street (Terrific film from the Irish. So fun, so entertaining. A great rental if you’re looking.)

5. Fences (Great performances, powerfully sad. Had such a raw an authentic feel. Who doesn’t love Denzel Washington and Viola Davis?)

6. City of Gold (Fascinating look at the food, geography and culture of Los Angeles as told through the eyes of LA Times food writer Jonathan Gold. Great film, so interesting, a must see.)

7. Hacksaw Ridge (Rugged and brutal but a great story, great performances and great direction. Haunting yet inspirational)

8. Indignation (Terrific film based on the Phillip Roth book. Fascinating, puzzling but memorable.)

9. Allied (Loved it. Great period piece. Great performances.)

10. Weiner (Great stuff. Wonderful inside look at the collapse of a politician. Left me scratching my head.)

11. Dark Horse (2015) (Such a good movie, had to include it in this year’s list. Real people and a great underdog story.)

12. Patriot’s Day (Another powerful and moving film. Emotional and draining. So well done.)

13. Sully (Tom Hanks continues to amaze, aided by solid support from Aaron Eckhart. Understated movie that packs power.)

14. Rogue One (Gritty and interesting. Not a slave to pyrotechnics and goofy characters. I liked it more than I thought I would.)

15. Hell or High Water (Crazy, offbeat, but I really liked it. Terrific performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.)

16. Hidden Figures (Incredible story told well. Terrific performances. Jim Crow, the space race and math all in one movie. Wow!)

17. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (All right, so I got sucked in by the sorta journalistic look at life in war torn Afghanistan. But there are laughs and Tina Fey delivers.)

18. Money Monster (Good but not great story, a bit contrived but good Clooney performance.)

19. Don’t Think Twice (Good film, not great. A few laughs but not as many as you would guess in a film about a comedy troupe.)

20. Fantastic Beasts & Where You Find Them (Crazy entertaining film but not necessarily my cup of tea.)

How was your movie-viewing year? Tell me what you think.

Pro bono demand is growing

 

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Richmond attorney Don Simkin, left, was honored as volunteer attorney of the year at the Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission’s luncheon in December.

The Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission had a banner year in 2016.

Okay, so “banner year” is not a good way to describe the two-person office on the third floor of the Richmond Municipal Building. Last year they were busy. Extremely busy.

That’s because the need for their services continues to grow in Wayne County. Pro bono offers free legal help for county residents in civil matters. In 2015, the office and its roughly 12 volunteer attorneys received just short of 700 applications for help.

This year that number topped 794, 672 of which were from clients needing help with family law issues, things like divorce, custody, support, visitation and to a lesser extent guardianship.

Who are their clients?

“A lot of our clients are the working poor, people working two or three part-time jobs or a full-time minimum wage job,” said executive director Shane Edington. “They are people trying to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table and keep a car running. They don’t have a lot of extra income for legal situations.”

“And of course many are children. They are at the heart of what we do. They are the most vulnerable segment of our society,” he said.

About 20 percent of the applicants are people also struggling with addiction.

“You might have a case where dad is in jail for drugs and mom is battling addiction, and grandma and grandpa are raising the kids. Many of our cases involve drugs and addiction. We spend a lot of our time dealing with parents who are not able to care for their kids because of addiction.”

Right or wrong, it’s a sign of the times in Wayne County.

Edington said that the commission’s No. 1 goal this year is to recruit more volunteer attorneys. He said he’s had 10 applications for help in the first 11 days of this year.

“The need is growing. We clearly have to recruit more help,” he said. “My goal is to meet with every single attorney in Wayne County to see if they are able to help.”

Currently, attorneys like board vice president A.J. Sickman, Amy Noe, Don Simkin, Cory Bell, Abby Rohmiller, Adam Forrest, Bruce Metzger and others have volunteered their time for pro bono cases.

In 2015, the commission also began offering free legal help with mortgage foreclosure defense to residents in Wayne, Union and Randolph counties.

Pro bono will host a free “meet with an attorney” night from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday (Jan. 16) in the Bard Room at Morrisson-Reeves Library. Residents can get a 20-minute free legal consultation with a local attorney that night.

The commission operates on a $65,000 per year budget, all of which comes from fund-raising and grants, including from the Wayne County Foundation. Other support has come from the United Way of the Whitewater Valley, the Indiana State Bar Foundation, the Doxpop Donor Advised Fund and the Chase Bank Settlement Agreement.

The commission receives no government funding and is a 501 (c) (3) and donations are tax deductible.

Fund-raising is done through an annual 5K race and golf outing during the summer and an awards luncheon in December.

Anyone wishing to donate can do so by mailing a check to the Wayne County Pro Bono Commission, 50 N. Fifth St., Richmond, IN 47374 or by dropping off a contribution at the office on the third floor of the Richmond Municipal Building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Donors can also go to the commission’s website and click on the “Pay-Pal” link. For information, call (765) 983-78353.

Windmill flap

I used to like to sit out in my back yard with my wife and my little wood burner on gorgeous summer nights. It was dark and relatively quiet and lovely.

Then my neighbor’s garage was broken into and he installed a big flood light out back. My neighbor on the other side then paid RP&L to reinstall the streetlight in our alley. I didn’t like it and it wasn’t as much fun to sit out in the back yard at night, but that was their prerogative.

I understood then and I’m used to it now.

Anyway, the Wayne County Commissioners this week have voted to limit wind energy conversion systems, industrial windmills they are called, making it more difficult to get permission to install one that is over 15 feet and under 100 feet above the roof tops, and making it damned near impossible to have a windmill over 100 feet.

That could kill a proposal from a wind energy company called EDP Renewables to install a wind farm in northwest Wayne County, part of a wind farm that would extend into Randolph and Henry counties.

In Wayne County, wind turbines 15 feet tall and under are permitted. So are turbines 16 to 100 feet tall but they require a variance of use from the county board of zoning appeals for study and approval.

But wind turbines taller than that are not permitted, which pretty much nixes the EDP project. Their plans call for about 100 turbines with towers that would be 300 feet tall with a blade span of 495 feet.

They would produce electricity that the company would then sell for a profit. Its production output would not, as I understand it, directly benefit Wayne County residents.

But there is due process. Anyone wishing to install an industrial windmill can always go to the BZA and try to make a case for it. But one of the criteria BZA folks would use in their ruling would be hardship, and it would be a tall order for someone to argue that they were suffering a hardship if they couldn’t install a 300-foot wind turbine.

Anyway, a meeting of the Wayne County Advisory Plan Commission Monday drew more than 200 people, the majority of whom opposed the wind farm in Wayne County. They argued a drop in property values, disruption of idyllic rural life through noise pollution and health concerns, scrambled logic in trying to put 100 turbines in a somewhat populated area, adverse economic impact, problems with decommissioning structures if the company went bankrupt, Chinese Communist bandits trying to infiltrate the American power grid and bird decapitation.

Now I’m a true believer that wind energy should be an important component in the effort to meet the future fuel source needs of this area, the region and the nation. Global warming is real and we have to do something to address the problem for future generations.

But I must admit that I’m conflicted on this project. The need for development, implementation and use of wind energy systems, I believe, is vital. But this does not appear to be a good fit for Wayne County.

Yes, there would be benefits locally, like a sizable increase in the assessed value of land in the county, which could benefit all taxpayers, and financial rewards for landowners choosing to host wind turbines.

But this is not a light in a back yard. There clearly would be an impact on “country life” that could go beyond fouling the scenery. It could impact property values, though research I’ve seen is split on that issue. And I don’t believe a wind farm is an economy-killing or job-killing prospect.

Some people just don’t want to look at them, which is not an important criteria in county government’s decision making process. Still, that sentiment fires people to rise up in opposition.

I can’t say that I would want to have a wind farm in my neighborhood, or anywhere nearer than, say, Randolph County (I don’t get up there much). I drive Interstate 65, by the ones near Lafayette, and in central Illinois and they are interesting, but not something I would want to look at every day.

Still, if they installed a wind farm near me, say somewhere around Centerville or Fountain City or Reeveston, it would impact my every day life But it appears that that will not be happening any time in the foreseeable future.

Which is sad since I’m a believer in property rights and there are a number of people in Wayne County in favor of a wind farm here. But I also believe in the “greater good.” Neighbors clearly do not want a wind farm in their midst.

This time the greater good won out. I want this community to grow and prosper. I’m just not sure this is the way.

Preserving a tradition

Scott Bartel is a preservationist.

His passion is restoring the architecture of a community built during the burgeoning prosperity of a bygone era.

But his heart burns for jazz and its message from the past.

“Musically, I feel like I have been entrusted with a tradition,” Bartel said. “There is a message and I have to carry that message forward.”

The 30-year-old Richmond man is owner and operator of an architectural restoration firm in Richmond. His passion is restoring, rebuilding actually, historic homes, including his own at the corner of 22nd and East Main Street in Richmond.

But then there’s the jazz. Bartel can be heard some days pounding out a subtle but determined jazz beat in his home, a stone’s throw from Test Middle School..

Bartel is bringing his jazz combo, Bruderschaft (German for Brotherhood), to Glen Miller Park for the City Life celebration Saturday. The 7 p.m. show is free and open to the public.

His music is a modern day version of the sound that was born and bred in Richmond when Gennett Records offered a tiny recording studio in the city’s center. In the late 1920s and ‘30s, that studio attracted some of the early pioneers of recorded jazz.

It became a Richmond tradition.

As City Life organizers hope to offer the community a taste of the city’s arts, Bartel hopes to remind residents musically that the city has a past built, to an extent, on music.

“This is a chance for people to experience the music and see that there is a message,” Bartel said. “It is the message of jazz, the message of the American tradition.”

Bartel started drumming in fifth grade, inspired buy the work of bands like Depeche Mode and The Police.

He found jazz when his grandmother, Betty Bartel-White, played Jeff Hamilton’s “It’s Hamilton Time” for him.

Hamilton is also a Richmond native and an accomplished jazz drummer who has played on over 200 recordings with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole, Diana Krall and Barbara Streisand.

Bartel’s favorite track was “Blues For You.”

“I listened to that track every night before I went to bed,” he said. “It just hit me. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

He saw Hamilton at Civic Hall in Richmond and introduced himself. The two struck up a friendship that led to Bartel’s spending a week in Los Angeles with Hamilton, practicing for hours each day under his tutelage.

“He was super kind to me,” Bartel said. “But he was hard on me, on my playing. He tore me up. But I learned so much. Jeff was like a god to me.”

Bartel tried the Indiana University School of Music but left after a semester on the advice of David Baker, the IU prof, and renowned jazz musician, composer, historian and author.

“It just wasn’t for me. David Baker was the one who told me to just go play music,” Bartel said.

He studied for six months with jazz drummer John Von Ohlen in Cincinnati. Von Ohlen played for Woody Herman and Stan Kenton before forming his own Blue Wisp Big Band in Cincinnati.

Bartel then spent almost six years in Los Angeles, playing in clubs and recording in studios, working days selling clothes at Banana Republic.

He spent two winters in New York, gigging five nights a week in clubs for a hand full of dollars and “waking up every morning unemployed.”

“I just got tired of the hustle for little pay. It was always so competitive. I got tired of the hustle, the pay, the politics.”

So he decided to come back “to chill” in Indiana.

“This is where I’m from,” said Bartel, the great-grandson of German immigrants. “Since Germany, my family has lived here. For me, it’s pretty cool to have the family here. It’s something that can’t be bought, something that can’t be recreated. You are what you are.”

He bought the two-story home at 22nd and East Main. The Italianate structure, owned by Viola and Isham Sedgwick, was built in 1872. Isham Sedgwick was an inventor who owned a wire fencing plant in the city.

The home was once a mansion but had been forgotten and reduced to apartments in the 1950s.  Additions and stairways were added. At one time, a beauty parlor was operated out of the back of the building.

Bartel started work rebuilding the home. Soon people noticed his work and began asking him to do work for them. From that came his restoration business.

“It was like being a musician. People would see my work and ask me to do things for them,” he said. “The business has grown by itself.”

The transformation on his own home started three years ago and he admits that the project could take him 30 years.

“The most honest thing this house could be is returned to its original form,” he said. “This has been an educational opportunity for me and for the community. What better way to learn and to give back to the community than to restore an old home like this.”

He loves to talk about what he’s done and what he still has to do. Stop by and he’ll take you through the construction project even if it means scrambling up a ladder to get to the second floor.

He’s torn off additions, torn out staircases, reconnected floors and rebuilt moulding and cabinetry. He hauled 10 steam radiators up to the second floor. He is in the process of rebuilding a barn out back.

Still, there’s the jazz.

That’s what Saturday is all about.

“We’re trying to preserve the language of jazz, but to move it forward, to make it speak to today,” he said. “We want to introduce people to jazz and remind them that it has a message that continues.”

Glen Miller Park, 7 p.m.

It’s City Life

The Richmond Parks and Recreation Department will once again partner with the city’s arts organizations to present City Life in Glen Miller Park Saturday.

The fourth annual event offers hands-on art activities, live music, a pond fire and live art creations.

“It will be an exciting evening,” said Richmond Art Museum executive director Shaun Dingwerth. “I see it as a great chance for the community to sample what’s available in this community in terms of the arts.”

The event offers a performance by the Richmond Jazz Orchestra, the Richmond Community Orchestra and The Wing Walkers, representing the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. There will also be a drum circle, organized by Earlham College music professor Keith Cozart, that features 30 minutes of games, activities, stories and songs for all ages, based on the sound and rhythm of the hand drum.

Richmond Civic Theatre is also participating and the event’s primary sponsor is the Indiana Arts Commission.

There will also be a performance by Bruderschaft (Brotherhood), featuring a group of professional jazz musicians brought together by Richmond jazz drummer Scott Bartel.

They include jazz trumpeter Marlin McKay, a recent Indiana University graduate who studied under Dr. David Baker, pianist Keith McCutcheon, who is director of the African American Choral Ensemble at Indiana University, bassist Brandon Meeks of Indianapolis and tenor saxophonist Javier Veraga, who has been a mainstay on the Los Angeles jazz scene for over 20 years.

Alisha Estabrook, Richmond parks community recreation coordinator, said there will be painting activities and demonstrations, including the painting of at least one full-size mural.

“People can expect to get a taste of a little bit of everything,” she said. “If they like music and painting and drumming it should be a great evening.”

The event is the brainchild of Mayor Dave Snow before he was elected last November. Snow was the creator, founder and first director of City Life.

“I came up with the concept because I really believe the arts of a community tell the narrative of that community and are essential to the life of the community,” Snow said. “We are lucky to have the arts we have here and this event is designed to break down the barriers and get more people connected to the arts.”

There will also be food available for purchase during the evening.

The schedule includes:

5-5:30 p.m. Arts and music activities with Keith Cozart’s drum circle;

5:30-6 Performance by the Richmond Community Orchestra;

6 p.m. Lighting of the Glen Miller Pond;

6-6:30 Performance by the Richmond Jazz Orchestra;

6:30-7 Performance by The Wing Walkers;

7 p.m. Performance by Bruderschaft

The 40 who died

Thomas Deitemeyer was a quiet young man who loved hunting and fishing.

He worked at the Kemper Cabinet plant in Richmond before joining the U.S. Army in 1966.

He didn’t want to go to Vietnam, his mother Evelyn Deitemeyer said in 1990, but he tried to calm her fears by telling her, “I’ll only be over there for a year.”

He died there Feb. 12, 1967, 11 days short of his 21st birthday. He was a platoon leader, walking patrol in the Mekong Delta when one of the men walking behind him stepped on a land mine. Deitemeyer and several other soldiers were killed.

Today, his name is listed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., Panel 15E Line 019, and on The Wall That Heals that opens Wednesday in Richmond.

img_0903-copyDeitemeyer was one of the 40 men from Wayne County killed in Vietnam. He, in many ways, is representative of those who died in that far away war in that far away land.

They were young, good looking men, trusted sons, loving brothers, husbands, cousins and classmates, full of energy and purpose. Futures were bright in those days as young men thought of cars and girls, high school graduation and landing good jobs.

Clothing was going mod, music morphing from Motown and surf tunes to psychedelic. Manufacturing was still booming and factory jobs were plentiful, but there was this distant war and a chance to serve and see the world.

Most understood little of the politics that surrounded Vietnam. Many could not find it on a map. But they knew this war was expanding, communism must be stopped, and they knew their country needed them.

Most were just anxious and proud to serve.

PFC Darrell Lee Covington attended Short High School in Liberty and was a 1968 Richmond High School graduate. He worked at Johns-Manville after graduation until he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was killed in fighting near An Hoa in South Vietnam June 9, 1969. He was 19 years old.

These men had many things in common. One was that their parents really never got over the loss. Covington’s father, Lee Covington of Richmond, wrote a poem to his son, which was published in a Johns-Manville newsletter.

In a short excerpt, his father wrote

“He was full of life and he lived it well,

But he loved his country more than tongue can tell.

Yes, his life was short with its laughter and pain

But I know that someday we will meet again.”

Covington’s name is at Panel 23W Line 188.

Robert Person worked as a machine operator at NATCO before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He was walking patrol when he stepped on a land mine. He died three days later, Sept. 11, 1969.

“He was a very good son,” his mother, Mary Louise Person, said in 1990. “But he never talked about his experiences over there in his letters. In his last letter he said he was going out in the field for a couple of days and he would be right back. But he never came back.”

Person’s name is at Panel 18W Line 084.

Most didn’t talk about it in their letters, the awful things they saw and did. They did their jobs until the day they died. Most of those returning also didn’t talk about it. That’s why bringing the Wall back to Richmond every five years or so is so important.

They served, and died, as young men, fearless and full of enthusiasm, brimming with patriotism. Twenty-six of them died during the war’s most brutal years, 1967-1969. Most were 21 or younger.

David Downing was a standout football and basketball player and wrestler at Centerville High School. A trophy honoring the school’s best all around student athlete is still given in his name. It honors on-field heroics as well as classroom performance and citizenship.

Downing was killed by a booby trap during Operation Junction City, a massive U.S. operation near the Vietnamese-Cambodian border March 11, 1967. It was the largest U.S. airborne operation since World War 2. He was 21 years old.

In 1990, his father, Raymond Downing, said he felt it the instant his son was killed. He said he felt it in his heart. David Downing’s name is at Panel 16E Line 057.

Former Palladium-Item photographer Steve Koger served in Vietnam in 1969. So did his friend Danny Sinnott. Both had worked in the PI mailroom before joining the military.

Koger was wounded in fighting near Chu Lai on June 13, 1969. He was sent to a hospital in the rear for a month to recuperate. When he returned his company commander told him they had lost one man in Koger’s absence.

It wasn’t until weeks later when Koger received a back copy of the Palladium that he learned that that one soldier was Sinnott.

“It was real hard,” Koger said in 1990. “For a while after that I thought maybe if I hadn’t been hit or if I had come back a couple of weeks early maybe he wouldn’t be dead. Maybe something else would have happened.

“But in reality there’s probably nothing I could have done,” he said.

Danny Sinnott’s name can be found at Panel 21W Line 049.

That’s war. Nothing is fair. The good die young. Every one of the 40 has a story, all sad. Young men fighting the good fight, chewed up by the meat grinder of a distant war.

Regernaild Webster was not from Richmond, but he lived here for several years while working at Richmond Perfect Circle Division of Dana Corporation. He was murdered in Phuoc Long Province in South Vietnam Dec. 27, 1969. Military records do not indicate if his murderer was ever caught.

But Webster’s image lives on in Richmond history. He is pictured in a famous photograph as one of several young men who volunteered and fought fires in downtown Richmond after a massive explosion April 6, 1968. His name is at Pane 15W Line 100.

Steven Wright of Centerville was a conscientious objector and served as a medic in the war. His father was a CO in World War II as was his grandfather in World War I. In a letter home, he wrote “I personally dragged my platoon sergeant’s body through 50 feet of water so he could be sent home. He was dead from a bullet hole in the back of his head. I know I would not want to be left behind for the VC, dead or alive.”

Wright died from small arms fire while aiding comrades during combat operations in Dinh Tuong Province July 9, 1968. His name can be found on Panel 52W Line 005.

Heroes all:

*Tommy Hofer (Panel 27W Line 049) of Richmond enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1968. He was shot and killed by a sniper only three weeks after arriving Vietnam and was buried the day before his 19th birthday.

*Karl Klute (Panel 06E Line 007), a pilot and daredevil type, volunteered for Vietnam in the hopes of one day qualifying for the astronaut program. He died piloting his F-100 jet during a strafing run against the Viet Cong March 14, 1966.

*Kenneth Musselman tried to talk his son Harold (Panel 30W Line 021) out of going to Vietnam. Harold planned to follow his brother Robert (Panel 28E Line 069) to Southeast Asia. “I tried to talk him out of it but it didn’t pan out,” Kenneth said in 1990. “They were darn good boys and I think about ‘em every day.”

Robert Musselman was 25 when he died Oct. 25, 1967. Harold Musselman was 19 when he died March 3, 1969.

*Cary Miller died Oct. 6, 1969. In August, eight members of his former unit in Vietnam, returned to Richmond for the sixth time to honor his memory. “He will never be forgotten,” said Linda Retter, the woman Cary planned to wed when he came back from overseas.

Long wars yield long lists of war dead and tear apart towns like Richmond. They kill young men and leave long lines of grieving parents, relatives and friends.

Still, a country that honors its fallen is a great nation, one that will remember and learn from its past. When these 40 men died, a little piece of the community died with them. We rebuild our lives and rebuild our community by honoring that tragic loss.

They are gone now but, thanks to the veterans who live on, who build memorials in Washington and Richmond, they are remembered. And thanks to those veterans and their families, The Wall That Heals will let us remember again.

Wayne County casualties included:

  • Curtis Lamarr Foster
  • Jon David Vannatta
  • Karl Edwin Klute
  • Jesse Floyd Wages
  • Burnie Harris
  • Terry Lee Wiles
  • Thomas Paul Deitemeyer
  • David Allen Downing
  • Donald Ray Rybolt
  • Herman Ray Cull
  • Thomas Clayton Benge
  • Teri Leigh Hines
  • Eddie James Allen
  • Robert Eugene Musselman
  • Terry Richard Clark
  • Jack Wayne Miller
  • Conrad E. Ross
  • Larry Robert McKinney
  • Ronald Lloyd Frazer
  • Stephen Louis Wright
  • Charles Vernon Firth
  • Raymond T. Conway
  • Thomas Herschal Schneider
  • David Joe Stansbury
  • Robert John Kuhlman, Jr.
  • Harold Earl Musselman
  • Joseph Walter Wysong
  • Thomas Edward Hofer
  • Darrell Lee Covington
  • Regernaild Webster
  • Daniel Bernard Sinnott
  • Billy Joe Caudill
  • Robert Lee Person
  • Cary Duane Miller
  • David Allen Hockett
  • Robert Kenneth Cole
  • Harry Thomas Henthorn
  • Gerald Vincent VanWinkle
  • Robert Lee Sowers
  • Jerry Duane Vance