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Nursing home chaplain: John’s story before dementia

Columnist Bill Herr taught high school mathematics and science for 32 years before serving as a volunteer and then as a staff chaplain at two nursing homes. In this series of articles, he writes about his experiences with elderly residents. He does not use the residents’ real names.

By Bill Herr

In this series of articles, most of the experiences I relate involved nursing home residents experiencing some degree of dementia. The purpose is to show others ways to make their visits with such individuals as pleasant as possible.

There are about 15,000 nursing homes and 29,000 assisted living facilities in the United States, housing 2.1 million residents. One third of all Americans who die in a given year spend all or part their last six months in a senior care home. Nearly 80% of nursing home residents receive fewer than one outside visitor per month. Loneliness, hopelessness, loss of dignity and a lack of real purpose in living at an advanced age are among the primary emotional and spiritual issues that residents feel.  

Nursing home residents are blessed when they receive visitors. I met a new resident, John, who was outgoing, friendly and liked to talk.  He had a plaque on the wall of his room that was given to honor him when he retired as fire chief in his local community.

Have you heard about the 1938 Lafayette grave robbery?

Grave robbers were apparently seeking a valuable ring

By Fred Steiner

Grave robbers in LaFayette?

It occurred in October of 1938 and became headlines in many Ohio newspapers. This tale involves the grave in the LaFayette Cemetery of Tully Rumbaugh, a pioneer in the village who was born Aug. 6, 1875, and died Jan. 17, 1896.

One LaFayette story claimed that Rumbaugh, only 21 when he died, was buried with an expensive diamond ring. No one knows when or how that story took its roots. But, even in 1938, 42 years following his death, the story continued to spread.

The appraisal of the ring was simply described as “valuable.” Apparently, three young boys, or young men, overheard the Rumbaugh ring story being told in a LaFayette pool hall. Soon after hearing the story, but not knowing the exact location of the grave, the three took digging tools and matches and headed for the cemetery.

There they found the Rumbaugh grave. The story continues that they dug at the gravesite and after a few hours reached the top of the decayed coffin. In their exciting and no doubt frightening search of the corpse, they found a ring and took it.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.

The Wizard

By Robert McCool

If this was a novel it would be titled “The Wizard.”

But this isn’t a work of fiction. It’s about a real man that I have known all my life, and I’d like you to know him too, as I wanted to be him or like him my whole life, but could not measure up to his natural abilities.

Building my own backyard mini golf course  

The yard course is more reminiscent of the British Open than Augusta

By Cort Reynolds

ADA–Having been a lifelong athlete and gamesman, I was looking for something constructive and fun to do this summer to help fill some of my sports void.

The regular basketball game at ONU that I organized and played in for years came to a screeching halt during the pandemic and has yet to be resuscitated despite my so-far fruitless efforts to start it back up.

I decided to put an idea that had been gestating for over a year in my head into action and create something the area lacks, something which used to be a fixture in many towns. An activity to add to my backyard basketball hoop and croquet set-up that would sharpen concentration skills.

Armed with a small spade, my imagination and determination to make up something fun and challenging, I created my own backyard miniature golf course this past month. 

I was only going to make 18 holes, but I am up to 22 and counting, although I am starting to run out of good real estate spots despite the fun of creating them. I might get to 27 holes, but not 36.


Book review: Station Eleven

This is not a new book by Emily St. John Mandel (“The Singers Gun,” “The Last Night In Montreal,” “The Lola Quartet”). It was written in 2014, long before Covid-19, but not as long as apocalyptic dystopian stories have been around. Think about Noah's story, and the end of the world as he knew it. And all the dead unbelievers after the end of civilization. So many lives taken away in so short a time. It is unconscionable.

While the concept isn't new, this author has a new, modern story written in a new and interesting way. It is a brilliant telling of a now all too believable scenario in our modern age of air flight and a pandemic disease from which there is no hiding .

“Station Eleven” (Thorndike Press, ISBN 978-4104-7417-9, ISBN 1-4104-7417-8) is such a tale.

A swine flu mutation originating in Georgia, Russia spreads so easily and quickly that there is no time to avoid it. It spreads everywhere, killing anybody who comes close to it. The disease kills 99 percent of the human race and leaves the survivors in a place without any modern civilization to guide them; no police, no phones, no computers, no food after the stores have been robbed of anything edible. Nobody that was in the world they used to know, much like Noah's old tale of woe.

Book Review: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Book Review by Robert McCool

I'm back with a classic. It’s been quite a few weeks since I've submitted a book review for the Icon. It's been quite a few weeks since I have had the motivation to read a new pop-fiction release.