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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.


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.



Most memorable Bluffton High School teacher

CORRECTION: Brown taught 33 years at Bluffton High School.

By Bill Herr

What Bluffton High School teacher was most memorable and influenced students the most? As a graduate of BHS and later a teacher at my alma mater, my list would be great but I would narrow it down to include Lorain Basinger (Vocational Agriculture), Wilbur Howe (History and Government), Wilford Geiger (Biology), Margaret Weaver (Latin), Duane Bollenbacher (Mathematics), and my choice at the top of the list, Gary Brown.

Gary graduated from Ada High School in 1956, from Bluffton College in 1961 and received his Master's in Teaching from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1972. He taught high school science for 35 years: Physics, Chemistry, Advanced Biology, and Environmental Biology (for which he developed his own course of study). He taught 33 of those years at Bluffton High School where he was affectionately known as "Doc." He was an assistant coach in football at BHS for 10 years.

Gary died on April 25, 2023, at age 84. There were approximately 150 who attended his funeral and a number of them were his former students. He retired from teaching in 1996. He was genuine, had high character and a strong personality. One of his former students told me he would always remember Gary's unique laugh. He had fun teaching and his classes received the benefit of his humor and his creative teaching.

He was an excellent teacher according to his students, but what elevated him to a memorable status was his demand that his students respect each other and respect the educational environment. He was a master of creative discipline, and if the principal was absent from school and a problem in discipline arose in the school that day, he was called upon to handle the problem.


Fastest Lady Pirate?

UPDATED May 9 with photo of Bonnie preparing for a race

By Bill Herr
Bluffton Icon columnist

Who was the fastest Lady Pirate in Bluffton High School track history?

Arguably, it was Bonnie Stratton. She is the oldest of Jay and Barb Stratton's three children. Their two boys, R.J. and Robbie, were outstanding football players for the Pirates. When they played, their grandpa, Rod Stratton, engineered a cannon that fired every time the Pirates scored a touchdown on Harmon Field. It was loud. I was told it scared the referees.


Book Review: Our Missing Hearts

Review by Robert McCool

Words can be weapons; whether written or spoken, or the more dangerous implied threat by authority.

Poetry has to be words too; a light illuminating the darkness in some human souls.

Such is the premise in the new masterwork by Celeste Ng, titled Our Missing Hearts ($34.00, Random House ISBN978-0-593-63267-3).

The story begins after the collapse of the United States economic system (which is blamed on the Chinese, of course). This is the time of PACT (Preserving American Culture and Traditions), a totalitarian authority that controls the whole country. PACT has the power to suppress any activity that is considered UN-American or seditious. PACT has the power to read all mail, wiretap any phone, or impose an ongoing curfew, which the breaking of brings down the law. Big time.

They also have the right to remove any child from its family if the parents do not follow PACT constraints faithfully to protect American values. These PACT laws were passed unilaterally by the House and Senate in an effort to bring America out of the Crises.