Category Archives: Reporting

All my reporting, compiled.

‘Queen Aliquippa’ returned to family of painter

Photo by Sylvester Washington

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/queen-aliquippa-returned-to-family-of-painter/article_4ae38868-578c-11e7-9e1c-8f990aed9f4d.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

ALIQUIPPA — Alice Kirby never thought she would reunite with a particular painting her father created early in his life.

At 19 years old, Charles Williams, Kirby’s father, painted a portrait of Queen Aliquippa on a noncanvas pressboard and donated it to Aliquippa High School, his alma mater, in 1933.

The swirling painting depicts the eponymous Native American woman from the 18th century, who led a Seneca tribe in western Pennsylvania. Significant enough to have George Washington seek her company, Queen Aliquippa now primarily lives on through the town to which she gave her name.

Williams’ “Queen Aliquippa” remained on display in the school building’s entrance for the next 76 years.

During the painting’s extended exhibition, Williams worked at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, an art institution, during the Great Depression before returning to western Pennsylvania to work at J&L Steel Corp. as a roll grinder.

However, despite taking on a trade to support his family, he valued art and painting above all else, Kirby said.

Along with “Queen Aliquippa,” Williams created paintings of his daughter, his wife, also named Alice, and his father-in-law using charcoal, landscapes and still lifes. He partook in plein air, or outdoor, painting in scenic local spots, as well.

Williams died in 1972, with his paintings and sculptures going to his son and Kirby’s brother, Bill Williams, in Spokane, Wash.

Alice Kirby and her friend Rose John, whom she now travels here to visit from Atlanta, grew up in Center Township and attended Aliquippa High in the early 1960s, when they experienced the painting of the Native American leader firsthand each morning.

“As you walked in the main entrance, you could see it hanging on the wall. You were so used to seeing it that you almost didn’t notice it,” Kirby said.

Recently, Kirby traveled back to Pennsylvania and wanted to see if she could buy the painting from the school. She contacted the junior and high school building secretary, Kathleen Dulaney, to try to make an offer.

“She was trying to get a hold of it for years,” John said. “We didn’t know where it was.”

After the district razed the old high school building in 2009, it kept the painting in a storage room for eight years, Dulaney said. But after some searching, the painting resurfaced.

“She called up asking for the picture,” Dulaney said. “I asked the superintendent if she could buy it, and he said we could just donate it to her.”

After nearly 30 years of perseverance, Kirby finally gained ownership of her father’s painting from Aliquippa Principal Alvin B. Gipson on Tuesday.

“They were kind enough to donate it to us,” Kirby said. “Instead of throwing it away, they stored the picture for eight years, which is unusual since it was in bad shape. It’s really something.”

John, who will ship the painting to Georgia for Kirby, said it is in decent condition but is “rough around the edges with a couple of cracks.” Kirby said she plans to have it restored to recapture its former effect.

“I never thought I would get that painting back in my wildest dreams,” Kirby said. “I have a lot of paintings but none mean as much as this particular painting. It was my father’s past, and I just feel elated.”

In addition to Williams’ past, Kirby said the painting captures the cultural significance of its namesake town.

“To me, it resembles Aliquippa itself,” Kirby said. “It was the (school’s) mascot, and everybody knew the painting. It makes me proud, and it was a wonderful feeling to be given it.”

Shortly after the donation, “Queen Aliquippa” even drew immediate recognition from a former Aliquippa teacher.

“When I took the painting (to John’s house), (Rose LaSala), who was a music teacher at Aliquippa, came in and said, ‘That’s Queen Aliquippa. How’d you get that here?’” Kirby said.

Kirby said she plans to give the painting to her son, Chucky, so that it can pass down through a third and eventually a fourth generation in her family.

Advertisements

Couple arrives in Brighton Township to conclude 4,300-mile tandem bicycle trip

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/couple-arrives-in-brighton-township-to-conclude–mile-tandem/article_a1f5f9e0-7949-11e7-a31b-d771ee36cf21.html

Photo and story by Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

BRIGHTON TWP. — Dutch Ridge Road hardly feels like a terminus to anything except maybe for a drive home.

But for two cross-country tandem bicyclists who covered 4,300 miles and 10 states over two months, a house near the three-way intersection before Bradys Run Park marked a destination.

Bob, 57, and Brenda Fletcher, 56, a husband and wife duo, pulled their red tandem bike and equipment trailer into the driveway of Bob’s parents’ home around 10:30 a.m. Friday.

The celebratory reunion with Bob’s parents, Patricia and Robert, completed the couple’s goal of tandem biking across the United States, which has taken them two years and two attempts to accomplish.

Prior to this summer’s trip, the couple had made an attempt to cross the country on a tandem bicycle the day after Bob retired from the Air Force last June. Brenda had already retired from her job as a math teacher in Fairfield, Calif.

Not long into the trip, however, they were forced to call it off in Sandpoint, Idaho, after a hernia hospitalized Bob for two weeks.

The couple owns seven tandem bicycles, with four built for mountainous terrain. Robert Fletcher was quick to say that Bob had custom-ordered the bike for the couple’s first attempt in 2016. The striking, red tandem finally fulfilled its purpose Friday after more than two months of pedaling.

Bob and Brenda started the redemption of their American odyssey June 1 from their home in Vacaville, Calif., and headed directly west to the Pacific Ocean. At the water, they took a northern route to continue their trip across the United States. They biked through Oregon and Idaho and spent two weeks crossing Montana.

The couple had been camping overnight through the western part of their journey, but after reaching Glacier National Park and its Going-to-the-Sun Road, they elected to switch to lodging.

“We stopped camping in Glacier,” Bob said. “It was 45 degrees one night, and the next day it was 105 degrees when we crossed into the desert part of Montana.”

The inspiration behind their attempt stemmed from seeing other people and couples biking cross-country, Brenda said.

“We just wanted to do it to do it,” Bob said.

The two have been biking since the 1980s and met in a California biking club. Brenda grew up in northern California while Bob graduated locally from Beaver High School in 1978 and moved to the Golden State, where he worked at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield as the chief engineer for Lockheed C-5’s for 38 years.

After leaving Big Sky Country, the couple wound through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin before taking a ferry into Michigan. Bob said the couple averaged around 80 miles per day but had several days when they surpassed 100 miles.

Brenda joked that the biggest obstacle of the trip was “being nice to each other,” with two months and 4,300 miles creating a long period of togetherness.

“You just bike, eat and sleep,” Brenda said.

During the journey, the couple experienced problems with the back tire, Patricia Fletcher said. They reached a point where they bought a new, heavier back wheel and overnight shipped it from their hometown bike store.

Bob steered the way as the “captain” of the tandem while Brenda powered from the back as the “stoker.”

“When we got together, we had to get one,” Bob said about their tandem bikes. “We haven’t ridden a single bike since we’ve been married, so about 10 or 12 years.”

Bob said that climbing hills presented the most difficulty during the trip, to which any other biker could attest.

“The tandem doesn’t climb hills well, especially with a 130-pound trailer behind it,” Bob said.

After a brief period in Canada, the couple descended into New York and finally Pennsylvania in early August.

“We figured they would arrive more toward the end of the month,” Robert Fletcher said. “I didn’t see how they could make it before September.”

The pace of the couple also surprised Patricia, who said she started believing the couple would make the journey after the sixth week.

“We got a call from them, and they said they were only 15 miles from Pennsylvania in New York and I was like, ‘Oh no! We have to get ready,’” she said.

Bob’s parents had doubts about the couple’s trip, expressing worry about road rage and robbery, since the couple carried no weapons.

Despite creating a welcome-home banner and waiting for the couple’s arrival Friday, Robert still maintained a parental hesitance toward their trip.

“To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about them taking this trip,” he said, to which Bob swiftly quipped, “Nothing to it.”

Brenda said the people they met along the way were “really nice,” and some of them shared their ambitions to bike across the U.S.

“We met a single guy who was carrying more stuff than we were,” Bob said. “We also met a couple in Oregon who were 72 and 70 and also biking cross-country.”

Now that the trip has ended, Bob and Brenda will fly back to California, where they plan to embark on another bike trip in 2019 possibly covering every state in the lower 48.

“It’s bittersweet (it’s over),” Bob said. “We enjoyed every day of it.”

After canceled field trip, Baden fourth-graders become VIPs at Penguins victory parade

Photo by Lucy Schaly

Side note: This one was a fun day at the office.

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/after-canceled-field-trip-baden-fourth-graders-become-vips-at/article_edbf3730-5142-11e7-96a3-f7d5881d683e.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

BADEN — Fourth-graders at State Street Elementary School in Baden expected a Just Ducky tour as a year-end trip, but found themselves among Penguins instead.

Each year, the school’s fourth-grade class is rewarded at the end of the year with field trip to Pittsburgh for the Just Ducky land and water tour. But with the Penguins’ Stanley Cup-clinching win on Sunday, the company canceled the tour because of the closing of city streets and its participation in the parade.

Jan Rusnak, a fourth-grade teacher at State Street, has planned the trip for the last six years, and with the last day of school on Thursday, she acted quickly to find an alternative. Monday night, Rusnack sent an email to Penguins representatives and explained the situation. She also posted to Facebook to alert parents of the cancellation.

“I had a lot of parent support after I made a Facebook post,” Rusnak said.

State Street Principal Tom McKelvey said parents and other people used Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the Penguins, Mayor Bill Peduto and 96.1 Kiss FM to try to find a solution to the cancellation.

Tom McMillan, the vice president of communication for the Penguins, said he replied to Rusnak’s email Monday night and on Tuesday extended an invitation for the 41 pupils to watch the parade from a VIP section close to the stage.

“We had a meeting Tuesday about the parade, and it was one of the first things to come up,” McMillan said. “As kids, we all looked forward to field trips. It was satisfying to turn a big disappointment into something we hope was exciting for them.”

Pupils left the school around 9 a.m., all wearing matching gold Stanley Cup T-shirts funded by the school’s parent-teacher association. Many of those shirts would return with signatures on them from the likes of Jake Guentzal, Brian Dumoulin and other players. R.J. Rhodes Transit Inc. donated two buses to take the children to the parade and back, McKelvey said.

Despite the heat and crowd noise, the pupils enjoyed watching the parade and seeing the Penguins players and Stanley Cup from so close to the stage.

“It’s like something you’d think you would never see,” fourth-grader Kaia Fubio said.

Many of the pupils expressed their appreciation for the opportunity.

“It was unbelievable to meet so many Penguin players,” Julien Hubbard said. “It was so kind of them to let us be VIPs.”

“I’m grateful that we got to go because if we didn’t go, we didn’t have a field trip,” Lucas Hopkins said.

“It was extraordinary, and I’m very thankful for the Pens letting us be in the VIP section,” Zhekiyah Reddicks said.

Rusnak said the field trip was “such a neat experience for the students and adults.”

The pupils returned from the closing event of the Penguins’ season shortly after 2 p.m., ready for dismissal from their last full day of fourth grade.

“Everybody worked together in a collaborative effort to not only give the kids something they wanted the first time around, but something that exceeded their expectations,” McKelvey said.

Oram’s Donuts owners recount 79 year history for Beaver Falls Historical Society

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/oram-s-donuts-owners-recount-year-history-for-beaver-falls/article_d34fa9c2-6cc5-11e7-9fa1-03ae2623d7e6.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

People normally use words like “sprinkled,” “glazed” and “delicious” to describe doughnuts, but what about “historical?”

Brian Booth and Dave Bicksler, who co-own Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, spoke to members of the Beaver Falls Historical Society in the Beaver Falls Carnegie Free Library on Wednesday, presenting the business’ history, its doughnut production and what the shop means to the local community.

The two purchased the business from its third owner, Jon George, in November 2014. Originally, they planned to license an Oram’s franchise location, but ended up buying the singular Beaver Falls shop, Bicksler said.

While Bicksler comes from Washington, D.C., Booth grew up a native to the region with his father and grandfather both teaching history and government in the Big Beaver Falls School District, adding to the local connection.

Betty Anderson, the director of the society’s museum and vice president of the society, said the presentation came about when Booth and Bicksler visited the museum to research their business’ background.

“We wanted to know the history of Oram’s and hopefully their secret recipe,” Anderson said. “Once you have an Oram’s doughnut, other doughnuts don’t compare.”

Anderson said that along with J’s News, Oram’s Donuts is one of two businesses in Beaver Falls that places donation jars for the historical society on its counter.

In the past, the Beaver Falls Historical Society, founded in 1944, has hosted Beaver Falls residents from all walks of life at its meetings, Anderson said.

On the third Wednesday of each month, the group holds a meeting in the downstairs of the library, where a portion of the 40 members meet. Over the 40 years worth of meetings, the society has learned about crocheting, bagpipes, tattooing, bluegrass music and much more.

“When I was growing up, I walked past Oram’s twice a day,” Tom Lesnick, a member of the society, said. “You always learn something new here.”

The members of the group learn about meetings through postcards that they place into a bag at the end and raffle off prizes. However, at this meeting, more people eyed up a table with two boxes of doughnuts than the table with prizes.

The two owners led a casual talk, chock-full of audience interjection, detailing how the business first opened 79 years ago in January 1938 as a doughnut wholesaler for other shops and bakeries. The store opened at 912 Seventh Ave. before relocated to its current building at 1406 Seventh Ave.

Booth said the large green “Oram’s” letters on the interior came from Schomer’s Bakery, long since closed.

The two credited the shop’s second owner, Tom Bradshaw, as “the father of the modern day Oram’s” and said he implemented a process to making the doughnuts. Booth and Bicksler updated the shop with modern technology like iPads instead of punch cards and an internet presence through a website and Facebook.

The shop employs about a dozen people full-time, Booth said, and uses 1,000 lbs. of dough each weekend with the most popular being cinnamon roll, the cream-filled doughnuts and the custard-filled doughnuts.

“Some people come in from out of town on the weekends to buy doughnuts and most of the feedback we get is that our staff is very friendly,” Bicksler said.

Booth and Bicksler said they take into account the historicity of the business they own and know residents have grown up eating extra large cinnamon rolls. The two have only created one new doughnut in their time owning the business, but plan to unveil a new doughnut with mango-flavored filling in the near future.

“We visit a lot of other doughnut stores to compare and I start to understand what makes this place special,” Bicksler said.

“Oram’s Donuts is larger than us. We are simply the caretakers,” Booth said.

Beaver Borough Council adopts ordinance to restrict alcohol sales, production

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/beaver-borough-council-adopts-ordinance-to-restrict-alcohol-sales-production/article_0bc53272-66a4-11e7-8336-075f6cf35d5b.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

BEAVER — Council on Tuesday adopted an zoning ordinance that will limit the sale and production of alcohol to the Gateway Commercial West area of the borough.

Council approved the ordinance in a 6-3 vote. Prior to the meeting, council held a 30-minute public hearing at which residents voiced their opinions regarding the new zoning requirement.

Betty Burk, one of the two Beaver residents to comment, spoke favorably of the ordinance, but warned that it encroached on “touchy soil.”

“It’s going to be as good as it will get,” Burk said about Beaver’s alcohol laws.

Three council members, Alexander Andres, Daniel Deceder and Jarrod Thomas, voted in opposition to the ordinance.

“I don’t think there is a problem with the law the way it is. There have been no incidents,” Andres said. “Beaver is not the same town it was 10 years ago. There are more eateries and bistros and it’s hard to tell if it’s a dry community. Having limited alcohol consumption has been a contribution to a thriving business quarter.”

Deceder said “people don’t want it,” and criticized the effectiveness of the ordinance’s language and clarity.

Andres also questioned the measure saying that other businesses were not required to such extensive regulations of shrubbery, illumination and the designation of parking spaces. One provision of the ordinance requires the designation of four parking spots for customers refilling growlers.

Council President Mike Deelo said the measure’s adoption provided “a temporary conclusion” to the discussion of alcohol sales in Beaver.

“A larger number of people object to alcohol sales, and others had no problem,” Deelo said. “We want to provide people who are interested (in alcohol sales/production) to have a space available to them.”

 

Gateway Commercial West, the area council zoned for alcohol-related enterprises, stretches from Sassafras Street to Oak Street and contains 11 parcels of land.

The new ordinance will not affect Beaver Brewing Co.’s sale of beer at Waffles INcaffeinated, as it predated the new ordinance, nor will it affect many of Beaver’s BYOB policies.

The borough planning commission first discussed what eventually would become Tuesday’s ordinance at a meeting this past January.

Deelo said the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is engaged in a “continuous discussion” regarding laws and might make changes that would affect the municipality in the future.

Athena to screen award-winning police documentary ‘Do Not Resist’

http://www.thepostathens.com/article/2017/02/do-not-resist-documentary-athens

As national security shifts its focus from the threat of drugs to the threat of terrorism and a resurgence of protests, Craig Atkinson’s award-winning documentary Do Not Resist sheds light on how policing in America has followed suit.

The Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., will hold a free screening of the documentary Wednesday at 7 p.m. sponsored by Ohio University’s Students For Liberty, a campus group that promotes individual liberties. Arts For Ohio is also sponsoring the event.

“Throughout discussion with us, the producers (of the film) eventually reached out to Alden Library who, in turn, reached out to the Athena on Court Street,” Conor Fogarty, an OU campus coordinator of Students For Liberty, said in an email. “The theater agreed to screen the film while we got funding to have both free admission and pizza.”

Do Not Resist won Best Documentary at The Tribeca Film Festival last year in Tribeca, New York. The 72-minute documentary tackles the subject of growing police militarization, increased SWAT raids and changes in law enforcement strategy and training. The film also marks cinematographer Atkinson’s directorial debut, who sought to capture a subject close to home.

“My initial intent was that my father was a police officer, so I always paid attention to police and was surprised to see the response after the Boston Marathon bombings,” Atkinson said. “It was a hot topic in the national conversation. I wanted to know what had changed since my father’s time and (Do Not Resist) captures the transition from policing during The War on Drugs to The War on Terror.”

Atkinson said he and his crew gained access to police training and SWAT operations by going to police conventions and engaging officers in conversations.

“We promised an honest portrayal, which was all we had to promise,” he said. “What we were hoping to do is put the camera in situations where policing is unfolding and let the audience decide for themselves. People were shocked that we were given such access.”

Atkinson discovered that police raids had become far more common than during the 13 years his father spent on a SWAT team. Atkinson said his father had served 29 search warrants over his career whereas modern police departments, like the one captured in the film from South Carolina, conduct raids more than 200 times per year.

“The one we covered in South Carolina was one of three during that day,” he said.

In 2014, $5.1 billion was seized from Americans by police, overshadowing the $3.5 billion taken from Americans through burglary, Atkinson said.

“There are some rays of hope in states passing laws requiring convictions before seizing criminal assets,” Atkinson said, pointing out California as one. However, he said the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions “thinks asset revenue is the best thing ever,” which complicates the matter.

The documentary will be shown one night only in theater three on the upper floor of the Athena Cinema, Alexandra Kamody, director of the Athena said. Theater three is the only theater in the building that has both film and digital projection.

“The significance of one-night events I think is about is to generate a good discussion and have a large crowd,” Kamody said. “Sometimes it helps to make it a special event because it does not divide the audience.”

Kamody organized the event with Students For Liberty, who both had an interest in showing the film that has generated some controversy with Netflix.

“Our organization works to focus discussion on college campuses in regards to maximizing personal and economic freedom,” Fogarty said. “Students for Liberty gives funding and support to … hold events such as this aimed at promoting awareness of issues like police militarization and criminal justice reform.”

Moon Tunnel provides opportunity for graduates to read among peers, community

http://www.thepostathens.com/article/2017/01/moon-tunnel-series-ohio-university

Reading heartfelt work in front of peers can stir up a pool of nerves in any social situation.

But with strings of Christmas lights, a supportive crowd and an introduction rife with light-hearted “roasting,” the Moon Tunnel Reading Series helps to build graduate students’ ability to read in public.

The reading series started last academic year. It consists of four reading events held in the downstairs space of ARTS/West at 132 W. State St. with one held upstairs, as well. Each show lasts roughly an hour, and consists of three to five 10-minute readings after a two-minute introduction given by a friend of the reader.

“It’s a good turnout every reading with 30 people at least, always on the borderline of too many people,” Derek Robbins said.

Robbins, a graduate student studying poetry, and Sarah Minor, a graduate student studying non-fiction, created a Moon Tunnel to fill the gap that Dogwood Bloom leaves.

Dogwood Bloom Reading Series, a tri-annual reading series named after the local Dogwood trees and held in Galbreath Chapel, allows second-year students in Ohio University’s graduate English program to read their work aloud in a more formal setting. Minor and Robbins, however, noticed the need to allow first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-year students in the program to continue harnessing the skill of public reading.

“Moon Tunnel is part of a five-year Ph.D. program and has a social element where graduate students get the opportunity to read in a safer space before being asked to read for a bigger audience,” Minor said. “Some of our colleagues have work published and some have books, but the work is not easily available. It’s a chance for us and the community to know each other’s work.”

The name “Moon Tunnel” originated from a myth of the Moonville Tunnel in Vinton County, where purports a ghostly figure carries a lantern at the end of the tunnel. Minor said the lantern carried by no one acts a metaphor for the proliferation of art, but Moon Tunnel has grown to have its own distinct meaning.

“We wanted it to be a local reading series with a local title,” Minor said.

The fourth date of this academic year will take place Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Minor and Robbins organize the readings to have a mix of students from different years and genres with readings ranging from funny to serious.

The two typically emcee the event, but since they are both reading work on Friday, Robbin’s wife and graduate student Sonia Ivancic and writer Thomas Mira y Lopez will host the evening.

In addition to the organizers, poet Emily Kramer and fiction writer Michelle Pretorius will also read their work. Pretorius published her first novel, The Monster’s Daughter, last July with Melville House.

The OU English department provides Moon Tunnel with enough funding to rent the space and to supply food for the event.

“It is wonderful because it allows the English students to express themselves in a less formal setting than a university building, and it seems like a great bonding experience for the students, too,” Emily Beveridge, an event coordinator for ARTS/West, said.

Rather than being held in ARTS/West downstairs, the final date for Moon Tunnel will be held in the gallery upstairs as a sendoff to graduate students in their final year. It usually attracts a larger audience of 60 to 70 people supporting the readers.

Moon Tunnel also seeks to engage local writers and readers and, as Robbins said, “build a literary community which is something we would love to do. We are opening ourselves up to the public to watch Ph.D. students for five years with connections to the Athens community.”

Minor further explained this wider aim.

“We are not trying to be in an insular department and engage with the community,” Minor said. “We intended to get away from campus. Our department feels very separate from the college and we want to have people see writing as a thing living and in the world.”