DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
A Van Wert County man and former World War II prisoner of war recently received France’s highest award: the Legion d’Honneur.
Richard Beach was recently presented with the medal, which was created by Napoleon and is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.
The award comes nearly 70 years after Beach’s liberation by Russian solders from a German POW camp in what was then Czechoslovakia in May 1945.
“It is a great honor and privilege to present you with the Knight of the Legion of Honor medal,” said Vincent Floreani, French consul-general based in Chicago. “Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France and Western Europe. Seventy years ago, you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return, but they remain in our hearts.
“Thanks to your courage, and to our American friends and allies, France and Europe have been living in peace for the past seven decades,” Floreani added. “You saved us. We will never forget. For us, the French people, you are heroes. Gratitude and remembrance are forever in our souls.”
Beach, who was inducted into the U.S. Army on April 15, 1944, served with the 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, in France and Germany. He was later captured with 14 other infantrymen in Germany’s Heerlen Forest on November 17, 1944.
Beach spent the next six months in a number of German stalags (POW camps) prior to his final stay in the Czech camp. Following his release, he finally reached the American lines on May 17, 1945, and returned to the U.S. on June 24 of that year.
The local man, who experienced a number of hardships while a POW — including losing 35 pounds before being freed — was also awarded America’s Prisoner of War Medal following its creation in the late 1980s.
Ohio Attorney General’s information
COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has accepted the report issued by the Attorney General’s Advisory Group on Law Enforcement Training. DeWine appointed the 16-member group in December to examine how Ohio trains its law enforcement officers and make suggestions for improvement.
“Ohio is one of the first states that has taken an in-depth look at the way we train our peace officers and its impact on community relations,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “I appreciate the Advisory Group’s hard work in coming up with a set of recommendations to improve the way we train our peace officers.”
The Advisory Group was led by Dr. Reginald A. Wilkinson, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Westerville Police Chief Joseph Morbitzer.
The report recommends that Ohio consider increasing the standards for candidates to be admitted to any basic peace officer training academy to include: a high school GED or equivalent, passing a drug screening, passing a truth verification test, passing a physical fitness test, a psychological evaluation, and adding sex offenses and misdemeanor crimes of violence as disqualifiers. Ohio currently only requires that a candidate be 18, have a medical provider say that they are physically able to attend an academy and not have felony convictions or weapons offenses that prohibit carrying a firearm.
The report also calls for substantially increasing the number of hours of instruction for basic training from the current 605 hours. The report also recommends that basic academies teach implicit bias and procedural justice, and that scenario-based training be added as well as a post academy scenario-based certification exam by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission prior to certification as a peace officer. This scenario-based exam would require that “training villages” be constructed at OPOTA locations in London and Richfield.
Local businessman Fred Fisher, a first-time candidate seeking the Republican nomination for one of three at-large Van Wert City Council seats, is asking for city residents’ support in the May 5 primary election.
Fisher, a lifetime resident of Van Wert, said he wants to help the city prosper and grow.
“We have a lot to offer in the quality of life and ease of living in a smaller town,” Fisher noted. “I take a lot of pride in Van Wert and hope to help it move forward in the future.”
Fisher started his business, Fisher Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, in January 1974 and operated it full-time until October 1990. The business, now called A-1 Fix-It, became a part-time operation after Fisher was hired as facilities director for Paulding County Hospital — a position he held until June 2006. During a portion of that time, Fisher also served on Paulding County’s Safety Committee.
He is currently maintenance supervisor for Lincolnview Local School District and also holds a commercial pilot’s license, with flight instructor ratings, and has taught flying at the Van Wert County Regional Airport since 1990. He currently is a member of the Airport Authority board.
Fisher also has taught in the Adult Education maintenance programs at Vantage Career Center, and is very much involved in community activities, serving on the DARE Board, as well as volunteering at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
Fisher is a past exalted ruler of Elks Lodge 1197 in Van Wert, is a member of the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge and belongs to the National Rife Association and the Outdoorsman Club.
He also stresses the importance of voting in the May 5 primary election.
“Please remember to vote, as it is our privilege and right to have our voices heard,” Fisher said.
Early voting is currently underway at the Van Wert County Board of Elections offices on East Main Street, while city voters will cast their ballots on May 5 at the Van Wert County Council on Aging Senior Center on Fox Road.
VW independent/submitted information
PAULDING — Operation Round Up® gives Paulding Putnam County Electrical Cooperative members the option of having their bills rounded up to the nearest dollar every month, with those extra few cents going to benefit people in need within the co-op’s service territory.
Paulding Putnam Electric Co-op began doing Operation Round Up in July 2010. Currently, more than 8,700 of the co-op’s 12,900 members participate, and, to date, local charities have received over $220,000.
The Paulding Putnam Trust/Operation Round Up Board decides on donations quarterly. Those who would like to submit an application for the next round, should visit the Paulding Putnam website at www.PPEC.coop.
The following agencies submitted applications and received grants this quarter:
Paulding County Cancer Society, $1,200; Paulding and Putnam County American Red Cross, $1,000; Paulding County Area Foundation, $500; Van Wert County Fair, $1,000; Paulding Chamber of Commerce, $1,000; Paulding County Emergency Management Agency, $2,500; Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District, $500; Putnam County United Way, $1,000; Van Wert City/County DARE program, $1,000; Defiance Area Youth for Christ, $500; Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio, $500; and East Allen County Education Fund, $500.
Community Health Professionals will celebrate its 40th year of providing home health and hospice services in Van Wert County and throughout northwest and west central Ohio at its annual Hospice “Beacon of Hope” dinner/auction on April 30, 6 p.m. at Willow Bend Country Club in Van Wert.
The event features a meal, live and silent auction items — with auctioneer Bob Gamble — laughter and fun with emcee Rick Small of Mix 98.1 FM, recognition of two local businesses, and a mystery treasure chest drawing. The family of Locke Maxey of Van Wert will present the Beacon of Hope lighthouse in memory of past hospice patients.
More than 50 community leaders are participating in a two-day Van Wert County Stakeholders Summit being held at Wassenberg Art Center to try and provide more focus for economic development activities within the county. The event, which will end Friday afternoon, is facilitated by the Van Wert County and Van Wert City Economic Development offices, Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, Van Wert Area Convention & Visitors, Main Street Van Wert and The Van Wert County Foundation. Leading the discussion process is development professional Mark Lautman, author of the book, When the Boomers Bail. More information is planned for Monday’s edition of the independent. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Ohio Attorney General’s information
COLUMBUS — In honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has awarded multiple Ohio crime victim service agencies, including Crisis Care Line of Van Wert and the YWCA of Van Wert County, with funding to promote the resources available to victims of crime.
Eighteen agencies will share a total of $24,344 to fund awareness campaigns throughout the week.
“It is important that Ohioans are aware of what services are available to help them if they become a victim of crime, and I am pleased that my office is able to help these agencies promote the valuable services that they provide,” said Attorney General DeWine.
The 18 agencies were each awarded a grant of between $650 and $1,500.
The goal of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which began earlier this week and runs through Saturday, is to support crime victims and raise awareness of victim issues across the country.
The Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Section provides compensation to eligible crime victims and their families through the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Fund. Since its creation in 1976, the fund, which can pay for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral costs, and similar expenditures, has paid out more than $344 million, including more than $7 million in fiscal year 2014.
For more information on services for victims provided by the Attorney General’s Office, visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Van Wert County Commissioners Todd Wolfrum, Stan Owens, and Thad Lichtensteiger were joined by Pastor Paul Hamrick, representing the Van Wert County Ministerial Association, to announce the National Day of Prayer will be celebrated locally on Thursday, May 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Van Wert County Courthouse. (photo submitted)
Ohio Statehouse information
COLUMBUS — State Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) announced the passage of legislation this week that requires students to be immunized against meningitis.
“This bill is about protecting Ohio’s children and families from preventable tragedies, and I am proud to honor not only my niece, but all those who have suffered from Meningitis,” said Hite. “If we can prevent even one death with the passage of this bill, we will have made a difference.”
Meningitis can quickly strike young victims causing severe health risks or even death within hours.
Last year, the Ohio Senate honored the memory of Senator Hite’s niece, Tess, by marking March 9 as “Meningitis Awareness Day.” Tess passed away within hours of contracting meningitis. Senate Bill 121 aligns with current law on immunizations and places meningitis on the list of diseases our students are vaccinated against in order to prevent such tragedies.
Senate Bill 121 works in conjunction with the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Immunization Advocacy Network of Ohio to require students of ages recommended by the Ohio Department of Health to be immunized against meningococcal disease. This would first take place for the 2016-17 school year.
The bill recommends vaccinating against meningitis at ages 11-12, with a booster at 16. This vaccination schedule prepares students for the high-risk environments of high school and college.
Senate Bill 121 also maintains a parent’s right to opt their children out of these required immunizations for matters of conscience including religious beliefs.
VW independent/submitted information
Five area senior boys and senior girls have been selected for the 2015 R.K. Thompson Self Reliance Award, according to Breanne Sudduth and Anthony Adams, co-chairpersons of the Van Wert Service Club’s selection committee.
The program provides cash awards to Van Wert County High School seniors who best exhibit the trait of self-reliance. The awards are designed to seek out and honor students who do the best with what they have. This year’s awards banquet will be held Tuesday, April 28.
This year’s boy finalists include Nathaniel Byrne, son of Michelle Byrne; Austin Cunningham, son of Jonathan and Amy Cunningham; Nicholas Krugh, son of Michael and Cindy Krugh; Tyler Ruger, son of Eugene and Tracy Ruger; and Connor Shaffer, son of Neil and Teresa Shaffer.
Byrne is a senior at Lincolnview High School where he is a Senior Class officer and involved in choir, Science Club, Beta Club and Benefit Council. After graduation, he will be attending The Ohio State University majoring in chemical engineering, with a minor in nuclear engineering. He has aspirations of joining the United States Navy after graduating from college. He is currently employed at Cooper Foods.
Cunningham is a senior at Crestview High School where he is Student Body president and involved in FCCLA, FFA and Buckeye Boys State. Cunningham has volunteered for the Relay for Life, Toys for Tots and the Red Cross. After graduation, he plans on pursuing a career in law enforcement through the Police Academy program at Vantage Career Center. He is currently employed at Klosterman’s Pizza and Premier Turf Management.
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
A total of nine people appeared for a variety of hearings Wednesday in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court.
Judge Martin Burchfield presided over four changes of plea and a bond hearing, while Probate-Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Taylor presided over four hearings, including two sentencings.
Charles Myers IV, 34, of Van Wert, was given three years of community control on one count each of possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony, and drug possession, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Robin Higginbotham, 51, of Van Wert, was given one year of community control on a charge of attempted aggravated possession of drugs, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Those entering plea changes are as follows:
Tyler Lovette, 21, of Maria Stein, changed his plea to guilty to a charge of attempted importuning, a misdemeanor of the first degree (reduced from importuning, a fifth-degree felony). Two other similar charges were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.
Brady Etzler, 25, of Van Wert, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated trespass, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Brandon Barnes, 33, of Van Wert, entered a guilty plea to a charge of possession of heroin, a felony of the fifth degree. A second count of the same offense was dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.
Steven Diltz, 30, of Delphos, changed his plea to guilty to two counts of breaking and entering, each a felony of the fifth degree.
A presentence investigation was ordered in all four cases and sentencing was scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 27, for each of the four defendants.
Paul Grandsko, 39, of Toledo, entered a guilty plea to an amended charge of theft, a felony of the fifth degree (reduced from aggravated theft, a third-degree felony). Judge Taylor then scheduled a hearing for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 6, on Grandsko’s motion for treatment in lieu of conviction.