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EL students target summer fun

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TASB adopts '21-'22 calendar
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The Tunkhannock Area School Board gave the thumbs up last Thursday on a school calendar which starts for students on Aug. 25 and ends June 3.

It also provides for a spring break which is more central to the 2022 part of the school year and begins the day after the end of the third marking period. Superintendent Heather McPherson added, however, that the days could be used as snow make-up days, if needed.

She also noted that Good Friday, April 15, and Easter Monday, April 18, would also be days off in the school calendar providing for another extended break, next year.

The new calendar passed unanimously, 7-0, with Holly Arnold and Lori Bennett absent.

The board also listened to another presentation on the school budget by chief executive officer Shane Powers.

Board members are expected to hold the line on taxes when they vote on a school budget at their June 10 meeting.

Powers reminded the board and audience members, however, as they look forward to future budget considerations that the board is somewhat hamstrung by a financial ledger that has roughly 85 percent fixed costs.

Powers also had some comparative numbers regarding how Tunkhannock Area’s budget costs per students lines up against neighboring districts. She said the work was preliminary and warrants further consideration over the next couple of years.

Board member Bill Prebola said, “I think we will have to have a systemic discussion about class sizes and total number of employees moving forward to create a strategic plan.”

He added, “We really need to look at what are the sound ideas we want to pursue,” noting he understood the dynamic of not wanting to raise taxes and not wanting to cut programs. “Everyone’s got to understand we can’t have both.”

After the next meeting, Prebola said, “We need to take a hard look at moving forward beyond this budget.”

Board member John Burke underscored, “We also don’t want to wait for a crisis.”

In other actions, the board:

  • approved June 11 as an in-person instruction day with early dismissal;
  • approved having Burke as school board treasurer and Carolyn Lawson as secretary for a one year term, starting July 1;
  • approved the purchase of a Eureka Math materials license through Great Minds;
  • renewed insurance coverage with Tri-County for another year;
  • adopted a memorandum with the Tunkhannock Area Education Association regarding hybrid summer credit recovery; and
  • had a first reading of school board policies addressing extracurricular participation by home education students; comparability of services; electronic signatures; and volunteers.

In the superintendent’s report, the board:

  • approved the retirements of agriculture mechanics teacher Steve Traver and paraprofessional Lynda Swenson;
  • approved the resignation of high school varsity wrestling coach Gary Siegel;
  • approved the appointments of district math teachers Brittany Harris and Charles Richter; staff substitutes Jacquelyn Dymond-Butler and Robin Deats; and security guard Mark Rogan; and
  • added Jacquelyn Dymond-Butler, Michelle Lamella and Dana Steffy to a 2020-21 volunteer list.

Superintendent McPherson publicly thanked Traver, saying “Congratulations Steve for all you have done for the district. You are a man of many talents.” Folks present in the high school auditorium gave him a round of applause.

In supplemental agenda items, the board:

  • approved Jeremy Kemmerer as high school dramatics head; Hannah Merkh as high school musical dramatics assisstant; and Ken Luckey as high school marching band head for the spring;
  • approved Sawyer Aitken, Quinlan Hammersley, Julia Lance, Jackie Shaver, Nadia Zukosky, Lynn McAndrew, and Rich Seaberg as staff for the TASD summer program; and
  • approved a resolution clearing the way for the district to apply for flexible instruction days for 2021-22; 2022-23; and 2023-24.

Day to pay homage
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Memorial Day services all across Wyoming County paused Monday to recognize the sacrifice of veterans who had gone before.

New Dennis Strong American Legion 457 Commander Jerry Beaucheane said on the Wyoming County Court House lawn in Tunkhannock that he was pleased to have members of the high school band back, not only to perform the National Anthem, but a medley of music which acknowledged every branch of military service, giving a nod to those in the audience who may have served in a specific line of duty.

That was followed by the pledge of allegiance recited by Aidan Holman, the sight-challenged grandson of Legion member Jim Holmes. and his younger brother Caleb.

Attention moved to a group of Wyoming Valley Barbershoppers who also performed a medley of patriotic music.

Rep Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, noted, “The significance of the day can never be overstated.”

“We honor those who joined the service committing themselves to something bigger than themselves,” she said.

And quoting former President George W. Bush, from a service 15 years earlier at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, she said, “All who are buried here understood their duty. They saw a dark shadow on the horizon, and went to meet it. They understood that tyranny must be met with resolve, and that liberty is always the achievement of courage.”

She noted that life, liberty, and democracy have been the cornerstones of what men and women have preserved through the ages and “by their courage we cannot thank them enough.”

“It’s an honor to be here with you today and I thank all of you for taking time out of your day just to remember something so precious,” Boback said.

Next up was Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry who said he was there to honor “our heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

He quoted a different president, Ronald Reagan, who spoke of the importance of those who nobly served wherever they found themselves filled with selflessness and dedicated to honor and duty.

He pointed to the Soldier and Sailors Monument which stood behind and next to those in the audience. “That was constructed in the 1890s and we’re still forever grateful for all who answered the call up to the time it was built and since.”

“Our veterans are to be commended for serving this great land,” he said.

Henry invoked the name of his maternal grandfather, Lester ‘Lucky’ Stonier, and said he thinks he found the source of his grandfather’s luckiness in making it through World War II.

Reaching into his pocket, Henry pulled out a small pocket Bible, he said his grandpa took with him while in the military.

“I’m sure many of you have stories just like that of people who served from your families without complaining, “Henry said. “We don’t know them all but we certainly owe them all for what they have done for all of us.”

“I, too, thank your for taking time out to recognize the enormous sacrifice of keeping us free,” he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by Lt. Col. George Gay, USMC retired, who gave the Memorial Day message at the Rought-Hall American Legion Post 510 hall in Black Walnut.

Gay, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam, talked about the meaning and significance of Memorial Day, how it got started, and the fact that when a youth his family attended the parades but it never took on the significance that it had after he began serving in wartime.

He spoke about the Vietnam Wall replica that was in Tunkhannock earlier in May and asked the audience to indulge him in a little bit of a virtual tour of the wall, stopping at six or eight spots where he recognized a name on the wall.

He pointed out that the 58,000-plus names on the wall were more than just names and started by talking about Ed, a fellow he knew from Michigan, who was killed in action in 1956. He told a little about each’s contribution and, frankly, why the wall is so much more than just a mass of names.

After his talk, Gay’s younger brother Doug, who served in the U.S. Army for a couple of years, had a presentation he wanted to make to the Rought-Hall Post 510 hall.

Doug had put together a display of military payment certificates that had been used in the service in lieu of American cash. He donated the display to the Legion Post to help past and possibly future veterans put into perspective their own experience.

The Memorial Day program at Black Walnut then moved to a presentation made by Rought-Hall Commander Bob Brostoski of the Don James Lighthouse of Service Award assisted by Tunkhannock Mayor Stacy Huber, who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and active Dennis Strong American Legion member. Huber spoke to the role model that Don James was. He said the James award attempts to honor individuals who have demonstrated noteworthy and dedicated service to their country, community, faith and family.

The award this year went to Korean War veteran Glenn ‘Ace’ Shupp of Tunkhannock Township, whose sons Mark and Greg were present to also recognize their dad.

The Rought-Hall Post also recognized two young people, Jack Chilson and Loghan Hirkey — both from Tunkhannock Area High School — who were honored with the Don James Young Citizen Award presented by Pastor Doug Mills. (Separate stories about Shupp’s, Chilson’s and Hirkey’s Don James honors appear on page 2 of this newspaper issue.)

On the east side of the county Factoryville also had a Memorial Day service in the Evergreen Woodlawn Cemetery where Mayor Gary Evans thanked a number of Trail band members for providing a musical prelude, and Evans also acknowledged the community’s long-time Memorial Day coordinator, veteran John Kman had passed since the event last happened.

Evans spoke to ‘Hometown Heroes’ banners which he hoped the public “would see hanging on our light poles. Please take time to recognize their contribution.”

Then, Mayor Evans introduce the speaker for the day, neighbor Brian Jones, who was in the Marines for 26 years, and did two tours in Iraq: 2005-6 and 2009-10. Jones retired as a First Sergeant in 2014.

Jones noted that, “Thankfully our nation has always been blessed to have strong women and men with exceptional courage — people willing and able to stand in the gap and defend America whenever its way of life is threatened.”

Looking across the cemetery, Sgt. Jones said, “The heroes resting here and around the world, answered our nation’s call. They were America’s sword and shield, defending our way of life with their very lives.”

He added, “The legacies and lessons of previous wars are passed to our children, and our children’s children, who will also stand the watch to continue the fight against oppression , against injustice, and against those who seek to take our freedom.”

About five miles away in Nicholson, that community also honored those who gave their all in the service to their country.

A parade started at the American Legion hall in the Trolley Station and looped around the block and up to the Nicholson Cemetery, into what was perhaps the best attended Memorial service of the day, with all Christy Mathewson Little League teams from across the region (not just Nicholson) in attendance so the youths might understand more about serving their country and not just the individual communities they represent.

Nicholson Mayor Chuck Litwin thanked all those assembled and noted, “Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reconnect with their history by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals and freedoms that we cherish.”

He spoke of the tradition of Decoration Day in the 19th Century, noting that “A million brave souls have died in combat in our nation’s history. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends who never got to say goodbye, but fought honorably so you could do so.”

He invoked a favorite poem often read by former Lackawanna Taril teacher Joe Woolsey, who is a World War II veteran, and often spoke of the poppy which represents soldiers killed in war:

“We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe. To you from failing hands we throw The torch be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.”

Woman reclaims abandoned cemetery
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Pennsylvania sent 360,000 of its sons to fight in the Civil War. Samantha Telesk stumbled across three of them deep in the weeds of Wyoming County.

“I have family down the road and I drove this way back in March and I noticed it was completely overgrown,” the Meshoppen native said of what remains of Old Mowry Cemetery off Rattlesnake Hill Road.

Stained headstones sink in brambles of burdock, chickweed and poison ivy, the chiseled names and dates buried in grime or erased by relentless decay. Abandoned to the siege of time, even cemeteries die.

“It just seemed wrong to me, so I asked the borough for permission to clean it up,” Samantha said Thursday morning as she climbed the steep hill on steps she fashioned from flat rocks. “Without what they (veterans) did, we wouldn’t be here. We need to remember that.”

Across America this Memorial Day weekend, the graves of the nation’s war dead and departed veterans are adorned with flags and other markers of sacrifice, service and honor. In dutifully maintained graveyards, grand ceremonies will celebrate the patriotism of devoted citizens who answered the call to arms.

But in long-forgotten private plots shrouded in veils of vegetation and neglect, some who served rest in silent obscurity. It’s been widely reported that “dozens” of Civil War soldiers are buried in Old Mowry Cemetery, but I could confirm just three by consulting the National Archives and Northeast Pennsylvania Civil War experts.

Contemporary records are sometimes sketchy, but Hal Myers, president of the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Association of Scranton, is my go-to guy for all things Civil War. Hal confirmed that three G.A.R. veterans are buried at Mowry. They are:

■ Pvt. George W. Allen, Company A, 107th New York Infantry. Allen was 35 when he enlisted in Elmira, New York. He fought in several pivotal battles and campaigns, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and in Sherman’s March to Atlanta, according to Hal.

■ Pvt. Goodrich Talada, Company I of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry. He enlisted at 18 in Towanda. Not much else is known about his war record.

■ Pvt. William T. Ives, Company B, 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He enlisted at 18 in Nicholson. His war record is also sparse, Hal said.

All survived the war. Talada was 32 when he died in 1875. Ives was 34 when he died in 1881. Allen was 55 when he died in 1882. It bears noting that the official state record of Allen’s burial describes Mowry as an “old abandoned cemetery.”

That’s not surprising. Like many abandoned cemeteries, Mowry began as a family plot. Descendants move away. Life goes on. Time goes to work. The current owners of the property have deep local roots. I tracked them down to an address in western New York and left phone messages. No one called back.

There are an estimated 56 graves in Mowry Cemetery, but it’s possible many more are buried there. The best documentation available for 27 of them is provided by Dale Keklock, a semi-retired amateur historian from Archbald. Dale and his son Brent run, a genealogy/history website with a database of cemeteries large and small.

Dale travels the country photographing cemeteries and adding them to the database — documenting over 65,000 gravestones, wills, obituaries and photos related to 551 cemeteries. He documented Mowry a few years ago and was glad to hear Samantha volunteered to clean it up when I reached him on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of history in cemeteries, a lot of good history,” Dale said. “I think it’s great that she wants to clean it up. Tell her to keep an eye out for snakes.”

An engaged mother of two young children, Samantha is determined to restore as many Mowry graves as she can. She recruited friend Angela Wilson and her son Matt, a sixth-grader at Elk Lake Elementary School, to help clean the stones and clear the grounds. It was Matt who discovered the G.A.R. veterans’ markers.

Why does a 25-year-old stay-at-home mom care about the overdue upkeep of a dead graveyard lost deep in the weeds of Wyoming County? Samantha recalled once seeing a crumbling headstone for an infant. The image stuck with her.

“It just broke my heart, and ever since then, I’ve been volunteering to clean up cemeteries,” she said. Samantha started a GoFundMe account called “Save the Cemetery” with a goal of $2,000 to build stairs at Mowry and install a bench memorializing those whose names have been lost to time and decay.

“Everybody deserves to be remembered, especially veterans,” Samantha said. “These stones were chiseled by hand. They’re art. This place is a part of local history — our history — and it shouldn’t be allowed to just crumble away.”

To volunteer, email Samantha at:

Prebola captures state silver

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Area man drowns near Falls
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A 64-year-old Tunkhannock man died Tuesday afternoon (May 25) from a freshwater drowning in the Susquehanna River.

Charles Templeman III was pronounced dead by Wyoming County Coroner Tom Kukuchka.

State police at Tunkhannock had conducted a death investigation after a body was recovered from the Susquehanna River in Exeter Township, Wyoming County.

A little after 3 p.m., Tuesday, a call went out for a Lake Winola water rescue unit at Falls to assist, and a couple of units entered at the West Falls Boat Landing of the state Fish and Boat Commission.

State police said Tuesday evening that “The circumstances do not appear to be suspicious,” a point confirmed by the coroner’s office.

Endless summer events on tap
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After a year of social distancing, and event cancellations, the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau is planning for a return to normalcy this summer.

To help residents and visitors prepare for all of the summer-time activities, Jean Ruhf, EMVB executive director has a range of publications that highlight great things to do in the region.

“One of the main things that I’ve heard people wanting to do this summer is go on a camping trip,” Ruhf said. “There are many beautiful campgrounds in Wyoming County and the surrounding area. We’re all expecting to see them packed this summer.”

Ruhf is also looking forward to the return of events that were canceled in 2020 as well. Some events returning are the NEPA Bluegrass Festival that will take place June 3-6 at Lazybrook Park in Tunkhannock Township, Founders Day in Tunkhannock Borough on June 26, and the Dietrich Theater’s Susquehanna River Day at Riverside Park on July 24.

“It’s really nice to see all of these things coming back, I think that people are really excited to be doing any of these events,” Ruhf said. “Along with all of the outdoor activities that this area has to offer, we have a lot of family events as well.”

Another thing that the EMVB is doing is promoting local business as well. Brochures for area stores, restaurants, golf courses, and other recreation sites can be found in the EMVB headquarters at 5405 Route 6, just west of Tunkhannock. Ruhf said that a lot of new stores have come to the area in the past year, and some businesses are even expanding some of the items that are offered.

“Just in downtown Tunkhannock, there are so many nice little stores that have a lot to offer to the community,” Ruhf said. “We want to encourage people to shop at those places, but also to get out to the rest of the county and surrounding areas as well.”

There are also advertisements for events such as wine festivals, car shows, kids youth sports camps, film festivals and comedy shows. Ruhf said that there is something to keep everyone occupied.

As the weather becomes summer-like, Ruhf said that she has been noticing a trend. That trend has been visitors from out-of-state, and out-of-the-area. She said that those people have been looking for weekend getaways, and “places to clear their minds for a little bit.”

“There’s no better place for a weekend getaway than the Endless Mountains,” Ruhf said. “The quietness, the beauty, the people here are so friendly and there’s so much to do if you look for it.”

You can visit the visitors bureau, located at 5405, Route 6, in Tunkhannock, to see all of the events going on in the Endless Mountains Region this summer. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It can also be reached at 570-836-5431, or at

Keystone marks 150th ceremony
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It was a graduation ceremony that the Class of 2021 at Keystone College will certainly never forget.

“If you told me two years ago that I would be speaking to a graduating class sitting in their cars at a drive-in movie theater, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Keystone College President Tracy Brundage said in her address. “But here we are. You all have been through so much, and we couldn’t not honor you in the right way.”

Keystone held its 150th Commencement Ceremony on Monday night at the Circle Drive-In in Dickson City. Graduates were able to sit in cars with their families, and watch the ceremony unfold on the movie screen. The students were then called up by rows of vehicles to receive their diplomas.

Some members of the graduating class said that enduring the hardships of the past year has made them stronger. Amy Holland, of Nicholson, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She has future plans of becoming a childhood counselor. She said that she is a much better in-person learner, so she had to make some major adjustments.

“It was extremely difficult when the pandemic first started,” Holland said. “I don’t think anyone thought that we would spend a good portion of a year staring at a screen for our classes, but we rolled with the punches and are a strong group.”

Not only was Holland a full-time student, she also had another big job and that was being a mom. She called her son Aidan, one of her inspirations and the reason why making it through college was so important.

“He would always be there when I was doing school work and would try and help me out,” Holland said with a laugh. “He would help me keep my act together. He’s one of the main reasons that I would push myself through all of the hard work that it takes to get a college degree.”

Holland plans to take a year off to spend time with her family, before entering a Masters’ Program to become a child counselor.

Samuel Vierling, of Factoryville, said attending college during the coronavirus pandemic taught him many new things. He received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and graduated Magna Cum Laude and as an Honors Scholar. He said that doing school work from home taught him a lot of new things in his field.

“Being a computer science major, we obviously spend a lot of time with technology, so that didn’t change anything for me,” Vierling said. “The atmosphere of school was obviously very different, but I think it helped me persevere and learn new things in technology.”

Vierling said his biggest help throughout college was all of his professors who made the learning process as simple as possible for him. He gave personal shoutouts to Robert Nardelli and Steven Howell.

“Those two professors went above and beyond helping me get prepared for my future plans,” Vierling said. “My parents were also there every step of the way. I wouldn’t have made it this far without them.”

Vierling has accepted a full time position at Grandjean and Braverman in Honesdale as a software engineer.

The keynote address was delivered by Tom See. He is the head of concert venues for the global live entertainment company, Live Nation and graduated from Keystone in 1991. He left one final message to the graduates about perseverance.

“I was the first college graduate in my immediate family,” See said in his address. “I imagine that is the case for some of you tonight. Well, you got a college degree in the middle of a global pandemic. That pretty much shows that all of you are capable of doing anything.”