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Family heirloom returned

A family received an unexpected gift this holiday season, thanks to the tenacity and meticulous research of two members of the Madden-Wennick American Legion Post 518, Rockhill.

Brian and Brenda Yohn, both members of the Legion, were able to present the flag of the late Dr. Vader M. “Jim” Loomis, who had resided in Waynesboro before his death.

The flag was given to the Legion after a family in Burnt Cabins found it while cleaning out their attic in early November.

“I was told when they bought the house, they were cleaning it out, and they came across the flag, and they didn’t know what to do with it,” said Brian. “So, they brought it to the Legion. They knew the flag was for a fallen veteran, but nobody knew who it was.”

After they discovered the name tag on the flag for Vader Loomis, a quick Google search produced his obituary, and they were able to determine he passed away in 2010 and he was living in Waynesboro at the time of his death.

How the flag ended up in an attic in Burnt Cabins is anyone’s guess.

“We don’t know,” said Brian. “We’re hoping if we tell this story, someone may have a clue as to how it got there.”

The next goal for the Yohns was to return the flag to a family member of Dr. Loomis, which led them on an extensive search.

“We were searching every name (from the obituary) on Facebook, sending messages to anyone we could, but we weren’t getting any responses,” he said. “In the meantime, we did so much research about him, we felt like we knew his family.”

They learned that Dr. Loomis served in the U.S. Army during World War II, with the Veterinarian Station Hospital, serving in the European Theater. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Dr. Loomis started his career as with the government after serving in the military as an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for small and large animals for disease to make sure it was safe for human consumption. Then prior to retiring in 1977, he worked for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he was an inspector of all imported and national drugs to make sure they were safe for the public.

They learned through this process that his second wife, Emma Doboy-Loomis, had ties to Pennsylvania and had passed away in January of this year. After living in Potomac, Maryland, for many years, they retired to Waynesboro.

He was previously married to Kannie (Ray) Loomis, who passed away in 1968. He remarried in 1970.

While living in Waynesboro, he volunteered as a van driver for veterans for the Franklin County Area Agency on Aging.

That’s where the Yohns decided to make one last call.

“We were on our last leg when we called the Area Agency on Aging,” said Brian. “We learned he bought a van at the age of 85 to take veterans to doctor appointments. My wife and I weren’t going to quit until we put the flag in the hands of the family.”

Officials from the Franklin County Area Agency on Aging were able to put the Yohns in contact with a daughter of Dr. Loomis, who now resides in Florida.

That got the ball rolling to return the flag to the family. None of them even knew the flag existed.

“We also sent a picture, along with a letter of how we got the flag,” said Brian. “Now, they’ll be able to pass it down forever. It will be able to stay in the family, and now the flag, and Dr. Loomis, have the respect they deserve.”

Brian did say even though the flag is back in the family, they are no closer to knowing how the flag got to an attic in Burnt Cabins, as Dr. Loomis had no ties to Huntingdon County.

“The best we can guess is that when his wife passed away, the daughter thought they had an estate sale, and somebody bought a box that had the flag in it,” said Brian.

Finance classes already aid local students

Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, the state will require all public schools to allow students to apply for personal finance courses for credit.

But locally, those courses already hold an important position in the curriculum.

Donald Kidd, principal of Calvary Christian Academy in Huntingdon, said his students have been required to take a personal finance course for the last eight or nine years.

“We use a course authored by Dave Ramsey, which is DVD based and includes online and paper activities and assignments,” Kidd said.

Dave Ramsey, a businessman and radio host, has created several finance courses geared toward students of all ages, adults and businesses, all of which are used throughout the United States.

The course used by Calvary Christian Academy, titled “Foundations in Personal Finance,” is offered to 11th and 12th graders and discusses financial topics relevant to their age group, including things such as buying cars, student loans, online banking and personal finance in the home, throughout 12 chapters.

“This course is incredibly helpful to young people about to leave school,” Kidd said. “All of the information is relevant to what they should know before they leave.”

Kidd also mentioned that a similar course is offered to Junior High students, dealing with financial topics relevant to their own again group.

These courses prove to be popular among both students and parents.

“The course is very popular. Schools across the nation use it to teach their students, too,” Kidd said. “It’s very well-received among our students and parents. They’re incredibly thankful that we’re teaching about personal finance right as these students are headed into the world and the next phase of their lives. This way they can, for example, avoid going into debt.”

Personal finance courses are also taught at Juniata Valley High School.

Erica Mowrer, a business teacher, discussed the high school’s personal finance course at length.

“(The course has) been a requirement for graduation for quite a few years. They must have one credit by the end of senior year,” Mowrer said. “Mostly seniors take the year-long course, though some juniors fit it into their schedule.”

The course, according to Mowrer, includes such topics as career goal setting and exploring, payroll deductions, budgeting, investing and student financial aid.

The course is popular among Juniata Valley’s students.

“I do believe that (all of the students) enjoy the class and find it relevant to their immediate future,” Mowrer said. “(It has become a way) all students can relate to each other.”

Mowrer ultimately agrees with Kidd; the new requirement would benefit all students in public schools when implemented, just as the students at Juniata Valley High School benefit from their existing requirement.

“I haven’t taught a student who didn’t see the relevance in the course, who didn’t ask questions, want to know more or fail to do the work in the class,” Mowrer said. “Of course, there is always the occasional grumble…But each year the students come away knowing that they know more than their counterparts across the state and that they are better prepared to face life, build credit, avoid financial blunders or at least have the tools to rebound from a simple mistake.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.

Poor season could lead to potato shortage

As the demand for potatoes continues to rise, the domestic supply has been hit with weather-related challenges. Since October, cooler weather has moved its way through the growing regions, hitting potato crops with frost and inclement weather.

With crops damaged from snow and rain within the top potato-producing regions in the U.S., producers are having a hard time keeping up with the french fry demand.

With wild weather hurting crops, farmers are pulling out smaller sized potatoes, which is not ideal for french fry makers who usually prefer the larger spuds.

According to Chad Heichel, owner of Muddy Run Tavern in Huntingdon, potatoes he imported from another state may have led to the poor quality of fries which he cuts fresh in-house.

“Some of the potatoes I have been getting were hard to use because sometimes they were too wet and they didn’t fry right,” he said. I don’t know where they were grown and if they got too wet or too much rain, but some of them I had to send back because they didn’t fry up very well. They turned real dark for the most part and I couldn’t use them.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the domestic potato crop could potentially lead to a french fry shortage, due to the lack of supplies. They expect to have the lowest yield since 2010, 22.4 million tons, a 6.1% decline since last year.

If the high demand for potatoes isn’t met, it can ultimately lead to the climb in potato prices nationwide.

“I heard about the shortage and the prices going up, so we’ll have to wait and see how it goes,” says Sandra Morgan, owner of Northside Restaurant in Mount Union.

On the other hand, Heichel doesn’t believe the fluctuating prices are going to be too big of an issue.

“They haven’t been going up too much, but things will go up and down, but it hasn’t been too bad lately. If anything, it’s like a couple dollars difference.” he said.

According to Morgan, potato prices have already gone up by 70 cents above the previous week.

“Our hash browns and home fries, we get them from Harrisburg,” she says. “The prices are already going up, it was $3.99 last week now they’re $4.69.”

Even though potato supplies for the restaurant are up, Morgan said she won’t be raising menu prices yet.

Heichel now gets his potato supply from Brenneman’s Meat Market in Smithfield.”

Janice Brenneman, owner of Brenneman’s Meat Market, said her potatoes come from within the state and she hasn’t heard anything about a shortage yet.

“Our 50 pound bags we get from a gentleman in Belleville, but of course he picks them up, but he hasn’t said anything or at least I haven’t heard anything yet,” she said.

Though prices might go up a little, it’s likely people won’t notice a huge difference.

Jordan can be reached at jfrederick@huntingdondailynews.com.

Experts issue tech warning

“Data is the new oil,” said Joshua Wakefield, a local technology expert, and big tech companies will collect it by whatever means they have at their disposal.

Amazon claims that their virtual assistant, Alexa, whether used with Echo speakers or installed as an app on a smartphone, only listens after an activation word has been spoken.

That is unlikely.

“If you say, ‘Alexa’, how did it know you said ‘Hey, Alexa’? Well, it has to be always listening,” said Wakefield, director of information technology for the Juniata Valley School District. “I know there have been occasions where Alexa has recorded conversations and delivered them either to Amazon or other recipients.”

Wakefield, like many commentators on the current technological situation, takes it as a given that companies are collecting individuals’ personal data.

“It’s not like we’re banging these drums out of paranoia. We know it’s happening. It’s data collection in general. Big tech is collecting data points on everything. It’s no wonder Facebook has been before Congress multiple times, but we like Facebook so we put up with it. It’s no coincidence when you go shopping on Amazon and then you go to your Facebook feed and it just so happens that what you were just looking at on Amazon is on your Facebook feed and wouldn’t you know it, it’s on sale.”

Apart from listening to conversations, most all online activity can be mined for personal data.

“You can get info from your Facebook likes, from your Google searches, from your Amazon shopping, all different places, to customize advertising just for you. It’s a very creepy prospect. I don’t like that,” said Wakefield. “How much of my own data should I have ownership over? Is this ethical?”

Wakefield thinks consumers have to put pressure on these companies on a large scale.

“It has to be a cultural change. We have to realize what our data is worth and demand these companies act responsibly. As a society we haven’t kept pace with the amount of change tech has brought. I love tech but when these disruptive technologies bring in these changes carte blanche, it’s not good for anyone. The concern is because of the tech integration in our houses we’re ceding our privacy and we don’t even realize this, older generations wouldn’t have ever considered doing what we’re doing in giving away our privacy,” he said.

To get big tech companies to listen, they have to be spoken to in their own language: money.

“You have to say, ‘We won’t participate or spend our money until you start guaranteeing privacy or are more transparent,’ until culturally we make those statements, nothing is going to happen.”

A few days before Thanksgiving, the FBI released a statement warning consumers to be wary of smart TV’s that can connect to the internet, allowing for online streaming and apps.

A number of these TV’s have built-in cameras and the FBI suggested knowing exactly what features a TV has and to make sure to take the appropriate measures to insure a smart TV is not easily hacked.

“The concern that the device in your living room always on watching you could possibly be used to harvest information to create a profile for you and your family,” said Wakefield. “It’s a perfect example of bringing tech into my house for one reason and there’s this whole other back channel of data collecting. There’s obviously the concern if they could be hacked and used against you and that’s certainly a concern. I’m worried about a Chinese hacker, sure, but there are things happening legally that we’ve consented to. I don’t have that stuff in my house for this reason.”

Wakefield noted that in western Europe regulations have gone into place in an attempt to keep these types of companies honest.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in the European Union in 2018, which requires a processor of personal data to clearly disclose any data collection, declare the lawful basis and purpose for data processing, and state how long data is being retained and if it is being shared with any third parties.

“I don’t think there is an equivalency in the states yet. It’s game-changing. It requires companies to show how they use data, requirements for accuracy and who they can share it with. They’re leading the way right now and hopefully we can follow suit with that,” said Wakefield.

Nathan can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Holidays hard for those grieving

The holidays are remembered as a joyous time of year, but for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, it can be anything but that.

Jackie Hook, spiritual director and celebrant end of life doula with John B. Brown Funeral Home, Huntingdon, said the best way to cope during this period is to take one step at a time.

“One of the big things I talk to people about is finding a balance,” she said. “It’s okay to want to remember your loved one, but you also want to balance and engage with what’s going on today.”

Hook encourages people to find the strength to move past guilty feelings. Instead, using the power of positive thinking, which can help people balance the conflicting emotions they have about celebrating the holidays after someone’s passing.

“It’s OK to want to feel grief, but also try to feel gratitude. I encourage people to think about the things you’re grateful for by picking five things you’re grateful for. It can help elevate a person’s mood,” said Hook. “Grief can be very heavy, and when you feel some of that, try saying to yourself, ‘I feel this way and I am grateful.’ This can really help during those tough times.”

When the power of positivity isn’t working, it’s best to have a grief companion by your side.

According to Hook, a good a grief companion is someone who is a bridge of support for the person going through the loss.

“It’s where you walk beside someone,” she said. “You don’t try to fix it or show them the way out. You are just present with them wherever they are.”

Hook also recommends family members and friends have an open discussion on what actions are appropriate to take when celebrating and honoring the person who has passed.

“Honest communication is important,” she said. “Talk to th family on how to celebrate the holidays and how to honor their lost loved one. Make sure to talk about it in advance, as this allows others to decide if they want to take part in the activity, and if not, they can decide not to be present.”

Hook said the best way for one to grieve over the holidays is to allow oneself feel those emotions.

“My suggestion is to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, but to hold it in a way you would when holding a child who got hurt and came running to you for comfort,” said Hook. “I think that by actively allowing yourself to feel, it is a great way to take care of yourself.”

Jordan can be reached at jfrederick@huntingdondailynews.com.

Saxton budget passes with no tax hike

Saxton Borough Council Monday evening gave final adoption to the borough’s 2020 operating budget.

There will be no tax increases or increases in water fees for the coming year although water rates can be increased at any time of the year if council deems it necessary.

The borough’s tax mills will remain the same at 4.1 mills. The budget has laid “on the table” for inspection for the past 30 days with no residents coming in to review it.

Council was also asked to review preliminary draft copies of its 2018 audit prepared by CPA Associates of Huntingdon. Mayor Alan Smith stated he spoke with CPA officials who indicated other than a few minor errors that can be remedied, the audit was fine.

Council president Lester Meck who had not read the draft copy said council could review it and it could he approved at council’s January 6, 2020 meeting. In order to get a final copy of the audit report for January’s meeting, Smith said council must first approve the draft copy.

Council agreed to allow 10 days for members to review the draft copy of the audit and if there are no questions or concerns, copies of it will sent to CPA Associates by Borough manager Jamie Foster in order to receive the final draft.

Council also agreed to appoint borough tax collector Judy Williams to her position until the next general election. William’s was appointed tax collector this past July upon the resignation of previous tax collector Barbara Meck due to health reasons.

Williams’ name was to appear on the ballot to be elected to the position but failed to make it on the ballot. Council also agreed to appoint Foster as deputy tax collector.

It was also agreed to reappoint Dave Mazzaferro to the borough’s Civil Service Commission committee. Mazzaferro joins Trevor Cornelius and an individual to be appointed to fill a vacancy on the committee created by the resignation of Amanda Adams that moved from the area.

In his report, Smith said he could not be any more proud of the Changes in the Parkway (CHIP) for last week’s Christmas program held in the community parkway. After five years, he was pleased to see 700 area residents attending the one night event.

“This speaks volumes to me. To have the spirit of hope, harmony and fellowship we saw on display that night says a lot about the character of the community and its people,” he said.

Smith said he also attended a public hearing last month concerning future improvements at both Trough Creek and Warrior’s Path State Parks.

He remarked on members of the Friends of TC/WP group also being present at the meeting.

Group chairman Adam Watson informed council the group has performed many clean up projects at both parks the past several months since forming in August and is planning additional ones over the winter months depending on how access is to both parks this winter.

Watson noted that the Liberty Township Supervisors last week turned down a proposal to plow the main access road to Warrior’s Path under a contract wi the state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR).

Councilman and Street committee chair Larry Miller asked if the borough would be interested in taking on the project. Meck said it would be interesting to learn how many use the access road during the winter months.

Council instructed Foster to contact park manager Joe Basil to inquire about the snowplowing measure to determine if the borough is interested in taking on the project.

Watson said the next Friends group will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the DCNR building near the office at Trough Creek State Park.

Along with kudos to the CHIP committee, Meck and council offered congratulations to the Tussey Mountain Football Team and coaches for winning the District V title. They also recognized the Tussey Mountain Art Department for winning PennDOT District Nine’s “Paint the Plow” contest for the fourth year in a row.

Council also recognized and thanked Santa & Mrs. Claus for making an appearance during the CHIP committee’s Christmas event much to the delight of many young children. Meck also recognized outgoing CHIP chairman Travis Chamberlain for all his efforts and welcomed chairman-elect Adam Watson who will be charing the committee for the next two years.

Also attending was councilmen John Hoffner and Adam Runk.

Adam can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.