The Chippewa Valley in 2018 lost community-minded philanthropists, a face of Eau Claire theater, a tip-top journalist and the man known simply as “Billy.”
Lee Markquart spent 70 years in the automotive business, but he also was known for his philanthropy. Markquart died at 87 in May.
“He was a wonderful man, and he was always very kind and very generous,” said Sue Bornick, the Eau Claire Community Foundation’s executive director.
Sara Antonson worked at Markquart Chevrolet before becoming executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Chippewa Valley.
“He taught me not only how to run a business … but he also taught me what it was like to be a leader,” she said.
Brian J. “BJ” Farmer was a community-minded businessman and philanthropist who made things happen. He died in September at 97.
“He really was an example of the best of that generation,” said Ann Kaiser, director of philanthropy for HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, who knew Farmer and his wife, Bea, from their donations to the medical facility. “Being a World War II pilot, an entrepreneur, a business leader, a philanthropic leader — his life was a tremendous example of service and pouring yourself into others.”
Former Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob McCoy said Eau Claire is a better place because of Farmer.
“This community wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for people like BJ Farmer,” McCoy said.
Lois Hodgins, who for 35 years acted in productions and was group sales director for Fanny Hill Inn & Dinner Theatre near Eau Claire, died in May at age 61.
“I think Lois was certainly the face of theater in Eau Claire,” said Dennis Heyde, who owned the business before it closed in 2014. “Her whole life was Fanny Hill.”
Henry Lippold, known for his upbeat personality as he trained future journalists at UW-Eau Claire, died in October at 89.
Mike Rindo, a Lippold disciple who worked in television journalism for 25 years before joining UW-Eau Claire, where he is assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, called his former professor “one of a kind.”
“His passion for journalism was as intense and expansive as anyone I knew in the profession all the years I worked in it,” Rindo said. “He ate, slept and drank journalism all hours of the day. It was all-encompassing.”
Billy Noss was a fixture at the Carson Park baseball stadium for decades, shagging balls hit out of play by local baseball teams. Noss died in May at 78.
“Everybody knew Billy,” said local sports announcer Hayes Callaghan. “All the coaches, all the people everywhere we went, they seemed to know who he was. And after games, Billy would have more girls hanging around him than the athletes.”
Billy’s popularity was due to his energetic personality and kind heart, Callaghan said.
“His energy and his kindness, it totally trumped any kind of disability he had,” Callaghan said of Billy, a longtime Special Olympics athlete. “He was so energetic that nobody could believe he was 78.”
The Chippewa Valley lost many other notable people this year.
Developer Dan Clumpner used his vision on many Chippewa Valley projects, including Oakwood Mall and the Pablo Center at the Confluence. He died in September at 74.
“He’s such a visionary and humble person,” said Jason Jon Anderson, executive director of the Pablo Center. “He’s been involved in almost every major project that has moved Eau Claire in the past decade and likely the past three decades.”
Menomonie historian John Russell was instrumental in the creation of the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Wakanda Park and in restoring Mabel Tainter Theater. Russell died in August at 93.
Jack Holzheuter, retired member of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, said Russell always had a fresh story, rarely repeating himself.
“His enthusiasm for state and local history was remarkable,” he said.
Carol Gienapp of Chippewa Falls dedicated her life to serving the community through her work starting the Chippewa Area Mentor Program and later as leader of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County. She died in August at 74.
Rich Chryst, a TTM Technologies engineer, has volunteered as a mentor for 25 years and worked alongside Gienapp for years.
“She was just a woman who cared about children,” Chryst said. “That program is still there because she cared about children so much. She was just someone with unbelievable passion for kids, especially at-risk children.”
Art Gunderson lived his 93 years dedicated to his family and friends, his faith and his community. The Pleasantville native died in September.
“It doesn’t matter what life threw at him — he always got up and went back to work the next day and kept doing the right thing,” Nels Gunderson said of his father. “If you did things the right way and worked hard, to him, you were living right. He lived to serve his community and do good, and that’s exactly how he raised us.”
John Neihart, who was Chippewa Fire District chief for 22 years and a firefighter for 51 years, died in January at 72.
“He was capable of great generosity and a good mentor to young firefighters,” said John Andersen, the Chippewa Fire District’s deputy chief of prevention, who worked alongside Neihart.
Mahlon Peterson, longtime Eau Claire County agricultural agent, devoted much of his career to promoting the ag industry and education. He died in January at 71.
“He certainly was a person who was very dedicated to his work, and he was well thought of by the people he served,” said Colleen Bates, an Eau Claire County Board member who knew Peterson for years. “He was a good, good guy.”
Barry Lynn, founder of ChaliceStream dance studio in Ladysmith, died in January at age 103.
Lynn combined his artistic talents and costuming to create unique, theatrical performances.
“He was not concerned with what other people were doing,” said Michael Doran, who co-owned ChaliceStream with Lynn. “He showed them how modern dance could carry a story as well, or at least an idea. A concept.”
Michael Maresh, known in the local music scene as “The Piano Man,” died in March in a traffic crash. He was 68.
“He made friends on the spot,” said Gary Jungerberg, who played in various bands with Maresh beginning in the ‘70s. “He was an entertainer. People were drawn to him.”
John Richie, an Eau Claire attorney and County Board member, died in May at 62.
Among those saddened by Richie’s death was state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, an attorney who practiced with Richie since 1998.
“John was a brilliant lawyer and an absolute wonderful human being,” Wachs said.
Ray Szmanda was known by millions for an enthusiastic smile and energetic exclamations of “Save big money!” during TV sales pitches for Menards. He died at his home in Antigo in May at 91.
Menards spokesman Jeff Abbott called Szmanda “a steady fixture” in the company’s advertising for 22 years before retiring in 1998.
“To this day, Ray’s friendly, enthusiastic and fun-loving personality have made a lasting impression on our customers and all of us at Menards,” Abbott said.
Former UW-Eau Claire professor Kenneth “Jerry” Foote was a key figure in launching the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity in 1992, and the organization has since built 46 homes in the Eau Claire area. He died at 83 in May.
The Rev. Jeanny House said the organization was important to Foote.
“He had a natural, deep compassion for people and the belief that people deserve to be well-housed,” House said. “It’s housing for people who just need a break. His email signature signoff was ‘Keep on hammering with H4H.’”
Chippewa Falls attorney Julie Anderl was committed to helping her clients not only in her capacity as a lawyer but on a personal level, often offering assistance to them financially and emotionally. She died in August at age 59 of Alzheimer’s disease.
“She was such a kind, kind soul,” said David Raihle Jr., a Chippewa Falls attorney. “She always cared about her clients personally as well as professionally.”
Lloyd Joyal was an educator and Eau Claire school board member who never lost contact with his former students. He died in October at 85.
“He was a real people person,” said his wife of 61 years, Yvonne. “Lloyd could connect with people, and he was able to do that with his students. Their keeping in touch with him all these years always meant a lot to us.”
WEAU-TV weatherman Howard Trickey became a local celebrity in the 1950s and ‘60s by drawing cartoons on air and wearing zany hats while sharing weather updates. He died in October at 93.
“People who grew up in Eau Claire, when TV was in its infancy, they remember Howard Trickey,” said former area radio personality Marty Green.
Mike McGrouary, founder of Mike’s Smokehouse restaurant, turned the barbecue joint into an Eau Claire institution for more than two decades. He died in November at 73.
“Mike was part of a dying breed of independent restaurateurs who was there at the start and built his restaurant from the ground up,” said Joanne Palzkill, owner of Draganetti’s Ristorante and Za51 Pizzeria.
Michael Christensen, chief executive officer of Grace Lutheran Communities, led the organization through multiple expansion projects during his 20 years at the nonprofit. He died in November at 65.
“He could have gone somewhere else and made way more money,” said Diane Rowe, who worked with Christensen. “But he chose to stay at Grace ... He was so loyal to this place.”
Former Leader-Telegram Editor Eugene Ringhand was known as a quiet leader of the newsroom, working at the newspaper more than 40 years. He died in December at 82.
“He loved the newspaper,” said his daughter Karen Preston. “He’d work six days a week, and on Sunday he’d sit and read it at the kitchen table with a red pen, making corrections.”
The sports world lost some giants.
Glenn St. Arnault was a big baseball man, and for nearly 60 years, played a key role at all levels of the sport from Little League on up in Eau Claire. St. Arnault, who was the first manager of the Eau Claire Cavaliers, died in May at 79.
“He is on the Mount Rushmore of Eau Claire baseball,” said Mark Faanes, longtime American Legion baseball coach in the city.
As Bill Rowlett, executive director of the Eau Claire Express, said of St. Arnault: “He was a friend to everybody. He had an influence on an awful lot of kids in town.”
Dan Conway of Superior, who taught and coached in Chetek for many years, was a world-class masters runner who always returned to Eau Claire to run the Buckshot Run, which he won in its first year in 1983. He died in May at 79.
Buckshot Run organizers dedicated a race to him with the “The Dan Conway 5-mile” Labor Day weekend.
“It salutes Conway’s dedication and loyalty to a cause,” Leader-Telegram sports reporter Ron Buckli wrote. “He earned it.”
Dwain Mintz, the winningest basketball coach in UW-Stout history, was credited with turning the university’s program into a powerhouse that gained nationwide attention. Mintz died in October at 90.
“I have known Dewey for 46 years, and he has always been there for so many of us,” said Ed Andrist, who was an assistant coach under Mintz before becoming head coach for 18 years. “Our success has been his success. He taught us well so we could go out and teach others. His legacy will live forever.”
YALAMBOJOCH, Guatemala — White flowers and flickering candles sat atop a low table inside the simple wooden home in remote, rural Guatemala. Nearby was a small pair of rubber boots, sized to fit an 8-year-old.
Taped to the wall were three photos, alternately smiling and serious, bearing a simple epitaph for the boy whose memory the makeshift altar honored: “Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Died Dec. 24 2018 in New Mexico, United States.”
On Christmas Eve, Felipe became the second Guatemalan child this month to die while in U.S. custody near the Mexican border. The deaths prompted widespread criticism of President Donald Trump, who has sought to deflect responsibility toward Democrats even as his Homeland Security secretary vowed additional health screenings for detained migrant children.
In the boy’s village of Yalambojoch, in western Guatemala, the political fallout in the United States seemed a world away and there was only deep sadness over his death. Relatives said they had no idea that such a tragedy could occur. Nor had they heard about U.S. policies that led to thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents earlier this year.
“We don’t have a television. We don’t have a radio,” Catarina Gomez, Felipe’s sister, said Saturday. “We didn’t know what had happened before.”
The hamlet, set on a plain and surrounded by spectacular, pine-covered mountains, is a place of crushing poverty and lack of opportunity, home to a single small school, dirt roads that become impassible during the rainy season and rudimentary homes without insulation, proper flooring, water or electricity.
The community is populated by families who fled to Mexico during the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war but returned after the signing of peace accords. There are no jobs, and people live off meager subsistence farming and local commerce. Residents say the Guatemalan government has turned a blind eye to their plight, a complaint that can be heard in other impoverished villages in the country.
Felipe’s sister, Catarina, said that in recent years “everyone started heading for the United States,” so much so that a local project to boost education financed with Swedish help was abandoned because there were practically no more young people to take the classes.
It was extreme poverty and lack of opportunity that drove Felipe’s father, Agustin Gomez, to decide that he and the boy would set off for the United States. Others from the community had been able to cross the U.S. border with children, and he figured they would have the same luck. Felipe was chosen because he was the oldest son. It didn’t occur to anyone that the journey could be dangerous.
“I didn’t think of that, because several families had already left and they made it,” the boy’s mother, Catarina Alonzo said, speaking in the indigenous Chuj language as her stepdaughter translated into Spanish.
Felipe was healthy when they left, according to the family. The last time he spoke with his mother was a day before they were taken into detention by border agents. Felipe told her he was well, that he had eaten chicken, that the next time they talked would be by phone from the United States.
Instead, the call that came Christmas Day was from her husband, who said Felipe had died the day before.
The two had been apprehended a week earlier, on Dec. 18, near the Paso del Norte bridge connecting El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, Mexico, according to border officials. Father and son were held at the bridge’s processing center and then the Border Patrol station in El Paso before being transferred on Dec. 23 to a facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) away.
After an agent noticed Felipe coughing, father and son were taken to an Alamogordo hospital, where Felipe was found to have a 103-degree fever (39.4 degrees Celsius), officials have said.
Felipe was held for observation for 90 minutes, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, before being released with prescriptions for amoxicillin and ibuprofen.
But the boy fell sick hours later and was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve. He died just before midnight.
New Mexico authorities said late Thursday that an autopsy showed Felipe had the flu, but more tests need to be done before a cause of death can be determined.
The other Guatemalan child, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, died Dec. 8 in El Paso. She showed signs of sepsis, a potentially fatal condition brought on by infection, according to officials.
On Saturday, Trump claimed that Felipe and Jakelin were “very sick” before they reached the border, though both young migrants passed initial health screenings by Border Patrol.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last week that prior to this month, no child had died in the agency’s custody in more than a decade.
On Sunday he called for a “multifaceted solution” on immigration, including not only better border security and new immigration laws but more aid to the Central American countries the migrants are fleeing from.
Referring to the U.S. pledge earlier this month of $5.8 billion in development aid for Central America, McAleenan called it “a tremendous step forward.”
“There are green shoots of progress both on security and the economic front in Central America. We need to foster that and help improve the opportunities to stay at home,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Outside the Gomez family home in Yalambojoch, women gathered wearing lavender skirts in the intricate patterns typical of indigenous garb in Guatemala. Colorful tapestries hung on a clothesline above the muddy yard.
Taped to the door were a pair of Felipe’s artworks. One was a rendering of a blue balloon with a green string; in the other, a white horse jumped over a fence against a yellow sun and tangerine sky.
Among the villagers grieving Felipe’s death was his 7-year-old best friend, Kevin. Two days before Felipe and his dad left, the two boys quarreled.
“They were crying because they had fought,” said Felipe’s sister, Catarina.
By the time Kevin came back to look for his friend, he had left for the United States. Kevin now knows that Felipe has died, the family said.
Trying to fight back tears, Catarina Alonzo said her son promised before leaving that when he was grown, he would work to send money home. Felipe also wanted to buy her a cellphone so she could see pictures of him from afar.
Now she hopes for only two things: That Felipe’s body is returned as soon as possible for burial, and that her husband can remain in the United States to work off debt and support their other kids.
The Guatemalan Consulate in Phoenix has said that Agustin Gomez was released on a humanitarian license allowing him to remain in the United States for now. Felipe’s body is expected to be sent back to Guatemala around mid-January.
Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Zeke Miller and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — At Granny Shaffer’s restaurant in Joplin, Missouri, owner Mike Wiggins is reprinting the menus to reflect the 5, 10 or 20 cents added to each item.
A two-egg breakfast will cost an extra dime, at $7.39. The price of a three-piece fried chicken dinner will go up 20 cents, to $8.78. The reason: Missouri’s minimum wage is rising.
Wiggins said the price hikes are necessary to help offset an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 in additional annual pay to his staff as a result of a new minimum wage law taking effect Tuesday.
“For us it’s very simple. There’s no big pot of money out there to get the money out of” for the required pay raises, Wiggins said.
New minimum wage requirements will take effect in 20 states and nearly two dozen cities around the start of the new year, affecting millions of workers. The state wage hikes range from an extra nickel per hour in Alaska to a $1-an-hour bump in Maine, Massachusetts and for California employers with more than 25 workers.
Seattle’s largest employers will have to pay workers at least $16 an hour starting Tuesday. In New York City, many businesses will have to pay at least $15 an hour as of Monday. That’s more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
A variety of other new state laws also take effect Tuesday. Those include revisions to sexual harassment policies stemming from the #MeToo movement, restrictions on gun sales following deadly mass shootings and revamped criminal penalties as officials readjust the balance between punishment and rehabilitation.
The state and local wage laws come amid a multi-year push by unions and liberal advocacy groups to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nationwide. Few are there yet, but many states have ratcheted up wages through phased-in laws and adjustments for inflation.
In Arkansas and Missouri, voters this fall approved ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage after state legislators did not. In Missouri, the minimum wage will rise from $7.85 to $8.60 an hour on Tuesday as the first of five annual increases that will take it to $12 an hour by 2023.
At Granny Shafffer’s in Joplin, waitress Shawna Green will see her base pay go up. But she has mixed emotions about it.
“We’ll have regulars, and they will notice, and they will bring it to our attention, like it’s our fault and our doings” that menu prices are increasing, she said. “They’ll back off on something, and it’s usually their tips, or they don’t come as often.”
Economic studies on minimum wage increases have shown that some workers do benefit, while others might see their work hours reduced. Businesses may place a higher value on experienced workers, making it more challenging for entry-level employees to find jobs.
Seattle, the fastest-growing large city in the U.S., has been at the forefront of the movement for higher minimum wages. A local ordinance raised the minimum wage to as much as $11 an hour in 2015, then as much as $13 in 2016, depending on the size of the employer and whether it provided health insurance.
A series of studies by the University of Washington has produced evolving conclusions.
In May, the researchers determined that Seattle’s initial increase to $11 an hour had an insignificant effect on employment but that the hike to $13 an hour resulted in “a large drop in employment.” They said the higher minimum wage led to a 6.9 percent decline in the hours worked for those earning under $19 an hour, resulting in a net reduction in paychecks.
In October, however, those same researchers reached a contrasting conclusion. They said Seattle workers employed at low wages experienced a modest reduction in hours worked after the minimum wage increased, but nonetheless saw a net increase in average pretax earnings of $10 a week. That gain generally went to those who already had been working more hours while those who had been working less saw no significant change in their overall earnings.
Both supporters and opponents of higher minimum wages have pointed to the Seattle studies.
The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009. Since then, 29 states, the District of Columbia and dozens of other cities and counties have set minimum wages above the federal floor. Some have repeatedly raised their rates.
“The federal minimum wage has really become irrelevant,” said Michael Saltsman, managing director of the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that receives funding from businesses and opposes minimum wage increases.
The new state minimum wage laws could affect about 5.3 million workers who are currently earning less than the new standards, according to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C. That equates to almost 8 percent of the workforce in those 20 states but doesn’t account for additional minimum wage increases in some cities.
Advocates credit the trend toward higher minimum wages to the “Fight for $15,” a national movement that has used protests and rallies to push for higher wages for workers in fast food, child care, airlines and other sectors.
“It may not have motivated every lawmaker to agree that we should go to $15,” said David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. “But it’s motivated many of them to accept that we need higher minimum wages than we currently have in much of the country.”
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NEW YORK — It’s an Auld Lang Syne of the times: For the first time, a police drone will be keeping watch over the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York’s Times Square.
The unmanned eye-in-the-sky is the latest wrinkle in the New York City Police Department’s ever-evolving plan to keep revelers — and “Rockin’ Eve” host Ryan Seacrest — safe.
About 7,000 police officers will be on duty for today night’s festivities in Times Square, including counterterrorism teams with long guns and bomb-sniffing dogs. Police cars and sand-filled sanitation trucks will be positioned to stop vehicles from driving into the crowd.
And, above it all, a remote-controlled quadcopter will be giving police a unique view of the merriment — and any potential mayhem.
It’s the first time the NYPD is sending up a drone for a big event.
“That’s going to give us a visual aid and the flexibility of being able to move a camera to a certain spot with great rapidity through a tremendous crowd,” Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said there are no known, credible threats to the city or the New Year’s Eve event. He encouraged spectators to remain vigilant and to alert officers if they suspect something is awry.
“There’s probably going to be a cop within 10 feet of you,” Miller said. “If you see something, you can go right to them directly.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city is expecting “up to 2 million people in Times Square itself” for the ball drop, repeating a figure often cited by city officials, organizers and television broadcasters.
Crowd-size experts say it’s impossible to cram that many people into the area, a bow-tie-shaped zone running five blocks between Broadway and 7th Avenue, and that the real total is likely fewer than 100,000.
No matter how many people actually show up, they’ll all be screened with metal detectors at security checkpoints and funneled into penned off areas to prevent overcrowding.
Umbrellas, backpacks and coolers are banned, but those kitschy “2019” glasses are most definitely allowed in. And there won’t be any popping champagne at midnight. The NYPD says alcohol is strictly prohibited.
That might be for the best. There aren’t any bathrooms, and anyone leaving the secure area won’t be allowed back to their original spot. That means they’ll risk missing the ball drop or having to squint hard to see it from a faraway vantage point.
Like last year, the NYPD is embedding detectives in hotels around Times Square in an attempt to thwart a potential attack like the one in Las Vegas last year in which a gunman shooting from a hotel room killed 59 people at an outdoor country music festival.
Police are also harnessing new technology to detect drones that aren’t authorized to fly.
The NYPD’s drone adds to a vast array of visual surveillance that includes more than 1,200 fixed cameras and feeds from police helicopters circling above.
The department started using drones this month. It says they’ll mainly be used for search-and-rescue missions, documenting crime scenes and monitoring large events.
Several of the NYPD’s drones are equipped with thermal-imaging and 3D-mapping capabilities and strong camera lenses that can greatly magnify a subject.
For safety, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the New Year’s Eve drone will be tethered to a building and flown in a cordoned-off area so that no one gets hurt if it happens to fall. The drone will never fly directly above the crowd, he said.
Unlike a helicopter, a drone is small and makes little noise. Between the sounds of performers like Christina Aguilera and Bastille and the confetti that’ll be swirling at midnight, Monahan said some spectators might not even notice it.
“Once it’s up in the air, it will probably be hard to see,” he said.
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