Editor’s note: The weekly “Thumbs Up-Thumbs Down” editorial offers opinions on highs and lows in the news.
THUMBS UP: Chris Kroeze has given Barron County — and the rest of us — a brief respite from some trying times.
After advancing to the Top 12 Playoff Round on NBC-TV’s “The Voice” this week, he sang a cover of The Beatles’ classic “Let It Be,” dedicating it to his hometown of Barron and Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old girl who has been missing since her parents were found murdered on Oct. 15.
Kroeze’s wife, Mara, told the Leader-Telegram’s Katy Macek that Chris’ time on the talent search TV show has given community members “something to look forward to and be happy about.” Kroeze will continue on the show as he was one of the performers saved by audience votes this week.
On Monday’s show, Kroeze’s coach on “The Voice,” Blake Shelton, wished the singer the best and added he hopes young Jayme will be be found. That’s the hope for all of us.
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THUMBS DOWN: The term “huffing” was new to some people until the tragic incident when three Girl Scouts and a mother were struck and killed by a car while they picked up garbage along a Chippewa County highway earlier this month.
Authorities said the driver had been “huffing” before the crash, inhaling chemical fumes from a canister of keyboard cleaner. While some people were unaware of the practice, a story by the Leader-Telegram’s Eric Lindquist pointed out that huffing has been around for a long time and can be deadly like in the Chippewa County tragedy.
Consider what happened just this year:
• In April, a California man was sentenced to 75 years in prison for killing three people in a head-on crash last year when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 94 in Dunn County. He had a compound found in aerosol and air duster cans in his system at the time of the crash.
• In May, a Cornell man was sentenced to jail for killing his passenger in a 2013 car crash after inhaling from aerosol canisters and using marijuana.
• In June, an Eau Claire man crashed into a power pole in the city after huffing from an aerosol can.
Huffing destroys brain cells, and when the huffer gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, it is a deadly combination for the driver, passengers and anyone else on the road.
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THUMBS UP: People want to be remembered for all the right reasons, and that’s certainly the case with former Mike’s Smokehouse owner Mike McGrouary.
In a Life Story written by Lindquist, those who knew McGrouary talked about building his business that had a reputation for large, tasty portions of food that had Chippewa Valley residents lined up out in the parking lot. As longtime patron Larry Zorn told Lindquist, it always was worth the wait.
Mike’s Smokehouse was an Eau Claire institution that, like its owner, won’t soon be forgotten.
— Gary Johnson, editor